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Van walkaround checks explained

If you use your van for business, then it’s essential that you know it’s safe to use, and the easiest way to do this is to perform your daily walkaround checks without fail – here's what you need...

Person doing a van walkaround check

Van owners and operators who use their vehicles for business have a duty of care to both their employees and the general public. And it doesn’t matter if you have a van fleet numbering in the tens or if you’re a single self-employed operator, you are required to have systems for regular inspection and maintenance, and part of that inspection set-up involves a daily walk around check.

These checks should take only a matter of a few minutes, but will quickly highlight any areas of concern, and indeed, if your van is approaching the time for its next van MOT test, then these checks will give you a good idea of what it needs to pass the test.

The main areas to be checked are grouped into two categories – those carried out inside the van and the ones you’ll need to be outside the van for. We'll look at the former first.

Ford E-transit interior

Walkaround checks inside your van

- Check that the horn works when pressed, and that the steering operates with no play or untoward noises.

- Make sure you press the foot brake and that there isn’t too much travel. Similarly, make sure the parking brake holds the vehicle and doesn’t have too much travel.

- Turn on the ignition, and make sure all the warning lights come on as they should, then go out shortly after. If you have someone with you, switch on all the lights and indicators and get them to verify that everything is working properly.

- Are all your mirrors secure and unobscured? They should be, and so should your windows – any stickers that compromise your view out should be removed.

- All seatbelts must work as intended and be free from cuts and fraying.

- And finally, make sure the wipers work as they should and that the blades clear the windscreen properly.

Flat tyre

Walkaround checks outside your van

- Pop the bonnet and make sure that the battery is free from damage and that it is securely held in place by a proper clamp.

- Then it’s a case of checking that the reservoirs for the coolant, brake fluid and power steering fluid are filled up to the maximum level, and then that the engine oil is fully topped up. The windscreen washer fluid should be topped up, too.

- You should ensure that the fuel filler cap is fully tightened.

- The van’s bodywork should be secure and largely free from damage; if there is any damage, there must be no sharp edges protruding. All of the doors should open and close smoothly and securely, too.

- The exhaust system should be firmly attached and free from leaks, and all the tyres should have the correct pressure in them and a tread depth of more than 1.6mm across 75% of the width of the tyre.

- Tyres should be free from cuts, and the sidewalls should have no bulges – this can indicate a carcass failure, and therefore a blowout risk.

- Finally, any tow bar or tail lift should be securely attached and should operate correctly.

If you do notice any faults with the vehicle that go beyond a simple top-up, then the fault must be rectified before the vehicle can be used for business. Be aware that most of what we've covered here should form part of your regular van maintenance in any case.

How long should a van walkaround check take?

There is no legal time required to conduct a van walkaround check, but between five and 10 minutes should give you enough time to cover everything we've talked about here. Be aware that your employer may stipulate a minimum time given over to a walkaround check prior to you getting into your van.

Van walkaround checks – the bottom line

It’s vital that these daily checks are carried out rigorously before the van is used in a business capacity, and a good operator will also keep a checklist that is filled out each day. This gives everyone a record of what has gone wrong with a van over a longer period. 

Such checks will not only keep you and/or your employee during the course of the working day, but they will also give you a real depth of knowledge about your van, and that can only be a good thing because it lets you know about any potential issues long before they become dangerous.

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