Pack up the beach balls. Put away your lawn mower. Say ‘goodbye’ to your patio. Because here comes Old Man Winter.
He’s a crotchety, bitter old geezer that’s doesn’t give two flips about you or your fleet. And there’s only thing he enjoys more than making you miserably cold no matter how many layers of Carhartt gear you’re wearing. That’s beating the dickens out of every vehicle in your care. And while it’s normally not great advice to fight old men, you need to put up your dukes when it comes to Mr. Winter.
The bad news? You can’t win this fight. You can only go the distance until his strength fades into Spring. The good news? There are several things you can do to limit the damage you take from the old man. And the sooner you put together a fight plan, the better your chances. So heed our advice, because the bell’s about to ring.
These are the things you need to keep in mind as you make your way toward the inevitable slugfest.
Choose the right tires. This is tops on the list of any advice for winterizing your fleet. And there’s good reason for that: there are no positive outcomes when heavy, expensive equipment slides into another vehicle or an immoveable object. So we need to say it, too—pay attention to the winter tires you select for your fleet. Deep, rugged treads with curb guards are best. And don’t forget to constantly monitor the pressure.
Maintain brakes. Adjust them when necessary. Keep them greased. Add brake line antifreeze. Remind your drivers not to pump the brakes if their vehicles are equipped with ABS. The only thing harder—and more important—than getting a large vehicle moving in wintery conditions is being able to get that large vehicle to stop.
Get (and keep) your motors running. When it’s time to head out on the highway, you want your vehicles up for the task. There are many things that could go wrong and keep your drivers off the road—batteries, fuel lines, insufficient oil and coolant levels.
- With the high starting load batteries face in the dead of winter, a bad battery can become a problem. Keep the connections clean and test them frequently.
- Service your fuel filters often and keep the water separator drained so that your fleet literally doesn’t freeze up.
- Speaking of freezing up, how are your coolant levels? Flush and replace any coolant older than two years so that the antifreeze properties don’t degrade enough to cause problems.
- Whether you’re using block heaters or oil pan heaters, they’re not going to do you any good if they’re not heating. That takes regular maintenance checks to ensure your vehicles aren’t suffering from brutal, engine-killing cold starts.
Keep windshields and mirrors clear. It doesn’t matter how many hours a driver has logged behind the wheel—if they can’t see, trouble will find them. And it won’t take long. Replace wiper blades before the temperatures drop. Top off the windshield washer fluid of every vehicle that drives into your bays. And use water-shedding products on external mirrors, so they don’t fog or ice (especially if your fleet’s mirrors aren’t heated.)
Keep it clean. When the ice hits, so does the salt. It’s a necessary evil, but it can reek havoc on both your fleet and your garage. It’s corrosive chemicals can destroy an undercarriage in just a few seasons, so it’s important to keep your fleet clean with frequent washes (when the temperature is above freezing). Garage floors can’t hide, either. Eventually, the build up causes cracks that can require repair and/or replacement – slow that process down by frequently mopping with a solution of 1 gallon of warm water to 1 cup of vinegar with a squirt of dish soap. Don’t forget to inspect your lifts while you’re at it – if a car is on your lift in the winter, salt is, too.
Stock every vehicle with an emergency kit. Sometimes, unfortunate things happen no matter how much maintenance and preparation is involved. Keep jumper cables, flares and first aid kits at arms length for every driver who relies on you. And don’t forget blankets. Because sometimes Old Man Winter knocks a vehicle down in the middle of a fight while a driver’s in the middle of nowhere. When that happens, you need to keep everyone warm until they can get back on the road for the next round of battle.