Inspect the unexpected

Inspect the unexpected

Regular 30-minute inspections of fleet vehicles will lower maintenance costs and reduce unnecessary and costly roadside breakdowns, writes VIC OLIVER.

Most of the truck manufacturers marketing heavy commercial vehicles (HCVs) in South Africa have extended the service intervals of the vehicles they sell. In long-distance operations, service intervals have been stretched to over 50,000km – and in some of the more recent models this is getting closer to 100,000km!

This is great for operators, allowing them to maximise vehicle uptime and reduce servicing costs. Nevertheless, bear in mind that a vehicle should still be inspected regularly between service dates to ensure that all the components are working well mechanically and that the vehicle is in a safe operating condition.

During a regular inspection, the technician will be able to detect any tell-tale signs of a pending failure that could result in a roadside breakdown and/or a costly repair. The technician will also have the opportunity to grease vehicle components – especially the propshaft and suspension – and attend to any small problems requiring attention.

Inspections should be undertaken systematically, using a well-designed inspection sheet that covers all the major items to be checked. The inspection should cover the following components of the vehicle:

Vehicle Identification

Check the current vehicle licence disc and operator’s disc, as well as the front and rear number plates and the data plate.


Do a thorough inspection to check for any damage to the cab and windscreen. Check the condition of the entrance step, wiper blades, mirrors, sun visors and pedal rubbers, as well as the operation of all lights and indicators, the windscreen washer, and the hooter.


Inspect the chassis for any cracks or damage and check that the fuel tank is properly secured and not leaking. Check body mountings, springs and suspension, the load sensing valve and ABS connections, and conduct a fifth wheel and trailer coupling inspection. Finally, make sure that the fifth wheel is well greased.

Brakes and Clutch

Do a thorough inspection of the entire brake system. Check the brake lining / brake pad wear and all brake retarders, as well as clutch operation, including free play.


Check the entire steering mechanism. The power steering must be checked for oil leaks and the steering for excessive play.

Wheels and Rims

Checks include tyre pressures, tyre condition, wheel alignment, and wheel rims and fastening systems. Ensure that inner tyre valve extensions are in place and properly secured.

Engine and Exhaust System

Check for excessive smoke, oil leaks, and fluid levels and look for tell-tale signs of potential engine problems that could lead to a breakdown. Check the condition of fan belts and pulleys, as well as the engine air intake system. Inspect the exhaust system for leaks and make sure the exhaust is securely attached.

Cooling System

Check for leaks, make sure the antifreeze ratio is correct, and ensure radiator core cleanliness.


Inspect the general condition of the batteries, including the terminals. Check the water level, as well as the battery box and securing clamps.


Inspect all propshaft couplings and centre bearings, and check the propshaft for excessive play.

Professional HCV fleet owners across the country have found from experience that the disciplined practice of regularly inspecting their vehicles prior to the manufacturer’s recommended service intervals is highly beneficial and saves on costs in the long run.

Published by

Vic Oliver

One of this country’s most respected commercial vehicle industry authorities, VIC OLIVER has been in this industry for 49 years. Before joining the FOCUS team, he spent 15 years with Nissan Diesel (now UD Trucks), 11 years with Busaf, and seven years with International. Vic is now enjoying his well-earned retirement.
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