8-Step Checklist To Winterize Your Fleet Vehicles

Van driving in snowy parking lot

You rely on your fleet vehicles to get your technicians to and from jobs and provide quality service to your customers. Winter weather and harsh road conditions shouldn’t stop your company from operating at full capacity. That’s why it’s essential to winterize your fleet!

Here’s everything you need to know about preparing your fleet vehicles for winter:

  1. How harmful is cold weather to vehicles?
  2. What are the benefits of winter fleet maintenance?
  3. What is the overall cost to prepare a vehicle for winter?
  4. How much can I save by winterizing my fleet vehicles?
  5. Preparing winter fleet maintenance checklist

How harmful are cold temperatures to vehicles?

Cold weather can cause many problems for vehicles. When car batteries get cold, they struggle to deliver as much current as needed to get the vehicle started—and may even die if left in the cold too long.

Fluids like engine oil, antifreeze, brake fluid, power steering, and transmission fluid might become less efficient in the cold. Windshield wipers become compromised and damaged due to frost on the windshield. Tires will deflate to low tire pressure, and salt from the road can damage the undercarriage of a car and cause rust.

What are the benefits of winter fleet maintenance?

The benefits of winter maintenance are that you can expect fewer breakdowns, service delays, reactive maintenance, and costly downtime and repairs. You will be able to rely on your fleet vehicles during the winter months and continue to conduct business as usual. 

What is the overall cost to prepare a vehicle for winter?

Part of preparing your vehicle for winter calls for stocking up on tools and supplies to help you combat the elements, including:

  • New battery: $300
  • Battery tester: $50
  • Cleaning supplies: $30
  • Washer fluid: $3
  • Engine oil: $40
  • Coolant: $20
  • Steering: $20
  • Transmission: $15
  • New wiper blades: $50
  • New winter tires: $400
  • Multimeter: $20
  • Fleet tracking monthly: $20
  • Water: $10
  • Flashlight or headlight: $40
  • Extra batteries: $5
  • Cell phone charger: $50
  • Shovel: $25
  • Traction mats: $30
  • Power bank portable charger: $25
  • Ice scraper: $20
  • Jumper cables: $25
  • High visibility jacket: $30
  • Winter gloves or work gloves: $25
  • Blanket: $15
  • Tealight candles and matches $5
  • Beanie $20
  • Socks,$20
  • Winter coat $75
  • Rain gear poncho: $5
  • Canned food: $10

If you’re starting from scratch (e.g. needing to purchase all the testing tools, winter tires, and emergency supplies), you’ll be looking at a winterizing cost of about $1,400 for your first vehicle. For every vehicle after that, or if you already own the testing tools and emergency supplies, the winterizing cost will be much lower—somewhere between $400 and $800 per vehicle.

The upfront costs of winterizing your fleet vehicles can seem daunting, but the cost savings make it worth your trouble.

How much can I save by winterizing my fleet vehicles?

Winterizing your fleet vehicles can end up saving you tens of thousands of dollars. From costly repairs and breakdowns to car accidents and lawsuits, time off work, and insurance premium increases that can follow, it’s in your best interest as a small business owner to winterize your fleet.

Winter fleet maintenance checklist

Protect your fleet from the harsh winter conditions by following this helpful checklist:

Check the battery 

  • Clean erosion or build up
  • Test voltage

Check and top up all fluids

  • Windshield washer fluid
  • Motor oil 
  • Coolant/Antifreeze
  • Power steering fluid
  • Brake fluid
  • Transmission fluid

Inspect wiper blades

  • Replace wiper blades

Swap tires to winter tires

Check tire pressure

  • Fill to the required PSI

Winterize your emergency kit

  • Shovel
  • Traction mats or other traction devices like a bag of sand or kitty litter 
  • Ice scraper
  • Solar blanket
  • Tealight candles and matches
  • Extra clothes (including socks, a winter coat, winter gloves, rain gear, and a beanie)

Check the block heater

  • Clean corrosion
  • Test with multimeter 

Install a fleet tracking system

Keep reading for detailed information on how to carry out this checklist and why:

1. Check the battery

A car’s battery is its main power reserve, so you’ll want to examine each vehicle’s battery health before the winter. 

Battery maintenance starts with a visual inspection to check for any corrosion or calcium build-up on your terminals. If there is any corrosion or build-up, use a wire brush, battery cleaner, baking soda, and water to remove it. You can add a layer of Vaseline to the terminals to prevent future buildup or corrosion.

The next step is to test the battery voltage with a voltmeter. A charged battery will usually display a reading of 12.4 to 12.8 volts. If the voltage is below 12.4, it’s time for a new battery.

2. Check and top up all fluids 

Proper fluid maintenance increases fleet vehicle performance and safety, as well as help to keep repair costs down. The following fluids are the most important to check before temperatures drop:

a. Windshield washer fluid

Perform a visual check of the windshield washer fluid levels. Top up the fluid if it’s low and always keep a spare jug in the vehicle’s emergency kit.

Make sure to use a washer fluid that’s designed specifically for colder temperatures. It has a higher alcohol concentration than summer washer fluid so it won’t freeze in the tubing or reservoir causing cracks and damage.

b. Motor oil

Use the dipstick to examine the engine oil. The oil should look smooth, glossy, and somewhat transparent. If there are any deposits or grainy particles of dirt, schedule an oil change for that vehicle right away. If you’re not already using full synthetic oil on your fleet vehicles, you’ll want to consider using it during the winter months because it has better cold-temperature performance.

c. Coolant/Antifreeze

Perform a visual check on the coolant tank. The tanks are often clear and have ‘full’ and ‘low’ marks on the side. Top up the antifreeze mixture if the fluid levels are on the low side of the tank.

d. Power steering fluid

Similar to the engine oil, check the power steering fluid using its dipstick. There are often three lines on the stick indicating fluid levels—low, medium, or high. Add more power steering fluid if needed.

e. Brake fluid 

When checking the brake fluid, first inspect the color. If it’s darker than apple juice or iced tea, you may need to have the brake fluid replaced. Next, check the fluid level. The brake fluid level should come within half an inch of the cap. Add more fluid if it’s low (to the fill line or between half an inch and a quarter inch from the cap if there is no line).

f. Transmission

If your vehicles allow you access to check the transmission fluid, use the dipstick to determine the fluid levels and viscosity. Add fluid if low or schedule a transmission flush if needed.

DISCLAIMER: You should always refer to the owner’s manual or service manual of each fleet vehicle for specific details on how to check and maintain all fluids.

3. Check wiper blades 

Functioning wiper blades are essential during the winter and allow your drivers to clearly see the road and any hazards along the way. Perform visual and operational checks on each vehicle’s wiper blades and install new ones if necessary. 

4. Swap tires to winter tires

Try to be proactive with your fleet vehicle’s seasonal tire changes and get the winter tires on before the first snowfall to protect from icy conditions. 

Pro tip: Keep a record of when the first snowfall happens each year in your location so you can adequately prepare for each following winter.

5. Check tire pressure

Be sure to regularly check your fleet vehicles’ tires. Frigid temperatures compress the air in your tires and can cause them to lose pressure. Having the proper tire pressure can help increase fuel economy and prevent uneven and premature wear.

6. Winterize your emergency kit

When an incident occurs, the time to prepare has passed. That’s why it’s important to equip each one of your fleet vehicles with an emergency kit. Year-round, these emergency kits should include a first aid kit, food, water, jumper cables, a flashlight, extra batteries, work gloves, cell phone charger, power bank, high visibility jacket or vest, fire extinguisher, and washer fluid, but additional items will need to be added for winter. 

Winterizing your emergency kit means adding a solar blanket, shovel, ice scraper, cat litter or traction pads, tea lights and matches, and additional warm clothes. 

A full list of what to include in your winter emergency kit can be found in our article on winter driving tips for commercial vehicles.

7. Check the block heater 

If your fleet vehicles have block heaters, be sure to check these before the cold weather shows up! Engine block heaters are great in the winter because they keep the engine and car fluids warm when the vehicle is turned off, reducing the risk of damage from “cold starts” and idling.

Visually inspect the block heater cord for any damage or corrosion. Clean any corrosion and repair any damage. Next, use a multimeter to get a reading and see if the block heater is actually working. The ideal resistance reading on the multimeter will be between 20 to 30 ohms.

8. Install a fleet tracking system

Knowing where your drivers and vehicles are when they’re out in harsh conditions helps add a layer of safety to your fleet operations. GPS fleet tracking software gives you visibility when drivers are caught in inclement weather or need help. It also helps with customer management because you can see where drivers are experiencing delays and can then proactively relay that information to customers who are waiting.

Increase the safety of your fleet vehicles 

If you follow the checklist above to prepare your fleet vehicles for winter, you’ll be adding a significant level of safety and protection for both your drivers and your company vehicles

Force Fleet Tracking provides intuitive fleet vehicle tracking along with vehicle health monitoring and predictive maintenance alerts to help make fleet management a breeze this winter! Try Force’s fleet tracking system free for 14-days and increase the safety of your fleet this winter season.

Published November 2, 2021
Matt Davis
Matt Davis
Director of Marketing
Force Fleet Tracking