Service That New (To You) 4WD!

So you just got your hands on the bargain of the century. You’ve given it the once over in the previous owners driveway, been told how everything has been serviced and repaired in the last month and you have offered what seemed like a ridiculously low sum of money which the seller accepted. But there will always be something that you failed to spot, or were unable to check which is where the first big service comes in!

You may wanna grab yourselves a beer, cider or mineral water ladies and gents because I’m gonna waffle on for quite a bit!

Firstly, everything that can be changed, should be changed! If the vehicle didn’t come with a log book, get yourself a basic notebook to use as a log book from here on.

Start with the engine oil and filter change, because even if it was recently done there’s no way of knowing whether the previous owner topped it up with $10 lawnmower oil from Kmart! Drop the oil from the gearbox, transfer case and both diff’s as well. Check for chunks of metal which could indicate serious trouble, milky oil which means water has got in there somehow, and horrible burnt smells which may indicate cooked LSD (limited slip diff) or general abuse.

Handy Tip!: Remove the filler plug from gearboxes and diffs before the drain plug. You will be extremely sad if you drain it all and can’t refill it because the plug is stuck!

Now I hate chasing overheating problems. If it’s an older vehicle and there is no record of the vehicle having radiator work done recently, I would be inclined to take it to a radiator specialist to have the tanks removed and the cores rodded out. Cost’s about $100 and I have seen radiators 80% blocked! If you don’t do this, at least have a go at it with a hose and soft brush to remove any mud and debris from the fins. Drop it back in and replace every hose in the cooling system, including heater hoses and fill it up with a good quality coolant/distilled water mix.

Handy Tip!: Order a full set of hoses at your local parts store, it’s highly likely they don’t carry a full set in stock and everybody seems to realise this when the 4wd is in pieces!

Change and check all other filters. Fuel, Air and Cabin Air filter if your vehicle has one. Again, check your parts store carries stock and order it in if need be. When removing the fuel filter, take note of how dirty the fuel is in there. On my vehicle I removed more beach sand and mud than fuel and in this case a complete drain and clean of the fuel tank may be a good idea. Air filter is simple, just go “holy whack that’s dirty!” before chucking the new one in.

Handy Tip!: Wipe a little oil around the seal of any screw on filters. This keeps the seal from sticking and makes it easier to remove next time around.

If your new 4wd is petrol powered, throw a new set of spark plugs and leads into it. If it was running rough, this will probably fix it and even if it’s running fine a good set of plugs and leads will go a long way to improving power and economy. While we are on the subject of electrical goodies, check the battery levels and top up with distilled water if needed and pour some boiling water over the terminals if there is a build up of corrosion. Check that all terminals and wiring are firmly secured.

Last of all, put your new ride up on some axle stands and roll about underneath. Arm yourself with a grease gun and hit all the grease nipples, and use a crow bar or pry bar to lever suspension parts around to check for excessive movement, worn bushes and odd noises. Rotate each of the wheels and listen for grinding or clunking noises which could indicate bad wheel bearings and then place your hands in a 12 O’clock and 6 O’clock position and attempt to rock the wheel. If there is play there, put a new set of wheel bearings on your to-do list.

Handy Hint!: Hands in the 12 O’clock/6 O’clock position to check wheel bearing play, hands in 9 O’clock/3 O’clock to check for play in the steering.

Now your basic servicing is all up to scratch! What you hit next is up to you, but for me it’s often about ripping out untidy wiring or accessories and doing a neat job. Wiring is always an area people slack off for some reason!

See you out there!

Alex Garner

G’day! I’m Alex. I’m a West Australian photographer/writer and the owner of the blog Intents Offroad. I grew up camping out of a 4WD and constantly searching for new ways to enjoy the outdoors, a feeling that I know many of us share. I believe that adventure can be found in every experience whether conquering a mountain, relaxing on a far away beach or surviving a hurricane in a tent. Visit Intents Offroad if this sounds like your scene!


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