If there’s any such thing as kryptonite to Food Trucks, especially in the more northern states (and, well, Canada), it’s Winter. Temperatures drop, winds howl, snow and ice start to layer up, and people just do NOT want to be out on the street any longer than they have to, making the opportunities for full and busy lunches on the mobile frontier rather low. Which is of course ironic since it’s the only time of year that the hot kitchen climate is actually enjoyable!
Business can still be found of course to those lucky enough to grab onto seasonal events, business partnerships, or have a menu very appealing to those wandering through the brisk weather (supposing there isn’t more than one other truck nearby as competition). More often than not, however, one will likely have to, or at least consider, shutting down the truck during these months while pursuing a part-time gig elsewhere. That means storage, a process that sounds simple but fraught with disastrous consequences if not done right. For not only are you just leaving the vehicle alone, doing absolutely nothing, for a minimum of 2 months, giving ample time for things to seize, stale, or simply accumulate who-knows-what from inactivity; but you’re also doing this when it’s winter and temperatures get close to if not below freezing for at least half the period, fluctuating day to day on top of that, leaving even more chances to disrupt something you don’t want disrupted.
Thus you need to make sure to follow these guidelines and points to look into before any kind of winter, or long-term, storage of your Food Truck. We hope it can help you keep your vehicle nice and happy as it waits for the busy sun and warmth.
Note that most of what fits into fits into the categories of Maintenance, so before you even start always make sure that you 1) have ALL the tools and equipment needed to perform the proper job, 2) seek the assistance of a professional mechanic when it’s called for, and 3) most of all, encompassing all of this, Stay Safe at all steps. That said, you’ll want to start with:
Getting Her Golden
Basically put, top everything up and do absolutely everything that could possibly need to be done to get her maintained and running smooth; fill your washer fluid with Winter fluid to prevent any potential freezing and cracking for instance. Change Oil and Filters, fill up Fuel Tank (while at it, add a can of fuel stabilizer beforehand and make sure to have her drive at least 10 miles-ish to have it run through the system) and anything else that seems a little low.
Any known repairs and maintenance that could need to be done, SHOULD be done; you don’t want that to lay undone, have the winter freeze hit it, and then have it malfunction even worse on your first week out during the busy spring. It wouldn’t be unwise to take the truck in and get one final check at the shop to ensure there’s nothing that you’ve missed. Pay particular attention to Belts and Hoses; the cold can leave them tightening up, stretching them out and causing potential snap issues.
Clean Clean Clean
Wash and wax the outside and give the inside a thorough cleaning to make sure nothing ‘leftover’ can cause accumulation of similar, odors, or even spreading. Also include wiping down all Rubber parts and seals with Rubber Dressing to prevent drying and cracking, and spray WD-40 on crevices, hinges, anything shiny to ensure no rust develops while sitting.
To keep it short, get it out; supposing of course you’re NOT keeping the truck in a heated environment. Anything that’s not bolted down should be moved to somewhere not freezing, and anything that has to stay, well this should be done to the moved ones anyways, should also be thoroughly cleaned. Also note to keep any doors for ovens, refrigerators, etc open to get air flow and prevent any mold buildup.
Maintain the Battery
To make sure it doesn’t go and die on you after not being used, and then made really cold, you want to take the battery out of the car and find a safe, out-of-the way location somewhere warm/’room temp’ for it to stay (always check to make sure there’s no potential battery acid leaks). At the VERY least, disconnect the batter cables, but what’s most important through this time is that it maintains its Charge throughout the drought period. This can be done by either slow-charging it once every few weeks, or have a charger with a ‘maintain’ setting on it one can just connect and leave with for the winter. The main thing to avoid is that one doesn’t accidentally OVER charge it when not in use.
Okay, you don’t want to use an actual potato, but it’s good to plug it up just to make sure nothing of considerable size, and likely furry, decides to take up residence in this new empty home. Steel wool or some other plug works well, perhaps a tight cloth covering with a few tiny holes to keep the air flowing.
Another issue is ensure tires don’t go flat; it’s not as much of an issue nowadays with modern tires, and can be easily solved by over inflating them 5-8lbs before storing, but one could avoid the issue entirely by having the truck stored off-the-ground, if you or the storage area it’s in has something to do that. When it is above ground, many an owner will also just take the tires off completely, especially if it’s in a place where OTHER trucks are being stored or otherwise has a high traffic, to avoid anything bumping into them.
Also, do NOT leave the Parking Brake on. A parking brake on for longer than a couple months is in severe risk of seizing up.
Covered, Physically and ‘Physically’
Finally, crack those windows for air flow, lock the doors, and cover the truck with something snug but breathable to keep the dust and any airborn stuff off; avoid tarps and plastic.
And now that your food truck is all fit and safe, you can get to the other considerations; mainly, Insurance. Guessing you won’t want to keep paying as much as you normally do when you’re not even using the thing, so give your agent a call, inform them that it’s being stored and unused for a 2-3 months, and adjust the coverage to something appropriate in that situation.