Posted on: 27 January 2021

Vehicle care and maintenance in the colder months

Whilst your commercial vehicle should always be kept well maintained for your safety, the winter months are when your commercial vehicle can suffer from damage that is easy to escalate beyond your control.

Rain, snow, ice, grit, and wind can all damage a vehicle, which can be expensive to repair, and driving in these conditions can also prove to be dangerous. Take a look at how you can stay safe in your commercial vehicle by reading these simple vehicle care and maintenance tips.

MOT and Service

An MOT is an annual check to make sure that your vehicle is suitable to be driving on the roads in the UK, and is a legal requirement.

Servicing your vehicle isn’t a legal requirement, but regular services means that your vehicle gets checked over by experts to make sure it is running at optimum performance.

If you don’t cover a lot of miles, we would recommend that you have an interim service alongside your MOT, followed by a full service 6 months later. This ensures that your vehicle gets checked at least every 6 months to make sure it is in good condition. Otherwise, have your vehicle checked around every 10,000 miles.

General inspections

You don’t necessarily need an expert to point out any signs of deterioration to your vehicle, and you can spot some signs yourself with regular inspections.

Some of the things to watch out for include:

1. Oil Levels

Under the bonnet of most vehicles is a dipstick that can be used to check your oil levels.

Simply pull out the dipstick and wipe it clean, put it back into the hole, give it a wiggle and take it back out. The oil level should be between two indicators on the dipstick.

2. Windscreen Fluid

In winter, dirt can accumulate on your windscreen, making it difficult to see when you are driving. This is why screenwash is so important in the winter.

Again, take a look under the bonnet for a, usually, clear tank with windscreen image on the cap. Make sure that this tank is topped up regularly so that you can keep your windscreen clear.

3. Tyre Inspection

A quick inspection of your tyres can find faults with, arguably, the most important thing on your car to keep them in good condition.

For driving in winter, you need to make sure that your tyres have plenty of grip to keep you on the road. The minimum tread allowance is 1.6mm, but you will want to have tyres in a better condition for driving in potentially dangerous conditions. If you know you’ll be driving a lot of miles in winter conditions, consider fitting winter tyres designed to offer optimum traction and grip in cold conditions.

You may also have an idea if your tyre pressure is low just by looking at them. Most petrol stations in the UK have tyre pressure machines, so make sure that you regularly use these to keep your tyres at the right pressure.

4. Rust and deterioration checks

Some parts of a vehicle are more prone to rust than others so keep an eye out for signs of deterioration on these areas of your vehicle:

  • Around the lamps
  • Behind the bumper
  • Inside door edges
  • Door openings
  • Wheel arches
  • Lower sills
  • Window surrounds

It is also worth remembering that because we drive on the left in the UK, the left-hand underside of the car tends to get the most damaged in the winter because of how the roads are gritted. Road salt is extremely corrosive and over time will erode metal and allow rust to set in. Therefore it is always sensible to regularly wash your commercial vehicle in winter.

Having a professional look over your vehicle can find spots of rust that you might not be able to see from a quick inspection, so make sure you have your vehicle serviced regularly.

Vehicle storage

Keeping your vehicle safe whilst you’re using it is only the start of good vehicle maintenance. How you store your vehicle can make all the difference in keeping it in good condition.

5. The dangers of storing your vehicle outside

If your commercial vehicle is kept outside then you leave it open to the weather conditions. This makes it more likely to lead to rust, faded paint or even damage from the wind blowing debris around.

Where possible, keep a vehicle stored indoors, in a garage or warehouse.

You could also consider putting a cover over your vehicle when not use, which will offer more protection to your vehicle.

Driving in winter conditions

Now that we have shown you how to look after your commercial vehicles, it’s time to take a look at how to make sure you are safe whilst you are on the road.

6. Take your time

Conditions on the roads in winter can be dangerous, and if you are rushing then you may be heading for an accident.

If you know that we are in for a cold spell, make sure that you give yourself plenty of time before setting off on a journey so that you can factor in time to defrost your car or van to the point where it is safe to drive.

Once your vehicle is sufficiently defrosted, take your time on the roads so that you aren’t driving into a patch of ice or snowdrift too fast.

7. Keep safe distances

Even if you are driving at a safe speed, it doesn’t necessarily mean others are doing the same. It is safer to keep your distance from other drivers in winter; if they make a mistake, you don’t want to be caught up in the accident.

8. Keep a breakdown kit on hand

In the event of a breakdown, you can keep yourself safe by carrying around a breakdown kit. When using commercial vehicles in winter, make sure they are stocked with the following:

  • Mobile phone power bank or phone charging cables – Make sure there is enough power in your mobile phone to make an emergency call.
  • Hi-viz vest or jacket – If a vehicle has broken down, it is often safer to be outside the vehicle when waiting for help to arrive.  If you have broken down on a motorway or by a busy road, being visible to other road users whilst at the side of the road is essential in keeping you and other passengers safe. Keep enough vests or jackets for everyone in the vehicle, and consider jackets to keep people warm in the winter.
  • Red warning triangle – If safe to do so, a red triangle should be placed around 40-50 meters from the broken down vehicle to alert other drivers that there is a broken down vehicle nearby.
  • Torch – In the winter months, the sun rises later and sets earlier than other months of the year, so if your vehicle breaks down in the dark and you intend to fix it, for instance changing a tyre, you need to be able to see what you’re doing.
  • Water – Keeping bottled water in the back of a vehicle can help keep your team hydrated if they get stranded. Make sure to swap out water bottles now and then to stop them going stagnant.
  • Non-perishable food – A quick snack can help to keep someone going if they are stranded in a broken-down vehicle. Something like a small chocolate bar or a bag of nuts can help to keep someone going while they wait for help.

9. Know how to recover from slips

When driving in snowy or icy conditions, it can be a common occurrence for a vehicle to start sliding on the slippery surface.

It can be an incredibly scary situation to find yourself in, but knowing how to stop yourself spinning out can help prevent accidents.

If you know you are coming up to a tight turn, you should slow down with plenty of time to make the turn. The slower you are driving, the less likely you are to go into a skid.

If your wheels start to skid on the ice, take your foot off the accelerator, turn the steering wheel the opposite direction to the way that you are turning, and lightly pump the brakes. Avoid turning into the skid, because if the wheels gain traction again, you are more likely to accelerate into the turn.

10. Check your lights

Because the days are shorter and the weather is often worse, you are likely to be less visible to other drivers.

The best way to be seen on the road in the winter is to have your lights in good working order. A driver should check that the lights are working every time they head out in the winter, and if a bulb is not working, the vehicle should not be used until it has been replaced.

Business insurance with Premierline

At Premierline, we are passionate about helping you protect the business you have built. We can help you find the right commercial vehicle insurance or fleet insurance, to ensure your vehicle is covered should the worst happen.

Our business advisors work with some of the UK’s most well-known insurance providers to find a quote that provides the right cover for your business needs. Get in touch and speak with one of our trained insurance experts to discuss your insurance requirements.

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