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Ignoring that awful noise coming from your vehicle once in a while is okay, right? Wrong. Vehicle maintenance keeps your fleet running smoothly and efficiently is important because a single glitch can cause downtime which could have a massive impact on day-to-day business
Let’s be honest. Owning a car isn’t cheap. And those running costs simply seem to quadruple when running an entire fleet. Keeping your car running for those daily commutes or business deliveries takes its toll on those four wheels - and the rest of your vehicle.
As the famous adage goes, prevention is better than cure. While annual services can be expensive without a service plan and out of warranty, maintaining your vehicle or fleet is cheaper than having to fork out last-minute repairs to fix an issue that could have been easily prevented.
According to the Automobile Association (AA), motorists are driving their cars beyond the typical six-year vehicle finance period. “Our research shows that more and more people are keeping their vehicles for longer due to prevailing economic conditions and personal financial circumstances,” the AA says.
This means your vehicle is getting older which is more of a reason to look after it, especially if you want it to last longer. This is where regular maintenance comes in.
Here’s how and why you should take control of your vehicle’s maintenance, today.
What is the maintenance and repair of vehicles?
When you first drove your car off the showroom floor, it was in good working order. Sure, you liked the colour, make and performance of the vehicle, but the most important thing you looked for when you bought it was its reliability – was it good enough to take you from A to B, and maybe even C?
All the parts that make the wheels go round need to be kept in good working order.
It’s easy to assume that fuel, the odd oil and water check and a few pumps of air in your tyres at the petrol station are all your vehicle needs to keep it moving.
Regular maintenance checks shouldn’t be neglected, especially those that can be easily performed by any vehicle owner. Basic knowledge of vehicle maintenance red flags can help you diagnose problems early before a breakdown and hefty repair invoice.
How often should I service my vehicle?
Scheduled servicing is mandated for brand new cars under the manufacturer’s warranty. Many maintenance plans for new cars are included in the manufacturer’s sales agreement but these can also be bought separately.
A ‘regular’ service could vary from every 5 000km for some older diesel engines to 10 000km, 15 000km or 20 000km for newer models.
Depending on your vehicle’s features, you can be reminded by your car’s on-board service indicator that notifies you when your next service is due. Driver behaviour and regular driving conditions can increase the service interval to as high as every 30 000km.
Stick to service intervals
But what happens if your car isn’t getting much mileage? You still need to service it at least once a year. The general rule is to take your car in for a service at the interval or annually - whichever comes first. This ensures that all the lubricants and filters are kept in good working condition as they degrade with time and usage.
It’s important to stick to the recommended service intervals, designed to ensure the optimum performance, safety, efficiency and reliability of your vehicle, otherwise you might find yourself stranded unexpectedly on the way to an important event or delivery.
Prevent the avoidable with smart maintenance
As a fleet manager, it’s vital to keep your vehicles in good health and your drivers safe with a seamless maintenance plan.
A good fleet management system helps your vehicles avoid road breakdowns and accidents with maintenance features like real-time alerts of any engine faults, worn brake pads, oil and water fluctuations, and other diagnostics, helping you pre-empt which vehicles need servicing and keep your business moving at a profitable pace.
What is the most important vehicle maintenance?
One of the most asked questions when buying a vehicle is about maintenance or running costs. Often we only want to fix something when it becomes a problem, vehicle maintenance should be taken seriously, especially if you want to save money and keep yourself and others safe on the roads.
It’s no wonder that discussions among vehicle owners are mostly about improved mileage and low maintenance costs.
Here’s a list of the most important factors to focus on when it comes to vehicle maintenance:
Conduct regular inspections to flag any issues before they lead to malfunctions
Avoid fuel additives to keep your engine in good condition
Wash your vehicle monthly to avoid a build up of dirt which could stain your bodywork
If anything, always ensure your braking system is in good working order. If you hear or feel like something is not right, rather have it checked out to be one hundred per cent safe. Squealing, grinding or even a difference in pressure when you apply brakes are good reasons to book your car in for inspection.
Modern brake systems are sophisticated and easier to care for, with electronic sensors and interrelated safety features in place. Remember, it's important to have your brakes serviced by manufacturer-trained service technicians that has experience in repair work on your make of vehicle.
Maintenance to the extra mile
Other often overlooked items are the windshield wiper and wiper fluid. These should be checked and replaced or refilled as necessary to help your windshield stay free of cracks and chips.
A good battery can make all the difference to your vehicle. With your battery working extra hard during the colder months, it needs that extra care. The difference between a vehicle instantly humming to life and one in need of a jump-start, is a dead battery.
It’s always a good idea to have checks in place and avoid unexpected failure. The average battery lasts about 3 to 4 years depending on its make. If your battery’s age is somewhere around there, it might be worth having it looked at.
Visibility on the road is an absolute must, not just for you but for others on the road, so headlamps, tail lamps, fog lamps, parking lights and reverse lights are extremely important. Make sure they are all functioning properly and replace any that are out.
Benefits of maintaining your vehicle
As an individual, managing the maintenance of one car is already a big task, but for fleet managers, it’s that responsibility multiplied.
Unplanned downtime affects 82% of businesses and 70% of companies lack complete awareness of when their own equipment, including their vehicles, is due for maintenance.
An effective preventative vehicle maintenance system for fleets involves scheduled maintenance, repairs of parts and vehicle inspections to prevent breakdowns. The benefits of an effective preventative maintenance system are:
Reduced overall maintenance and operating costs
Reduced operating costs due to fewer vehicle breakdowns
Improved vehicle fuel consumption
Increased customer satisfaction due to consistent on-time deliveries
Enhanced vehicle residual value and asset longevity
Lower insurance costs
Reduced risk of vehicle downtime at roadside checks
Regular maintenance might sound time consuming and a bit of a hassle. However, in the long run, it will be the cheaper alternative than having your vehicle be a part of a malfunction that threatens driver or fleet safety.
Your vehicle maintenance checklist
The moment you climb into your vehicle, be at peace knowing that you've done everything to ensure your vehicle is in the roadworthy condition it should be in.
Sometimes all you need to do is keep an eye on those dashboard lights and get those complimentary oil and water level checks while filling up at the petrol station.
Here are regular checks you can conduct on your vehicle whether you own one vehicle or a fleet:
Short term maintenance check-ups
Correct oil and coolant levels
At least once a month, or during every other trip to the petrol station, it’s a good idea to inspect both the oil and coolant levels while your engine is cool. If either the oil or coolant is low and left unchecked, this can lead to engine problems. Don’t rely on water alone to keep your engine cool.
Clean air filter
Not only can regularly checking and replacing your engine’s air filter keep dirt out of your engine, but it can improve your fuel efficiency, while also decreasing your emissions, and extending your engine’s lifespan.
Adequate tyre pressure
Your tyres are more than just what keeps your vehicle moving. Well-maintained tyres not only ensure you’re driving safely but save you extra money on fuel too. It’s a great idea to regularly inspect your tyres visually and also check tyre pressure at least once a month or before a road trip. Don’t forget to check the spare too.
Lights in working order
We’re not just talking headlights. Yes, they’re the most important lights on your car, to help increase visibility and safety, but as are your car’s indicators, brake and reverse lights. Properly functioning lights may not be at the top of your checklist, but make a habit of checking that all your vehicle’s lights are working properly.
Say yes, the next time the friendly petrol attendant at your local garage asks to check your oil and water. The levels of both fluids may have been fine the last three times you were there, but try not to let three months go by without a check. Not only does the motor oil in your vehicle’s engine lubricate the moving parts, it also acts as a sealant against debris, cools the engine, reduces wear and tear, and helps prevent engine corrosion.
Those drives on the freeway, pot-hole riddled back-roads and regular trips to and from work take their toll on your tyres. Tyre rotation doesn’t just evenly balance the tread wear on your tyres, but depending on your vehicle alignment and usage, may also extend the life of your tyres and help prevent noise and vibration issues.
Waxing your vehicle
The outside of your car needs as much maintenance as the inside - that’s where waxing comes in. Whether you do it yourself or at the local car wash, done every six months after a wash, doesn't just keep it shiny, but also keeps the paint intact and reduces the chance of rust. Waxing can help minimise microscopic damage from dust and UV rays by forming a protective seal.
Long term check-ups
In between annual services - which won’t cover every aspect of maintaining your car - there are some inspections you can DIY to keep your wheels in great condition. Don’t wait for a breakdown to attend to the preventable.
Here are some long-term checks to add to your checklist:
Check transmission fluid
Just like motor oil keeps your engine working smoothly, transmission fluid does the same with all of the moving parts inside of your transmission. When levels are too low, you risk damage or possible replacement, which can be costly, whether you’re driving a manual or automatic transmission car.
Inspect shocks and struts
Those potholes we mentioned earlier? Without functioning shocks, they could really do major damage to your vehicle. The purpose of shocks and struts in your car is to control the impact and rebound as your vehicle passes over bumps in the road. As an essential part of your car’s steering system, they should be professionally inspected at regular intervals or if you notice a decrease in smoothness or loss of control when driving.
Charged up spark plugs
When you turn on your car’s ignition, the spark plugs are what set off the process of powering your vehicle. Faulty spark plugs lead to a loss of engine power and a car that won’t run at optimal capacity. Spark plugs need to be checked by a professional at intervals determined by your vehicle manufacturer.
Smooth running fan belt
Whether you refer to it as a serpentine, accessory or alternator belt, your vehicle’s fan belt isn’t just a simple piece of rubber. It helps keep your car running by powering parts including the alternator, power steering pump, and air conditioner compressor. Visually inspect the belt to spot wear and tear early. Get your car’s belt checked during your annual service or an oil change.
Much like your own body, your car performs differently under varying conditions. Your vehicle's needs will change as the weather and driving conditions change.
Here are a few suggestions to add to the long- and short-term vehicle maintenance checklist:
Replace windshield wipers
Depending on where you live, the rainy season can affect you in both winter and summertime. The last thing you need is to be driving through a storm with worn-out wipers. Windshield wipers need to be replaced about once every year, or whenever the effectiveness is compromised. As a general rule, if you can hear the wipers, it's time for a new set.
Check battery performance
If you’ve ever had a dead battery, you know the importance of having that little box in your bonnet charged up and ready to go. Your car battery supplies an electrical current for the starter, engine and other electronic accessories in the vehicle. Extreme temperatures affect battery performance, so regular testing will ensure optimum performance.
Change your tyres
We spoke about the rotation of tyres, but a crucial part of this vehicle maintenance is replacing the tyres once they show signs of wear. Wet weather conditions are even more dangerous with smooth tyres, as they decrease traction and affect braking distance.
According to Bridgestone, sticking to a car maintenance schedule, and keeping good records of what you’ve done, can help extend the life of your vehicle. You’re also less likely to encounter breakdowns, expensive repairs, and other unwelcome surprises.
Maintenance made easy
Cartrack’s fleet management software will help track everything from time spent idling, mileage, fuel and oil consumption and more with timely alerts for the maintenance that is due. Always keep your drivers, passengers and vehicles safe with a seamless maintenance plan.
Our industry-leading fleet management system helps you avoid unexpected downtime with predictive maintenance alerts, so you can keep your business moving. Get your fleet management on track today.
Visitcartrack.co.za today for ultimate peace of mind and get a free quote for your vehicle or fleet.
It is crucial to make repairs at the earliest and Cartrack can help avoid the hassle with alerts about upcoming vehicle maintenance. Cartrack’s fleet management software will help track everything