Good Maintenance Requires Your Personal Best

Brad Barker
Posted on May 17, 2019

File photo
File photo
Summer is upon us. This is the season, in which for some, things are less stressful, while for others there may be no change at all.

Regardless of your situation, I recommend not letting your guard down concerning bus — or personal — maintenance. Doing so may cause problems once the coming school year gets rolling.

If you work for a small fleet (20 buses or less), now is the time to perform all your annual service work, if it’s not already done. For all fleets, large and small, place extra emphasis on the following:

1. Spare buses. These can become neglected during the school season due to high usage.

2. Buses equipped with wheelchair lifts and/or air conditioning. Getting these systems operating at peak performance improves reliability when they are needed most.

3. If time allows, make those shop repairs you have been putting off and get the service trucks worked over and restocked.

Annual bus maintenance should include emphasis on:

1. Testing cooling system pressure and radiator caps, and routine replacement of hoses and clamps.

2. Electrical systems, which includes removing, cleaning, and repairing all battery power and ground terminal connections wherever they attach, regardless of how they appear on the outside. These attaching points include the battery, alternator, starter, battery cutoff switch and all frame ground connections. Also, ensure all ECM/TCU feeds are clean and protected where applicable. After these have been cleaned and reassembled, take the time to coat all connections with a waterproofing compound such as liquid electrical tape or battery terminal protective coating. Take the time to open PDUs, too. Remove all fuses and push in relays, and ensure all terminal sockets are clean and tight. Oftentimes, moisture gets inside these so-called water resistant housings, causing corrosion. I have found a great corrosion cleaner called Deoxit D5S, which is fantastic for cleaning those hard-to-reach terminals.

3. Passenger windows are often overlooked, too. If split sash windows are difficult to close or they fall down on one side, maintenance is required. Usually all they will need is lubrication with a non-oily and non-sticky lubricant. I recommend using an aerosol automotive silicone spray such as NAPA 8300. To do this, lower all split sash windows fully. Spray the lubricant liberally on both side rails and across the top of the frame. Also, using the nozzle straw, lubricate around the latches while working them back and forth. Make other repairs as needed. The windows should close easily now.

On a personal note, some of you may be planning family vacations during the coming weeks. Take that time to become refreshed and relaxed. Renew yourself as well as the relationships with friends and those individuals who are really important to you. Doing so will help you cope once you’re back at work.

Brad Barker is a veteran shop manager and technician.
Brad Barker is a veteran shop manager and technician.

According to, studies have shown that taking time for your personal maintenance helps to reduce stress and illness, prevent heart disease, maintain focus, boost weight loss, improve relationships and quality of sleep, make you more productive at work, and generally make you happier.

Providing good bus maintenance is a year-round job, but cannot be performed if you are not maintaining yourself as well. Be sure to take time whenever you can for that special someone: You!

Brad Barker has more than 40 years of experience in school bus maintenance as a shop manager and technician. He has written numerous articles for SBF. He can be reached at

Related Topics: preventive maintenance

Comments ( 1 )
  • Tom Kukuk

     | about 3 months ago

    Metal Corrosion appears to be the single greatest cause of maintenance costs for School Bus Fleets and has significant structural impact on its continued safe use for transporting children. School Bus fleets struggle to keep metal components on the underside and inside the fleet vehicle, but you see little discussed. With an annual preventative maintenance investment of $2-3,000 per bus, Fleet Operators could easily extend vehicle life/use and lower repair costs that could be easily prevented. SEVEN key areas have the greatest ROI and could more than pay for itself: 1) fuel tank & fuel tank cage, 2) wheel wells & rims, 3) Stairwells (inside and underside), 4) Inside cabin metal (toe kicks, exposed metal components, floor and seating structure), 5) Electronics/Fuse Panels, 6) Fluid Lines (oil, cooling, transmission, brake lines), 7) metal frame ( under-structure/cross-members).

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