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Repairs

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Outside of your kitchen staff, your alternator is one of the hardest working parts in your food truck. It’s a common misconception that the battery in your truck is what supplies your power while the vehicle is running. In truth, the alternator not only supplies all of your electrical power while the vehicle is running, it is also recharging your battery at the same time.

food truck alternator

Every time you use your headlights, radio, air conditioner, heater, defroster or turn signal, it’s your alternator that’s making it all work. Needless to say, when it dies, so does your food truck. That makes its replacement a pretty big priority.

Here’s a look at what it costs to replace your food truck’s alternator:

Other Items Replaced

Your alternator is run by your serpentine belt, and this must be removed in order to remove the alternator. If the belt hasn’t been replaced in some time, or is showing signs of wear, now is the perfect time to replace it.

It will already be part of the labor to remove the alternator, so the only added cost is the price of the belt. The last item which may require replacement along with your alternator is your battery. Starting your vehicle takes up a lot of your battery’s juice. If it didn’t have something recharging it constantly, it would only last for a couple of starts.

If your alternator fails, your food truck will still look for power to operate. It will find this power in your battery. Unfortunately, without your alternator working to recharge it, this could do damage.

So How Much Will It Cost?

The average time for most alternator replacement is two-to-three hours. That gives you roughly $120- $200 in labor to start. The rest is going to depend on the price of your alternator. Most alternators can be purchased from auto parts stores for much less than a dealership, but beware.

Certain discount auto parts stores carry a couple lines of electrical parts that have reputations for being of poor quality. Buying an alternator aftermarket is not inadvisable, tons of money can be saved that way; but, make sure you’re using a quality part. Alternators can average anywhere from $100 to $350 depending on make and model of your food truck’s engine.

Most vehicles will fall into the $350-400 range for the total job of alternator replacement with no other parts replaced. If the serpentine belt gets tacked on, add another $20 to $50 to your bill. If you decide to go with dealership parts and labor, expect the bill to climb over $500 in many cases.

Used Alternators

Don’t do it!!! When it comes to electrical parts on any vehicle, let alone the platform for your mobile food business, you truly do get what you pay for. Any used electrical part is going to be a risk, and will probably come without a warranty. This is also the case for rebuilt alternators.

Be advised: Rebuilt and remanufactured are two different things. A rebuilt alternator is an alternator that has failed and then had the internal parts which failed replaced; everything else inside it stays. A remanufactured alternator is usually all new internal parts surrounded by a used casing. Everything gets replaced inside, no matter what failed. If you need to save a few bucks, go with remanufactured over brand new, but steer clear of rebuilt and used.

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There aren’t many situations much more infuriating to a food truck owner who is in a rush to hit the streets than when their mobile kitchen won’t start. Engine problems are actually more common than the majority of food truck owners think. Even though you may stick to a regular vehicle maintenance schedule, you can still encounter a breakdown at any given time.

food truck engine compartment

While having your engine die on you is incredibly annoying, it can be an issue that can be easily resolved. Just as any other problem you run into, the very first thing you should do to fix it is to determine what the cause is.

To be able to troubleshoot the reason why your truck’s engine won’t start, it is important that you know how it starts in the first place. When you turn your key in the ignition, voltage in your battery travels to your ignition switch. The voltage then moves towards the starter relay and starter motor. If the starter motor receives the voltage, it spins to start the engine. If there is sufficient spark in the cylinders, compression, and of course, fuel, your food truck’s engine will start.

You should know that there are a lot of possible reasons as to why your truck will die on you. To narrow this list down, pay close attention to the sounds produced once you turn the key in the ignition.

If you don’t hear any sound from the truck, the issue can be the battery. It could be dead or perhaps seriously corroded.

If you’ll hear a ticking sound, then it’s 1 of 2 things. It can be your battery or the starter motor. If it’s not the battery, then there might be an issue with the ignition system not getting enough voltage.

When you hear your engine turn over yet still will not start, the most probable causes may be:

• Wires connecting the battery to the starter may be frayed or loose, and thus blocking the motor from getting voltage

• Insufficient spark in the cylinders

If your engine turns over yet still won’t start, the very first thing you should look for is a spark.

A smart food truck owner should have a spark tester kept in their truck’s tool box. If there is no spark, the problem lies with the ignition system.

• Inadequate fuel

When there is a spark and your issue is yet to be resolved, the next step is to check your fuel system. If the fuel gauge reading shows that there is still enough fuel in your tank but your truck still doesn’t start, it’s time to look at the fuel pump, the pressure in the fuel lines, the fuel filter, and the fuel injectors.

• Inadequate compression

If your truck has an adequate supply of fuel, then the issue may be caused by lack of compression, which in turn can be caused by a timing belt that has loosened.

When you’ve determined the reason why your vehicle won’t start, you may proceed to perform minor repairs if you are confident in your mechanical ability. If you find yourself clueless on how to go about fixing the issue, then it’s time for you to seek the assistance of a trusted mechanic.

We hope this article helps you in diagnosing your food truck’s engine problems and allows you to get it back on the road, sooner than later.

 

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With gas prices well over the $3 mark and insurance costs rising, owning a food truck is no drive on Easy Street. Don’t let common repair mistakes add more bumps to the road. Smart vehicle care keeps your food truck running safely and can help to prevent unnecessary accidents. Staying accident-free will keep your food truck insurance rates down at a time when drivers could use all the help they can get.

engine compartment

The Consumer Price Index for auto insurance rose 3.6 percent last year and was up 33 percent from 2002, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Proper maintenance also prolongs the life of your vehicle, another critical factor in today’s sputtering economy.

Whether you have a brand-new or 20 year old food truck, poor maintenance can cost your mobile food business big time. Here are five common mistakes you should avoid:

1. Skimping on routine maintenance

Don’t let the temptation to save a few bucks by delaying maintenance on your food truck steer you off course. Follow the maintenance schedule in your vehicle owner’s manual.

“Not changing the air filter and oil at the right intervals just makes your engine work all that much harder,” Brian Hafer, marketing vice president at AutoMD.com says.

Neglecting other tasks can have even more serious consequences. Failure to replace worn-out brake pads, for instance, can result in the damaging of other parts and put you and your passengers in danger. “Parts of the brake system may then need to be replaced,” Hafer says.

Don’t take your tires for granted, either. Make sure they’re inflated to the proper pressure. Underinflation increases treadwear on the outer edges and reduces gas mileage, according to Goodyear Tires. Too much air pressure leads to uneven wear and faster deterioration.

Goodyear suggests checking tire wear every 3,000 miles. Use the “penny test.” Put a penny into the tread with Lincoln’s head upside down and facing you. It’s time to replace the tires if you can see the whole head, according to the tire maker.

2. Communicating poorly with your mechanic

“The better you are at communicating what’s wrong with your vehicle, the better your chances of getting the repair done right,” Hafer says.

AutoMD recommends keeping a log of what you hear, feel, see and smell when your car has trouble and then sharing those details with the mechanic. Thorough information about the symptoms will speed up the diagnosis and save on labor costs. AutoMD provides a free online car diagnosis tool that provides questions a mechanic might ask.

Don’t tell the shop what needs to be replaced — you might be wrong. Also, ask for your old parts back if anything is replaced. This prevents dishonest mechanics from needlessly replacing good parts or charging you for work that wasn’t done.

3. Failing to get repair quotes

Research repair shops online and get quotes for repairs, AutoMD says. Keep in mind you don’t have to visit the dealership for every problem. Food truck owners can save an estimated $300 or more a year by opting for independent repair shops rather than dealerships, according to an AutoMD analysis.

4. Ignoring dashboard warning lights

Read the owner’s manual to understand what the dashboard warning lights mean, and take appropriate action when a light turns on — even if the truck appears to be running OK. Ignoring warnings could lead to expensive damage and danger.

That includes the warning light for low fuel. Besides increasing the risk of running out of gas, driving a fuel-injected engine frequently on a very low tank is hard on the fuel pump, Hafer says. AutoMD recommends keeping the fuel level above a quarter tank.

5. Failing to do simple repairs yourself

Not everybody’s a mechanical genius, but anyone can learn to replace wiper blades, light bulbs and even fuses and air filters. Doing simple tasks yourself will save money you can use to pay experts for complex work.

With the economy stuck in neutral, do what you can to keep your food truck running smoothly today and save money for tomorrow.

 

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