According to a poll of police
fleet managers and technicians, the best maintenance tip for keeping
police vehicles ready to go is keep up a regular maintenance plan.
What differed across the board was a basic maintenance plan setup
and implementation procedures. One well-rounded plan emerged from
the Hilliard, OH, Police.
include an element where fleet managers train their officers to log
mileage and perform routine scheduled maintenance at certain mile
markers. For example, at every 5,000-mile interval, officers turn
their vehicles in for an oil and oil filter change, brakes and air
filter check. Depending on location, for instance in areas with more
dust, air filters are changed more frequently on a regular basis
between 15,000 and 30,000 miles, improving the car’s gas mileage by
as much as 10%. A 30,000-mile interval means checking fuel filters
and changing fluids; cool system flush and transmission.
checked every time the car goes into the shop, regardless of mileage
intervals. Not only are safety and longer wear major factors, but so
is fuel cost savings of up to 0.4% for every one psi drop in tire
pressure. Under-inflated tires result in low gas mileage.
In some areas,
fleet managers send all vehicles to the shop for monthly oil and
filter changes regardless of mileage. This is especially important
for divisions patrolling sections of highways or freeways where
their cars idle most of the day.
left regular scheduling up to the officers who drove the vehicles.
These drivers were trained to unofficially acknowledge when so many
miles racked up on their cars, thus making it time for tune-ups, oil
maintenance plan, shared by Lt. R.L. Parkey, in charge of fleet
management for the Hilliard Police, covered about every possible
angle. Two keys to reliable and quick vehicles, not just ones that
start, are routine and maintenance in their division. Critical is a
standard routine that all vehicles go through monthly to minimize
downtime. And hand-in-hand with this is accurate record keeping of
With 35 units
in all, including 15 marked cars, the Hilliard Police maintains two
shifts replacing approximately five cars per year with over 100,000
miles average accumulation over three years. Crown Victoria is the
vehicle of choice with increased electrical system, higher output
alternator, higher cooling capacity, stab guard, full-sized, V8,
rear wheel drive and body-on-frame. Older units are traded in at a
dealership; new ones are purchased through state bidding.
when a unit is due for regularly scheduled maintenance, Lt. Parkey
“red tags” it by placing a tag on the dashboard or mirror. This tag
places the unit on hold, so as officers come on duty, they see the
tag and know the vehicle is not available for use.
Then the unit
is driven out back to the shop for maintenance. Monthly routine
includes: oil changes, all fluids (washer, differential, etc.), full
chassis inspection, steering operation, breaks, tires, all
undercarriage, emergency equipment, lighting, alternator (high
demand on electrical equipment).
mounted on the vehicles also are part of a routine maintenance
schedule. They are stripped once a year.
records are kept and may be necessary to prove the vehicle was
compliant in response to a complaint. If a vehicle needs work, an
officer starts a work order for the problem, created by a Sanderson
CMI program from Dayton, OH, and custom designed in-house.
system has the ability to monitor fuel consumption. This work order
goes to the auto technician so that he can complete his portion or
fill in the work completed area. Not only are these forms helpful
for follow-up maintenance and for selling or trading the vehicle
later on, they are helpful in the event of a claim of negligence.
Clerks key in the work order data and work orders can be pulled.
Mechanic Dewey Perry shared common work orders that came through his
division: repairs to the electrical system, installation of radios,
lap bars, tire failure in construction areas (nails in tires), brake
inspections, and check tie-rod ends.
Other police fleet managers who were interviewed
surprisingly ran different software solutions across the board.
Niagara Falls Police Department uses Fleet Maintenance Pro Version
9.0 Standard Edition, licensed shareware from Innovative Maintenance
tracks by miles, kilometers, dates or hours and also tracks drivers,
insurance, licensing, leasing, purchasing, fuel and vendor
information. It organizes not only repairs but preventive
maintenance. Data fields and maintenance services can be customized
for vehicles and equipment. And a system’s Wizard can instantly
compute maintenance, displayed with color-coding and customized
report options for printing.
State Patrol uses Web Work by Tero Consulting Ltd. This
Internet-based system enables access from anywhere in the world
through an interface with user identification and access code via a
standard Microsoft browser and server.
A huge range of
management operations includes work order request, processing and
tracking with calendar and accounting functions, a procedures and
safety library, project management detailing with import / export
capabilities to Microsoft Projects and equipment, and asset
management functions including handling vendors, warranties and
also logs maintenance scheduling and storeroom items, inventory and
spare parts. It also handles purchase orders, invoices, employee and
contractor records, expenses, budgets and income, integrating with
other accounting systems. Washington said the system is easy to
learn and very adaptable. It had tried other expensive systems on
its own servers with its own IT (Information Technology) but much
prefer Web Work.
The Pittsfield Police Department in New
Hampshire assigns one officer to handle crews and vehicle
maintenance. Everything is managed with Microsoft Excel
spreadsheets, including assigning each of the eight units to smaller
groups for less wear and tear on the fleet and making sure every
unit undergoes a weekly inspection.
Tallapoosa County Sheriff Department in Dadeville, AL, manages its
maintenance with Quicken Software by Intuit. This software handles
monthly expenditures, purchase orders and a maintenance
Some fleet managers shared extra maintenance tips that
fell into several other categories. For example, Niagara Falls PD
said that small maintenance was critical. Officers are encouraged to
hand in feedback on a daily basis about their vehicles. Brakes are
not allowed to go under three millimeters, oil changes and safety
checks are required every 3,000 miles, and maintenance outsourcing
is a must when the city can’t handle the work.
In the Niagara
Falls area, of particular concern is moisture in motors and rusting
vehicle bodies; winter with salt on the roadways is the worst. The
patrol division is “used hard” in car chases, although a new, more
restrictive pursuit policy is lessening the number of occurrences.
About 20 of the 90 vehicles need to be replaced. Fleet Manager
Captain Sheehen’s top tips are to keep the undercarriage clean and
have undercoating on vehicles.
Police, another area with many high-speed chases averaging 120 mph,
conducts safety checkups every 5,000 miles instead of Ford’s
recommended 6,000. Auto Services Supervisor Joseph Teipe advised
checking Ford’s ball joints and tie rod ends in the steering and
replace them with grease fittings (recommended Moog Auto parts) for
top performance, especially for high-speed chases.
He also advised
against patched or plugged tires and recommended checking vehicles,
especially new cars, for exhaust leaks. Exhaust leaks are
“deadlined” until fixed. Other tips included making sure all bike
riders wear helmets and checking all lighting each time the vehicle
is in for maintenance.
The Texas Department of Public Safety in
Austin shared one of its biggest maintenance issues: Crown Victoria
fuel filters. Critical to its operations is keeping these filters
serviced regularly, changing them at least every 20,000 miles.
Burned pistons, valves and cylinders may result from poorly
maintained filters. The Ford TSB on this kind of engine failure is
very specific about filter replacement.
Weber of the Gove County Sheriff Department in Kansas shared several
tips like rotating tires every other month. For Ford F150s, his
department puts heavy-duty shocks on the front to keep tires from
wearing so quickly. Drivers average 3,000 to 3,500 miles each month
on their vehicles.
conducting the initial 25,000-mile transmission checkup, the
department follows up every additional 25,000 miles instead of the
manufacturer’s recommended 50,000 miles to save on transmission
maintenance costs. And since plugged filters cause wear and tear on
transmission, filters are checked regularly.
Expedition tip came in from the Alpine County Sheriff Department in
Markleeville, CA. Fleet Manager Dan Doyal advised replacing all
factory shocks with heavy-duty after-market shocks. In mountainous
regions like Markleeville, this tip improves vehicle handling.
Doyal’s fleet of 13 cars patrols an area 6,000 to 9,000 feet in
regions like Alaska, Angoon PD shared preventive maintenance tips:
make sure to drive with snow tires and chains and pack shovels.
Seward PD drivers use studded tires for good grip since that area
has more ice.
also wear strap-on cleats with their boots, long johns and ear
muffs; troopers traveling hundreds of miles carry snow suits and
more survival items. Besides snow and ice windshield scrapers,
De-Icer Spray comes in handy for frozen door locks and a similar
“heat” spray for windshields keeps ice off for a couple of
regions with frequent rain, the Tampa PD shared these preventive
maintenance tips. For drivers on patrol who need to “sit” and idle
with the air conditioning on for long periods of time, stop over a
large puddle or an inch of standing water in a parking area.
This not only
makes for more efficient air conditioning, it offers a
de-militarized zone around the vehicle, detouring potential
passers-by who might try to strike up casual conversation,
obstructing the view and hindering surveillance. An alternative is
to pop the hood and insert a clipboard to allow air to circulate
around the engine, making the air conditioning run colder.
In the event of
flood emergency situations, the Crown Victoria spare tire and
removable back seat can be used as flotation devices. One noted
recent event was a downed police helicopter that crashed in a bay of
cold water, leaving the pilot with two broken legs. A fellow officer
grabbed the back seat out of his car and floated out to save
biggest issues for police cars being idle time and frequent starts
and stops in town, the best maintenance tip is preventive
maintenance. It’s the key to top performance. Reliability is second
only to safety, then longevity.
is a graduate student working on an MBA in eCommerce and Technical
Communication with Honors. Barnum is a former teacher at Ohio State
University and is currently an Ohio freelance writer. She can be
contacted by e-mail at