Van maintenance: Keeping your van in top condition

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Van maintenance
Checks to do at home
MOTs and insurance

Breaking down is a nightmare at the best of times but it’s even more stressful when you rely on your vehicle for work.

The good news is there are lots of things you can do to keep your van in tip-top condition.

Here’s all you need to know 👇

Why van maintenance is important

Taking a few simple steps to keep your van in good condition means it’s much less likely to break down on the road.

Regular maintenance can also make your van last longer in general. For example, certain parts are less likely to break if you keep all the correct fluids topped.

Plus, there’s some legal stuff to bear in mind. Like the fact it’s your responsibility as a van owner to make sure all your van’s lights are working properly.

It’s worth noting that van maintenance can be a little different to car maintenance. For example, van tyres generally suffer more wear and tear than car tyres because of the weight of a van when it’s loaded up. So it’s best to check them more regularly.

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Van maintenance checks to do at home

To keep your van in good condition, keep up with these regular maintenance checks.

How to check your van’s tyres

Van tyres often take a lot of wear and tear – especially the back ones if the van’s regularly carrying a heavy load. Check tyres regularly by doing a walk around to see if:

  • There are any cuts and bulges – tyres usually need replacing or repairing straight away if there’s any visible damage like this.
  • The tyres have enough tread – 1.6mm is the legal minimum requirement, but 3mm is recommended for tyres to work at their best. Some van tyres have a tread wear indicator (TWI) to make checking the tread easier. This is where there are small raised lines in the tyre’s grooves which show the minimum the tread can be.
  • The pressure of the tyres is ok – over or under-inflated tyres can cause problems, and even be dangerous. It might be tempting to just ignore tyre pressure in-between MOTs, but checking it yourself can help you keep your van out of the garage, and safe on the roads. Tyre pressure can also affect things like how well your van brakes and handles corners. So it’s definitely worth keeping an eye on. You can buy a pressure gauge tool to check your tyres’ pressure. Or you can head to a petrol station with pressure gauge facilities to do it instead.

Check your van’s fluids

Keeping an eye on your van’s fluid levels is one of the easiest ways to stop unnecessary damage from happening.

For example, coolant helps keep your van’s engine cool (if it overheats it can get damaged). And oil stops parts from corroding – driving without enough oil can lead to a breakdown situation, yikes!

Your vehicle manual will have instructions for how to do this.

Some regular maintenance can keep your van running smoothly
Some regular maintenance can keep your van running smoothly

Check your van’s battery

Make sure your van’s battery looks secure (and isn’t ‘supported’ by cables).

Look out for any leaks, and check your manufacturer’s handbook to see if the battery’s terminals are working properly.

How to check your van’s lights

Like we mentioned above ☝️ it’s actually illegal to drive your van if its lights aren’t working properly.

It’s easy enough to check them – you can switch them all on and do a walkaround, or get a mate or colleague to take a look while you’re in the driver’s seat.

Any lights that aren’t working need to be fixed before you can hit the road in your van.

Keep an eye out for excess exhaust smoke

Use your wing mirrors to keep an eye out for unhealthy looking exhaust smoke. Most of the time, you should barely be able to notice your van’s exhaust smoke.

But if blue, white or black smoke starts streaming out, you’ll want to get that checked by a mechanic straight away.

Look out for cracks in cables under the bonnet

If you see any cracks or breaks in cables under the bonnet, take your van to a mechanic as soon as possible.

Replace windscreen wipers

If your windscreen wipers aren’t doing a great job of keeping your windscreen clear when it rains, it’s time to change them.

Deal with windscreen chips straight away

Check your windscreen for chips, cracks and scratches regularly. Even a tiny crack could lead to bigger (expensive) problems later down the line. So it’s best to deal with anything like this straight away.

(PS: we’ve written a bit more about windscreen repair.)

Check for damage to the exterior

Because of its size, it can be easier to miss scratches and dents to your van’s exterior than with a car. Doing a walk around every now and then to check for any damage is always a good idea – especially if you use your van for business and want to keep it looking smart.

(On that note, keeping your van clean is the only way to stop the inevitable ‘creative’ finger-drawings in the muck that builds up on your van!)

Van repairs can be expensive but are avoided by home maintenance
Van repairs can be expensive but are avoided by home maintenance

Get your van serviced

Vehicle services aren’t a legal requirement but it’s still wise to take your van in when it’s due one.

Your van’s manufacturer will probably recommend it has a service once every 12 months, or every so many miles (e.g. 12,000) – whichever comes first.

Getting regular services is the best way to make sure your van doesn’t develop any major problems over time.

A quick note on van MOTs (it’s a legal thing)

Just like with a car, you’ll need to get your van tested once a year, unless it’s less than three years old. (Brand new vans only need to start getting MOTs once they’ve hit their third birthday.)

If you’re not sure when your van’s next MOT is due, use our free checker tool to find out.

And while we’re on the topic of the law, the golden rule is to make sure your van is insured. Read on if you want to learn more about Cuvva’s temporary van insurance, or get a quote in minutes.

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Updated on 3rd April 2023