Prepping Your Sprinter Van Fleet for Winter

Photo by Negley Stockman on Unsplash

If you own or manage a Sprinter van fleet, it’s vital to get ready for winter before the worst weather hits. Otherwise, you could be putting employees who drive those vans at risk, as well as incurring higher repair costs for problems that should have been addressed sooner.

With severe weather predicted for Vancouver Island this coming winter, now is the time to take care of your fleet. Here’s a handy Mercedes Sprinter van maintenance checklist so you and your mechanic can make sure everything is covered before the first snowflake falls.

How Often Should You Service a Diesel Van?

Many people ask about the maintenance of diesel vs. gas engines. In many cases, diesel vehicles need less frequent maintenance than gas ones do.

In general, you should be servicing commercial diesel vans, like the Mercedes Sprinter, with at least an oil change about every six months or 5,000kms, whichever comes first. However, you may need more frequent service based on:

  • The manufacturer’s recommendations for a specific vehicle
  • Older vehicles that are nearing the end of their fleet lifecycle
  • Vehicles with a history of mechanical problems
  • Vans that take an excessive amount of wear and tear
  • The type and quality of oil you use in the vehicle

Additionally, you should do some winter prep with your diesel mechanic for fleet vehicles that you know will be subjected to the rigours of driving around British Columbia in all kinds of road conditions. It’s always better to be proactive than to wait for problems to arise, especially as diesel vehicles can be more expensive to repair if you ignore standard maintenance. Having a vehicle out of service can have a domino effect on your ability to operate, which affects your business’s bottom line.

For vehicles that get light use, you may only need service once per year — similar to Mercedes’ recommendations for personal vehicles. But if you’re going to follow this schedule, late autumn is usually the best time for an appointment, as winter can produce the most wear on a vehicle and present the greatest safety issues for drivers.

What Should Be on Your Winter Vehicle Maintenance Checklist?

Here is a fleet maintenance plan you can implement with your diesel specialist to ensure your Sprinter fleet is in tip-top condition for winter:

  • Perform an oil change, and replace any filters as needed.
  • Tune up the diesel engine (fuel injector, intakes, etc.).
  • Check, flush, and top off engine fluids.
  • Assess the health of the battery and starter system.
  • Replace the fuel filter (at least once annually for diesel engines).
  • Examine the transmission system for any potential problems.
  • Check brakes for wear and functionality.
  • Perform wheel alignment as needed.
  • Evaluate tires for wear, and rotate or replace as needed.
  • Consider snow tires or chains for vehicles used at high elevations.
  • Make sure windshield wipers are operating properly.
  • Apply rustproofing, especially with salt exposure around Nanaimo.
  • Check all headlamps and tail lights, and replace bulbs if needed.

Furthermore, be sure to stay on top of any maintenance that is performed less frequently than every six months or annually. This includes things like:

  • Brake line flushing and brake fluid replacement
  • Engine air filter replacement
  • Cabin dust/combination filter replacement
  • Transmission oil and filter replacement

It’s worth asking your fleet drivers if they have any specific issues with any vehicles they operate regularly. They may have encountered difficulty with starting, engine pings, or other concerns that should be repaired.

Finally, think about where your drivers operate. The further they go into the rougher and more remote parts of Vancouver Island or beyond, the more they should be equipped with emergency provisions in case of a sudden storm, accident, or vehicle breakdown. This list includes:

  • Reflective vest and cones/triangles or flares
  • Heavy-duty gloves
  • Fire extinguisher
  • First aid kit
  • Flashlight and extra batteries
  • Windshield scraper
  • Tire pressure gauge
  • Spare tire, jack, and lug wrench
  • Tool kit and spare parts
  • Portable diesel jump starter
  • Shovel and sand or cat litter
  • Emergency food and water
  • Warm blanket and hand/foot warmers
  • Phone charger or portable battery pack
  • Emergency communication device or beacon
  • Insurance information
  • Extra fluids, oil, or fuel, as needed

Make sure your drivers are educated on what to do in case of an emergency. Do they know how to change a tire or jump-start the vehicle if they accidentally drain the battery? Education and preparation will go a long way in keeping everyone safe, extending the life of your Sprinter vans, and saving your fleet money in the long run.