Vehicle Checks (Pre-Trip)

Cooling system basic maintenance

I’m sure at some time we have all been cruising along when suddenly the temperature gauge starts to rise or Steam billows out from under the bonnet. It’s at this moment we get that sinking feeling of where will this problem end up. How much will this cost? Well like most things mechanical prevention is the cheapest form of maintenance.
The cooling system is our 4wds is relativity easy to maintain at some level even for those amongst us who don’t see themselves as mechanically minded. Becoming familiar with the main components of the cooling system and then keeping a regular eye on each item is what will help you minimize the chances of having a road side failure.
The main items you can monitor are:

  • Radiator: Look for leaks that will show up as colored stains a similar color to the coolant inside the radiator. The fins being blocked by bugs grass and other stuff. Clear it out with a soft brush or hose, If you use the hose avoid blasting the debris further into the fins. If you can get the hose to the engine side of the radiator and blast the water forward, this will do a great job of washing the rubbish out. When the fins are clean look for any fins that have been bent of flattened. These can be straighted by gently using your finger or a soft pick. Last but most importantly check the level of coolant in the system is at the maximum. Never mix coolant brands. Never mix different colored coolants. Change the coolant every 2 years or as advised by the manufacturer. Vehicles with Airconditioning will have the evaporator out front of the radiator but the above cleaning principles apply.
  • Radiator Hoses: On the modern vehicle there can be lots of hoses all over the engine doing different jobs so becoming familiar with your motor design will assist you with keeping an eye on all of them. Check for leaks showing up as colored stains particularly where the hose joins are. When the engine is cold squeeze the hoses and they should feel soft and pliable. If they feel hard or crusty get them changed.  Every so often it’s worth making sure all the hose clamps are tight and secure.
  • Belts: Most engines have drive belts that will drive the water pump and often the cooling fan so these belts are very important. Look for cracking, polished areas anywhere on the belt if you find any replace the belts. Also check they have the correct tension.  On the longest length of the belt; there should be no more than12mm 25mm of movement. If you ever hear a high pitched squeal that comes and goes often when the engine first starts this can be a sure sign the belts need attention.

If all this seems daunting at first ask someone you trust who knows vehicles to take you through the items in this guide with you and your vehicle. Using these tips on a regular basis and before any big drive will not only get you very familiar with whats normal with your cooling system but it will also help prevent one of those roadside picnics waiting for the Tow truck.

Check out this video on Pre Trip checks for some further information on checking your 4wd.

I’m Mad Matt, stay safe on the trails.

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