5 School Bus Maintenance Tips for Winter
As winter progresses, school bus maintenance becomes more and more critical. School districts need to ensure their fleet stays in top shape during winter. And this takes effort and planning. With the five tips presented in this post, you’ll be able to handle maintenance during these winter months without any problems and keep your drivers from skating on thin ice, literally.
Why Is It Important to Winterize Your Fleet?
According to the National Weather Service, winter temperature averages 33.2 °F across America. Although this season is harshest in the northern states, everyone suffers in some way from its consequences.
Winter not only affects people but also roads, as 70% of the country’s roads receive at least 5 inches of snow. Likewise, the change in temperature affects vehicle components and other outdoor machinery. For this reason, it is essential to perform continuous inspections and maintenance during this season to prevent your school buses from breaking down or causing an accident.
Our 5 School Bus Maintenance Tips for the Winter
The following items should be at the top of your list in the winter school bus maintenance:
1. Engines and freezing oils
Mechanical devices function best within a specific temperature range.
At low temperatures, all fluids become thicker. In other words, the oils used to lubricate the engine or transmission will hardly be at their optimum working temperature when cold outside. This makes it difficult for the engine to turn over.
Since most school buses are left outside at night, it is advisable to check this marker at least once a week during winter. If your budget allows it, another good idea is to use multigrade engine oil in the engine that maintains its fluidity in winter.
2. Tires for Better Grip
Worn tires are dangerous anytime, but even more in icy, snowy, or wet conditions. Tires need a minimum tread depth of 2/32 inches by law. Still, experts recommend changing tires to 3 mm to maintain safe braking distances.
We recommend installing winter tires if you live in an area that experiences freezing winter temperatures.
Winter tires use unique compounds to resist hardening in cold temperatures, providing better traction on ice, snow, slush, and even dry pavement. Consider investing in snow chains for your tires if your district does not have frigid temperatures in winter but your buses ride through rural or rough roads.
3. Batteries Are Heavy Sleepers
Battery power decreases as the temperature drops, so it takes more energy to start your units in the winter.
The older the battery is, the more it will likely fail in cold, wet, and icy climates.
Try to replace your buses’ batteries every three years if possible, or sooner if they’re causing problems in cold weather.
Remember that winter puts more strain on your battery, especially if the buses are parked outdoors.
4. Help Wiper Blades Survive the Winter
During winter, wiper blades tear more quickly as the cold freezes the blade rubber to the windshield’s glass. On school buses, wiper blades are long pieces that tend to shred as they have several contact points with the glass.
When the blade moves after freezing, small tears in the rubber can occur, especially if you are not using winterized blades.
If you suspect there will be freezing rain or cold and icy conditions while the bus is parked, lift the wiper blades off the windshield. Letting them hang in the air is an excellent way to prevent this freeze-and-tear cycle from occurring.
During winter, have your mechanic check the condition of all wipers at least twice a month.
5. Lights, Almost Always Forgotten during School Bus Maintenance
Heavy fog, rain, and other weather conditions can reduce visibility on the road for drivers. If the lighting gear on your school buses is not working correctly, driving in these conditions can create dangerous situations.
Have your mechanics regularly check the correct operation of your units’ lights, including fog lights.
School buses get dirty in the winter months, especially from road salt. According to IAM RoadSmart, drivers can lose about 40% of the light’s brightness on a snowy road. Before starting a route, have your drivers clear all snow and remove ice from the headlights.
Remember that many states require daytime headlight use when visibility is low. Having good visibility on snowy roads can make all the difference.
Other points of consideration
• Driving behavior
Help your drivers adjust their driving behavior to weather conditions. During the winter, this often requires reducing speed and increasing the following distance. Remind them that bridges and overpasses can freeze, even if the road is not, and minimize acceleration and hard braking.
• Communicating with parents
Driving on snowy or icy roads can cause driver delays due to reduced speeds or obstacles such as accumulated snow. If necessary, have a parental communication system ready to warn you of possible road delays due to weather conditions.
• Winter safety kit
We recommend that you set up an emergency kit for your units. It should include an ice scraper, flashlights, batteries, a shovel, warm blankets, flares, road signs, and first aid supplies.
Winter’s unique conditions make this season hazardous for passengers, drivers, and the components of all school buses. Some vehicle parts tend to deteriorate more than others, so fleet managers should make sure everything is in order by making regular checks.
Planning and adapting to winter conditions will help prevent accidents and keep your drivers and students traveling smoothly and safely.
Enhance Your Fleet Management with TripSpark
TripSpark’s cloud-based software lets you remotely control your school district’s transportation operations. Our solution gives you access to real-time monitoring of the condition of each of your buses’ components. You can control and automatically assign maintenance to all your units.
Our Fleet Management + Diagnostics tool allows you to:
- Create maintenance services for the fleet within the platform and keep a record of them.
- Record each time maintenance has been performed on a bus, the type of service completed, and the date of the following service.
- See all the registered maintenance services and see the status of each bus.
- See live information from each bus (odometer, DTC, batter, rpm, fuel level, and engine coolant temperature, among others.)
Our core solution includes GPS tracking, route optimization, report creation, an AdminApp, and a DriverApp.
If you want even more tools, check out our five add-ons: ParentApp, V-Clock, V-Safe, V-Pass, V-Trip, and V-Check (with which you can create compliance forms and maintenance checklists for drivers and staff members to ensure all services are completed during winter).