Servicing a self-storage rental truck isn’t very complicated, but routine maintenance will ensure your investment continues to provide customers with a safe moving experience while you enjoy years of add-on income and marketing perks. For the most part, caring for a moving truck is much like servicing any other vehicle; however, there are some nuances to keep in mind, such as exterior graphics and equipment accessories.
In some cases, your rental truck may be the first impression potential tenants have of your self-storage facility. The effort you put into the vehicle can be a direct reflection of your business and can certainly influence the way people perceive your operation. Plus, the better the truck’s condition, the less chance a customer can blame you for negligence in the event of an accident. Preventive maintenance will help you uphold safety standards, prevent costly repairs and avoid strife. Following are some key tips.
To protect your self-storage customers and shield your business from liability, it’s imperative to keep your rental trucks in perfect working condition. Here are 11 important steps that should be part of your maintenance plan:
- Follow all warranty conditions and recommended maintenance as specified in the owner’s manual.
- Check the levels on all fluids—brake, oil, transmission, power steering, windshield washer and coolant. When adding fluids, check the owner’s manual to ensure you’re using the right types.
- Keep your truck clean inside and out so you can spot potential problems before they occur.
- Check turn signals, headlights, brake lights and the interior cargo light.
- Check tire pressure and condition. Uneven wear can be an indication of an alignment problem.
- Test the brakes. If you notice there’s a lot of dust, your rotor may be wearing away the brake-pad lining. Checking the pads regularly will help you avoid the need to replace the rotor and prevent a dangerous situation. More on this below.
- Replace damaged windshield and side glass. Visibility is important when driving. In some areas, drivers can also be ticketed for having damaged glass, even if it results from hail.
- Replace damaged mirrors and lights. This not only ensures better safety, it makes the vehicle more visible to other motorists. Customers who rent your truck may have no previous experience driving a vehicle of this size. Properly aligned mirrors are very important to prevent collisions, especially when driving through or backing into tight spaces.
- Repair all body damage.
- Check the ramp and roll-up door for proper function.
- Check seat belts for proper function.
Other Preventive Measures
Here are some additional maintenance tasks that’ll help you get the most out of your self-storage rental truck.
30,000-mile maintenance. This is one of the most important services. It typically includes an engine tune-up and replacement of the air and fuel filters as well as a check of your mechanical, electrical and computer devices. This is also the time to change your transmission fluid and filter, as the fluid can become overextended and burnt, causing overheating and premature wear. By having a factory-trained technician perform this 30,000-mile maintenance, you’ll avoid costly repairs, poor fuel economy and bad performance.
Fluid change. The many moving parts in your truck’s engine can wear out prematurely if allowed to rub together. To prevent this, oil is continuously pumped through the engine, lubricating the components. Inevitably, tiny pieces of debris can be picked up as oil moves through the system, but the oil filter catches them. Eventually, the oil loses viscosity or ability to lubricate because of time, heat and pressure. This is why the oil and oil filter should be changed every 3,000 miles or three months. This is the single easiest way to prolong engine life.
Tire rotation and inspection. Tires probably take the biggest beating of anything on a self-storage moving truck. It’s important to rotate them regularly, as they don’t always wear equally. Motorists typically don’t drive in a straight line and will occasionally hit potholes and even curbs, so regular rotation is a quick solution to help with wear and tear. This is also a good time to check tires for deterioration and ensure the air pressure is correct.
During a rotation, you may also want to have your tires rebalanced. The weights attached to each wheel can fall off through normal use, which can lead to an unbalanced tire and result in a bumpy ride. Rebalancing will correct this issue.
Brake maintenance. Among the truck components that need the most love are the brakes, as they’re vital to vehicle safety. If you avoid allowing your brake pads to wear too thin, it’ll protect your rotor from extreme wear and prevent the pads from scoring (cutting grooves into) the rotor. If these gouges are beyond repair by a machine shop, replacement will be required since there are legal limits to how thin a rotor can be after it’s been machined.
Graphics. Many self-storage operators invest in truck graphics that help with branding and provide facility information. Inevitably, exposure to the elements will cause these to fade over time. Generally, quality graphics (for example, 3M products) will last about six years. To help maintain vibrancy, park your truck in the shade if possible and keep graphics updated as the budget allows. Graphics may also get scratched. When this becomes noticeable, it’s time to replace. Regular cleaning is also helpful. Use clean water and a mild detergent while. Power washing is generally too rough and should be avoided.
Hand truck/blankets. If you provide a hand truck or moving blankets for customers to use, check their condition. Make sure the hand truck is secured while the vehicle is in motion, and check its tires to ensure they’re inflated to the recommended pressure. Moving blankets should be cleaned and neatly folded.
Safety kit. Make sure your truck’s kit is up-to-date and well-stocked. Some kits include flares and a fire extinguisher. Check the date on the extinguisher to ensure it’s still valid. Replace any used items so they’re fresh and ready for the next renter who may need them.
Roadside assistance. It’s strongly recommended that you maintain a roadside-assistance program. Most trucks come with 36,000-mile and/or three-year complimentary support. Once you’ve reached these limits, shop for another program. This will help you avoid the headache of a customer accidentally damaging the truck’s battery or changing a tire incorrectly.
For the benefit of all concerned, your self-storage rental truck must be properly maintained. If there’s any doubt regarding the safe operation of the vehicle, don’t rent it out! Your customer’s well-being and the safety of other drivers are much more important than a rental.
To keep your truck in operable, safe condition, follow the tips outlined above. Adhering to a regular service schedule will help you extend vehicle life and avoid unnecessary complications. If you have questions about your truck and its care, contact your dealer.
CJ Stratte is president of On The Move Inc., which offers a complete rental-truck program to the self-storage industry. Working at a storage facility has given her insight to the truck-rental experience, and she welcomes the opportunity to share tips for a successful program. To reach her, call 800.645.9949 or email [email protected].