5 Things Your Fleet Maintenance Manager Wishes You’d Say

Any officer with a personally assigned vehicle is also responsible for making sure the vehicle gets its needed maintenance. For most agencies, this is done on a regular three to five month schedule depending on how many miles are put on the vehicle and how quickly. The fleet maintenance manager we spoke with said that they usually started vehicles on a four month schedule for preventative maintenance, and then as the vehicles came in, they looked at the mileage and adjusted the next appointment date accordingly.

During “regular” preventative maintenance (PM) the vehicle gets an oil change and all fluids topped off. Tire pressure is checked and corrected as necessary. Every other PM the tires are usually rotated and a new air filter put in as well as the other normal PM services. We found it interesting that windshield wiper blades are usually only replaced if requested rather than on a fixed schedule.

We asked the fleet maintenance manager (FMM), “What are the five things you wish an officer would tell you when he brings his car in for service?” The answers, in order given with justification follow.

1. “I’m here for regularly scheduled preventative maintenance.”

Apparently some officers drop off their cars for work that is outside the scope of the usual PM but don’t mention the fact that the vehicle is also due for PM or will be soon enough that it should be done. If the vehicle is being dropped off for work other than PM or in addition to PM, the FMM would very much like to be told that it’s also there for PM. Few things are apparently as annoying for an FMM as having a vehicle in for service of a specific problem and then getting it back less than a week or two later for PM. Apparently officers don’t always react well when asked, “Why didn’t you get the PM done when it was here last week?” The FMM admitted that such a question is usually asked in a very annoyed tone of voice accompanied by body language and facial expressions that add to the level of expressed annoyance. Can you believe that officers don’t react well to that some times? Solve the problem proactively: When dropping off your vehicle just for PM, tell them that. If you’re dropping it off for something else and the PM will be anytime in the next four weeks, tell them that too. Let them decide whether or not to go ahead and do the PM. It can’t hurt.

2. If there are any warning lights showing on your dashboard, which ones? If there is a timing or speed relationship to the light display. 

Apparently, officers regularly take vehicles in for PM and don’t advise the FMM about any warning lights that are regularly showing up. When the tech/mechanic servicing the vehicle gets in and turns the key to put it in his work bay and sees the lights, he goes to the FMM asking for information; and the FMM has none. Sometimes it’s an easy fix: hook up the right piece of equipment to read vehicle codes and find out why the lights on. Sometimes the fix takes a bit more time than that. Either way, no matter what is found, there is added time on the PM. This hurts the efficiency of shop scheduling in an unexpected fashion. Such could be avoided with a bit of communication. Tell them up front about the lights and any additional information you can provide about when it shows up, conditions, speeds, etc.

3. If you are experiencing any performance problems—such as delays in acceleration, unusual drops in power at certain RPMs or when changing gears, etc.

Some such problems are easy to diagnose and fix, but with the increase in computer use and software technology controlling the motor, the problem might not be mechanical at all. It might be related to an already identified problem for a particular make and model of vehicle, or it might be something new (as it often is with newer vehicles). Either way, if the FMM isn’t aware of it, it can’t be fixed. If it’s discovered during the post service test drive, once again it adds time to the service schedule. That’s a headache for the FMM and the shop and aggravates you when you can’t get your vehicle back when it was promised to you. Avoid being stuck with a pool car for an extra shift or two by communicating such challenges when you drop the vehicle off. (ADDED NOTE: Having the FMM like you never hurts. They run the shop and if you’re a regular inconvenience for them, your time will get wasted—a lot.)

4. If you are hearing any weird or unidentifiable noises.

The more detail you can provide about the conditions under which the “weird” noises arise, the better the shop can diagnose the problems and fix them in a timely fashion. Is it an exhaust problem? A timing problem? A spark plug issue? Some of the details you can provide will assist in limiting the amount of diagnostic work the shop has to do. Do yourself and the shop a favor and pay attention; communicate as much as you can to them when you drop the vehicle off.

5. Report any front end/ handling or suspension problems you perceive.

Let’s be realistic: especially in pursuits, most patrol vehicles get driven pretty hard. That means hitting bumps and taking turns in conditions that might not be the best for your suspension and all of the mechanical parts that control your steering. If you’re taking your vehicle in for PM and even think you might be experiencing some issues with the steering or suspension, the FMM wants to hear about it. It’s especially easy to check the related parts during a PM when the tires are being rotated. Most shops will check the tire balance during a rotation anyway, but if you mention a handling issue, they will definitely check the balance for each tire as well as looking at control arms, linkage, etc. Again, this is a time saving communication. If the mechanic or tech doesn’t know about a steering problem until he takes the vehicle out for a post-service test drive, you’ve added to his work load, the manpower demand in the shop, and created a potential scheduling challenge for the FMM.

These five items might seem common sense, but the FMM we interviewed rattled these five items off without hesitation—adding that these were his TOP five. There are others he’d be happy to hear, essentially covering anything you think might be wrong with your car. When you’re picking it up isn’t the time to ask if they also fixed something when it was only dropped off for PM. Such lack of communication inevitably results in frustration for both the officer, who is now unhappy with the service, and the FMM who has to find a way to provide the service that he didn’t even know was needed.

A little prevention goes a long way toward saving long term maintenance and vehicle purchase costs. Do your part to keep both minimized and reasonable by communicating properly with your shop when you drop the vehicle off.

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