Winterize your Fleet
In a previous article we covered the importance of winterizing facilities, but it is equally important to winterize vehicles. Winter can be especially hard on vehicles that don’t spend winter within a garage, and freezing temperatures play havoc with many systems drivers rely upon for their vehicles to function properly. If your organization has vehicles, add them to your essential winter weather preparation plan, and consider the following areas for regularly scheduled maintenance and winter protocols. Don’t forget to winterize all additional motorized equipment, such as lawn mowers, weed eaters, and so on, and ensure any motorized winter tools such as snow blowers are in proper working order.
Proper traction is the foundation of all driving; lose traction and the driver loses control over the vehicle. “All season” tires are generally suitable for a wide spectrum of basic traction needs, but the term can be misleading as they are often not the most effective choice for winter conditions. If your region experiences moderate to high levels of snowfall, it may be worth considering outfitting vehicles in winter tires. If winter tires are not an option, at least inspect tire treads to make sure they are within acceptable limits.
The ability to stop a vehicle quickly becomes even more crucial in winter months when roadway conditions are often compromised by ice and snow. Inspect the braking systems of all vehicles and effect any replacements or repairs before winter begins. Do not allow drivers to operate vehicles with impaired braking systems, and instruct drivers to alert maintenance staff at once if their brakes begin to squeal or any other problems develop.
An all-around engine check is advisable before the start of winter. Engines rely on a variety of fluids to function properly, all of which can be adversely affected by winter. If necessary, use fluids that are designed for optimum efficiency in the cold, for example, oil with a thinner consistency, and so on. Check your manual before determining which products will be best to use. In addition, inspect all engine belts and hoses for any cracks or other damage which can be exacerbated by cold. Lastly, inspect and test the battery and all its components. A battery loses some of its effectiveness in lower temperatures, so weak or failing batteries are more likely to fail during winter. Replace any battery that is not performing optimally to prevent scenarios where a vehicle fails to start in cold weather.
Winter precipitation will likely put a greater strain on windshield wipers than in other months. Inspect windshield wipers and consider replacing them with models designed to cope with winter demands. Equip all vehicles with windshield scrapers and deicer so drivers can remove ice accumulation on windshields. In addition, test all vehicle lights to ensure they are working properly, being as visible as possible to other drivers is especially crucial in winter months.
Equip all vehicles that will be driven in winter with the following items:
- High visibility vest
- Tow rope
- Battery-powered radio
- Jumper cables
- Fire extinguisher
- First aid kit
- Tire chains
- Non-perishable food
- Tire repair kit
- Number for 24/7 breakdown service provider
- Bag of sand/kitty litter (for traction and added weight)
Instruct all drivers to keep to the following protocols before taking to the road in winter months.
Make a habit of filling gas tanks regularly and keeping them full. This practice provides a variety of benefits: it can help prevent freezing, is a safeguard against winter delays (bad weather, road closures, wrecks, etc.,) and also adds weight to the vehicle for stability and traction. Note that there are additional considerations for diesel engines as the fuel contains components that make it more susceptible to freezing. Check out this blog post from FleetCleanUSA for more information on diesel engines.
Exhaust Pipe Check
Before starting the vehicle, always check the tail pipe to ensure it is not blocked by ice or snow. Blockages can cause carbon monoxide poisoning in the cab, which is often impossible to detect until it is too late.
Daytime Running Lights
Always drive with your headlights on, even during the day. This is a standard best practice even outside of winter months, but maintaining high visibility to other drivers is especially important during winter, when more reaction time may be needed to maneuver a vehicle to safety on compromised roadways.
Tires are susceptible to drastic pressure loss in cold conditions, and underinflation can cause tire failure. Consult your manual on what optimal tire pressure should be for your vehicle, and check tire pressure regularly during the winter. Tires can be underinflated without appearing to be flat. Don’t forget to check spare tires as well to be sure they are in working condition, if they are required.
Set Your Fleet Up For Success
Winter prep for vehicles is always good to keep in mind, even if cold weather has already arrived. It’s never too late to look under the hood, check treads, or outfit vehicles with an emergency kit to ensure your drivers are safe this winter. We wish all our members safe winter driving this season!