Preparing Your Annual Preventative Maintenance Schedule for 2021

Fire trucks are expensive. Breakdowns and their associated downtime can quickly add up, making the ownership of apparatus even more costly. This is why it’s important to plan for regular maintenance on all of your trucks so that costly situations like this don’t arise. Preventative maintenance ensures the unit is ready and fully functional when it is needed and that potential problems are found before they escalate into major issues.

Common component failures on fire trucks are driveshafts, hydraulic oil pumps, steering linkages, brakes, and valves. Regular maintenance is essential to preventing these pricey breakdowns.

Preventative maintenance helps your department protect the investment you’ve made in each of your emergency response vehicles and keeps your budget in balance. To help you preserve your apparatus, we’ve put together some key factors to consider when preparing your department’s maintenance schedule for 2021. Adhering to these critical points will promote optimal apparatus health and keep your units safe and reliable for many years to come.

First, you need to decide how you will schedule the preventative maintenance for your department. The most common way to schedule regular maintenance is by tracking mileage, but in some cases, calendar days are also used. You can also schedule according to fuel consumption or engine hours, or some combination of these four benchmarks, depending on the unique needs and traits of your trucks. You might establish benchmarks in several areas and perform maintenance tasks at whichever benchmark is hit first. For example, if you are using mileage and calendar days, you would perform a given maintenance task when the truck reaches a certain number of miles or when the calendar reaches a certain day, whichever comes first.

Scheduling may be done manually for smaller departments. However, if you are operating a medium to large department, you should be using an electronic system to assess the maintenance needs of your fleet, ensuring that no maintenance benchmarks are missed.

#1 – Engine Oil

Note the frequency of oil changes and any benchmarks provided as they appear in your vehicle manual or as recommended by your manufacturer. Incorporate these into your manual or electronic preventative maintenance schedule for 2021. Using the wrong oil can cause engine failure and void your manufacturer’s warranty, so it’s important that your team is careful to match the exact specifications for each truck as they are noted in the manual or in writing by the OEM. Those responsible for maintenance need to stay on top of the latest changes to the “life blood of the engine” and choose the correct oil for each specific application.

#2 – Filter Selection

Before you select a filter, particularly an aftermarket filter, ensure it is approved by the OEM and meets its specifications. Additionally, if the filter is not listed as approved in writing by the manufacturer, obtain written approval before installing the filter in your unit. Filters should be assessed with every oil change and replaced as needed.

#3 – Oil Analysis

Oil analysis ensures the oil you are using is working as it should and that the drain interval is adequate. Additionally, oil analysis can detect early on engine problems and signs of potentially catastrophic failure such as fuel in the oil and fuel dilution, protecting your budget and crew against a costly disruption. Too much fuel in the oil as well as fuel dilution are common issues in diesel trucks and, if not detected in time, can lead to lubrication failure.

#4 – Brakes

Your brakes must meet stopping distance requirements as laid out by NFPA 1911. The best way to carry this out on emergency response vehicles is by using a modern electronic decelerometer. Brakes need to be tested once a year as well as every time they are adjusted or serviced.

Additional training is available for specific maintenance objectives. These include manufacturers’ and parts suppliers’ recommendations and training for staff through the Emergency Vehicle Technician Certification Commission (EVT).

The primary function of the EVT is to test and certify emergency vehicle technicians to appropriate levels based on accepted standards. Because there are a number of items that fall into the “out-of-service” category for many maintenance professionals, having an EVT Certified technician on your crew is an invaluable resource when it comes to carrying out your preventative maintenance schedule and more for 2021. Have your EVT perform daily or weekly checks on all vehicles to ensure everything is up to par under the hood.

If you have purchased a custom Metalfab fire truck or other rescue apparatus, or plan to do so in the near future, take note of these guidelines and don’t hesitate to contact us with any questions regarding your specific needs. We are happy to assess your maintenance objectives and provide a written list of approved products for use in your custom unit.

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