Tradespeople have been offered advice to help prepare their vans and work vehicles for the cold weather, with the UK experiencing a dramatic drop in temperatures over the last few weeks.
Insurance experts from Toolbox by Admiral have researched and revealed ten tips to help prevent hazardous weather conditions leading to serious damage to vans and any tools stored inside.
A tradesperson’s van is their trusty sidekick, getting them to and from jobs and keeping their tools and equipment safe and secure. But the colder months can intensify existing vehicle issues, leading to breakdowns, costly repairs, and annoying work interruptions.
If you’re not careful, any tools and equipment stored in the vehicles can also suffer weather-related damage, and poorly maintained vehicles could even invalidate insurance policies, leaving tradespeople unprotected.
From booking a winter health check with a mechanic to preparing a kit for emergencies, these tips should help tradies keep safe on the roads this autumn and winter.
A spokesperson from Toolbox by Admiral, says, “As providers of insurance for tradespeople, we cannot stress enough the importance of getting vans and work vehicles ready for the colder months.
“Hazardous weather conditions like extreme rain and freezing temperatures not only increase the risk of accidents, but can also lead to damage to any tools and equipment stored in work vans.
“Poor vehicle maintenance can also exacerbate any existing mechanical issues, resulting in breakdowns that can mean costly repairs and potential loss of business due to downtime.
“Essentially, winter-proofing your work van is an investment in your business. It not only safeguards your most valuable assets, such as your tools and your van, but it also ensures that your insurance cover remains valid so that you can get back on the road as quickly as possible after any potential incidents.”
Here are Toolbox’s top ten tips to help tradespeople get their work vehicles ready for the colder months:
- Winter health check
Having your vehicle looked over by a professional is the best way to keep you safe on the roads. Winter health checks reduce the chance of breakdowns caused by cold weather and safeguards any tools and equipment from weather-induced damage. A mechanic will check over things like tyres, battery, antifreeze and coolant levels, lights, brakes, and wipers. After checks, they’ll let you know if any work is needed. A check also helps maintain the validity of any related insurance policies, preventing them from becoming null due to poor vehicle maintenance.
- Check your vehicle’s tyres
Checking if your tyres are suitable will not only keep you safe, but it’ll protect other road users too. Your van’s tyres need to have an adequate tread depth for the icy and wet weather conditions, otherwise, you won’t have enough grip on the road surface and you’ll take longer to brake. Vans follow the same law as cars when it comes to the legal tyre tread depth. They need to have a minimum of 1.6mm tread across the central three quarters of the tyre, and around the entire circumference. Drivers can face fines of up to £2,500 for each bald or defective tyre, as well as three points on your licence!
Snow chains could also be something to consider for extra grip if you have a larger van, but note that they’re only legal in the UK when driving on snow covered ground, and with a maximum speed of 30mph.
You could also think about replacing your summer tyres with winter tyres for extra grip in snow and ice.
- Check your headlights
Tip three is to keep your headlights clean and make sure your headlight bulbs are working at full capacity. It’ll likely be pitch black before you finish work throughout the winter months, so there’s no doubt you’ll need your headlights working perfectly.
Clean headlights will give you the best visibility. So, if they’re starting to look blurry, make sure you scrub away any excess dirt or mud. This will mean other vehicles will be able to see you more clearly.
- Check your windscreen and wipers
As well as having a well-lit road to drive on, your windscreen will need to be kept clear at all times when driving. Windscreen wipers play a star role while you’re on the move, so they can’t leave any streaks behind. You’ll also have to get any chips or cracks repaired as soon as you can to stop further damage.
It usually means your windscreen wipers need to be replaced if they’re squeaking or juddering as they move, but if it’s just a case of them leaving streaks of water, you can clean the windscreen wiper blades with warm water and soap. Make sure to check your wiper fluid too!
- Keep things clean
Wet roads, dirt, and icy rain means you’ll need to clean your windows, wing mirrors, and windscreen a lot more often. To help keep them clear inside and out, you could get yourself a van window cleaning kit to keep in the glove box.
Check you’ve got a good quality screen wash, as windscreen damage is more common in the frosty months. You’ll also have to get any chips or cracks repaired as soon as you can to stop further damage.
- Top up your engine coolant with antifreeze
If you’re confident with making your own mixture, top up your engine coolant with around 50% antifreeze and 50% distilled water. When it’s particularly cold, experts say you could bump the antifreeze up to 70%.
You should be able to find the van’s coolant tank using your handbook. You’ll then just need to check the coolant levels to see if they’re below or near the lower line. If needed, top up your engine coolant with the antifreeze and distilled water, or a pre mixed liquid if you prefer. Speak to an expert if you’re not confident doing this yourself.
- Check your battery
There’s no worse time to find you have a flat battery than on a cold night. If your battery is over three years old, it might be best to replace it before it officially starts to fail. But otherwise, there’s a few things you can do to keep on top of your van’s battery health:
- Check the connectors aren’t starting to corrode
- Keep it warm: park in a garage or shelter where possible
- Limit your use of the van stereo and other features
- Get an insulated van cover
- Plan your journey
We know that each job is important to you, but it’s still better to be safe than sorry. Think about whether it’s worth making the journey in bad winter weather, or if it’s best to rearrange for when the roads are safer.
If you’ll be travelling, make sure you’ve got at least a quarter tank of fuel in case of delays on the road. You should also give yourself extra time and drive a bit slower, leaving an additional bit of distance between you and the vehicles in front.
We’re all aware that it’s much easier to lose control of a vehicle in winter weather, so do what you can to look after the other road users too.
- Emergency kit for vans
As a van owner, you’ll probably already have a few things that’ll help you stay safe in case of emergency, like tools, a high visibility vest, and warm clothes. However, it’s worth adding to your kit in the winter.
Some of the things you should consider having in your emergency breakdown kit through the colder months include extra coolant, a tyre pressure gauge, booster cables, a tow rope, a blanket, water and snacks, a scraper, de-icer, and a first-aid kit.
- Tools insurance
Our final tip is to protect yourself against the worst happening. Tool insurance can cover you against fire, theft, and damage in transit. Should anything happen to your tools in the colder months, getting them insured will give you the peace of mind you need.