As the days start to get warmer, you are probably already planning a getaway with the family. It’s time to pull out the camping gear, dust off that swag, check the air mattresses, fill the gas bottles and make a list of what else you’re likely to need for the trip.
Whilst you’re in planning mode; take the opportunity to get ahead of the pre-holiday rush and give your trusty 4WDrive the once over to make sure it’s ready for the highway haul ahead.
With a little preventative maintenance and some simple checks, you’ll be able to avoid small items becoming big problems and consuming all the spending money you’d saved for the holidays. You don’t have to be a mechanical expert to complete simple checks for possible problems. Operate all the lights, stops, indicators, park, headlights, high beam and driving lights. Don’t forget to check the number-plate light as well. Does an indicator stop flashing and a reverse light glow when you push the brake pedal? Check and clean connections to cure a multitude of problems.
Cast your eye over the vehicle. Do the tyres have uneven wear patterns, deep scuffs and bulges, or is the tread getting low? This may indicate a wheel alignment problem or a possible issue with the steering, suspension or driveline, such as bearings, ball-joints, tie rods or suspension arm bushes.
Pay attention to how the vehicle drives. Are the brakes spongy, does the steering wheel vibrate under braking, can you hear grinding or squealing from the brakes? Is the engine feeling flat and unresponsive or does that exhaust sound a lot louder than it used to? Does the steering feel a little loose?
Before you start the car, while it is securely parked and all components are cool; have a look under the vehicle and bonnet for damp or wet patches. Any drops of fluid may be the first signs of a leaking seal or failing gasket. Are all the fluid levels correct and clean? Check hoses and belts for any cracking or splits.
Excessive corrosion on cooling system fittings is a sure sign that you need cooling system maintenance before the hot days ahead. The vehicle might be running cool around town; but load it up with kids, camping gear and a trailer, and you’ll be impersonating a steam kettle on the side of the road as other holiday makers drive past. Many automotive servicing outlets offer discounts on vehicle safety checks. Informing your mechanic of what you’ve seen when you drop the vehicle off for its check, will help them identify and prioritise any needed repairs.
Putting the vehicle up on a hoist and having a professional check the brakes, steering, suspension and driveline will ensure your beloved fourbie is going to be safe and reliable for those long hours on the black top before you reach your destination.
Most of same basic checks apply to your caravan or camper which should also have a professional service and inspection, particularly of the brakes and suspension. Prepare up front and you’ll enjoy a stress-free holiday, confident that your 4X4 will get you there and home safely.