Firehouse® Roundtable Apparatus Maintenance

Fire apparatus that won't start, breaks down enroute to a call or, worst of all, fails at the scene of a fire can have catastrophic consequences. That's why having an apparatus maintenance program is vital to fire department operations.


Fire apparatus that won't start, breaks down enroute to a call or, worst of all, fails at the scene of a fire can have catastrophic consequences. That's why having an apparatus maintenance program is vital to fire department operations. To help departments realize the importance of basic...


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Shoup notes that fire apparatus are almost always required to run at greater than normal operating temperatures. They must be revved high while in a stationary position, which eliminates the air flow normally available for trucks in motion, and they often must be operated next to working fires, which also increases the ambient air temperatures. Therefore, the cooling systems must be maintained impeccably and belts and hoses must be monitored closely to prevent failure due to heat fatigue.

Apparatus maintenance begins with the eyes, Shoup says, noting that he just looks at an apparatus to figure out what's wrong with it. "You need to open up your eyes and look at lots of stuff," Shoup says. "You'll be able to fill up a whole notebook full of stuff if you look closely enough."

Next, it's important to take a test drive and notice more "stuff" that may require hands-on inspection and diagnostics, he says. Too often, Shoup says, he encounters departments that have taken vehicles to truck shops not familiar with fire apparatus and end up not getting what they expect.

"They pay good money for bad work," he says. That's why he also feels it's important for departments to vet their service centers.

Shoup says even paying attention to little things like wiper blade condition and seat cushion bolstering make a difference in vehicle and firefighter performance. "Wiper blades deteriorate even if they sit inside and don't get used much," he says. "And, seat cushions always break down because firefighters slide out of the seats."

Shoup has one bit of advice for all departments that seek to keep their apparatus in good repair and performing optimally: "You have to have someone in charge of it and make sure it gets done."

ED BALLAM, a staff writer for Firehouse.com, is a firefighter with the Haverhill Corner, NH, Fire Department, a nationally certified EMT, and holds certifications in emergency vehicle operations and pump operations. He is a former managing editor of Fire Apparatus & Emergency Equipment magazine.