Is saving money worth the cost of a passenger’s safety? Of course not. Yet many operators take chances every day by installing parts not rated for a limousine on their vehicles. The many replacement parts available are made for either passenger vehicles or for limousines. Although the price of the appropriate part may be higher, it is well worth purchasing one specifically designed to handle the extra weight and heavy use of a livery vehicle. The lives of many people -- your chauffeur, passengers and others on the road -- may depend on installing the proper part for the job.
Several years ago, as my limousine company was growing, we decided it was time to add another vehicle to our fleet. Since we were still a small operator with a limited budget, we wanted to purchase a used vehicle rather than incur a large payment for a new one. We found a four-year-old, white 120-inch stretch that had high mileage but appeared to be well-maintained. The dealer had all the service records from the company that traded the vehicle in, and they showed that the car had, among other new parts, a new transmission. We purchased the vehicle because most of the major components were new and we were given a good offer.
Two months later, a client booked this vehicle to travel from Scottsboro, Ala., all the way to Las Vegas. Up to this point, the limousine had performed well and there were no problems with it so I booked the job and sent the chauffeur on her way.
On the return trip, the chauffeur accelerated to merge into traffic on a major highway when the transmission seized up. As the limousine skidded, other vehicles had to swerve to avoid colliding with it. When a mechanic at the Lincoln dealership examined the vehicle, he said the reason the new transmission locked up was because it was not made for a limousine. The former owner obviously replaced the factory-made heavy-duty transmission with one designed for a passenger car in order to save money. The cheaper transmission couldn’t handle the strain of the heavier vehicle and its passengers, so it eventually failed. This failure could have ended in tragedy.
Every hour costs an operator money when a livery vehicle is down for repairs. When a passenger-car-rated part is installed on your vehicle, you will more than likely have to replace that part sooner rather than later, as well as other parts its failure may have damaged. This ends up costing you more money and more downtime.
Parts such as alternators, air-conditioning compressors and convenience components are merely an inconvenience when they fail. However, parts such as tires, shocks, transmissions, brake systems, steering components and suspension parts can cause tragedy if they fail.
We always need to be vigilant when it comes to safety, which should be our number-one priority. Saving a few dollars is never worth the price of compromising safety.
Proper Load Index Helps Ensure Safety
When purchasing tires for your limousine, always remember to buy tires with an appropriate load index. The load index indicates the weight capacity of the tire. If your tire’s load index is too low, you may experience belt separation or blowout conditions which could lead to an accident.
Load index ratings for passenger-car and light-truck tires start at 71 (for sub-compact cars) and climb up to 110 (suitable for stretch SUVs). Tire dealers recommend a load index no lower than 107 for limousines, which means a 2,150-lb. capacity per tire or four-tire weight dispersal of 8,600 lbs.