When it comes to car rental operations, nothing will cut into revenue faster than a vehicle that is off the road due to a mechanical problem. So making sure that your vehicles are properly maintained should be a top priority.
Proper maintenance provides safer transportation with fewer breakdowns and lower costs. Poor maintenance practices age vehicles quicker, make them less desirable to operate, reduce renter comfort and, ultimately, puts your company at a competitive disadvantage.
There are two ways to maintain a vehicle – preventive (scheduled) maintenance or "running" repair. With preventive maintenance, vehicles are on a set maintenance schedule, and parts and components are routinely replaced on a time or mileage-keyed basis rather than waiting for them to wear out or break down. Running repair is fixing only what is broken when it breaks, which typically occurs at inconvenient times and locations. While running repair is initially cheaper than preventive maintenance, it is by far more expensive over the long run.
What to do from a maintenance standpoint and when to do it vary by vehicle. Fortunately, every vehicle comes with an owner's manual that includes specific guidelines for maintaining it. Oil and lubrication at regular intervals are just the beginning; owner's manuals provide details and should be carefully reviewed at regular intervals.
Additionally, make sure your employees use their senses when inspecting and driving your vehicles to detect early warning signs of trouble. They should listen for unusual or abnormal sounds. Thumps, squeaks, squeals, rattles, rumbles and other sounds provide valuable clues about maintenance needs. Some problems may be right under their nose. The sense of smell can detect burning rubber, insulation or hot fluids and can lead to an early diagnosis of trouble. The sense of touch should be used to feel changes in the vehicle’s response. Difficult handling, a rough ride, unusual vibration and poor performance from a vehicle almost always indicate a problem. The eyes can observe warning lights and spot potential issues. For example, small stains or an occasional drop of fluid under a vehicle may not mean much, but wet spots deserve attention; check puddles immediately. Importantly, be attentive to renter comments or complaints regarding your vehicles. Customers are often the first ones to identify mechanical issues and any reports should be checked out and addressed promptly.
Of course, the engine is not the only thing that should be maintained. Tires are among the most important, yet most often overlooked, vehicle component. Because everything related to driving – starting, moving, turning and stopping – involves the tires, the importance of properly maintaining them cannot be overemphasized.
Factors that affect tire wear and life include:
- Pressure – Underinflation creates excessive heat, seriously reduces tire life, increases fuel consumption, diminishes control of the vehicle and is the leading cause of tire failure. Overinflation causes the center of the tread to bear the majority of the vehicle’s weight, leading to faster deterioration and premature and uneven wear.
- Alignment – Poor alignment can quickly wear out tires, result in decreased traction and even cause your vehicle to veer off to one side.
- Rotation – Each tire on your vehicle supports a different amount of weight. Tire rotation helps to equalize tread wear and is critical to gain the maximum tire lifespan.
- Tread – Tread wear patterns indicate whether tires are properly balanced, aligned and inflated. Advanced and unusual wear can reduce the ability of the tread to grip the road.
Tire Care Tips
For safety’s sake and to get the most out of tires, consider the following procedures as part of your tire care program:
- Check tire inflation with an accurate gauge regularly.
- Check tire/wheel alignment as specified by the vehicle’s owner’s manual or whenever there is an indication of trouble, such as pulling or vibration.
- Rotate tires regularly to achieve more uniform wear and extend their useful life.
- Visually check your tires for uneven wear, looking for high and low areas or unusually smooth areas on a regular basis.
- Scan treads regularly for any sharp objects that may have punctured the tires. Clean out rocks or debris lodged in deep tread. Check sidewalls for gouges, cracks, splits, cuts, bulges or other irregularities.
- Replace damaged tires immediately.
- Always follow the vehicle manufacturer’s recommendations for correct tire inflation, appropriate rotation timeframe and pattern, and replacement tire specifications.
Proper Care Produces Multiple Benefits
Vehicles are designed to provide thousands of miles of excellent service. But for maximum benefit, they must be properly maintained. Car rental operators who adhere to a preventive vehicle maintenance program will experience far fewer headaches and will find that their vehicles last longer and have a higher resale value. Most importantly, proper vehicle maintenance will keep your customers happy and profits in your pocket.