To help you get your business & van back on the road after lockdown, Vanarama van expert Tom Roberts has pulled together his top maintenance checks to make sure everything is in complete working order.
More vans on the roads is a good sign that the UK's small businesses & sole traders are beginning to start up again, but a good-working van needs looking after, regular MOTs & services - find out how to get your van an MOT during lockdown here.
Vans need to be driven & the Covid-19 outbreak's lockdown measures have prevented the need to drive them as often & made the roads quieter, but before you leap into your van you can run a few maintenance checks
Check The Battery
Van batteries - like car batteries - need charge to start the engine & power the vehicle's systems. Leave a van parked on your drive for a couple of months without starting it & it's likely your van won't start because the battery has drained. When a van is driven, the battery is charged - if a van isn't driven the battery loses charge.
Why Is My Battery Drained?
If you're battery is drained & your van won't start, it's probably because of 1 of these 3 reasons:
Your battery is old & incapable of holding charge anymore - try charging it & if that doesn't work, replace it.
Your van has been standing still or only used for very short runs & the battery hasn't had the chance to charge - jump the van or try charging the battery up.
The battery has been drained by accessories such as dashcams being left plugged in or headlights left on - try jumping your van or charging up the battery & if that doesn't work, replace it.
How Can I Charge My Battery?
You can try jump starting the van or trickle charging - using jump cables or a trickle charger, respectively.
If either of the 2 methods above work, take your van out for a 20-30 minute drive every couple of days to keep the battery topped up.
Alternatively, if you have breakdown cover, you can call your provider who will be able to diagnose your battery problem & help you get your van started again.
Once you've got your van started - if that was an issue - make sure you carry out the next few checks before hitting the road once again.
Check Your Diesel Particulate Filter
Diesel engines filter their exhaust fumes & capture soot using a diesel particulate filter to reduce their harmful emissions. They only have so much room inside them, so making sure your diesel particulate filter is clean & able to burn off the excess soot is vital.
How Can I Tell If My Diesel Particulate Filter Isn't Working?
Usually, your vehicle will alert you by flashing up an alert on your dashboard display. You're unlikely to notice that it's not working by any other sign.
How Can I Get My Diesel Particulate Checked Or Fixed?
Take your van to a garage & have them check, repair or replace your diesel particulate filter. You can try replacing it yourself, but I wouldn't - it's best to let the professionals take care of it as part of a routine service or booked job.
Can I Remove The Diesel Particulate Filter?
No, it is illegal to do so. If you're caught driving a van without a diesel particulate filter you can be fined up to £2,500 & will invalidate your insurance.
Check Your Brakes
Brakes help you stop - if they don't work, you'll never stop with potentially catastrophic results. So, make sure you give them a check, make sure they work, aren't too rusty & help you stop before you drive with them.
How Do I Check My Brakes?
Brake disks & callipers can usually be seen through your wheels - this is much easier with alloy wheels, steel wheels often have smaller holes. If the brake disk & calliper on a wheel looks rusty, it may have seized up or corroded after not being used for a while.
How Do I Unseize My Brakes?
Start your van & drive it back & forward - braking gently at the end of each movement to a standstill - listening out for grating noises. Once any noises have stopped & the van is moving smoothly you're ready to go.
How Do I Check & Maintain My Handbrake To Stop It Getting Stuck?
Sometimes your handbrake can get stuck if left on for long periods of time. Getting in your van every now & then to let the handbrake off & on again can solve this problem.
Check Your Tyres
You'll see tyres on every list of vehicle checks & with good reason. Good brakes need good tyres to work properly - no grip on your tyres means longer braking distance, bad handling while driving & increase your likelihood of having an accident.
How Do I Check The Condition Of My Tyres?
Do a visual inspection of each of your tyres in turn. Visible damage, such as cracking of the rubber or bulges in the tyre wall, will be obvious. If anything looks out of the ordinary, your tyre will likely need to be replaced.
How Do I Check My Tyre Pressure?
If you have your own tyre pressure gauge - most home tyre pumps have them built in - you will be able to find out what your pressure is & compare it against the recommended pressure for your tyres. Recommended tyre pressures are usually clearly noted on a yellow sticker inside your petrol cap, somewhere on the van's metal work or in your van's manual.
Once you know what pressure your tyres should be, inflate them to that pressure with your home pump or go to a garage & use theirs.
How Do I Check My Tyre Tread Depth?
In the UK, the lowest legal depth of tyre tread is 1.6mm all around the tyre. Most tyres have indicator bumps, or tread wear indicators, of around 1.6mm high in between the tread of the tyre - if you can see them, your tyres need replacing.
Get The Mirrors & Windshield Clean
This sounds like a no-brainer but you'd be surprised how often this slips people's minds. If you can't see well out of your windows or in your mirrors because they're dirty, that's pretty dangerous.
How Do I Check My Mirrors & Windscreen Are Clean?
Here's my advice for that first drive:
Top up your washer fluid.
Give your windows & mirrors a clean with non-bleach window cleaning solution.
Turn on your van & give your washer/wiper system a chance to spray & clean your windows.
There you go. With those 3 steps you've checked visibility & given your van's glass-cleaning system a check as well. If any of your water jets are clogged or not firing properly, get a sewing pin & pop it gently into the jet to clear any grime.
Check The Oil
Oil keeps your van's mechanical parts moving by lubricating them & stopping them from wearing down too quickly. Making sure you have enough of the right type of oil in your van is a critical check to carry out before you drive your van again.
How Do I Check My Oil Level?
Follow these steps to effectively check your oil:
Park your van on level ground, let the engine cool & leave it where it is for 10 minutes (this allows the oil to settle in the tank).
Open the bonnet & find the van's dipstick (usually a yellow handle, check your van's owner's manual to find it).
Remove the dipstick & wipe it with a cloth, replace the dipstick & leave for 30 seconds.
Remove the dipstick again, but this time check where the oil level is on the stick.
If the oil level is above or below the marked safe zone, you either have too much or not enough oil.
Wipe of the stick & replace in the oil tank.
How Do I Add More Oil?
Follow these steps to add more oil:
Check what type of oil your van needs & make sure you have that oil.
Remove the oil filler cap.
Pour in just a little oil at a time to avoid spilling any.
Check the dipstick regularly until it shows the right amount of oil is in the tank.
Screw the cap back on & close your bonnet when done.