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A broken-down vehicle is every rideshare driver’s worst nightmare.
Spending thousands of dollars on repairs and losing the ability to work for weeks on end could lead to financial ruin.
Ok, so what can you do to avoid this?
Focus on vehicle maintenance.
Maintenance is an important aspect of owning a vehicle. Staying up-to-date on oil, spark plug, and tire changes can double the lifespan of your vehicle.
Pay close enough attention to the condition of your ride, and you can even save money by avoiding expensive repairs in the long run.
Proactive vehicle maintenance can be the difference between running a successful rideshare business and bankruptcy.
–Click to Tweet this
Find out how to maintain your set of wheels by reviewing our rideshare vehicle maintenance guide below.
How Vehicle Maintenance Impacts Profitability
Passengers make a subconscious snap judgment the moment that they see your vehicle. This can have an effect on how passengers perceive the overall service you provide.
Don’t let that first judgment be negative. Make sure squeaky brakes and other vehicle maintenance issues don’t get in the way of your tips and driver ratings.
Monthly Vehicle Maintenance
Over time, every aspect of your vehicle will start to degrade. Ignoring this long enough can take a huge chunk out of your wallet.
So how do you prolong the life of your vehicle? Run a monthly vehicle inspection.
The best place to start your inspection is your tires. When making your way around to each tire, listen for a slight hissing sound. This may be a sign of a slow leak. Be sure to change out that tire as soon as possible.
If no audible hissing is present, grab a penny. Place the coin upside down between the tire treads. Note how much of Abraham Lincoln’s head is covered. Tires with tread that don’t extend beyond our former president’s head may need to be changed out.
The penny test is a fast and easy way to measure tire pressure. Do not drive on bald tires. Having deep tire treads is detrimental to safe driving. Treads create the friction you need to reduce the chances of hydroplaning. They also increase the odds of being able to avoid an accident.
Under the hood of your vehicle, there are several fluid levels that need to be checked each month.
One of these fluids is your engine’s coolant. Engines get hot while they are running. Coolant is used to prevent your vehicle from overheating, or possibly catching fire.
If this vital fluid runs low, the temperature gauge on your dashboard will be on or near the H. When refilling your coolant, avoid getting severe burns. Give the engine about 3-hours to cool off before opening the lid to the fluid’s container.
Related: Learn how to make more money driving for Uber with these 17 actionable tips
Next up is oil. This underappreciated automotive fluid keeps an engine running smoothly. Motor oil works by lubricating the pistons inside of your engine. Without it, intricate metal pieces end up grinding against each other, which can lead to all sorts of unpleasant issues.
If your oil levels are running low, chances are a check oil light is activated on your vehicle’s dashboard.
The check oil light can come on for a few reasons. The most common reasons are low oil levels or the fluid has been overused.
If your vehicle has triggered the oil alert due to low oil levels, most likely it is due to normal wear and tear. To know for sure, keep tabs on your oil level using the vehicle’s fluid dipstick. Be sure to remove the oil from this tool with a napkin, then reinsert and remove the device again, to get accurate results.
Record your results a few times. A substantial drop in oil levels over the course of a month may indicate that you have an oil leak. Take your vehicle to the shop and have a mechanic check it out.
Motor oil also needs to be changed out on a regular basis. While your engine is running, gunk from the environment can pollute and dirty your oil. This can lead to a major loss of lubrication.
As your vehicle works harder to keep the pistons running as intended, the process can lead to louder engine noises. Most vehicle experts recommend removing the old fluid and adding new oil every 3-5,000 miles.
Another fluid that needs to be checked monthly is the windshield wiper fluid. Visibility is mandatory when driving your vehicle and this liquid helps you to see.
Having a splattered bug or other obstruction inhibiting you from viewing beyond your windshield is dangerous. Being in this situation while a passenger is in the car can reduce the odds of them tipping and giving a good review.
Quarterly Vehicle Maintenance
Automatic transmission fluid, or ATF, lubricates your engine and is red, distinguishing it from motor oil.
ATF acts sort of like a cleaner to keep gunk and other debris from damaging your system. This fluid also helps your vehicle to shift between gears when you change speeds.
Changing out your ATF can increase the life of your transmission, which is a vital aspect of your engine. ATF depletes through normal wear and tear, so check the fluid levels during your quarterly vehicle maintenance.
If you noticed that your vehicle is no longer getting good gas mileage, the culprit may be your fuel filter.
No matter how small, any gunk, dirt, or other debris that gets into your fuel system can inhibit your vehicle from functioning as intended. Opting to leave this part of your vehicle ignored can lead to your fuel pump burning out.
To avoid this expensive dilemma, change your fuel filter out at least every 12,000 miles by following these steps.
Next up are the radiator hoses. These are the thick black tubes connecting your radiator to the engine.
When the vehicle is cool, give them a squeeze. Make sure your hoses have a bit of give and flexibility to them. If they’re stiff or feel hard to the touch, it’s time to replace them. Going too long without changing your radiator hoses out can lead to them bursting and depriving your engine of the coolant it needs.
Car needs serious work? Come explore the various vehicle financing options to keep yourself on the road.
Rounding out the quarterly vehicle maintenance is a battery check.
Under normal circumstances, your battery is recharged by the alternator. Nevertheless, through normal use, your vehicle’s battery power will be exhausted. To prevent this from happening while you are completing a rideshare request, run a battery strength test.
There are two ways to go about performing this. For accurate results, use a multimeter to test the voltage of your battery.
When the vehicle is off, the multimeter should read be higher than 12.5 volts if your battery is still good. Once you turn on your engine, the multimeter should easily exceed 13.6 volts.
For rideshare drivers that do not have a multimeter, you can test the battery strength by turning on the headlights. The dimmer the lights, the higher the probability is that your battery needs to be changed.
Biannual Vehicle Maintenance
When you turn your steering wheel it should rotate in either direction without much force. If you notice this task becoming difficult, it is probably due to low power steering fluid.
This automotive liquid helps you to maneuver freely while parking, making turns, and swerving, when necessary. Power steering fluid does not deplete as fast as other vehicle fluids. However, it does need to be checked during your biannual vehicle maintenance to assure vehicle performance.
Keep your vehicle gleaming long after you buy it. Wax your car or truck after every wash.
A layer of wax extends the life of your vehicle’s paint job by acting as a protective shield against harsh environmental conditions, such as road salt. Rideshare drivers that adhere to this maintenance task can maintain the vehicle’s value and increase passenger satisfaction.
The last thing you should check every six-months is your timing belt. Your engine needs a working timing belt to assure that everything is in sync.
Visual inspection of the belt can alert you to whether or not the part is on the verge of snapping if there is a tear of other noticeable damage. Other clues to look for include an increase in vehicle vibration or squeakiness.
In the event that your timing belt snaps, extensive and expensive damage can occur to other parts of your engine.
Annual Vehicle Maintenance
Take the time to change out your windshield wiper blades once a year. Newer models are equipped with water resistance features that can improve visibility during heavy snow or rain.
Noteworthy signs that symbolize that your blades need to be changed out are water or snow streaks that remain even though the wipers are on. Having your vision inhibited can lead to major accidents and frightened passengers.
Have your tires rotated annually to extend their lifetime. Driving will wear down your tires. Increased weight in the cabin and uneven terrain can make each tire degrade at a different rate. Furthermore, if one tire is worn down more than the others, it may be a sign that extensive damage has occurred. Altering the location of your tires can clue you into this issue before it becomes unrepairable.
Keeping the air inside your vehicle clean is a must. Fresh air, or at least non-smelly, can improve passenger’s opinion of the experience.
To achieve this, change out your cabin air filter. Replacing this once a year will help to keep dust, pollutants, and allergens from remaining inside the vehicle for long.
Finally, inspect your spark plugs. These small parts deliver current to your engine to provide the spark your ignition needs to get things going.
When spark plugs start to go bad, vehicles having trouble with starting up and accelerating. Other telltale signs include loud noises when the engine is idling, such as at a stop sign or red light. Depending on the quality, you may need to replace your spark plugs every 30,000 or 100,000 miles.
Ways to Maintain a Regular Vehicle Maintenance Schedule
Keeping up with your vehicle’s maintenance needs is important. Unfortunately, remembering every item on your vehicle maintenance checklist can be a challenge.
One way to make this process a bit easier is to create a car maintenance schedule for yourself. Reference this list while waiting for a ride request or during your break.
Another option is to download a car maintenance schedule app. These handy applications are designed to assist you with remembering, and adhering to, your vehicle’s maintenance schedule.
If neither the app nor the checklist sound appealing, rideshare drivers can also set calendar alerts using their preferred method.
Uber’s Vehicle Maintenance Standards
To verify that a vehicle is rideshare approved, Uber drivers are required to have their automobile checked at a pre-approved shop or activation center.
These annual inspections are free unless you have your vehicle examined by a non-approved mechanic. If you choose to do this, it is usually about $20.
We highly recommend visiting a pre-approved Uber location to assure that your automobile examination is completed with ease.
During the inspection, a mechanic will verify that your vehicle is safe to drive and in acceptable condition to work for Uber. The main areas on your automobile that will be reviewed are below:
- Brake Lights
- Head Lights
- Turn Signal
- Emergency Brake
- Seat Belts
- Rear Window
- Windshield Wipers
- Interior and Exterior
- Muffler and Exhaust
- Tires and Tread Depth
- Rear-View Mirrors
- Stop Lights
Also see: come explore the full list of Uber vehicle requirements.
Lyft’s Vehicle Maintenance Standards
Lyft’s annual automobile inspection is similar to Uber’s except one notable exception. Lyft drivers don’t have the luxury of getting their vehicles inspected for free.
The annual examination needs to be completed by a licensed mechanic. Drivers working for Lyft should anticipate having to pay about $20 a year for this procedure.
Manually check your vehicle before the inspection. This can reduce the likelihood of overpaying for parts or services you do not need.
When completing your annual vehicle inspection as a Lyft driver, anticipate the mechanic checking the following areas of your automobile.
- Rear Window
- Rearview Mirrors
- Emergency Brake
- Windshield Wipers
- Tail Lights
- Turn Signal
- Stop Lights
- Front Seat Adjustments
- Muffler and Exhaust System
- Tires and Tread Depth
- Interior and Exterior
- Seat Belts
Want to learn more? Come explore our full guide to passing a Lyft vehicle inspection.
By adhering to your vehicle’s maintenance schedule, you can extend the life of your vehicle as well as keep passengers safe and happy.
Staying up-to-date on your vehicle’s current condition has an added bonus of helping you pass your annual inspection with ease. Or at least, avoid overpaying for services and repairs you do not need.
Brett Helling is the owner of Ridester.com. He has been a rideshare driver since early 2012, having completed hundreds of trips for companies including Uber, Lyft, and Postmates. In 2014 he acquired Ridester.com to share his experiences with other drivers. His insights are regularly quoted by publications such as Forbes, Vice, CNBC, and more. He is currently working on a book about working in the Gig Economy, expanding his skill set beyond the rideshare niche. Read more about Brett here.