The Ultimate Bus Maintenance Checklist

Reviewed by
Vedant Khamesra
Published date:
November 17, 2022

Whether it’s school buses or passenger buses, fleet managers support the commutes and safe transportation of millions of individuals every day 1. This responsibility encompasses driver and passenger safety, timely pick-ups and drop-offs, and above all else, regular bus maintenance.

Not only is proper maintenance required to keep your fleet humming on all four wheels, but it can also prevent costly repairs due to poor upkeep and operational disaster should a bus break down mid-transit.

To that end, this guide will go over a complete bus maintenance checklist, ensuring your fleet operates like a well-oiled machine.

Why You Need Proper Bus Maintenance

Bus maintenance is similar to any other vehicle maintenance—just on a larger scale. 

Because your commercial buses will be transporting passengers daily, you need to regularly check in on each component, from the engine to the tires. With daily maintenance, you can 2:

  • Guarantee safety – Being proactive is the name of the game. By being proactive in your bus maintenance, you’ll catch problems before they create dangerous situations. For example, by checking on the tire tread during your maintenance check, you’ll catch a worn-down tire before it blows out on the road and endangers your bus driver and your passengers.

  • Improves efficiency – Regular maintenance ensures that you won’t run into any issues on the road which could slow down your fleet. Consider the same tire-tread example above. Should a passenger or driver notice this mid-route, this would cause a halt on the bus route. By proactively tending to this item on the checklist, you can help ensure this issue never arises.

  • Reduces costs – It may seem counterintuitive, but spending more time and resources on preventative care reduces the amount spent on larger, unchecked vehicle problems. As a simple example, routine oil changes can cost you in the low hundreds of dollars per vehicle. If you don’t maintain this routine, oil build-up becomes sludge, preventing heat from exiting the engine. This can lead to complete engine failure and the price of a new motor (or a new vehicle altogether). Fortunately, there are ways to help reduce fleet expenses.

These reasons are only the starting point. Bus maintenance also ensures compliance, and it can even extend to driver check-ins. With proper bus maintenance, you can employ and enjoy more benefits of fleet management.


Creating a Bus Maintenance Checklist

Proper bus maintenance can be quite involved. It should include daily checks that your drivers can easily accomplish, advanced monthly checks that require technicians and heavy equipment, and regular quarterly bus service appointments for all vehicles in your fleet. 

Before going into specifics, it’s worth reiterating a few things:

  • Know your owner’s manual – Buses—like any vehicle—change with time. New advancements are added, and with them, updated maintenance may be required. Be sure to check your owner’s manual, so you know exactly what your vehicles require.

  • Stay on top of service appointments – Even the most vigilant checklist won’t replace regular service. Create service schedules for all of your vehicles and make sure not to miss any needed appointments.

  • Listen to your drivers – No one understands the individual bus more than the drivers who operate them every day. If your bus driver comes to you with an issue, take it seriously. In addition, training your drivers on regular maintenance basics and requiring daily reports are effective methods for spotting issues as soon as they occur 3.
  • Be prepared Even if you take all possible preventative measures, there will still be unexpected issues that occur. Be sure that you have an emergency plan to deal with problems as they occur. One unexpected service issue shouldn’t cripple your whole fleet.

With these tenets in mind, let’s start to create a bus maintenance checklist.

Exterior Check

First up is a visual inspection of the exterior of your buses. This is a daily task that can keep you apprised of any body damage, including scratches or dents that may have been picked up during the day’s route. 

In addition to a thorough examination of the body, be sure to check for the following 4:

  • There are no cracks or damage to any mirrors on the vehicle
  • Windows are in working order and have not accrued any damage
  • Tire pressure is where it should be and there is no excessive wear on any of the tires
  • Headlights are intact and working correctly
  • No signal lights or reflectors have broken
  • Doors, including any emergency doors, are working properly
  • Anything else that is visibly apparent. For instance, school buses should check their stop signs and stop arms

Not all damage will need to be immediately addressed. For instance, a scratch in the body of the bus isn’t a pressing issue. However, knowing the state of your vehicle will give you an idea of what service will be required in the future, and even the smallest dent could be indicative of a larger issue.

Interior Check

Even before getting out of the bus, there are several things that your drivers can check on within the interior. Some issues inside the bus may be safety issues that need to be immediately addressed, while others may be more important for passenger comfort. 

Knowing about each issue allows you to determine how much of a priority they are.

  • Be sure there are no warning lights on that could indicate a mechanical issue
  • Check your wipers and ensure that there is washer fluid
  • Test your horn and turn signals
  • Be sure all interior lights are working, including the dome light
  • Make sure all passenger seats are in good condition and there are no damaged seats
  • Be sure all seat belts are working properly
  • Make sure all windows and emergency exits are working properly from inside the bus

The interior check is another daily task that can be accomplished by your drivers before (or at the end of) a route. 

Safety Check

Regularly checking all of your bus's safety equipment is another way to ensure that you’re prepared if your driver runs into any issues on the road.

Be sure to check all safety equipment, including:

  • Fire extinguishers
  • First aid kits
  • Emergency equipment such as emergency triangles, cones, or flares
  • Be sure all spare parts and tools are equipped and ready to be used if needed
  • Check that all safety instructions are displayed properly and legibly

Fluid Check

Regularly checking your vehicle's fluid levels will improve vehicle fuel efficiency and ensure that your commercial buses have everything they need to keep running. This can be one of the most important parts of preventative maintenance, as it’s always easier to change your bus’s oil than fix engine damage. 

Some of the fluids you should check include:

  • Oil levels
  • Fuel levels
  • Transmission fluid
  • Coolant
  • Hydraulics and steering oil

In addition to checking individual fuel levels, one thing you can do every day is check for any leaks. Without needing to hoist the vehicle, you can still visually inspect the underside of the vehicle to see if anything appears to be leaking.

Engine Check

While engine checks may not be a daily occurrence, you’ll want to be sure to check your engines regularly to catch any potential issues as early as possible. Also, this is an area where your drivers can prove invaluable. They know how the bus generally feels and generally sounds. If they think something is amiss, it’s important to provide an outlet for them to communicate this. 

During a full engine check, you’ll want to look at the following:

  • Seals that may be cracked or broken
  • Anything that may be blocking vents
  • Belts, hoses, and clamps

Again, a thorough engine check may not need to be performed daily, but it should be a part of your regular bus maintenance if you want to keep your buses running optimally.

Component Parts

When you bring in your buses for service, there are several other systems, parts, and pieces that will need to be checked to ensure everything is working properly. Some examples include:

  • Filters (air and oil)
  • Brake functionality (drums, rotors, pads)
  • Spark plugs
  • Wiring 
  • Axles, shocks, and springs
  • Battery
  • Heaters, defroster, and air conditioner (especially during off-seasons where issues may not be immediately noticed by your drivers)

In short, all the maintenance that can’t be handled by your drivers needs to be checked during service. These regular checks will ensure small problems can be fixed before they’re exacerbated.


Know Your Fleet, Trust Your Team

Another key component of regular, commercial, or school bus fleet management and maintenance is knowing what problems you can address and which ones require professional help. Using a checklist is a great way to identify problems, but it’s only helpful if you then know what to do to resolve the issues you find.

There are many issues you and your team can probably handle in-house, especially if you employ technicians. But it's important to know your limitations. It’s always better to fully address issues as they arise, even if this means more upfront cost, as it will save you money and headaches in the future.

Improve Your Bus Fleet Operations with AtoB

When it comes to bus maintenance, an often-overlooked component is fleet fuel management and efficiency. By ensuring optimal fuel levels and fuel grades, you can keep your engine running longer and more efficiently. Of course, fuel costs can be daunting. 

That’s where we come in.

Fuel cards from AtoB provide you access to our comprehensive discount network, valid throughout the United States. And, our company fuel cards are accepted anywhere Visa is accepted, meaning you can fuel up just about anywhere at a discounted price. 

And in case it interests you, we’ll also show you how to get a Visa prepaid gas card that builds your business credit with every purchase.

At AtoB, we’re here to help with our multi-service fuel card.


RWC Group. Bus Service And Maintenance Tips. 

The State of Tennessee. School Bus Preventive Maintenance Checklist Sample.  


OnSpot. How to Effectively Oversee School Bus Fleet Maintenance. 


1 APTA. Public Transportation Facts.

2 RWC Group. Bus Service And Maintenance Tips. 

3 OnSpot. How to Effectively Oversee School Bus Fleet Maintenance.


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Reviewed by

Vedant Khamesra

Vedant Khamesra is the driving force behind product management at AtoB. Specializing in strategic partnerships, SMB solutions, and new product development, Vedant seamlessly navigates P&L responsibilities while leading product execution and strategy. He is fueled by AtoB's mission to empower truckers and fleets with intelligent financial tools and services, making their lives easier and more rewarding.

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