These are hard times, all over the world. COVID-19 has brought a tremendous disaster to so many, but things will get better eventually. Also in our industry, Food lovers and entrepreneurs will not give up so fast. Rest assured, you will be sitting in your favorite restaurant again, and you will be seeing your favorite food truck around the corner again.
This post is for the thousands of food truck owners (and those who plan to be!) around the world that are following our blog for so many years and keep sending us emails every day.
There’s no doubt that operating a food truck is less expensive than running a restaurant, but you still need to invest a lot in order to properly maintain your food truck business. You have to get licenses and permits, insurance, worry about fluctuating food costs, and of course – invest in your food truck maintenance.
Here are some tips that will help you preserve your business:
1) Preserve Your Food Truck During Lockdowns
As long as the Covid-19 lockdowns persist, you’re probably not going to use your food truck so much. Therefore, we suggest you store it the right way – so you don’t end up with a truck that’s not starting when this is all over.
- Don’t leave the gas tank empty, as this will cause condensation. Gas is cheap now, so fill it up and buy some extra fuel tanks on the way.
- If possible – disengage the parking brake to prevent brake corrosion.
- To relieve the tires from the truck’s weight – put it on a jack stand. This will also allow you to disengage the parking brake.
- You probably know this one, but just in case – disconnect and even remove the battery so it doesn’t drain. At home, drain the truck’s battery every now and then, and recharge it with a low-volt charger.
2) Learn The Basics of Food Truck Maintenance
With plenty of extra time on our hands, we should cut on Netflix hours and add some productive educational videos instead. There are plenty of YouTube tutorials on how to do the simple repairs of your truck. Can’t you learn to change the oil filter or the light bulbs by yourself? How about replacing the wiper blades or the fuses in your truck? Even checking and replacing the air filter every two months is not such a complicated task.
These are all pretty simple tasks you can learn to do by yourself, which will naturally save you money. Here’s a simple video for changing oil, and I bet you can find the same for the exact model of your truck as well.
Spend your free time wisely and learn as much as you can about the basics of your food truck maintenance, and not only on YouTube. It’s time you read your truck’s manual. Learn about all the big and tiny parts of your truck, what they all do, how to maintain them, what each dashboard warning light means, and much more. It may scare you off, but after you do it – you’ll feel great.
3) Clean and Protect Your Truck
It might sound trivial, but this section is probably the most important of all. Cleaning your truck’s exterior and interior parts, regularly and consistently, is crucial for your business survival. After Covid-19, cleanliness, and hygiene will become a major issue. Restaurants and Food Trucks that won’t shine and maintain their cleanliness at all times – won’t survive.
- Wash and clean everything behind your hotline, including the stove, oven, fryers, and other equipment you have there. Grease builds up, so do this every few weeks. Better if you do it on a weekly basis.
- Wash and clean the walls and ceiling of your truck. It gets dirty from stains every day, so make it a daily routine.
- Clean your freezers every week or two.
- Clean your truck’s dry storage area once a week.
- Clean and sanitize your ice machine once a week.
- After you watch a few YouTube tutorials and learn how to change your truck’s light bulbs, make sure to also clean the sockets with a brush, before putting in a new bulb.
- Put tape over any cracks in the truck’s exterior – to avoid these piling up with water or dirt. These can cause damage in the long run.
- Take care of your windshield washer: Use only washer liquid, as water might freeze and damage your entire system. You can’t drive without a properly working windshield washer…
- If you also learn how to change your oil (and you should!) – make sure to clean the drain plug and washer before you put back the oil pan.
- Maintain the cleanliness of your battery: A dirty wire or case can make your battery drain faster. Use a damp rag to clean.
4) Take Care of Your Engine
The engine is the (technical) heart of your food truck. Without it running smoothly day in, day out – you won’t have a business. Taking care of your engine is the essence of food truck maintenance. Here are some things to follow:
- Change oil, a lot: When things go back to normal – you’re going to drive a lot. And while most manuals won’t tell you to change the oil so frequently – if you want your engine to live a longer and better life – change the oil a lot. What does that mean? In your manual, find the oil change interval recommendations for “severe conditions” and follow that. For more tips on which oil to choose – you can check this post.
- Never forget your filters: There are quite a few filters to take care of in a vehicle. There are oil, fuel, air, and transmission filters. All are extremely important for the longevity of your truck’s engine. Oil filters should be replaced with every oil change. Air filters should be checked every 8 weeks or so and changed if dirty. Transmission filters usually need to be replaced after your first 5,000 miles and then only every 25,000 miles. And as to fuel filters, although some dealers will tell you these never need to be replaced – our guys recommend doing so once a year.
- Get oil coolers: A food truck is a heavy beast, loaded with a kitchen filled with equipment and food. It takes a toll on your engine, so adding an engine oil cooler is a low-cost solution that can also add a few more years to your engine’s life.
- Do Your Homework: When it’s time to bring your truck to the mechanic for repairs, don’t go there without doing your homework. Do your research, find online shops, and get relevant quotes for repairs or parts you might need.
5) Drive Smart
After all, that’s been said above, your food truck’s life is ultimately up to you, the driver. Your driving habits can influence the health of your truck in so many ways. Here are a few things to avoid and to remember as a food truck owner:
- Never have a heavy foot as you drive your food truck. It could shorten its life exponentially…
- When standing in red light – don’t leave your truck on D (Drive). Shift to neutral and you’ll reduce the wear and tear on your engine.
- Try to drive smooth, without sharp steering wheel positions. Steer your truck gently – and you won’t need to pay heavily for a new steering wheel system.
- Let your truck warm up properly, especially on colder days. However, don’t just sit there in your truck and let the engine idle in your parking place. This can damage your truck in the long run. Instead, turn on your engine and wait up to one minute at the max, and then gently drive your truck slowly until it warms up.
- Don’t try to be Schumacher on a food truck. Even if you have a super important catering event to attend to, drive slow! Remember, driving fast will just add more to your gas bills, and probably also to your ticketing bills, not to mention a possible accident that could be devastating to your food business.
I hope you learned something useful from this post, and that you manage to properly maintain your food truck and grow your business. Good luck!