When you invest in a business, you don’t just want a good return on your money; you need a good return. That’s why it pays to research your van purchase by reading the definitive reviews here on Auto Express and, when you’ve decided on the vehicle that’s best for you, why it pays to shop around.
That’s just half the story, though. Once you’ve bought your van, it not only transports your essential deliveries or tools around, but it’s also a moving advert for your business, and it can still be worth good money when you come to sell. So naturally you need to look after it as best you can.
To help steer you down the right road, we asked Carl Miller, Business Development Manager for Renault Aftersales and Fleet Activities, for an insider’s guide to keeping your van in tip-top shape.
Carl’s list includes things you can do as a driver/owner, as well as useful reminders about how the right aftersales support can make all the difference to protecting your investment.
1. Daily walkaround
Two minutes is all it takes to walk around the van every morning for a visual inspection, reckons Carl, allowing you to check tyre treads, loose wheel nuts, bodywork and fluids. “It’s always a good idea to check the washer fluid so you can keep a clear windscreen, and visually inspect coolant levels, AdBlue® and oil,” he says. “It may be a chore when you don’t find anything out of the ordinary, but it can save you big bills when you do.”
Check tyre pressures weekly, says Carl, and you won’t risk uneven or rapid tyre wear which can occur surprisingly quickly when pressures are out. Most Renault Pro+ vans have the option of a Tyre Pressure Monitoring System – so if it’s fitted to yours, make sure you know how to use it. Whether you drive your vehicle heavily laden or light, check the owner’s manual (the correct pressures for your vehicle can be found inside the driver’s door sill), and adjust the pressures accordingly. Too little pressure when the van is laden can cause overheating and blow-outs.
With modern fuel gauge read-outs often giving a countdown in miles to an empty tank, it’s really easy to drive around on little more than fumes before filling up again. But Carl recommends you don’t let the needle get much below a quarter on the gauge. “There’s often an element of sediment at the bottom of the tank,” he says, “which makes the fuel pump work harder and can block the fuel filter. Over time this can cause a lack of performance and ultimately failure of the pump, so your van will be off the road.”
4. Keep it clean
Washing your vehicle regularly will help to impress your clients, and a dirty van could easily deter potential new customers from calling the phone numbers you’ve had sign-written on the sides. But keeping the van clean pays dividends in other ways. Protecting and polishing the paint will do wonders for the second-hand value of your van when it’s time to sell, while Carl says washing the underbody areas will help to remove corrosive materials like road salts, and potentially also reveal damage that needs to be fixed before it becomes a major issue.
5. Drive carefully…
You won’t just keep your insurance premiums down if you drive carefully and maintain a clean licence, Carl points out; you’ll also get better fuel economy. In addition, the Renault expert says careful driving takes much of the strain and stress out of a van’s mechanical components, so they last longer. Many of Carl’s fleet clients put drivers through courses to emphasise the value of good driving. “Just something as simple as making sure you always put the van in neutral at traffic lights will help to extend the life of the gearbox and clutch,” he says.
On the subject of driver habits, it’s also worth considering a speed limiter as an option, saving fuel and stress on the engine. Driver behaviour can affect bodywork as well. “Don’t slam side and rear doors, and ensure all runners are lubricated to minimise the risk of doors jumping off them,” says Carl. “Don’t risk damage that will cost you in parts and time off the road.”
“Overloading your van can cause a number of problems,” warns Carl. “Not just heavy fuel consumption, but a lack of stability while driving, too much stress on the axles and an increase in braking distances pose a personal risk to you as a driver,” he says.
“Vans should be loaded so that their maximum weights – including axles which are stamped on their identification plates (inside the driver’s door sill) – are not exceeded. Load should always be secured safely using the appropriate strapping, and this is why we offer up to 14 lashing points in a Kangoo, up to 18 on a Trafic and up to 10 on a Master depending on version!”
7. Garage checks/servicing
Most people shy away from visiting the garage outside the service schedule, but it can pay dividends when your vehicle is a lifeline for your business. “Participating Renault dealers, including all Renault Pro+ Business Centres, offer free health checks every 12 weeks to ensure your van is kept in roadworthy condition and little problems don’t turn into big ones,” says Carl. “It’s easily booked with your local dealer and should only take 15 minutes or so.”
8. Insist on quality parts
Ensuring the van is serviced regularly is obviously vitally important, both to protect your warranty but also to reassure any future buyer who you want to pay top price for your van. But can you guarantee it’s being fitted with the right quality parts and that the correct oils are being used? The wrong choices in either department can lead to expensive failures or excessive – even potentially catastrophic – engine wear. “Main dealer servicing and maintenance is always going to mean you’re supplied with parts and oils of exactly the correct specification,” says Carl.
As with most things in life, the more effort you put into looking after your van, the greater the reward. You’ll be paid back with greater economy, reliability and higher residual value at sale time. It’s not rocket science, but as Carl’s tips prove, there’s definitely plenty to think about. The bottom line is simple, he says. “Be good to your van, and it will be good to you.”