One of the costlier expenses that Uber drivers face is car maintenance. These monthly overheads are part and parcel of professional driving, and the more you drive for Uber, the more wear and tear you will need to contain.
Professional drivers know how to lower these costs through smart driving as well as standard maintenance before and after shifts. These standards are not new, they are part of commercial trucking and military vehicle maintenance procedures, and if an Uber or Lyft driver wants their car to retain its mechanical integrity as well as its interior look and feel, these are the things you will need to do.
Before we start to visit the mechanic, its important to drive properly. This does not mean adhering to the traffic code; it means knowing how to drive your car to minimize mechanical wear and tear.
- Don't accelerate too harshly when starting off.
- Don't use the brakes as a gear.
- Don't brake too hard, gradually brake as you slow down.
- Don't speed, in fact, driving under the speed limit
- For manual vehicles, don't granny shift the gears
- Downhill, down a gear and don't use the brakes, take your foot off the gas pedal and let the gears do their work.
- When parked, turn off the engine. This retains your transmissions status as well as preserves gas. In cold weather, this is sometimes not an option, the same in hot climates where A/C is mandatory.
There are three types of maintenance; they are preventative (routine) maintenance, shift maintenance, and seasonal maintenance.
Preventative (Routine) maintenance is used to prevent wear and tear, and this is all about checking your oil, water, and gas levels. Checking your tire pressure once a week, and having your car cleaned inside and out at least once a week. Preventative maintenance also requires that you carry specific tools to help you when in need, such as jumper cables, emergency tire fillers, and cleaning materials. Make sure you follow the manufacturer's mileage and monthly recommendations. This applies to oil changes as well as check ups on brake pads and transmission, gear, and other fluids. It is also wise to get the electronic system checked and calibrated, even upgraded if necessary.
Shift maintenance is performed before and after a shift. You check your tires to see they weren't punctured the day before, you check your gas level, and you go once over the car interior to see it is all clean. After the shift, and assuming you did not have a vomiter in the car, you perform a standard interior clean, check your tires and check your gas level.
Seasonal maintenance is specific to each extreme weather condition, so if you live in the North where winters can be harsh, you need to perform and prepare specific preventative actions as well as pre-shift actions to assure a smooth and safe ride. These can include such things as oiling the joints, and car locks the night before so that they do not freeze overnight.
Here is a list of winter specific maintenance checks:
- Check your anti-freeze. Coolant systems need to be in the right proportion. Otherwise, your engine will be overheating due to freezing. Get the car's coolant system flushed before the first freeze and check the system for leaks and install fresh coolant.
- Cover your car at night, either in a garage if you have one, a car park if you have access to one or cover it with a car cover. This will protect your cars paint job, as well as ice on the windshield, and it also guards against the radiator from freezing.
- Always check your car heating system to see that it is working and that there are no leaks in the system.
- Add antifreeze to the windshield water and replace worn windshield wipers. Keep a bottle of rubbing alcohol and use this to defrost windows in seconds.
- Check your car's electrical system, that includes the battery and charging arrangement. Use Vaseline to cover your battery connections.
- Older cars use 30-weight single viscosity oil, change that to 10-weight when the temperature falls to zero and below. This applies to transmission fluid as well.
- Don't worry about the square tire syndrome, this is due to the extreme cold contracts in the tires, just drive off and the tire air temperature will rise gradually, filling the tire up.
Preparing your car for the hot summers
Just as you have issues with freezing weather, cars face issues with extreme heat.
- Check your tire pressure; they change in temperature over night and day take their toll on tires. This means that you also need to check your tire treads since heat expands air and this causes uneven pressure on the tire surface.
- Check under the hood at all plastic piping and tubing; heat tends to cause cracking.
- Check your battery on a regular basis; extreme heat effects the battery as much as extreme cold.
- Check oil and fluids.
- Check your air conditioner and fill it with Freon to be sure.
Maintenance Costs and your Budget
There are a number of ways to reduce the overheads of replacement parts, as well as reducing the unnecessary spend on weird and wonderful additives that mechanics lie to push on you without your consent.
- Use a trusted mechanic; everyone has one. If you don't, you can check online at YourMechanic.com. This site will source a mechanic to you based on your location, and will send one to you, or suggest where you drive to, for any number of routine maintenance.
- If you can, source your own parts. As an Uber or Lyft driver, you get a discount from AutoZone and Advance Auto Parts. You get a 10% to 20% discount on the standard price, so it's worthwhile using this service.
- If you cannot, check online the part prices before you consent to the price your mechanic wants to charge.
- Tires are your biggest concern since they are what are between you and the road. You want to invest in some good tires, and you need to maintain them on a regular basis. This means checking their pressure at least once a week. If you need to replace tires than go online to Tirerack.com, this site is the original online tire trader, and its prices are still the most competitive. Once you order your tires, they will be delivered to the tire shop of your choice. This site also deals with brake pads too.
- Gas costs are not maintenance, but they are budget related. Download the gasbuddy app.; this app will give you a list of the cheapest sources for your gas. Since you are a gas intensive industry, it is worthwhile finding out where you can buy gas at even a cent a gallon cheaper, unless the drive buns that off due to the distance.
Driving for Uber is not just about using your car to earn cash. Its about becoming a part time or full time professional driver. Basically, Uber has canceled out the need to apply for a taxi medallion and saved you a shit load of bothering to drive for a living. Now its up to you to think like a taxi driver that owns his/her own car. You need to look after your capital expenditure, your car, as well as reduce the operating overheads to a minimum. We have all read the crazy MIT reports on Uber earnings, as well as the other reports too. No matter which reports you read, they all agree that there are no less than 30% overheads on expenses. Reducing that by 1% is a lot of money and its ot just about the money. Its about keeping your car in good condition for eventual resale, as well as maintain a good car in excellent condition for your passengers.