Springtime, more than any other season, reminds rust belt service vehicle owners to clean the crud from their service vehicles

Living my whole life in a region with four distinct seasons, I’d like to think I find the redeeming qualities in the diverse weather we enjoy every month. But this time of year tests my patience for a constant slush of slop that attacks my vehicles.

There was a time when I didn’t care much about a chalky white film of road salt caked over my car and truck all winter long. As long as I had ample windshield washer fluid, I could clear the mess away enough to see where I was driving. But my vehicles reflected my neglect, especially during slop time, the late winter/early spring period when road salt works hardest damaging a vehicle’s finish and eating through fender panels.

Until I hit my 40s, I never understood why old men appreciated car wash gift certificates so much as Christmas gifts. With age comes the wisdom that a clean fleet—be it my car and pickup truck in the driveway or your collection of service trucks and construction equipment—will result in better-looking and longer-lasting vehicles.

Keeping vehicles clean during this sloppy season makes an even bigger difference to you than it does to me. While I like to drive a clean car to church on Sunday, a dirty car won’t really affect my earning potential during the week.

How does a sloppy-looking service truck reflect on your business? When a customer reads the name and number across the side of your filthy-looking pickup, trailered equipment or service rigs at a work site, they might think dirty equipment is a reflection of the service you provide. And the grimy film might be attacking vital metal components and the underside of your vehicle.

I’m reminded of some common sense advice about keeping equipment clean and in good working order during the sloppy season. If you have additional truck-washing tips, send them along and I’ll share them with readers of GOMC.


Wash often, especially when temperatures climb to 40 degrees

This time of year, it’s almost impossible to wash vehicles too often. Each day on the road works muck into every crevice on your undercarriage. Some of you might wash your work trucks nightly as they return to the yard. Others might stretch it out a few days. Various auto and truck-washing tip sheets on the Web recommend washing vehicles at least every 10 days, and just about any time the mercury rises several degrees above freezing.

I’ll toss in one tip I’ve learned the hard way about washing cars when the temps dip below freezing: After you finish washing the vehicle, leave the doors open while it air dries. This will prevent the rubber gaskets around the doors from freezing to the doorframe.


Start at the bottom, and then go from the top down

Some automated car washes don’t have undercarriage rinse equipment or they charge more money for cleaning the bottom of your car or truck. If you fail to rinse the underside, you’re only getting half a wash. My preference is to thoroughly hit the underside with a power-washing wand, then wash the vehicle from the top down. If you’re going to make the effort to wash each of your trucks, carefully wash off any parts of the truck’s undercarriage that you can reach.


Buy deep well floor mats

If salty slush can attack your truck from the outside, it surely can do the same from the inside. In any vehicle I own, I invest in a second set of winter floor mats designed with a deeper well to contain the salty snow and ice that melts from my boots all winter. Every so often I’ll remove the mats in the winter and clean them thoroughly in a laundry tub. Winter mats will help slow the rust and preserve your carpeting.


Don’t forget the doorjambs

If you give the exterior a good wash every week, don’t ignore the doorjambs. Your truck isn’t really clean until you’ve cleaned the gateway to the interior. Failing to wash and wipe down around the inside of the door and doorframe allows you to drag more dirt inside the vehicle. It also promotes rust in seams and crevices around the door, which are some of the areas most susceptible to rust spots.



A good service vehicle is one of your most important tools. A well-appointed and maintained truck can make your job a joy day after day. At the same time, a truck that fails to hit the mark can cause daily headaches. For the sake of efficient work and better equipment resale somewhere down the road, keep the washing equipment handy now and all year long.

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