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Hendon Publishing

The 12 Months of Policing: Preventative Maintenance Tips


Departments that utilize engine-block heaters, should have these heaters checked for proper operation. Verify the block heater on the vehicle operates correctly. Verify that the 120 volt outside receptacle has power to it before the cold weather makes the block heater use necessary. In extremely cold climates, where vehicles are parked outdoors, a charger maintainer and battery warmer can be used along with the block heater to aid in starting. Verify that 120 volt circuit can handle complete load.


Keep fuel tanks full in winter. The temperature changes at this time of year can lead to excessive condensation in the fuel tank. Change the inline fuel filter this time of year. Keep stocks of E85 in rapid turnover to use only the freshest E85 in cold months. 


Remove winter (snow) tires. Inspect the summer (all-season) replacement tires and inflate them to the pressure on the door placard. With replacement tires, be sure to match the speed rating of the OE tire. Be sure to tighten the lugs in a star pattern and to final torque using a torque wrench or torque sticks.


Inspect and repair/replace any damaged weather striping (rubber seals) around the trunk and doors. Expensive computer equipment and/or weaponry may ruined by a leaking trunk weather strip during April showers.


Any vehicle that has been operated in a flooded environment should be thoroughly inspected and contaminated fluids replaced before being placed back into service. This includes removing floating debris that may have clogged radiators or come to rest on the exhaust system. Remind officers that just 4 ounces of water ingested in the engine will seize it.


Inspect and maintain the air conditioner system needed by both the officers and in-car computers. Inspect the seals on suspension components to protect against contamination. Cracked seals should be inspected and corrected. Components that have lubrication fittings should be lubed at this time.


Flush the brake system every other year. This means a complete replacement of the brake fluid in the system. Do this to remove moisture that can cause two problems. One is a spongy or soft pedal as the brakes heat up during a pursuit. The other result of absorbed moisture is corrosion of internal brake components.


Examine headlights closely every fall, This inspection is for more than simple bulb operation. Crazing, checking, stone chips, and oxidation can lead to degraded performance when most needed during the longer hours of darkness that time of year.


Install new windshield wiper blades every 6 months to best deal with rain and/or snow conditions. This time of year, use the “winter” style wipers, the ones with the pivot arms enclosed in a silicone boot to keep the pivots from locking due to ice. Keep a spare set of wipers in the trunk, especially in rural jurisdictions. Replacement immediately after failure can save windshields and reduce liability. Keep a bottle of washer fluid in the trunk. In winter, salt build-up can call for almost constant washer use. In the summer, bugs can do the same, especially in after-dark and pre-dawn operation.


Wash and wax the exterior and especially wash the underside of the vehicle. Washing and waxing the exterior will retard corrosion from winter salt and chemicals and will make it easier to wash off winter grime. After winter has ended, perform under car wash to eliminate any possible salt buildup from winter operation.


Check the heater, defroster, rear window defrosters and heated mirrors for proper operation of these components. The cooling system needs to be inspected for proper operation. Engine coolant should be inspected or changed to ensure it gives the proper temperature protection against engine-block freezing. If coolant needs to be changed, the system should be flushed, as the existing contaminated coolant will contaminate the new coolant. Use coolant test strips that allow pH testing as well as freeze point. A low pH may lead to electrolysis and heater core failure.


Winter tires should be installed in snowy regions. In other regions, inspect the all-season tires for adequate tread-depth to avoid hydroplaning on wet pavement surfaces. If installing snow tires, match all four. Even though only two tires drive, all four have to brake and corner. Match tire pressures exactly in winter operation. Different tire pressures lead to differences in traction. Install brake bleeder caps to prevent corrosion that may prevent the removal that is necessary for pad replacement.

Published in Police Fleet Manager, Nov/Dec 2011

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