Every year, we travel to the most insane, out of the way places to film the epic DVDs you score for free on the front of every issue of the mag. We’re talking Tassie, to the Cape, the Kimberley, the remotest parts of WA, the Simmo, right up and down the east coast and everywhere in between. And, aside from the odd ride hitched on a tow-truck to a workshop for an unscheduled repair, we’re crossing the country back and forth to get between these destinations, putting serious kays on the clock. And then, once we’re there, it’s time to lock in the hubs and drive the toughest tracks we can find, before airing back up and putting more serious kays on the clock.
Graham’s got Shorty and the D-MAX that he alternates between, and Shauno’s got the Dirty 30 and his dual-cab Cruiser to choose from. But you know what one single truck does every single trip? Our old faithful camera truck, a 1992 80 Series petrol with 360,000km on the clock.
This thing’s a genuine workhorse. We bought it not quite three years ago with a touch over 200,000km on it, and in that time we’ve put on an average of more than 50,000km a year. Every one of those kays, it’s loaded to the hilt, pushing hard to lug our camera guys and their gear right around the country. In between DVD shoots it gets used for magazine major features and to chase that next cover photo in all corners of the country. It’s a weapon, but its success is no secret.
It takes some serious preparation and relying on the right parts to keep this old girl running. While we pull it down and give it a major service in preparation for the next 12 months’ worth of adventures, let’s take a closer look at exactly what makes the big girl tick. At the same time, let’s talk pre-trip preparation and what you need to look at before you head off on your next adventure, to make sure it’s hassle-free.
WHEEL BEARINGS AND SPINDLES
Just back from a couple of incredibly tough Tassie DVDs, the 80’s wheel bearings were definitely due for replacing. When we pulled the front end down, we found muddy water had rusted and pitted the spindles, meaning they needed replacing too. Not a worry – one quick call to our Drivetech 4×4 Stockist and we had a full swivel hub rebuild kit with brand new spindles in our greasy hands. Everything’s in the one box from kingpin bearings to hub gaskets.
CVs AND AXLES
Our 80 cops some serious punishment, and one of the first things to go when you’re pushing a vehicle hard are the CVs. They aren’t a particularly known weak point in the 80 Series Cruisers, but knowing what these CVs and axles have copped over the last 12 months, we fit a new set of Drivetech 4×4 replacements as preventative maintenance.
Of the entire vehicle’s repairs, the hardest worked are suspension bushes. Makes sense – these get pushed to the extreme every time the vehicle heads off-road, dampening vibrations and twisting back and forth with every movement of the suspension. Drivetech 4×4 do a full range of rubber bushes that meet or exceed genuine specifications – what we really liked was the fact that one kit has a full set of bushes in it. No messing around chasing missing parts!
We’ve been running Drivetech 4×4 filter kits on all our trucks for years, and they’re seriously high-quality. One quick comparison between a Drivetech 4×4 air filter and a parts-store cheapie (which, ironically, isn’t actually cheaper…) will highlight the quality of their parts. The element material is thick, it’s tough and even after 10,000km dusty Top End kilometres we’ve never seen dust leak past. It’s a no-brainer.
Getting a 4WD that pushes 2.8t to pull up in a hurry is no small feat. We’ve been running a set of Drivetech 4×4 brakes on the red 80, and when it came time for new brake pads and shoes, it was a no-brainer. These pads pull the big girl up like it’s a sportcar.
The 80 works hard in some seriously hot temperatures, and for that reason we’ve kept right on top of the cooling system. Hoses are only one part of the equation. Every year as part of the preventative maintenance, the 80 gets a new water pump to make sure the coolant is circulated through the system properly, and a new viscous hub and fan blade to ensure the heat’s being sucked out of the radiator. There’s nothing like a 4WD that sits at 87°C climbing a big range, fully loaded in 40°C temperatures!
30 MINUTE PRE-TRIP PREP CHECKLIST
- Start by jacking the vehicle up and placing on chassis stands at all four corners. 1,000kg chassis stands aren’t expensive, keep an eye out for a sale and pick up a couple of pairs!
- Spin each wheel individually and check for smooth operation. Check that the brakes aren’t dragging, making any metal-to-metal noises or the wheel bearings aren’t notchy. The wheel should spin perfectly fluidly.
- Grab the tyre at the top and the bottom (12 and 6 o’clock if you imagine the numbers of a clock on the wheel) and rock it back and forth. This process checks for free-play in the wheel bearing. There shouldn’t be any movement at all. If there is, even the smallest bit, the wheel bearings need tightening.
- Grab each front tyre at 3 and 9 o’clock and rock back and forwards. This checks for any play in the steering tie rod and/or rack ends. Have a mate hold the other front tyre still while you check, or put one front tyre back down on the ground.
- Hop underneath and grab your tailshafts one at a time, checking for any movement at all in the uni joints. While you’re under there, pump fresh grease into all available uni joints.
- Visually inspect all suspension bushes for cracks and deterioration. Use a pry-bar to move suspension arms in various directions as not all cracks are visible atall times.
- Put the vehicle back down on the ground and open the bonnet. With the engine off, one by one, inspect all hoses and belts carefully for cracks or perishing. Squeeze each hose – they should all be soft. Any that ‘crunch’ when you squeeze them need replacing as they have gone hard. Belts should not have more than about 10mm of deflection at their longest point – if you can twist the middle of the belt between two pulleys more than 90° or it squeals, it needs tightening. If you find any hoses or belts that are cracked – replace em’.
- Inspect air filter and any fuel filters, and replace if necessary. If the vehicle surges or seems down in power, 9/10 times it’ll be a blocked fuel or air filter. At the very least – throw new ones on before your trip and you’ll be certain it won’t be an issue for a long while.
- Check all fluid levels with the vehicle warmed up to operating temperature. They should be reading ‘full’ and be clean and clear. A milky appearance or burnt smell means they’ll need flushing before you leave.
- Start the vehicle and with the engine running, listen for any strange noises coming from the various pulleys. If any squeak or groan, spray them one by one with a small amount of water. If the noise stops, that pulley needs further inspection – remove the belt and check the pulley for play in the bearing and replace if necessary.
- Run a tyre iron over all wheel nuts to check they’re tight.
- Run your eyes over all wiring harness checking that nothing is rubbing, all terminals are tight and corrosion free – particularly for aftermarket wiring.
- Finally, check all mounted accessories to ensure they aren’t loose – batteries, winch, lights, roofrack, awning, spare wheels, etc.
SPARES WE CARRY
On any given big trip, here are the spares we carry. These will fix 99% of common break-downs out bush, and carrying these spares has got us out of some serious binds before. Your best bet? Add each of these to the list of pre-trip service items, and fit new ones at home in the garage with all your tools accessible. Keep the parts you take off the vehicle as spares, and you’ve ticked three boxes; you’ll have a freshly serviced 4WD, spare parts to carry with you, and the knowledge of how to replace them if needed.
- Filter kit (air, fuel, oil)
- Full set of hoses
- Front swivel hub kit including wheel bearings
- Water pump
- Brake pads/shoes
- CV/axle assembly
- Engine fan viscous hub
- Suspension bushes