Preparing for a 4WD road trip is like planning your weekly shopping list or prepping for a fishing trip — if you don’t write it down you’re most likely going to forget it.
Apart from ensuring that you have brought everything you need for the trip, it also gives you a chance to do a quick safety check on your 4×4, which includes making sure your recovery gear is in working condition.
To make things easier for you, we have compiled a 4×4 inspection checklist that will run you through standard checks, as well as provide you with a list of necessities to keep in your 4wd.
Part1: vehicle inspection
1. Engine bay
Hopefully, you have given your engine bay a good clean since your last 4×4 adventure, this includes checking and remove all dust and mud build-up. Keep an eye out for any leaks or cracks, dried fluid can also indicate you may have a leak somewhere.
Check all engine fluids and top up if necessary, this includes engine oil, brakes, hydraulics, coolant, power steering, wipers and transmission. Inspect all fan belts and hoses for wear and tear and repair or replace before embarking on your next trip.
When was the last time you had your car professionally serviced?
This can include getting out your trusty voltmeter and inspecting all your connections are clean and in good condition. Bring extra fuses, electrical tape, crimpers, wire cutters, and connectors just in case.
Tyres are an important aspect of your 4×4, I mean you wouldn’t be able to move without your tyres, let alone maneuver through a muddy off-road track.
Make sure to check your tyres air pressure and tread at your local servo before embarking on your journey. Make sure all nuts have been tightened on your wheels, and don’t forget the spare!
The difference between checking and not checking your brakes could be fatal. It is essential to make sure that your brakes are clean and in good working condition.
Inspect each brake for any signs of corrosion and warping, clean any leftover mud or dirt from your last expedition, and ensure your brake lines are intact and there are no leaks.
Get a mate or family member to stand behind the vehicle while you press the brakes to make sure both brake lights are working.
It is safe to say your suspension takes quite a beating when you’re out tackling different types of terrain.
From tie rod ends and ball joints, to drag links and shackle bushes, listen out for any squealing sounds, and inspect and replace them before your next trip.
Pay particular attention to your bushes, as these little rubber components are what keeps everything together and get stretched and flexed constantly on off-road terrain.
View our full step-by-step guide.
6. Frame and exterior
Give your 4wd a good clean inside and out, this will make it easier to spot any cracks, rust or damage sustained from your last trip.
Keeping your vehicle clean prevents corrosion and protects your paint, so it’s good practice to always wash your 4×4 after an expedition.
This will also reveal any trapped debris that may have wedged itself into tight spaces. Inspect all your accessories for wear and tear to ensure they are all still attached properly.
7. Recovery gear
Check and re-spool your winch after each trip, making sure it has been neatly wounding up and there is no visible damage in the form of splits or frays in the rope.
As one of your main recovery options, it’s crucial that your winch is in good working condition.
The best way to keep your lights in a good condition is to first ensure they are installed and wired properly.
After that, maintaining your lights is as simple as keeping them clean from dirt, moisture, and other potentially damaging materials.
Check our bright guide for 4×4 lights.
Quick 4×4 Maintenance Checklist
- Check engine oil
- Check transmission oil
- Check radiator coolant
- Check brake fluid
- Check wiper fluid
- Check hoses
- Check fan belts
- Check air filters
- Check seat belts
- Check tyre pressure and tread
- Check for tyre damage
- Tighten drive shaft u-bolts
- Check vehicle exterior and frame for any damage
- Check and tighten lug bolts
- Inspect brake pads
- Check and tighten any loose bolts or nuts throughout the entire vehicle
- Grease all fittings
- Inspect and re-spool winch
- Check all accessories and equipment
Don’t forget to perform a daily standard 4wd check before departing to your next destination. This visual inspection can avoid problems on the way and make your off-road trip more enjoyable and safer.
Check out Part 2: Essentials checklist