What are Maintenance Service Intervals?

October 22, 2021

Maintenance service intervals

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Key Takeaways

When planning preventive maintenance, it’s important to implement regular maintenance service intervals. Having these regular intervals prevents vehicle negligence and costly repairs. Fleet managers can also extend the life of commercial vehicles while increasing uptime for their entire fleet.

What are maintenance service intervals?

A maintenance service interval is the length of time between vehicle services and inspections. Maintenance intervals are often based on number of days, odometer readings, or operated engine hours.  

What is preventive maintenance?

Preventive maintenance makes it easy to ensure that each vehicle is optimally serviced, reducing costs, and avoiding breakdowns. Routine maintenance schedules are often triggered on preconfigured mileage and time-based intervals. 

The purpose of replacing parts and fluids on a regular maintenance schedule is to save costs in the long run by preventing more serious and expensive issues from happening. This also decreases the chance of an issue cropping up unexpectedly, resulting in downtime, or worse, an accident.

When a fleet management solution automatically tracks the usage of every vehicle, service managers can see exactly when each vehicle requires a service appointment. They can set up correctly-timed maintenance service intervals. This makes it easy to perform usage-based servicing without having to read and record odometers manually. 

Common metrics such as engine hours, fuel levels, and mileage can be used as benchmarks to help you predict when a vehicle will need to be serviced next. The vehicle’s owner’s manual will include optimal performance levels directed by the manufacturer.

Why fleets implement preventative maintenance

Fleets that take a proactive approach with maintenance service intervals prevent larger issues. Reactive maintenance, or worse, last-minute emergency repairs, can be much more expensive. 

  • Enhanced equipment or vehicle lifespan: Routine maintenance helps you invest in the long-term health of your fleet. By investing the time and money to maintain vehicles and equipment, you’ll extend their life, reduce maintenance costs, and minimize the need for replacements. 

  • Decreased vehicle or equipment downtime: Preventive maintenance program ensures needed maintenance tasks are completed, decreasing unplanned repairs. Less downtime means your vehicles are arriving as intended and on time.

  • Reduced maintenance-related costs: Managers need to account for the potential cost of renting a replacement vehicle, buying spare parts, paying technicians overtime to do repairs, paying drivers expedited fees, and more.

  • Improved compliance: Maintenance issues can quickly add up to a high Compliance, Safety, and Accountability (CSA) score. Preventative maintenance minimizes the chance of violations and keeps CSA scores low.

Why set up regular maintenance intervals?

Routine maintenance service intervals prevent vehicle negligence and costly repairs. By proactively servicing your commercial vehicles, you can extend the lifetime of your vehicles while increasing uptime for your entire fleet.

Additionally, avoiding proactive maintenance on certain parts and components can potentially void the vehicle’s warranty coverage. For example, some original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) want documentation on engine hours and idling to ensure owners maintained a vehicle properly before a component’s failure. Idling creates wear-and-tear on the engine, decreasing engine life, requiring more frequent maintenance service intervals to stay in warranty compliance. 

Truck and car maintenance intervals are designed to improve the vehicle’s reliability, durability, and resale value. A regularly maintained vehicle will yield a higher price than one that’s falling apart. By providing maintenance records, owners can give prospective buyers peace of mind and make the vehicle more attractive.

How often should fleets schedule maintenance service intervals?

How often to maintain trucks? What should a car maintenance schedule look like? It’s a question that comes up frequently when setting up a preventive maintenance program. The answer largely depends on business preferences and the metrics used as maintenance benchmarks.

Preventive maintenance programs fall into two categories: 

  • Calendar or time-based preventive maintenance. This program determines routine maintenance schedules based on chunks of time such as months, quarters, or years.

  • Usage-based preventive maintenance. This program determines maintenance schedules based on a usage number like miles traveled or hours worked.

What gets checked during preventive maintenance?

Preventative maintenance is not exclusive to the commercial trucking industry. Most machines require some level of regular maintenance to keep operating at peak performance. For example, drivers take their personal cars in for oil changes.

Preventative maintenance can include many small tasks such as cleaning, oiling, checking fluid levels, and simple visual inspections. Maintenance also typically includes replacing parts that are expected to wear down over time, such as wiper blades, brake linings, tires, and air filters.

Drivers should be trained to complete pre-trip inspections to enable preventative maintenance outside regular service maintenance intervals. Inspections should include:

  • Brakes: Brakes are one of the most important systems in any vehicle, but they also deteriorate rapidly with use. Brake linings, brake pads, rotors, and brake fluid need regular monitoring.

  • Tires: One of the most frequently used and replaced parts of any vehicle. Over-worn tires can become a major hazard to a vehicle if it's not properly addressed. Tire pressure needs to be monitored, and tire rotation completed regularly.

  • Fluids: Drivers should frequently check the fluid levels for their coolant, antifreeze, fuel, and engine oil. Power steering fluid and transmission fluid also should be monitored.

  • Lights: The lights on a vehicle keep drivers safe by helping communicate their presence to other drivers. Before operating a vehicle, drivers should check that warning lights, turn signals, brake lights, and flashers are working correctly.

During regular preventative maintenance, mechanics and technicians will check:

  • Filters: Dirty and damaged filters can interfere with the vehicle’s performance. Oil filters, fuel filters, cabin air filters, engine air filters should be cleaned or replaced regularly to prevent contamination.

  • Engine: Ensure timing belt, filters, pumps, hoses, distributors, and cylinders are all in good condition.

  • Air conditioning and cooling system: Check for leaks and debris buildup in the radiator, hoses, and fans.

  • Electrical: Check battery and ignition systems, including spark plugs, distributors, alternators, and cylinders.

  • Windshield: Check for chips and cracking, ensure wiper blades are sharp, and defrosters are working properly.

  • Exterior: Clean the cab and undercarriage regularly to avoid buildup.

While this is not an exhaustive list of what gets checked during preventive maintenance, regularly monitoring these vehicle components allows fleet managers to create scheduled maintenance service intervals that lessen the disruption of fleet productivity.