On 4WD trips, its imperative that you take the time to stop and go over your 4WD. If you are doing a lot of driving, its well worth getting under the vehicle, lifting the bonnet and just having a quick look at everything in the morning before you head off.
A quick glance at the oil, coolant, brake, clutch and power steering fluid, electrical connections, belts, radiator and intercooler hoses and your fuel arrangement can save you a lot of hassle. I have started carrying a small heavy duty tarp in the back of our 4WD so I can get under the vehicle at any location and have a quick look without getting filthy.
This is most often done first thing in the morning, prior to leaving for the days journey.
Why should you do daily inspections?
Your 4WD requires maintenance. If you think you can just use it day after day on hard 4WD tracks without things going wrong, you are in for a shock. Corrugations especially will make nuts and bolts come loose, and you’d rather find them the morning before you leave slightly loose, than have your radiator fall out half way down a rough road.
Most often, all that is required is a simple glance; 10 minutes at the absolute most every morning, and it has the potential to save you a fortune. Early identification of problems can result in minor repairs, rather than major repairs when things completely fail.
What do you look for?
The longer you’ve had your vehicle, the more familiar you will be with it. In essence, what you are looking for is anything abnormal. Look for fluid levels that are not within the manufacturers specs, signs of shiny or clean metal (where something has been rubbing), missing nuts or bolts, oil leaks, dents in your shock absorbers, electrical issues and the list goes on. None of this is rocket science, and it can easily be done before you head off.
Do you really need to do it every morning?
No. Do your inspections as you think it is logical to do it. If you aren’t moving your vehicle, or you are only doing short trips on good roads, then you may have no need to check it every day. However, if you are doing more than an hour on rough roads, its worth just getting under the vehicle, popping the bonnet and having a good look around.
Tailor your inspections to the work that you are doing. If you are just driving on the bitumen, you don’t have to get under the car and check every nut and bolt; just do the basics and be done with it. A quick peak underneath from a couple of sides to look for anything obvious covers the bottom of your 4WD.
How often do you find something?
If your 4WD is copping a workout, you will find things that need minor attention fairly regularly. Loose wheel nuts, some oil being burnt, loose cross member mounts, loose spotlights or light bars etc etc.
Take the time to do the basic preventative maintenance too. If you’ve been on dusty roads, pull your engine and cabin air filter out and clean them, or swap them out. Make sure your wheel nuts are tight especially after rough roads, or it can end in disaster.