Servicing, Maintenance and repair

Regular and good quality vehicle maintenance helps project staff to carry out their work on time and within budget.  Don't wait for your vehicles to break down!

  • Preventative Maintenance
  • Daily inspection
  • Defect reporting
  • Service schedules
  • Workshop / maintenance facilities
  • Arrangements with the workshop
  • Sending and collecting the vehicle
  • Spare parts and stores
  • Tool kit
  • Warranty protection

Sample forms, agreements and checklists may be downloaded from the Logistics Resources Bank

Preventative Maintenance

Preventative maintenance saves money - and can save lives. Five good reasons for regular servicing and maintenance are:

  • To provide safe and reliable transport
  • To achieve full vehicle life
  • To protect warranty cover
  • To achieve optimum vehicle costs per km travelled
  • To gain a satisfactory second hand selling price

Overall responsibility for maintenance falls to the person in charge of vehicles (e.g. the transport manager or logistician), while drivers have responsibility for regular checks and other specific tasks. Proper driving and care by drivers can be an important factor in keeping vehicles on the road and prolonging their life.  Adequate training, incentives and supervision are key to this.

Daily inspection

Daily inspections keep maintenance costs to a minimum. Each driver (or a specially allocated mechanic) should carry out a daily check before starting their vehicle each morning to spot any potential repair or maintenance requirements. A daily checklist may be kept with the vehicle logbook and signed by the driver to confirm the checks have been done. Ideally have a daily check sheet which is given to the person responsible for vehicles, so that the contact is "institutionalised".  More detailed checks should also be carried out weekly.

Another example of a daily checklist (developed and contributed by Mark Snelson. Format: PDF, Size 156 kb. Please Note: You will need Adobe Acrobat Reader to open this PDF file).

Defect reporting

Drivers should be encouraged to report all problems with their vehicles, no matter how small. This should be done with written defect reports. These may have 3 copies, one for the driver, one for the office and one for the workshop. Once the repair has been completed, the form should be completed and filed in the vehicle file.

Service schedules

The maintenance requirements for each vehicle are specified in the manufacturer's handbook. Transfer these into a vehicle data form to be kept in the vehicle's own file. Servicing is usually carried out after a given number of kilometres, or an agreed number of weeks, whichever comes first.

Plan services ahead of time! At least a week - or more if the vehicle needs to be booked into a workshop.

A preventative maintenance checklist
sets out the checks that should be made in a given time period and after a set number of km. Following this is important to assist in any warranty or insurance claim.

Monitoring kilometres travelled makes it easy to anticipate when the next service is due. Details for this come from a monthly summary of the vehicle logbook, kept in the vehicle file.

Next-service reminders: Put an adhesive label with the 'next service due' in a corner of the windscreen.

Put up a transport maintenance notice board where everyone can see it - to show when services for each vehicle are due.

Workshop / maintenance facilities

Should you use external facilities or set up your own?

The main options are:

  • Large commercial workshop (including a main dealer or larger local repairer)
  • Smaller independent 'backstreet' workshop / repairer
  • Workshop provided by larger international agencies
  • Your own

Your own workshop? If you have a small fleet (eg less than 5 vehicles) setting up your own facilities is unlikely to be cost-effective, but you may have to if there is no acceptable alternative. The advantage having your own workshop being able to hold regularly-used components and spares under a properly managed stock control system. Check thought to see if anyone have similar facilities close-by that you could use, rather than making your own. If you do go ahead, points to consider include:

  • Workshop location, site and services
  • Workshop design
  • Equipment and tools (including lifting equipment, ramps and/or pit)
  • Maintenance materials, consumables and spare parts stock and maintenance
  • Documentation and technical manuals
  • Staffing and management
  • Staff training
  • Health and safety equipment

Engineering In Emergencies, pp483-491 includes detailed guidance on setting up a vehicle workshop. When selecting an external workshop you should find out:

  • How many mechanics are working there?
  • Is there a supervisor or foreman present?
  • What qualifications do the staff have and what type of work do they do?
  • How long has the workshop been in operation?
  • Does it have a spare parts store?
  • What type of stock is kept?
  • Does the workshop have the basic garage equipment: trolley jack, toolbox, air compressor, battery chargers, grease gun and service pit?
  • Does it have a power supply and reliable water supply?
  • Is there a secure parking area?
  • Is it well-located, eg beside a good road?
  • Which other organisations are using the workshop?
  • Who are the customers, and how satisfied are they with the workshop?

Advantages and disadvantages of using a main dealer, larger workshop or smaller workshop:

  • If you have access to a main dealer, the advantages are manufacturer support, factory trained staff and up-to-date facilities. Some more complex components (eg electronics) can only be serviced by a main dealer. Plus, warranty work may have to be done here.
    • The downside is that you may well not have one near to hand. If you do, a main dealer can be costly, and you can't assume that the work will be satisfactory.
  • The advantages of using a larger local repairer are that their reputation is often good - but you need to check this - and they're more likely to have specialised equipment and experience on varied vehicles. Costs may be less than the main dealer, but permission may be needed from them to carry out warranty work. The service manager is likely to be more accessible.
    • On the other hand, there will be no manufacturer guarantees of responsibility. Check they have the main equipment and that they can get spares.
  • The smaller 'back street' repairers or workshops can often provide a better service. Vehicles can be serviced at a convenient time, and the costs may be less than larger workshops. Other advantages are: direct contact with the person doing the work, familiarity with older vehicles, ability to repair rather than replace major components, may have second hand parts.
    • As with all workshops, you'll need to check reputation and honesty. The downside of smaller workshops is the risk of poor conditions or poor workmanship. Also, they may require cash on collection.

It makes sense to arrange to use workshops run by the larger agencies (eg IFRC, ICRC, UNHCR, MSF). Mobile workshops and heavy recovery vehicles may also be necessary. Always ensure there is recovery capacity for trucks, such as mobile workshops, recovery trucks, winches etc.

Arrangements with the workshop

Explain your requirements with the service manager or mechanic:

  • Type, number and age of vehicles
  • Likely number of service visits
  • Copies of job sheets for work done 
  • List of spares used
  • Use of genuine spare parts and quality oils
  • Return of old parts for verification
  • Preparation of detailed invoices that list all spare parts, materials and labour for the service carried out
  • Credit period
  • Booking-in notice
  • Arrangements for getting spare parts

Consider having a legally valid service and maintenance agreement between your agency and the workshop.

Sending and collecting the vehicle

When booking the service, tell the workshop what type of service, additional checks or repairs are required.

Here's an example of a service schedule.

Provide the workshop with a repair order specifying your requirements. Describe all faults clearly and make sure that good quality oil and parts will be used.

The driver should remain with the vehicle at all times in order to:

  • Verify the work is done according to the repair order
  • Verify that no other parts are removed or replaced
  • Verify original spare parts are being used
  • Receive old or warn parts that have been replaced

The driver should record the work done on a job card that shows all work required and actually carried out, details of labour, spare parts and materials used, and costs. These should then be filed in the relevant vehicle folder/file.

Spare parts and stores

You need a regular and reliable supply of genuine spare parts. Beware of counterfeit or inferior quality spares - using these can have serious detrimental effects on vehicles.

Consumable items (filters, shock absorbers, brake linings etc) and spare parts must be available when you need them.  Don't forget tyres, which can need replacing after only 10,000 km in rough desert or mountain conditions.

Check what can be purchased locally and also on any import restrictions.  Consider keeping your own stock of essential spare parts.

Store spares securely, and protect them from the weather.

Tool kit

Each vehicle should have its own tool kit for essential repairs.

Drivers should know how to use the kit in the toolbox.

Warranty protection

Making a claim against a warranty can mean substantial savings. Be aware of the warranty conditions, monitor your vehicles and make sure that records are kept up-to-date: gaps or faults in records could invalidate a claim.

Find out where the nearest authorised dealer is. The name and address of the main dealer should be found in the literature supplied with their vehicles. The main dealer is usually based in a capital city and should be able to advise you.


(This page was compiled by Isobel McConnan with contributions by Mark Butler and Pamela Malo. Original material was adapted with permission from the field manuals of UNHCR, International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, Tearfund, Transaid, Concern, MSF and Save the Children.  The project was supported by the Fritz Institute)