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Pre- and post-trip inspections are important for identifying vehicle problems and maintaining the highest quality of your service.
John Pearman, COO of Cooper Atlanta, shared his pre- and post-trip inspection forms with us. These forms were built for Cooper-Atlanta's operation but key points are applicable for every limousine business. Cooper Atlanta uses one set of forms for all of its vehicles instead of separating them out by vehicle type. This allows them to streamline their processes and keep the forms to one page.
The pre-trip inspection reports are placed on the windshields of every vehicle and must be removed by the chauffeur before taking the vehicle out on a run. There is no way for them to be avoided or forgotten.
But more critical than the forms is what is done with them. At Cooper Atlanta, if a problem is identified at pre-trip inspection, the chauffeur informs the dispatcher. The dispatcher will diagnose whether the vehicle's problem will render the vehicle out of service. Problems are entered into the maintenance software and prioritized by the nature of the problem. Cooper Atlanta's maintenance department reviews the forms daily. "Inspections allow us to catch damage. Usually, we catch most things at vehicle prep. The more eyes that are on the vehicle, the better chance of spotting a problem," Pearman explains.
Detecting Noises and Smells Breeds Good Diagnostics
Chauffeurs see and hear problems often before they become apparent to your maintenance departments. Teaching them to identify those noises and smells can help you quickly diagnose problems before they get out of hand. Lou Saif of Royale shares his experience with five common noises and odors to be aware of in limousines:
1. Squeaky Shrieky Brakes
The simplest noise to identify is squeaking brakes. If your chauffeur hears them, it probably means the pads need to be changed as soon as possible to avoid also changing the rotor. Identifying this noise early will save you money in the long run.
2. Bad Vibrations
These can mean a number of things: a nail in a tire, a bent wheel, wheels out of alignment, or an unbalanced wheel. Aside from it annoying your customer, this gives the client a poor impression of your company. It is easy to repair.
3. Stinky Smells
A rotten egg smell tells you that the car is overcharging. If you look at the battery, it will appear a bit bloated. Sometimes you will see battery acid residue by the terminals. This could indicate an overcharging alternator. The internal diode on the alternator would then be bad. Dealerships will check this and often will misdiagnose it as it will show it as charging. High voltage will boil out the battery acid and cause the nasty smell. Any kind of bad smell means something. A mildewing smell could be a leak. A fishy kind of smell could be an antifreeze leak. Rubber burning usually relates to the belts.
4. Psychotic Cycling
If the air conditioning compressor appears to be constantly cycling, it could mean that it has the wrong amount of refrigerant. If it is not cycling at all, it could be low on refrigerant, causing the compressor to shut off.
Steering wheels turning to extremes sometimes have a clicking sound. In earlier Lincolns, that symbolized a loose rack and pinion.
After the jump: 10 Ways to Keep Vehicles in Top Shape and Boost Resale Value
Lou Saif, national service representative for Royale Limousine Manufacturers in Haverhill, Mass., shares his 10 tips for saving money in the long run when operating a limousine. He tells us things you can do to keep your limousine in pristine running shape and to increase your resale value.
1. Body Work
You get what you pay for, Saif says. The cheapest guy out there who does it fastest could lose you $2,000 to $5,000 at resale. It may not have cost that much more to do it right in the first place. Bad body work makes the vehicle look unattractive to your customers. Doing it right will pay in the long run when it's time to trade in the vehicle.
2. Drive Shaft Fittings
"Grease fittings in the drive shafts," Saif says. "Most people do not realize that they need to be greased. It's a little thing that most don't think about. It should be checked with each oil change. If you are not sure where they are located, you should contact the coach builder."
3. Radiators and Air Conditioning Condensers
"These get full of all kinds of road dirt which cuts down on the efficiency of the air conditioning and cooling system of the limousine," Saif says. "Maintenance of the condensers is often overlooked in annual maintenance." Saif says to carefully power wash them or to have a professional perform this maintenance. He cautions that it is important to do it when the vehicle is cold.
4. Door Hinges
"If you lubricate the hinges on the doors regularly, the door will never sag," Saif says. "Doors can squeak over time. A little lubricant goes a long way."
5. Rear Brakes
"On stretches, if you hear brakes squealing, they probably need to be changed. This is especially true if your chauffeur is heavy footed. Brakes can wear out quickly. I have found that the OEM pads wear better than the after market pads," Saif says.
Lincoln-built vehicles come with a 750CCA Battery. Saif recommends replacing your limousine battery with an 850 CCA. Saif believes that these vehicles take a tremendous amount of heat in the engine compartment. "They idle a lot. Batteries die because they are overtaxed. Put the right-sized battery in the car and keep the terminals clean. If your cars do a lot of city work, replace them every spring to ensure optimal performance."
7. Tire Pressure
"One of the most important things in a limousine is to check the tire pressure," Saif says. "Tire pressure affects comfort, safety for the driver and passengers, gas mileage, and even wear of the tires. When tires are not inflated properly, they will wear out more quickly. On limousines there is a sticker on the door that tells the proper air pressure and if it is different from sedan pressure. Cadillac's and Lincoln's are different from each other. This is not a one pressure fits all. For example, cold tire pressure on a Town Car is 35 psi for all four tires. On most Lincoln stretches, it's 42 psi cold. Check the manufacturer's sticker on the driver's door that will show you the proper tire pressure."
8. Air Conditioning Systems
"Run them a few times during the winter to get the oil running through the compressor," Saif says. "Check the air before the hottest day of the season. Most people don't check until it gets hot. Shops fill up on that hot day with all the cars that had leaks over the winter." Saif believes that most service people need to be educated on how to service air conditioning of a stretch. "Have your mechanic speak to the coach builder to understand how to perform this maintenance properly. Different cars take different capacities of refrigerant."
9. Coachbuilders at Time of Service
"Call your coachbuilder's service department and use them as a resource. Operators take their vehicles to their own repair shop. They may take more time to fix what could have been diagnosed quickly by the coachbuilders as the coachbuilder may have experienced the problem more often. Use your coachbuilder's service department," Saif advises. "Talk to them and you may save money in diagnosis. Vehicles also may be under warranty. Your coachbuilders will know what is under warranty."
10. Communicate With the Coachbuilder's Service Department:
Lou speaks to operators all the time. "We see things that operators may not," Saif says. "Coachbuilders give a warranty but a lot of people don't use it. Lincolns have a four year/150,000 mile warranty. Know what the warranties are and take full advantage of them. Operators are paying for their warranties and often they are not used."
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