If you own a business and make a lot of use of a utility truck, chances are that this usage is a lot harder on the vehicle than with a normal passenger car. Heavier loads are carried; you often do a lot of stop and go driving, and are often tied up in traffic. All this can take its toll on a utility truck, and keeping maintenance schedules up should be a top priority. Because your vehicle is a part of your business, it doesn't pay to have it breaking down on you every time you turn around. Here, we will discuss maintenance procedures, how often routine maintenance should be performed, and take a look at how using your truck in your business affects your pocketbook.
Changing the oil is probably the best insurance you can have to keep a utility truck running better and longer. Schedules vary from manufacturer to manufacturer, but this does not take into consideration the extra work expected out of your truck. Opinions vary, but it is a safe bet that if you change the oil every 2 to 3 thousand miles, and change the filter in the process, your vehicle will last much longer. Often, a delivery vehicle spends a lot of time in stop and go traffic, and will spend more time idling than a normal vehicle. For this reason, the oil breaks down quicker. Changing often and using a good grade of motor oil saves a lot of wear and tear.
With utility vehicles, parts other than the engine will usually fail first. Transmissions take a beating in hauling a load, and rear ends will wear out much more quickly than normal. To insure that these don't fail on you, have the transmission fluid and filter changed in half the time frame of a normal vehicle. Mechanics recommend that this be done on a regular passenger car at least every 50,000 miles. Save yourself money in the long run and get it done at 25,000 miles. The same goes for the rear end. Cutting the maintenance schedule in half insures you not only of less wear and tear, but also gives your mechanic a chance to spot trouble before it becomes a problem.
Tires need to be rotated on a regular basis to insure even wear. If much of your deliveries are made in town, try to rotate the tires at least every 3,000 miles. When tires are rotated, it gives the mechanic an opportunity to check brakes and brake lines, and look for abnormal wear. Also very important to the life of your tires is checking the air pressure on a weekly basis. Remember that tire pressures, when listed by the manufacturer, are focused on two things - a smoother ride and better stability. When considering that you may be carrying loads that are a great deal more than an average vehicle, you may want to think about raising the tire pressure a bit over the manufacturer's suggestions. Remember that a tire that is low on air pressure generates a great deal more heat. Heat is the biggest enemy of a tire, allowing it to wear out faster. Also, decreased tire pressure, especially when hauling a load, can cause the vehicle to be much less stable than usual. Better to check the tire pressure on a weekly basis than to have an accident.
Engine fluids and coolants should be checked more often than you would on a passenger vehicle. A truck that does around town delivery will always run warmer than one that is used on the highway, and will often deplete such important things as radiator coolants due to this. Because of the added strain on an automatic transmission, it is wise to check these fluid levels more often than normal. Check suspension components and shocks on a regular basis. Because they bear more weight, they wear quicker. Poor suspension means a rough and dangerous ride, especially when carrying a load. It isn't uncommon for a load to shift if the shocks are not up to par.
Modern trucks have a lot more features now than in previous decades. Onboard computers allow your maintenance man to keep a closer eye on what is going on with the engine, and a lot of sensors are now used to keep an eye on such things as exhaust emission and vacuum modules. Even with all this, however, it is a necessity to keep an eye on things from both a visual view and through regularly scheduled maintenance. Because a utility truck is vital to your business, you should always be sure to care for it in the proper manner, and not cut corners on maintenance.
Alden Smith is an award winning author and regular contributor to DoItYourself.com. He writes on a variety of subjects, and excels in research.