Prepare your Fleet for Winter

Nov 11, 2013

Many mountain ranges throughout the country are already capped with snow; resorts in Colorado and Vermont are already open for the snowsports season.  With the heart of winter right around the corner, is your fleet ready to transition from the summer heat to the coldest months ahead? Fleet managers should use the following AAA Winter Care Checklist to prepare all vehicles for the winter months:

Winter Care Checklist

Battery and Charging System – Have the battery and charging system tested by a trained technician. A fully charged battery in good condition is required to start an engine in cold weather.

Battery Cables and Terminals – Check the condition of the battery cables and terminals. Make sure all connections are secure and remove any corrosion from the terminals and posts.

Drive Belts – Inspect belts for cracks or fraying as these issues will compound from the cold contracting the material. If your fleet has utilized multi-rib belts, replace them every 60,000 miles because they will not display obvious signs of wear.

Engine Hoses – Observe all hoses for leaks, cracks or loose clamps, as well as squeezing various points along each hose to check for any that are brittle or excessively spongy feeling.

Tire Type and Tread – In areas with heavy winter weather, changing to snow tires on all four wheels will provide the best winter traction. All-season tires will work well in light to moderate snow conditions, providing they have adequate tread depth. If any tire has less than 3/32-inches of tread, it should be replaced. Uneven wear on the tires can indicate alignment, suspension or wheel balance problems that should be addressed to prevent further damage to the tires.

Tire Pressure – Due to the cold, it is necessary to check tire inflation more frequently in the winter. Generally tire pressure will drop 1 PSI for every 10 degrees Fahrenheit.  For proper tire pressure, refer to the vehicle owner’s manual or this can be typically found on the inside of the driver side door. 

Air Filter – If light can be seen through the filter, when held up to a 60-watt bulb, it is still in working order. If the light is blocked from shining through, though, make sure to install a replacement.

Coolant Levels – Check the coolant level when the engine is cold. If the coolant level is low, add a 50/50 solution of coolant and water to maintain the necessary antifreeze capability. Check the protection level with a test kit that can be purchased from any auto parts store.

Lights – Check the operation of all headlights, taillights, emergency flashers, turn signals, brake lights and back-up lights. Replace any dead bulbs.

Wiper Blades – Blades should completely clear the glass with each swipe. Replace blades that leave streaks or miss spots. In areas with consistently snowy conditions, there are winter wiper blades available which have a rubber boot wrapping the frame to prevent ice buildup.

Washer Fluid – For the winter months, fill the washer fluid reservoir with a solution of cleaning agent and antifreeze to enhance function during freezing days.

Brakes – Ensure that brakes are manually inspected and that fleet drivers note when there is any issues present with braking.

Transmission, Brake and Power Steering Fluids – Verify that all fluids are at or above minimum safe operational levels.

Emergency Road Kit – In case any unforeseen breakdowns or impassable natural disasters occur, it is important to carry an emergency kit that is equipped for winter weather. The kit should include:

  • Bag of abrasive material (sand, salt, cat litter) or traction mats
  • Snow shovel
  • Flashlight with extra batteries
  • Window washer solvent
  • Ice scraper with brush
  • Cloth or roll of paper towels
  • Jumper cables
  • Warning devices (flares or triangles)
  • Drinking water
  • Non-perishable snacks (energy or granola bars)
  • Extra warm clothes and blankets
  • First-aid kit
  • Basic toolkit (screwdrivers, pliers, adjustable wrench)
  • Mobile phone and car charger with numbers for fleet dispatch, family and roadside assistance

In addition to the above the checklist, if there are vehicles in your fleet that are not regularly in use, be sure to swap out the fuel as the chemical make up of summer fuel is different from winter fuel.

Protecting your fleet for the winter ahead will not increase the longevity of fleet vehicles but will also act as general maintenance to improve fuel efficiency.