Key points of a good vehicle maintenance system

Hands of mechanic with wrench working on car engine

Keeping your vehicles in good working order is an essential part of any fleet manager’s job. While some of the day-to-day work can be delegated to individual drivers, it’s still vital that you have a clear plan in place. This means undertaking frequent checks of key systems and a regular vehicle service schedule for more comprehensive car maintenance.

This doesn’t need to be a complex or time-consuming activity. A few basic daily checks takes just a few minutes and goes a long way to keeping vehicles in good condition. As they say, prevention is better than cure, so taking a bit of time on a regular basis can prevent far bigger problems arising later.

Why vehicle maintenance must be a top priority

The first and most obvious benefit of a good plan is vehicle and driver safety. Badly-maintained cars may be more prone to failures on the road that could lead to serious accidents.

There are also clear financial benefits to keeping your fleet well-maintained. For starters, a good servicing schedule reduces the risk of breakdowns or other issues that can force a car off the road unexpectedly. This type of unplanned downtime can be very costly for firms. It means they have to alter schedules and risk disappointing customers.

However, even simple things like making sure your tyres are the correct pressure can improve fuel economy, and therefore reduce running costs.

Therefore, you need a clear plan for fleet vehicle servicing. This must ensure every vehicle you operate has its own service schedule that’s planned well in advance. Don’t leave it to the last minute or arrange this on an ad-hoc basis.

Factors to consider when creating a maintenance schedule include:

  • The vehicle’s age
  • Frequency of use
  • Mileage
  • Operating conditions

Key areas to focus on when conducting service checks

So what should a good maintenance programme include? There are a wide range of checks that need to be performed. Knowing what these are and how frequently they should be done is a vital step in keeping your fleet moving.

Everyday checks – remember FLOWER

Firstly, you must be performing a range of regular checks on your vehicles. Ideally, these should be done every day before setting off, but they should at least be done on a weekly basis or before any long journey. The best way of handling these is to have drivers take responsibility for their own vehicles, so it’s vital they’re trained on what to look for and how to report the results.

Close up of person checking oil levels under a car's bonnet

There are a few key areas that should be focused on here. The AA suggests these can be easily remembered with the acronym ‘FLOWER’, which consists of the following:

Fuel – Does the vehicle have enough fuel to make the journey. If not, make sure you know where you can use your fuel card to fill up. This may seem obvious, but you’d be surprised how often it’s overlooked, and running dry can cause big problems – especially in the winter or for diesel vehicles.

Lights – Are all the bulbs working? Brake lights, indicators and headlights are especially vital. Therefore, have someone walk around the vehicle to make sure they not only work, but can be easily seen. This means clearing away any debris or mud that could obscure them.

Oil – Check your dipstick to ensure your oil level is between the minimum and maximum marks on the stick. If not, you could be running the risk of serious engine damage. This is also a very common problem, as the RAC notes one in three vehicles it’s called out to have dangerously low oil levels.

Water – Make sure your screen wash reservoir is topped up regularly. This is important year-round, but especially so in winter when grit, snow and mud can all smear your windscreen. Even in summer, bugs and pollen can hamper your view, so don’t run the risk of an empty water bottle.

Electrics – Aside from your lights, you should also check other electrics such as your battery. Make sure the connections are clean and tight and use a battery monitor to check its health. It’s a good idea to keep a set of jump leads in each vehicle – or at least on hand at your site – if you have a flat battery. The most common cause of this is leaving lights on, but this issue can also occur if the car hasn’t been used for a while or is used mainly for very short trips with lots of stopping and starting.

Close-up of hands checking the tread of a car tyre

Rubber – Making sure your tyres are in good condition is also essential. This involves several steps. Firstly, make sure they’re set to the right pressure as specified in the vehicle manual. Using a pressure gauge is a good idea for this. Then, check the tread depth meets minimum requirements. The treads should be at least 1.6mm deep – that’s about the size of the rim on a 20p piece, if you’re not sure. Finally, check the tyres for any other signs of wear or damage, such as cuts, splits or bulges.

If the daily checks spot any issues with these components, they should be immediately flagged up for maintenance or repair before the car is sent out on to the road.

Longer-term focuses to keep in mind

More comprehensive servicing should also be scheduled for a set timeframe or number of miles. This should go into more depth on a range of issues, including:

  • Coolant
  • Air filter
  • Spark plugs (for petrol vehicles)
  • Brakes
  • Transmission fluid
  • Serpentine belt

Taking a proactive approach – how the right technology helps

While a regular service schedule is a must, you can also be more proactive about your maintenance with the latest technology. Telematics systems, for example, should be able to access the diagnostic tools in the car’s computer and alert you to any issues quickly. This allows you to step in early and prevent larger issues.

Good fleet management tools can also give you a better overview of your vehicles and allow you to optimise your maintenance. For example, if can help identify older or higher mileage vehicles that may need to be a priority for more regular servicing.

This can also help you plan for the future by spotting which vehicles may need replacing soon. Maintenance records can also show you what makes or models may be more prone to mechanical issues, which again can factor into your thinking when it comes to replacing vehicles.

If you want to learn more about how the right tech tools can help keep your fleet’s maintenance up to speed, contact us today.