With the weather warming up, icy roads and sluggish starts are replaced by overheating engines and malfunctioning air conditioning systems. As we head into summer, maintaining your fleet to prolong the service life of your vehicles can help to safeguard your livelihood, maintain driver safety, and protect your fleet insurance or van fleet insurance premium.
Summer heat can cause extra stress on vehicle components especially those that already produce plenty of heat by themselves. The engine, wheels and brake system can all suffer during extreme heat, as can tyres, belts and wipers, while cooling systems need to be well-maintained to ensure an efficient and smooth-running operation.
We look at the essential maintenance your fleet needs to get you through the summer months.
Poor tyre maintenance is one of the leading causes of accidents on the roads. Tyre pressure increases during hot weather. When you drive, the hotter air in your tyre expands and takes up more space than cold air, quickly increasing tyre pressure and leaving drivers more prone to a tyre blowout.
Check tyre pressure of your van or fleet at least monthly to avoid accidents and breakdowns. Also, it’s important to check tread depth more regularly as heat can cause the rubber in tyres to break down more quickly. The current legal tread depth for light commercial vehicles (up to 3500 kg gvw) is 1.6mm.
Overheating engines are one of the top reasons for vehicle breakdowns during the summer months. A leaking cooling system or inoperative cooling fan can cause a vehicle to overheat and lead to extensive engine damage.
Check coolant levels when carrying out your summer fleet maintenance. Vehicle cooling systems need flushing every 24 months, and it’s a good idea to have them done at the beginning of summer to make sure they can handle any high temperatures.
Testing the Air Conditioning
For the safety of your drivers, have the air conditioners checked in all your vans and trucks before the summer heat kicks in. It’s not uncommon for refrigerant levels to be low after the system hasn’t been used during winter. Give any that are low in refrigerant a recharge.
Belts and Hoses
Belts and hoses exposed to long periods of extremely high heat, vibration or other environmental elements, can lead to deterioration. Experts recommend replacing the belts every 60,000 to 100,000 miles. Regular visual checks will help to identify any areas of wear or damage around connectors and clamps.
Oil and Filters
As well as coolants, ensuring oil is free flowing and topped up will help to maintain vehicle performance. It is generally recommended that oil is changed every 3,000-5,000 miles but if you are carrying heavy cargo or have been driving in extreme temperatures (hot or cold), you may need to change your oil more frequently.
Check underneath the vehicle for possible oil leaks and inspect the air filter in case it has become clogged from debris in wet winter conditions. Changing it every 12,000 to 15,000 miles is recommended to maintain air flow during hot weather.
The battery isn’t exempt from hot weather damage but only above temperatures of 30 degrees Celsius. Whilst this generally isn’t a problem with the UK’s ambient temperatures, parking your vehicle in direct sun during a heatwave may mean your battery is subject to significant additional heat build-up, especially from under a metal bonnet.
The chemicals in car batteries can be damaged by heat, causing chemical evaporation and overcharging, which can lead to permanent battery damage. Lead plates inside the battery are also prone to corrosion in high temperatures, resulting in reduced voltage which may prevent your vehicle starting. Whilst carrying out vehicle maintenance, remember to also check for dirt and corrosion on your car battery terminals and give them a good clean.
Keeping your fleet well maintained will help to avoid accidents and breakdowns. This will protect your no claims on your fleet van insurance policy and keep the cost of your premium down when it’s time for your annual renewal.