Quick Checks that can Save your Van – and your Business

Considering the busy lives we seem to live these days, it’s perhaps not surprising that so many motorists fail to perform regular safety checks on their vehicles. The implication of forgetting these seemingly inconsequential tasks can be significant: forget to check your tyre pressure on the family car, and you may be the least loved member of the family when you miss your flight to Disneyworld. That said, you’re just as likely to be the one who sabotages a trip to see crazy aunt Sally, so perhaps things aren’t quite so serious.

But when you’re risking your livelihood by being casually negligent, things couldn’t be more weighty. Many self-employed people rely on their vehicles – especially their vans – to make their business dreams a reality. When the van doesn’t start in the morning, that dream starts to crumble, even if just slightly. When you crash your van because your fluids haven’t been checked, your dream may just be shattered. And all we need to do to avoid this is to make sure we find the time to at least conduct a few simple maintenance exercises regularly. Here are a handful of quick and easy tasks that will keep you moving and serving your customers:


Without an adequate supply of coolant in the engine, your van can easily overheat, causing what could turn out to be major damage in the process. It only takes a minute or so to check your water levels, and it’s an easy job even on older vans. Having parked your van and turned the engine off an hour or so prior to commencing work, replacing the coolant is as simple as locating where the reservoir is (it should be near your radiator, but it’s worth checking your service manual) and tipping it in. That said, always ensure that you have mixed in an appropriate anti-freeze: it’s no use just topping up the reservoir with water alone.

Oil Levels

For the smooth running of any engine, oil is a must. If you have ever driven around after the oil warning light has lit up on the dashboard, you have taken a major gamble that could ultimately prove very expensive. Adequate levels of lubricant are a must at all times, because the oil is a vital tool in ensuring the working components in the engine continue to operate smoothly and efficiently.

Again, checking the oil requires an hour or so of engine inactivity. Find the dipstick and put it into the dipstick hole on your engine (again, check the user manual if you have trouble locating either). If the oil marks up to a point between the two marks on your dipstick (i.e. only the upper mark is visible), you’re fine. If you can see both marks, you need to top up your oil. Only top up with a ‘quart’ (250ml) a time. Run the engine between top-ups if you need to add more (and recheck your levels each time).

Tyre Pressures

If you think about, the surface of the tyres is the only part of a vehicle that comes in contact with the road surface, so they need to be in perfect working condition. Tyre pressures are hugely important, and should be checked on a regular basis. On most vans there is no warning light to tell you pressures are low, so be sure to correctly inflate them whenever the opportunity arises. And don’t forget to keep the spare tyre in a roadworthy condition at all times, because you never know when you might need it.

To check tyre pressure, you will need an air-pressure gauge. Simply attach the gauge to the valve and check to see whether the reading given is the same as the ratings in your owner’s manual or the information given on your driver’s side door. If too high, deflate the tyres until more appropriate. If too low, add more air with a pump.

Check the Brake Fluid

Your brake fluid is comparatively easy to check and unlike other fluids, there’s no reason for it to be running low – unlike oil or coolant, it doesn’t get consumed over time. However, this just makes it even more important to check it regularly: if you brake line suddenly leaks, you may be driving without brakes, or at least with diminished brake performance. I don’t really need to say that’s a bad thing. Brake fluid is typically housed in a white container, and the yellow liquid should be visible through this.

Power steering fluid is similar housed, so make sure you know which container is which.

Windscreen Washer Levels

Whilst seemingly not essential to the operation of your vehicle, being able to clearly see the road ahead is more than just a desire, it’s a legal requirement. It’s therefore crucial that you ensure the levels of windscreen washer fluid are sufficiently high, and that the hoses and jets are in perfect working order. In the winter months, when the roads are salty and particularly dirty, it’s even more important. If you’re ever in any doubt, top the levels up anyway – that way you can have peace of mind even when you’re embarking on a particularly long road trip.

David Showell drives many miles during the week, and is always keen to ensure he makes regular checks on his vehicle. He also writes regularly for MW Vehicle Contracts.


  1. Mark Robert Bedua says:

    This post is useful to all the vehicle drivers, this will help not only for public, private or professional drivers but for those people that a vehicle. Post more that will able to help all drivers and owners of vehicles.

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