As the colder weather starts to set in, there are steps that responsible business van owners must take to keep their vehicles in prime condition and stay safe. Here are five crucial checks to make before winter arrives in earnest.
#1 Keep your engines running
Check all fluid levels in your engine. Consult your vehicle handbook to find out which antifreeze the manufacturer recommends and ensure it is topped up. Make sure that the coolant in your engine is at the optimum ratio of 60 percent coolant to 40 percent water. If temperatures are likely to be very severe, consider a thinner grade of engine oil.
#2 The right tyres for the season
Tyres are an important consideration for driving safely in winter weather. Yours should be in good shape year-round but, during the colder months, you ought to pay extra attention; check that the tread is deep enough, and whether there are any signs of damage or excessive wear.
If you're only going to be driving in the city or on well-maintained and gritted highways, your van should be fine with all-season tyres – although we can’t recommend enough having snow chains or snow socks in reserve. If you're likely to venture into more remote areas where ice or heavy snow are to be expected, fit your van with winter tyres. These will give you better braking and improved grip, supporting good road handling and safety.
#3 Cold affects locks too
Van locks can sustain severe long-term damage if they are left to freeze in very cold weather – which can make them hard to open the usual way, but easier to break through! To keep your van secure, consider applying petroleum jelly or spray lubricant to all your locks. This will prevent water from getting inside them and freezing up.
#4 Your battery is vulnerable when you need it the most
Cold weather reduces battery capacity, just when you're likely to be using your heating and lights more heavily as the days become shorter and the temperature drops. This all adds up to a greater risk of battery failure. Vehicle batteries usually last approximately five years; check the manufacturing date of your battery to make sure it's not in need of replacement. You should also inspect the battery and the area around it for signs of corrosion. Check battery cables for cracks or breaks.
#5 Visibility is essential
Check that your lights are working properly and are free from dirt. When you're driving in low winter sunlight, smears and streaks can make the glare worse, so use a good-quality cleaner to stop dirt and grime from building up on the windscreen. Top up your windscreen washer fluid with a recommended antifreeze. Keep your wiper blades in good condition with petroleum jelly or a blade conditioner, and replace them if they become perished or cracked.
Aside from vehicle checks, there are other steps you can take to make winter van driving safer and less stressful. Remember that driving in winter always involves delays, and allow extra time. Stopping distances will be longer, so you'll need to slow your driving speed. Keep up with weather reports; if you're travelling for long distances, consider how you'll manage if you find yourself outside of mobile phone coverage. Consider stocking your van with items such as blankets, snacks and emergency signals if you're going to drive through remote areas.