If you’re like us and you like the smell of diesel in the morning, you’re probably frothing over your next big trip. Whether you’re heading up to the Cape, down to the High Country or you’re simply spending the weekend down at your local campground, ensuring you get there and back in one piece is the key to a memorable trip.
When it comes to your 4WD’s maintenance, ‘prevention is better than a cure’… as they say. Particularly if yours has seen as many off-road kilometres as Shauno’s Dirty 30. It’s spent most of its life off-road, travelled to every corner of the country and done it all without breaking a sweat… or breaking down. And that’s largely thanks to Shauno’s meticulous pre-trip maintenance.
Which is why in this issue, we’re going to open up the roller door and let you inside the 4WD Action shed. We’re going to walk you through the step-by-step of how we maintain all of our trucks; in particular, how we prepare old trucks like Shauno’s for a big trip. We’ll show you what to check, how long parts are supposed to last and the early warnings signs to watch out for, plus the spares you need to ensure your 4WD will go the distance in the bush.
“The last thing you want in the Simmo is a busted driveline,” Shaun reckons. “If you haven’t done it in a while, it’s worth treating the driveline to fresh oils because it costs next to nothing.”
Changing the diff and transfer case oils is generally straightforward, just make sure you refill them with the correct grade of oil, level with the top filler plug.
While you’re down there, pull the breather hoses off and make sure they’re not blocked. Gearbox oil can be a bit trickier depending where the filler is, and whether it’s auto or manual, but both these jobs are made easier if you buy a $15 hand pump from your local auto store.
Those with an automatic transmission should consider fitting an oil cooler. The heat and stress that comes with towing or sand driving plays havoc with autos and can result in loss of drive. Grab a copy of last issue for a step-by-step DIY guide.Also check for excessive play in your uni joints. Grab a hold of each drive shaft and rotate it back and forth. If you notice any play or it feels notchy, you’ll need to have the uni joints replaced. If there’s nothing out of the ordinary, a few pumps of the grease gun and they’ll be ready to go.
Last but not least, grab your set of sockets and nip up every nut and bolt you can find up. And if you’re going somewhere real rough, consider marking all the main ones with a white marker so you can visually see if it has loosened during your travels.
UNDER THE BONNET
“Start by giving everything a good gernie,” Shaun says. “Spend five minutes wiping all the messy bits down with a rag or a soft bristled brush and some degreaser, all the while checking for rubbed through wires, cracked brackets and missing nuts and bolts.”
Check your belts for cracks and correction tension; there should be about 10mm of deflection at the longest straight section of the belts. Belts generally last around 80,000km.Coolant hoses should be soft. If they’ve done more than 100,000km, are old or crunchie or weeping coolant, swap them out before you head off.
It’s worth pressure testing the cooling system and cap if you can. It’ll identify any problem areas that may leak when the engine is under pressure, like a leaking water pump, thermostat or welsh plugs. Visually check for things like white stains around coolant hoses, low coolant levels, dirt build-up in the radiator and loose hose clamps.
Run your hand over all of the wiring and fuel lines, checking for chafing, loose connections, corrosion or leaks.
Make sure you’re changing your engine oil every 5,000km and the cooling system is flushed once a year. Fuel filters should be done every 20,000km, and your air filter every 10,000km. When you do the maths; it works out a lot cheaper than a rebuild, particularly if you’re using affordable quality aftermarket filters like the ones from Drivetech 4×4.
The power steering fluid should be bright in colour and clear. If it’s burnt, brown or milky, it’ll need to be flushed. The same goes for your ATF. Brake and clutch fluid should be flushed every year, or sooner if you’ve done a heap of water crossings. Make sure it’s not milky, and if it has a black discolouration, there’s a chance the master cylinder seals are on their way out. If they are, it will usually leak down along the booster/firewall or the pedal will feel soft.
STEERING AND SUSPENSION
“Your steering and suspension is what keeps your tyres planted firmly on the ground and they play an important role in vehicle safety. Not to mention, problematic suspension will chew out tyres quick smart.” Start by checking the springs and shocks. Look for damage to the shock body, cracks around spring and shock mounts and leaking from the shock’s shaft seal.
Check for free play in the steering linkages and ball joints using a pry bar. Look for cracks and stress marks in suspension bushes, and replace them if needed. I fitted Drivetech 4×4 bushes because their range meets or exceeds genuine specifications. Most bushes will do 100,000km or more, but if you’re into super flexy rock crawling, it may chew them out within a matter of months.
Jack up the front of the truck and hold the tyre at the north and south positions and rock the wheel back and forth. If there is free play or clunking noises, your wheel bearings need some attention. Then grab the tyre at the east and west positions and rock it from side to side; any play there may indicate a steering issue such as worn ball joints, steering rack or tie-rod ends. Wheel bearings should be regreased before any big trip, and replaced if there are any signs of corrosion or metallic wear.
TYRES AND BRAKES
“Imagine being half way up an epic hill climb when your handbrake let’s go. Or a Roo jumps out at you on a blind corner and your brake pedal sinks to the floor. Yep, it’s not a pleasant feeling and it’s totally avoidable.”
Check brakes for blue discolouration, scoring or glazing. Replace any cracked or brittle hoses. And check the minimum thickness of pads, shoes, discs and drums, and replace them with quality parts. I had to change a few brake components and chose to use Drivetech 4×4 pads, shoes, calipers, drums, master cylinders and wheel cylinders. Brakes are one thing you definitively can’t skimp on and I know I can trust Drivetech 4×4 parts. In a 4WD, brakes may only last 20-40,000km – and if you drive in mud all the time – they’ll need a service after every trip to prevent them seizing.
Check the brake callipers and wheel cylinders while you’re in there. Some brake drums (like a Patrol handbrake) have inspection holes on the backing plate that are usually hidden behind a rubber grommet. Remove the grommet so you can check the brake shoe’s lining. Don’t forget your handbrake. Make sure it’s got plenty of meat on the shoes; slacken off the handbrake cable and nip up the adjuster on the handbrake drum according to the workshop manual.
Tightening the cable alone will only stretch the cable. And while you’ve got the wheels off, inspect all tyres for signs of damage, scrubbing, bulges in the sidewalls and tread depth. A low tread depth not only reduces the available traction, but also increases the risk of a puncture.
”There are more and more electronics in 4WDs these days, and while it might seem a bit daunting, 12V work isn’t all that bad.” Check driving light operation and alignment. Drive up to a wall and make sure your driving lights are not shooting possums. Then when you get off-road on a nice open stretch you can fine tune their alignment.
Check battery and alternator output. With the engine off, the battery should be between 12.6-12.8V. Lower and she’ll need a charge. Battery voltage should be above 13V at a minimum with the engine running, and you’ll know the battery is near full charge if it’s between 13.8V-14.5V. If the voltage flickers all over the place with the engine running, there’s a good chance the alternator is buggered.
If it’s a serviceable battery, top up the electrolyte to the high marks with distilled water. Check earths are clean and free of corrosion, and tightly secured to the body or chassis. If you’re towing, check the trailer light operation. The most common cause of a faulty connection is when the female pins work themselves apart, reducing the quality of the connection. And finally, go through and remove relays one by one, checking they’re free from mud and corrosion. Give them a spray with WD-40 and put them back in, or replace any suspect looking ones.
CHOOSING QUALITY PARTS
Nothing’s worse than having to do the same job twice, but that’s exactly what you’ll be doing unless you use quality, OEM spec or better parts and accessories.
Shauno uses Drivetech 4×4 parts on both the Dirty 30 and the 79 because:
- Drivetech 4×4 only use the best quality parts, the majority of which are made by the same companies that make the original manufacturer’s genuine parts. In all cases the parts are at least the same quality as original, and in lots of cases we’ve found them to be even better
- The huge range means we can get everything we need at one place
- The prices are much lower than genuine
- The kits are complete, with everything you need to get a particular job done
SPARES TO CARRY
- Air and fuel filter
- Set of belts and hoses
- 5L engine oil, 5L gearbox oil, brake fluid
- Tyre repair kit
- Fencing wire
- Duct tape
- Self-bonding tape
- Cable ties
- Hose clamps
- Headlight globe
- Brake light globe
- Range of fuses
- Epoxy super glue
- Mix of bolts, nuts, washers
- Self-adhesive tape
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