5 mechanical checks to have before you hit the road

Michael Borg — 18 August 2016

I don’t know about you but when I’ve got a big trip coming up I can barely sleep for about a month beforehand. Yep, call me crazy but all the excitement about hitting the road can all get a bit too much for me, and the only way to stop the jitters is to get out in the shed and spin a few spanners for a while.

This time, though, I managed to con my mate Blake into giving the old Troopy the once over for the day. He’s a second generation motor mechanic/auto electrician with a keen eye when it comes to picking up potential problems during a pre-trip inspection. So I’m more than happy to hand the reins over to him when it comes to getting the big Troopy up to scratch ahead of its big adventure to Birdsville for the Big Red Bash.

So let’s see what he found, shall we?


The Aussie outback places its own demands on your 4WD, so unless your mechanic is experienced in dealing with vehicles in the bush, some of the early signs of damage caused out on the tracks can be missed.


Fitting a snorkel would have to be one of the best modifications you can make to your 4WD. The idea is it raises the air intake point as high as possible to prevent water being sucked up into the engine during water crossings, as well as accessing fresher, cleaner air while you’re on the road. But let’s face it, a snorkel isn’t going to help much if the rest of your air intake, like the air filter box and intake pipe, has holes in it.

Therefore, it’s a good idea to check the air box is completely sealed, paying particular attention to loose mounting clips and missing breather tubes. The lower drainage compartments at the bottom of some models are also often unsealed too, which can be the main water entry point when it’s submerged in water.


A 4WD’s differential housings will have a diff breather, which allows air to escape to prevent it from pressurising and popping the axle’s seals or similar. If you’re new to 4WDing, one of the simplest, yet important modifications you can make is to extend the differential, gearbox and transfer case breather lines to a higher location to prevent water getting in and contaminating your oil. It’s equally important to ensure the breathers aren’t blocked up at every service. This can be done by simply blowing through the breather to ensure air flows through.


One of the most common parts of a 4WD to rattle to pieces is the battery tray. It’s also one of the most dangerous, with the risk of a short circuit and fire being quite real if too much movement is allowed. Make it a part of your routine maintenance to ensure your battery is secure. That includes the battery tray and its mounts as well.


If you’re running an old poly-block style coupling like me, you’ll find the mounting nut has a nasty habit of coming loose over harsh corrugations. So check there’s a spring washer in place and the nut is nice and tight as part of your routine maintenance.


Before you put your wheels back on, take 10 minutes to clean and lube up the threads inside the wheel lugs and on the wheel studs. Dirt and muck commonly gets caught and is the number one cause of thread damage in 4WDs, and there’s nothing worse than a stubborn wheel nut when you’re in the middle of trackside fix.


Well, there’s not much else left to do but hitch up the camper and head for red dirt of central Australia. I’ll tell you what, if there’s one thing I’ve learnt over the years it’s that having an equipped mind is far more useful than having an over-equipped vehicle. What I mean to say is it’s easy to get caught up in the hype and think you need every latest gizmo to do the trip. Heck, a few years back those same iconic trips were done on horseback! So, I guess there are no excuses, eh? It’s time to hitch up the camper and head out for your most epic adventure yet!

Check out the full feature in issue #104 July 2016 of Camper Trailer Australia magazine. Subscribe today for all the latest camper trailer news, reviews and travel inspiration.


mechanical Equipment Big Red Bash Red Center Simpson Desert Camper Trailer 2016 Birdsville