When you’re spending a large portion of your time driving for work, making sure your van runs smoothly during the colder months is top of your to-do list.
Working as a tradesperson, we know that your van is a crucial part of your livelihood. It gets you from job to job, and is home to your expensive tools, radio entertainment, and in the wet weather can act as a much-needed respite!
Let’s explore some useful ‘van nutrition’ to keep you – and it – running smoothly this year.
Essential van maintenance
The cold weather will put a lot of additional stress on your vehicle and could result in a breakdown that could cost you thousands in repairs and lost business. That’s the last thing anyone needs right now, least of all waiting roadside in the rain! So, just a few simple winter health checks could save you a fortune in van repairs and lost work.
Here’s our handy checklist:
Think of this as the Vitamin C for your van! Antifreeze simply prevents water from freezing and raising the coolant boiling temperature to stop the engine from overheating. Check your owner’s manual to see how often you should replace the antifreeze in your vehicle – it very much depends on the model and size of your engine. If you’re not sure when your coolant was last changed, your local garage will be able to tell you.
Think of this as the essential iron you need to keep powering on! A 12v battery has a lifespan of around five to six years, but it will depend on usage. Lights, phone chargers, and cold weather can all put the battery under strain. Over time, a battery’s ability to hold a charge will lessen, which increases the risk of a breakdown. If your van is struggling to start in the mornings then it’s probably time to replace the battery.
- Windscreen and wipers
Vitamin A protects your eyes, so focus on protecting your van’s. Your vans wipers and windscreen need extra care in winter, as dirt and road salt quickly builds up. You can wipe the interior too, with a microfibre cloth and a good quality glass cleaner. A clean screen will demist quicker during cold weather compared to a dirty one! Keep an eye out for changes in temperature cracking your windscreen as well, especially when you turn that heater all the way up! Check now to see if windscreens are covered under your van policy.
Increasing Vitamin D in the winter can help us compensate for lack of sunlight. So, make sure all your vans lights work on all settings: parking, dipped, and main beam. It’s vital that you’re visible to other road users at night, and in poor conditions. You can get someone to help you or shine your lights against a wall or garage door and check the reflections. As well as checking that your headlights and taillights function, you should clean them all every fortnight. Just like your windscreen, the build-up of dirt and road salt could obscure your lights.
Think of your tyres as Creatine, which is essential for performance and strength! Treat your tyres with care – it’s a good habit to get into if you can check your tyre pressure and thread every two weeks, as well as before long journeys. Underinflated or worn tyres make driving extremely dangerous, especially in bad weather. You can find the correct tyre pressure in your owner’s manual and/or on a plate inside the driver’s door frame. Check the sidewalls for bulges or tears and inspect the tread depth. By law, you must have 1.6mm of tread across the central three-quarters of each tyre.
Do you need an emergency kit onboard?
Having an emergency pack in your van can save your bacon if you find your journey goes off track! If you break down on the motorway, or anywhere that you need to leave the vehicle and head for a safe location, your emergency pack should be ready to grab and go. Useful items include:
- Warm winter clothing (coat, fleece, hat, gloves)
- High visibility jacket
- Torch including spare batteries
- Ice scraper and de-icer
- Extra screen wash
- First aid kit
- Spare phone charger
- Bottle(s) of water
- Hazard sign
- Emergency contact information needed to call for assistance
Other suggestions include non-perishable snacks for emergencies, safety goggles, jump starter power packs just in case another vehicle isn’t around, a snow shovel, umbrella, shoe grips to wear in icy conditions and even cat litter to help you escape an icy trap. All great ideas, depending on space, of course!
How to protect your tools in winter
Tool theft is a year-round problem plaguing the trade industry, but the shorter days usually lead to a spike in incidents, as thieves take advantage of the cover of darkness. Last year, a total of 35,098 incidents of tool theft were reported to the police in England, Wales, and Northern Ireland – 13% more than 2021. That means tools were stolen every 15 minutes!
These staggering statistics should make you vigilant, and follow these precautions:
- Always remove tools from your van while on a job, or overnight, where possible.
- Park your van sliding door against a wall, and ideally in a well-lit area.
- Lock your van each time you leave it, even if it’s just for a minute.
- Invest in a quality lockable tool chest.
- Keep an inventory list, which is up-to-date and includes prices, to help speed up a claims process if you need to.
- Engrave your tools or use tools with smart lock functionality.
- Consider a smart CCTV kit so that you can monitor any alerts on your mobile phone.
- Store your tools in a securely locked garage. You could also install an alarm system and/or motion-sensor lighting.
- Use a GPS tracking device to keep track of your tools – or even Air Tags, which have much better range than other Bluetooth tracking devices.
- Never leave your tools unattended in a public place.
- Register your tools on an online database – police can trace owners of lost/stolen property via Immobilise.com, which is free to use, and you can also report if your tools go missing.
- If you do store your tools in your van, take a look at some of the latest security tech available from Van Guard.
Make sure your tools are insured under a separate policy, and at the right amount, to ensure you can get back to work with all the replacement the tools you need to finish the job. Your local Howden Commercial branch will be able to help you with this if you aren’t covered already.
Unsure if you are correctly covered?
We understand the real cost of being unable to leave home in the morning to attend a job, so breakdown cover can be included in your van insurance premium, or as a stand-alone policy.
If you aren’t sure whether your van insurance includes breakdown cover, get in touch with your business branch. It’s what we’re here for.