Basic car maintenance is more hectic for those of us who own and love a four wheel drive vehicle. The reason is that a 4WD has more parts than most regular road vehicles. Also, most 4WDs are used off-road, so they experience more difficult driving conditions.. More than just a dirt driveway, or the entrance to the soccer field dropping the kids off on a Saturday morning.
Hence, regular engine oil changes just aren’t enough to keep your Land Cruiser or Patrol running. With that, here are some handy vehicle maintenance tips for your 4WD when travelling out of the city:
Why Is 4WD Maintenance Important?
Whether you have a dirt-eating off-roader, or a just a compact sedan, the car care love you give, will never disappoint. People ignore routine maintenance because it consumes time and money. And the truth is, that it does.
However, not keeping your vehicle in shape will eventually cause a major breakdown. This will require you to spend a lot more money and time to get it fixed.
In the case of a 4WD vehicle it can be much worse. Getting stuck on rough terrain with no towing services nearby can be the difference between life and death.
This is why scheduled maintenance is key. Not only will it keep your 4WD running and keep it fuel efficient. But it will also lengthen its life, and increase its resale value if you decide to sell it.
To sum it up, it will:
1. Make your vehicle last longer
2. Help it function better
3. Increase its resale value
4. Prevent pesky (and life-threatening) breakdowns
Preventative 4WD Maintenance Checklist
Before travelling out of city limits, there are some things you need to take care of. You must make sure that your 4WD is ready to hit the trail. Specifics can’t be given out because all cars are built differently. But here are some major things that you can take care of:
1. Cleanliness of Your 4WD
Your 4WD should be as squeaky clean as possible. However, this has little to do with vanity. You see, all sorts of mud, sand, and debris builds up in your vehicles engine bay, interior, and on its exterior. These materials cause wear over time. There are other residues that build up, like grease, tar, bird and bat poo and tree sap.
For Aussies, red mud and dust can be a real nightmare. So, make sure to clean out every crevice of the vehicle, especially the engine bay. This will protect the car from rust and corrosion, while making it lighter. It will also clear out and display any signs of damage.
2. Fluids and Leakages to Look For
This is pretty standard stuff and you should start by looking for leaks; damaged seals, hoses, etc. Apart from the motor oil, check the coolant levels as well. Don’t forget to check the diff fluid, the brake-fluid and the transmission fluid. The transfer case fluid and brake hydraulics tend to be ignored, but shouldn’t be.
It gets dirty out there so the windshield washer fluid is also important. Observe the power steering fluid and other specifics as-needed. (Consult your vehicle manual for a complete list for your car)
3. 4WD Tyres
Tyres are one of the most important aspects of off-roading. Always make sure that you have a set of chunky off-roading (Mud or All-Terrain) tyres on (that have their tread intact). Checking each tyre-pressure can be vital for the best traction. Also, tyre rotations are always recommended.
See that the lug nuts are tightened and the tyre is free from protrusions. Sticks and stones may break your bones but they’ll do a lot worse to your Tyres. Make sure you keep at least 1 spare that is undamaged. This type of 4WD maintenance is key.
4. 4WD Brakes
The brake components such as callipers, rotors and pads can be damaged. Also, brakes not only wear out over time, but their lines can also get damaged. This can cause the braking system to leak out, rendering it useless. Rays from the sun and contaminants on the road are another long-term hazard.
Hence you should always inspect the brakes before a trip and replace any damaged parts. Also, if you’ve made any major modifications like a raised suspension or monstrous tires; your braking system should also be up to par.
5. Engine Components of a 4WD
The engine is the heart of your 4X4 vehicle. It runs because of countless components working in unison. Many of these can be overlooked, but they shouldn’t be. These include spark plugs, belts like the fan belt and timing-belt, numerous hoses, etc.
There are also filters like the air-filter, fuel filter, and oil filter that keep your car clean internally. They should be in pristine condition, and so should the battery.
Four wheel driving causes the gearbox to take more punishment. The rough terrains and the bulky tires don’t help either. Hence, you need to make sure that its fluid is top-notch. This applies especially if you’ve got an automatic.
The transfer case connects it to the wheels, whether your vehicle is in rear-wheel-drive or four-wheel drive. So, make sure to check its fluid as well as per the owners’ manual.
The front and rear differentials are susceptible to fluid leakage and contamination. The front differential is used when all four wheels are driving. The rear differential is more at risk as it gets used even if you’re not in 4×4 mode. If your diffs don’t have casings, try to get them. It will protect them from debris.
Regardless, water can get in and mix with the differential fluid. Of course, it occurs when you cross a water body. Observe the fluid’s milky white colour and you’ll know that it happened.
Change the fluid at once. Your front and rear axles also take a lot of stress, so look out for them as well.
A good shock system gives you the confidence to tackle anything nature throws at you. But a damaged one can be a nightmare. Drive rough and it will happen eventually. Which is why you need to check all the bushings, links, and joints for dents and cracks.
Any leakage or noise should be noticed and repaired. This type of 4WD maintenance is key.
9. Visibility – 4WD Driving Lights & Light Bars
You can never have too many lights on your 4WD vehicle. You should be able to see the great outdoors and all the obstacles in front. Having good visibility means that you’ll be able to navigate better. Also, other off-roaders and travellers should be able to see you.
This is so, they don’t crash into you, or are able to help you out if needed. Always check your lights and if they’re wired correctly. Replace the ones that fuse or fry out. Keep them clean and make sure their covers are intact.
10. Travelling Gear
High engine-power and ground clearance aren’t the only reasons for 4X4’s being capable off-roaders. Their ability to carry a ton of equipment and essentials is another one. You never know what you may encounter on the trail. Hence, you should always ensure that the gear is clean, and in working condition.
If you’ve got a winch (you definitely should), spool it back up tightly. This type of 4WD maintenance is key. Make sure your compressor is working in case you need to inflate your tires. Lastly, make sure that all the nuts and bolts are tightened.
4WD Vehicle Care While Driving
To maintain means to preserve and protect. You might complete the aforementioned checklist, but the maintenance doesn’t end there. You need to take care of the following aspects while driving:
1. Observe for anything unusual
You should do this as soon as you pull out of your garage or parking. It will be a mini-test drive before you hit the rougher terrain. If there are any weird noises, smells, or vibrations; stop and check them out. Look out for any leakages as well. It’s better to do this now than before you get stuck.
2. Check the temperature gauge and warning lights
While driving, make sure the vehicle doesn’t heat up. Apart from the gauge climbing to H, steam can also be seen coming out of the bonnet. This is when you need to follow the procedures for overheating. Also look out for other engine warning lights as signs of trouble.
3. Drive intelligently
Many don’t get this right because offroad driving isn’t for everyone. Your diligence can save your vehicle from harm. Learn about the terrains that you’re about to encounter. Make sure to pick a trail that your vehicle can conquer. Avoid highly steep areas, saltwater, and muddy terrain (like bogs).
If you’ve got a newer 4WD car, it will likely feature driver assist systems for various terrains. Know how to use them. If you’ve got an older power wagon; know when to keep a low speed, engage low-range, inflate/deflate your tires, etc.
After You’re Done Offroading
Even when you’re done with your trip, the experience isn’t over. Make sure to wash down your 4WD vehicle from its engine bay to its undercarriage. Look for leakages and cracks. Observe anything that feels off, and tighten everything up.
Get yourself a good quality Portable Pressure Wash Kit
With that, hopefully, you have a great and trouble-free journey. If you have any value to add, we want to hear from you. Head over to out “Write For Us” Page and submit some helpful information for publication.