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.
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.