ESSENTIALS BEFORE EMBARKING ON ANY BIG TRIP OUT YONDER
There ain’t much worse than running into mechanical trouble on the open road.
I should know – I recently avoided getting stranded in the middle of the NT outback with a clogged air filter. Managed to make it to an autoshop on the outskirts of Darwin in limp mode to get the part swapped out before hitting the highway on a four-day continental crossing.
It got me thinking, what are the major mechanical checks that we should be making before hitting the highway on a long range trip, and what can we do mid journey to keep a lid on potential problems before they boil over?
I reached out to 4WD Touring’s tech guru Adam Adler for guidance.
Adam’s first point was to get on top of your maintenance early. Don’t leave it ‘til the last minute… Check your batteries and connections, it’s amazing how many potential electrical issues can be alleviated this way. Check any suspect fuse connections. Make sure your wheel bearings are in good condition and your tyres too.
While you’re at it, there’s no better time to go through your spare parts and update anything that’s gone AWOL.
You’ll want a pre-prepared nut and bolt box with tie wires, tyre valves, maybe even a spare wheel bearing hub and shocks on hand in case things go pear-shaped. If you’re travelling solo, it’s not a crazy idea to carry a spare starter motor and alternator.
ON THE ROAD
Once you’re underway, it’s time to step into lockdown mode. Hit any issue before it grounds you.
~Adam recommends an oil and water level check each morning while underway.
~As well as an eyeball check for sticks and damage around the radiator, around the engine, and the vehicle’s undercarriage.
~Make a visual check around the brake lines and fuel lines for any leakage and ensure your wheels and tyres are in great shape.
~Check your engine drive belt and scope out your air filter for signs of dust ingress (now you tell me…).
~Check the nuts and bolts on your lower control arms and tighten any bolts.. ~Take a look over your exhaust to ensure nothing appears out of order.
Make sure your wheel bearings and nuts are in good condition and nothing’s rattled loose while underway. You can wiggle the wheel to feel for any movement as a frontline basic check.
At every fuel stop check your oil levels and pop the bonnet and eyeball the engine, you’ll be surprised how many potential issues can be mitigated through basic checks. Make sure your water level is where it should be, and always be careful when topping up coolant, as it can be dangerous to handle a hot radiator.
There’s nothing worse than being caught out unawares, but really there’s no excuses when most potential issues can be solved before they present themselves with just a little foresight. Keep up your pre and mid trip checks to avoid being grounded where you least want to be.