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Ready for Service: The Minimum Vehicle Condition

Ed. Note: This document defines the minimum standards for the mechanical and electrical condition of a patrol vehicle as deployed by the Department of California Highway Patrol, Fleet Operations Section. This is FOS bulletin number 08-02 and is reprinted in its entirety with the permission of the CHP. This is a “model policy” for all police departments and sheriff’s offices.

Due to the severe use that many departmental vehicles are subjected to, and in an effort to provide departmental personnel with the greatest degree of safety, Fleet Operations Section (FOS) has developed minimum vehicle condition standards. While these standards are not all-inclusive of every vehicle component sub-system, they serve as a foundation for maintaining a safe fleet of vehicles.

The following criteria should be used, at a minimum, in determining the serviceability of departmental vehicles at all times. Failure to maintain a vehicle in safe operating condition may jeopardize employee and public safety.


A vehicle in serviceable condition is defined as one that 1) is maintained in safe and reliable operating condition, including emergency equipment; 2) can be used in the full scope of its intended deployment purpose; and 3) is in a mechanical condition that meets the manufacturer’s minimum specifications (i.e., brake rotor thickness, brake pad thickness) at all times.

The following guidelines have been prepared to assist commands in determining the minimum serviceability standards of departmental vehicles.

Vehicle condition should not be less than the manufacturer’s minimum specifications and those set forth by Fleet Operations Bulletins. Refer to Fleet Operations Bulletin 05-15, Brake Service Procedures, and Fleet Operations Bulletin 06-06, Passenger Car and Light Truck Tire and Wheel Information.

Every vehicle should be maintained in a serviceable condition at all times. Enforcement-class vehicles should always be in “pursuit ready” condition, so they can be deployed in an emergency situation. The undercarriage should be free from impact damage that would affect safe vehicle operation. Recall and warranty repairs should be current.
Powertrain Mechanical

The engine should run smoothly without any drivability problems. Engine services and tune-ups should be current according to the California Highway Patrol maintenance schedule. Refer to CHP 424, Preventive Maintenance Schedule & Repair History – Enforcement, and CHP 426, Preventive Maintenance Schedule & Repair History – Non-Enforcement. The transmission should operate properly without any shifting problems, such as slippage or harsh engagement. Refer to CHP 424 and 426.

Engine and transmission oil seepage (film) is acceptable, but oil leaks (dripping) are not acceptable. The differential should be free of damage and oil leaks. The exhaust system (i.e., manifolds, pipes, mufflers and catalytic converters) should be free of impact damage, leaks and restrictions.

The radiator and air conditioning condenser cooling fans should be free from any debris that may affect air flow. The motor and transmission mounts should not show signs of separation. The battery surface, tray and terminals should be clean and free of acid and corrosion. The battery should be able to hold a minimum charge of 12.45 volts with all electrical components and accessories on.

Warning lights (i.e., Check Engine, Air Bag, ABS, Tire Pressure Monitor System) should not be illuminated.


Front and rear disc brake pad lining thickness should not be less than the vehicle manufacturer’s prescribed minimum. Any time the brake service is performed, disc brake pads should be replaced when there is less than 50 percent of remaining friction material. Refer to Fleet Operations Bulletin 05-15.

Front and rear brake rotor thickness should not exceed the vehicle manufacturer’s discard limit. Lateral run-out should not exceed the maximum specification allowed by the vehicle manufacturer. Refer to Fleet Operations Bulletin 05-15.

Parking brake shoes should have sufficient friction material remaining and be free of any differential gear oil contamination. Parking brake cables should be free of binding, and the brake release lever should be operative. Refer to Fleet Operations Bulletin 05-15.

Steering and Suspension

Front and rear suspension bushings should be properly positioned and should not exhibit any cracks or deterioration. Suspension components should not exceed manufacturer-prescribed tolerances. Suspension and steering components (i.e., tie rod ends, idler arm, etc.) should not exhibit excess play and/or be worn to the point of having a negative impact on vehicle handling. Damaged suspension and steering components should be replaced. Shock absorbers should not show signs of damage or hydraulic oil leaks.

Summer and Wet Condition Tires

Tires should be of the same size, type and speed rating originally installed by the vehicle manufacturer. Refer to Fleet Operations Bulletin 06-06. All tires on an enforcement-class vehicle, including the spare, must also be the same brand.

Minimum acceptable tire tread depth is 3/32 of an inch for dry conditions (summer) and 4/32 of an inch for wet conditions (winter). Tires should be measured on several grooves and at several random locations, excluding wear bars. Tires should be free of any defects. Refer to Fleet Operations Bulletin 06-06.

(Ed. Note: 3/32 inch is the distance from the edge of a penny to Lincoln’s head and 4/32 inch is the distance from the edge of a quarter to Washington’s head.)

Interior and Exterior

The interior should be free of trash and debris. Carpets should not display wear holes. Upholstery should be free of holes, rips, tears or stains. The steering wheel should not display chunking. Door panels should be properly affixed to the door so as not to allow separation from the door when pulled.

On the exterior, small exterior body door dings and paint chips are acceptable. Exterior body dents should be repaired. If the vehicle service life is run out, contact FOS as the vehicle may only be repaired and primed. Damaged push bumpers should be replaced. Torn and/or damaged bumper covers should be repaired. The windshield should be free of cracks or chips that could impair the driver’s vision.

For additional reference, refer to the CHP 424, CHP 426, applicable Fleet Operations Bulletins, and the factory service manual for the respective vehicle being serviced. Any questions should be directed to Fleet Operations Section, Field Operations Unit at (916) 376-3500.

Published in Police Fleet Manager, Mar/Apr 2011

Rating : 8.7

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