4 tips for keeping your towing vehicle in check

By: John Rooth, Photography by: Anthony Warry


Resident 4WD expert, offroad adventurer and bush camping aficionado Roothy shares his top tips for keeping your tow tug in check.

4 tips for keeping your towing vehicle in check
Even with new vehicles, a daily check of engine fluids – oil, coolant, brake fluid, power steering and transmission fluid (if you’ve got an auto) – is always a good idea

You don't want to get caught out when it comes to your tow tug - so Roothy is here to ensure you are prepared for anything.

MONITORING ENGINE FLUIDS

Even with new vehicles, a daily check of engine fluids – oil, coolant, brake fluid, power steering and transmission fluid (if you’ve got an auto) – is always a good idea. Everything works harder when you’re towing, especially once you’re off the sealed roads.

Do it in the morning while everything’s cool and don’t forget to have a look underneath to see if there are any visible leaks from diffs or gearboxes or whatever – often visible as a dark stain on the ground. Travelling off the grid is about cutting the odds on problems developing well before they get a chance! 

SHOCK ABSORBER AND SUSPENSION CHECKS

Most major suspension breakages grow out of shock absorbers losing their dampening ability and letting everything else belt itself to death. The first thing to go is usually the bushes on each end of the shock, followed by the shock itself breaking loose.

Once the springs can move without restriction – we’re talking leaf springs and coils here – damage isn’t far away. If you’re lucky, it’ll just be broken glasses in the cupboard, but A-frames have been known to snap. Eyeball your shock absorbers on both vehicle and van regularly, looking for leaks, casing damage or loose bushings and stay in ahead of the problem.

BATTERY MAINTENANCE

Doesn’t matter whether it’s the tow vehicle or the van, you need to keep an eye on the terminals and holding brackets. Terminals should be cleaned (Battery World sells a beaut, purpose-built wire brush for about $10 that’s perfect) and I like to use Lanotec lanolin to stop corrosion.

Dirty terminals eat power unnecessarily and shorten battery life. Batteries are heavy and rough roads loosen holding brackets and boxes. Check them all regularly and keep straps or bolts tight. And remember to always disconnect the earth before playing with any battery!

FREE YOUR AIR FILTER

An average four-cylinder engine sucks a couple of thousand litres of air a minute when it’s working. So after an hour of banging down a dirt road, your air filter has squeezed the dust out of (very roughly) 12 big dump trucks with hungry boards loaded with air!

A dirty air filter restricts airflow, which means the engine uses more fuel, and eventually it’ll either stop or eat itself up. Snorkels help by shifting the intake out of the worst of it but nothing is as good as replacing the filter with a new one, so make sure you always carry a spare.

While a new filter is always going to be the best option, providing it’s done properly, you can also clean the filter either by tapping the filter or blowing it out with a compressor. You need to be extremely careful to ensure dust doesn’t wind up on the wrong side of the filter and defeat the purpose, though.

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The full feature appeared in Caravan World #550 June 2016. Subscribe today for the latest caravan reviews and news every month!