6 Van Maintenance Tips To Keep Your Van On The Road
May 01, 2019 at 11:53 AM
For the majority of van owners, their commercial vehicle is key to their livelihood and having it off the road represents a significant loss of earnings. Keeping up with regular van maintenance can help to prevent unnecessary and costly trips to the garage.
A van is an essential tool for a business. Typically, it either provides transport for you and your other tools to get between jobs, or it's the heartbeat of the business allowing you to complete numerous deliveries every day.
In between scheduled services and MOT tests, there are basic van maintenance tasks that you can perform to help keep your van on the road and working for you. Proper maintenance will also keep the resale value as high as possible.
1. Tyre Maintenance
Tyres are the only part of the van that come into contact with the road; keeping them in a roadworthy condition is a legal requirement to keep you and other road users safe. Before starting any journey, you should do a quick walkaround to check the condition of each tyre.
You're looking to see that there are no bulges, no cuts in the sidewall, no visible cord and no missing or unsecure wheel-nuts. If you spot any of these things, you should replace the tyre immediately.
As well as performing a visual inspection to see if each tyre has enough air in it, you should regularly check the actual tyre pressure (at least once a fortnight). Van tyres, especially the rear ones, are put under more pressure than car tyres because they carry heavier loads.
To find the correct tyre pressures for your van you can consult the manufacturer's handbook or use the National Tyre Service tool. Once you know the correct tyre pressures, you can either use a tyre pressure gauge to check the current level, or take your van to a fuel garage - most of them will have an air pressure machine that you can set to the correct PSI level.
An underinflated tyre causes uneven wear and tear so they need to be replaced earlier than normal. In addition, more energy, and therefore fuel, is required to drive them, decreasing the van's fuel efficiency. On the other hand, an overinflated tyre is more likely to blow out.
When you're checking the van's tyre pressure, it's the perfect opportunity to ensure each tyre has enough tread. The legal minimum is 1.6mm, but it's recommended to have around 3mm for better performance. You can check tyre tread using the 20p test:
2. Under The Bonnet Maintenance
Making sure that the engine, battery and other moving parts are working correctly is something that should be left to a qualified technician. However, you can help to maintain everything under the bonnet in between services by performing a series of simple tasks.
Before you even pop the bonnet, you can look under the van to check for any leaks. If there's a puddle of fluid on the road, you can try to investigate where the problem is yourself, or put the van into a garage for a professional to find and fix.
Under the bonnet, there's a range of fluids you can check and top up if necessary including the oil, water / coolant, power steering fluid, brake fluid and windscreen washer fluid. To find the correct tank for each fluid, consult the manufacturer's handbook.
Once you're happy all the fluids are at optimum levels, you can move onto the battery. Primarily, you're just checking the condition of the terminals and cables for any worrying signs like cracks, breaks or built-up residue. If you notice any of these things, take your van to a mechanic before you're left stranded by a van that won't start.
Finally, you can check the condition of the air filter. It's normally located under some casing which you can remove by unclipping it or unscrewing the bolts. The air filter should be changed with a service, but if it looks quite dirty and you don't have another service coming up for a few months, it would be worthwhile putting a new air filter in.
3. Door Maintenance
Van doors are subjected to harsh treatment every day being pulled open and slammed shut. During a routine walk around, you should check that all the doors - driver, passenger, rear and side - open easily and close properly.
Test that the rear doors open to their full extent - some are designed to open up to 180° and even 270° so that they sit along the outside of the van. If your van has a side door, it's important to check that it stays on its runners when you open and close it.
Unsurpisingly, the two most stolen vehicles on UK roads are vans with thousands more simply broken into with the chance of expensive tools being left in the load area. As a van owner, you should ensure that all your doors are securely locked when left unattended.
It's also advisable to invest in additional security measures such as deadlocks and alarms to deter potential thieves.
4. Lights Maintenance
It's a legal requirement to have all the lights on your van in working condition. During a routine walk around, you should turn all your lights on to test that they're all working. You will need someone else's help to test your brake lights.
If you notice a light that isn't working, you need to replace the bulb. If this doesn't work, it's likely to be a wiring issue and the van should be taken to a garage to inspect and fix the problem.
As well as ensuring all the lights are working, van owners in particular need to regularly clean their lights. For example, if you're driving around dusty and dirty building sites, the visibility of your lights can be reduced which will negatively affect their performance and your safety.
5. Windscreen Maintenance
Driver visibility is imperative whatever vehicle is being driven. Once you've checked the windscreen washer fluid level, you can test that the mechanism is working correctly. The washers need to be pointing to the windscreen and cover a large percentage with fluid.
The wipers should be able to clear the windscreen effectively. If they leave streaks or squeak when passing over the windscreen they've become worn and you need to replace them.
Finally, you should check for any chips or cracks in the windscreen. Even a tiny bit of damage could ultimately crack the whole screen if it gets hit by any flying debris while driving.
6. Exterior & Interior Maintenance
The UK weather is notoriously unpredictable and will subject your van to everything from heavy rain and snow to gale-force winds and blistering sunshine. It's recommended that you wash your van at least once a month to avoid any permanent damage or staining to the paintwork.
Keeping it clean will also help to reduce the likelihood of rust appearing. Although it won't help your van to perform better, having a clean exterior provides the professional image you want to project to existing and future customers.
Similarly, having a neat and tidy cabin area free from rubbish and disorganised paperwork tells people that you care about your personal appearance and the perception of your business. Keeping the load area organised will help you to be more efficient on a job.
If you happen to work in a profession that causes dirty clothes and shoes, you could install seat covers to protect the interior. They're removable so you could wash them periodically to help keep them clean.
Van Driver's Daily Walk Around Check
The government have put a helpful list together of checks that van drivers can do before they get behind the wheel and set off for their first job.