Now that the snow is falling, plenty of companies running vehicle fleets and tradesmen with work trucks are scurrying to get their vehicles winterized. Usually, this is nothing more than a regular maintenance session with the afterthought of checking the coolant and keeping some fuel dryer or cetane boost in the tank, depending on what fuel the vehicle burns. Now is the time to not only potentially switch to a “thinner” oil, but also to make sure that your batteries are in good condition – load test them now, not when they start to cycle slowly in the cold. At the same time, ensuring that your vehicles block heater is working properly and all the electrical connections for it are in good shape. We know what a hungry rodent can do to a wiring harness and the time to find out that your block heater got eaten is now, not when you’re trying to get that diesel to turn over at -30.
One often overlooked part of the winter “kit” that fleet managers and owner/operators should consider is upgrading the aforementioned block heater – and for good reason. The auxiliary heaters that Expertec sells and installs from Espar and Red Dot can be deployed in a variety of ways – as preheaters for the engine coolant, secondary heaters for the cab or cargo compartment, AND you’ll have your choice of a design that can use traditional (and non-traditional) fuels or the existing vehicle’s electrical system. While nearly any Canadian knows the value of a good block heater, adding in a secondary heater for a work or fleet vehicle can lower fuel costs, decrease emissions, and lead to faster response times since warm up is substantially reduced.
After two decades of building and upfitting trucks and vans for fleets and the trades, we’ve learned a few things about getting these vehicles through the Canadian winters (and salt on the roads) and while “winterizing” may be almost second nature to most of us, here are a few things that might make waiting for the next Chinook a little easier … and safer. This isn’t a post about how to winterize a vehicle, though, this is about making a vehicle more “user-friendly” for the really tough stuff that makes a lot of us dream of warmer weather.
First and foremost, you need to make sure that the truck has, at a minimum, the equipment it came with from the factory! How many times have we all bought a used truck or van only to find the jack, the lug wrench, or the spare tire was missing? In reality, most of the jacks that come with new vehicles are a poor excuse, so replacing your stock jack with a heavier-duty one is great place to start. In a pinch, this could be used with an anchor as a winch as well. Sure, these are bigger and unwieldy, but they can be the difference between getting home and staying out all night. At the same time, checking the inflation on all tires and the condition of snow tires (and having a full size, inflated spare!) and having a good lug wrench on hand should be S.O.P.
Here are a few other pieces of the winter puzzle that you need to have in your work truck or van right now and, really, all the time. The stakes are just a lot higher when the mercury dips and the snow flies.
- Jumper cables
- Tire chains
- Windshield scraper
- Bag of salt or kitty litter to provide emergency traction
- Basic survival kit, including non-perishable foodstuffs, map, and compass
- Cold weather gear as well as gloves, hats, and even an emergency blanket
- Roadside flares
- Hazard reflectors or triangles
- Phone charger
The reality of a kit like this is that it takes up virtually no extra space in a truck or van and it can allow you to hold out in the event of getting stuck in the bush. Now, some of you might think that simply because you work only in the city, park in a heated garage, and never have to park on the street that you are excused from carrying even the smallest bit of emergency gear.
Remember, local roads are closed and plows and sanders are pulled off the freeways in times of white outs and bitter cold – and if you’re trying to get home in those conditions, even a quick trip to the suburbs can be an all-day proposition. Add in the shortness of the days in the winter and you could be stranded in the shadows of the city with no easy way to get even a short distance.
Take an hour this week and put together the tools and supplies that you need to ensure your people and your assets have every opportunity to beat Mother Nature when the snow flies. Even better? Make sure that those tools stay ready to be deployed – don’t tolerate this kit being scavenged without being replenished.