Maintenance, maintenance, maintenance. It’s a mantra that all food truck owners have to live by. The number one issue with mobile vendor costs is not finding a location, keeping food consistent, social media, what have you; I mean, they ARE important issues. But if there’s one bane to your existence, it’s going to be all the times the truck breaks down and all the parts that end up needing to be replaced/fixed. Thus, putting in effort to properly check and take care of your vehicle on top of all your other duties is a heavily important step to curb all the potential funds not doing so WILL drain from you in the future. Never want to start off a day with an unexpected vehicle breakdown keeping you from an important money-making shift.
So to keep up on this, you as an owner will want to put together a Maintenance Schedule of things to check and get done every day, week, month, or certain mileage points. Then, STICK TO IT.
We can’t give a complete easy to copy template for this, as the final product will depend heavily on your own specific vehicle. Look through the owner’s manual, find the list of exact check times for various engine and body components and when to check/replace them. But here’s a good start with some of the most important items you’ll want to make sure to do on a regular basis.
Overall Check: Walk around, kick the tires, take a peak under the hood and make sure there’s no out of place dents, colorations, cracks, etc
Fluid Levels: Get this into habit, never want any fluid to accidentally dip below minimum levels for an extended period of time. Daily checking also can tell you if there’s a leak, if per chance one suddenly sees a sudden drop in oil or auto steering fluid after only a day or two.
Clean Windows: Keeping a clean window, and truck in general, is more than just being able to see where you’re driving. Presentation and appearance! Customers love it, whether they actively think about it or not.
Belts, Hoses, and Lines: especially important in Winter when belts can shrink and stretch. The need for changing these is actually rather long, but it only takes a quick once-over look across the engine compartment to see their conditions
Air Pressure: will want to check even more often during extreme weather and driving conditions, but make sure they’re always pumped up to the right psi for your truck to avoid flats and get the best gas-mileage.
Rotating Tires: ensure the axels are aligned and suspended properly while doing this.
Note, some of these are items that may have an excess of when they need to be changed, to which you’ll need to go through your specific vehicle booklet to figure out the exact mileage and parts for. But you should be able to use this as a beginning guide to when you put together your own print-out yearly schedule; and you WILL want to write up your own personal one to follow every day, week, month, etc.
Wipers + Washer Fluid: We’ve already mentioned the importance of clean windows, so obviously one should thus make sure they always have enough fluid and that their wipers keep working well, which can be tested and seen as they drive. Definitely invest in good wipers that don’t need to get replaced NEARLY as often as cheaper kinds.
Battery Test: You can actually do this for FREE at almost any auto parts store, so there’s no excuse; might want to do it a bit more often come winter.
Oil Changes: Generally every 5,000 miles, may differ highly depending on your truck and particular oil filter
Air Filters: Check monthly considering your heavy use, but ultimately these may only needs changing every 10,000 miles if not more; 5,000 minimum along with the oil filter. Basic surveyal: take out, hold up to sun/light, so long as at least 1/3 of it is still white and somewhat see-through from the light it’s good. Otherwise change.
Spark Plugs + Spark Plug Wires: Usually the plugs themselves need changing every 30,000 miles; the wires can easily go longer, but one might want to change around the same time to keep quality high. It’s important that you’re not just checking the plugs to see if they’re ‘gunky’ and dirty, but whether the gap is still the same or if it’s gotten a little wider. Either of those scenarios means it’s officially time to switch out.
Tune-ups: You probably want to wait at most 30,000 miles for any overall maintenance check from your shop if there still has yet to see any potential issue while driving. Ideally, one should go for a full tune-up to have all their parts properly tested. This is when you’ll want them to test your Brakes,
The generator is just another engine that needs to be checked and maintained on a basis just as frequent as your truck’s. Check its various filters, belts, oil level, etc in the same manner and timing as the truck; it may do best to create a separate list. Main consideration comes in changing the oil; simple enough, but just like that of the truck one has to consider proper disposal. The easiest solution is if you’re already getting the truck’s oil changed by a mechanic on a regular basis; if so, simply have them do the generator oil at the same time, and they’ll deal with the leftover oil in the right fashion.
In Keeping Proper Maintenance
It takes more than just regularly replacing parts and following a schedule; true maintenance is a part of you and the business, it’s important that it’s purely in touch with your everyday procedures. Such is it that one needs to keep other things in mind.
Crew Upkeep: Don’t just rely on YOU. Train other members on regular maintenance schedules and how to check conditions; gives more responsibility to them, reduces workload a bit for you, and makes sure work still gets done on days where you’re unexpectedly out of the picture.
Supplies: Always keep quality supplies for fixing problems; it sucks being prepared only to have the wrong sized wrench or jumper cables that won’t conduct properly. Extended from that, keep a good emergency tool kit on board for on-the-site fixes; besides the tools and jumper cables, include a quart of oil, funnel, various other fluid needs, and anything else that could come remotely in hand. As for the parts themselves, make sure to actually spend some time searching for different sources to find the best quality and deals; builders and auto shops are always able to add some extra costs on one isn’t aware of when looking at other options.
Equipment: Once you’re done figuring out all the maintenance schedules on the truck itself, you’ll want to put up a similar listing for the individual kitchen equipments inside. Cleaning, parts checks, wheels, etc. If you can do it for the truck though, this should be a snap.
Insurance: Always make sure to have the right coverage for your truck/s, ideally a wide style that’s ready for any risk that could face your vehicle in that particular environment.