Servicing your 4WD

Marco Antonello — 13 January 2015

We spend thousands of dollars buying and accessorising our 4WDs for all our adventures, and then we spend more money on maintenance so we can continue those adventures. This may mean dropping your 4WD off at your local mechanic, or doing it yourself if you know what you’re doing.

If you don’t have much idea of what’s going on under the bonnet, have you ever wondered what actually gets done when your 4WD is at the mechanic? Well, I’m going to take you through a standard service that I perform on a daily basis.


The first thing I do is take the car for a test drive. If the customer has pointed out something they are concerned about, this is the time to have a listen and try and work out what it might be. If the customer doesn’t have any concerns, then it’s a time to look for issues the customer hasn’t noticed, or to just see how the vehicle is driving.

Once in the workshop, the vehicle is placed on a hoist and all the lights are tested — indicators, brake lights, etc — and any globes that aren’t working are replaced. This, as with most of the checks carried out in a service, is to make sure the vehicle is in a roadworthy condition.


I check things in a certain order every time so nothing is missed. This includes topping up the windscreen washer fluid, and checking the levels of the power steering and brake fluid and topping up if needed.

The air filter is removed and blown out with compressed air. If it seems like the air filter is very dusty and could be blocked, then it is replaced.

Coolant is tested with a test strip that lets me know the percentage of coolant to water; if it reads below certain numbers, then I will suggest it needs a coolant flush. While still under the bonnet, I will check for any oil and coolant leaks around the top of the engine. Once all these checks are done, the vehicle is hoisted up so I can drain the oil and check underneath.


With the vehicle halfway up the hoist, the front wheel bearings are checked for play, as well as the steering. All the wheels and tyres are removed, so the brakes are exposed for easy inspection. If the brake pads are getting low, I will note it down and try to estimate how long they might last.

The vehicle is then lifted higher on the hoist and the oil is drained. While that’s happening, I check all of the gear oils, which can get a hammering in extreme conditions. If the oils look dirty or have a burnt smell I will suggest they need changing. Next, the tailshaft universal joints and slip joints are greased, along with anything else that has a grease nipple — this can include leaf-spring shackles and pins and sometimes ball joints and steering components.

Now, with a long lever and inspection light in hand, I go around under the vehicle checking for play in suspension components, and at the same time looking for things like oil leaks, cracking in suspension and body mounts — basically anything that isn’t like it should be.


The tyres are inspected for wear, as well as any foreign objects like screws or nails. If needed, the tyres will be rotated to correct any heel and toe wear, which usually happens to the front tyres. If any punctures are found, the affected tyres are removed and repaired.

The side walls are also inspected for any damage that might cause issues in the future. I might also suggest a wheel alignment if I see some unusual tyre wear.


With everything having been looked at, the oil filter is replaced and the oil is refilled. Once this is done, I start the engine and let it run for a minute so the oil pump can fill up the oil filter and galleries in the engine. This is so that when I check the oil level using the dipstick, it will be a true reading.

Once everything is finished, I’ll take the vehicle to the wash bay, where I will wash out the engine bay. This is a great time to clean any oil leaks, so they can be inspected next service to see how bad they are. The last thing I do is check the windscreen wipers and replace them if needed and then go on a quick test drive to make sure everything is working as it should.

Check out the full feature in issue #84 January 2015 of Camper Trailer Australia magazine. Subscribe today for all the latest camper trailer news, reviews and travel inspiration.


4WD servicing

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