Vehicle safety and maintenance should always be a top priority for all motorists, but off-road vehicles can arguably require even more care due to the amount of torture they are expected to endure.
The care needed for these vehicles is often over and above a regular vehicle’s service schedule which is key for the longevity of your 4WD.
Under the bonnet
When using a vehicle off road, you should take extra steps to protect componentry under the bonnet, in particular the electronics.
Going off the beaten track means the potential for a lot of mud, sand, and water to enter the engine bay, which can cripple delicate electronic componentry that rely on accurate information relayed from sensors.
Applying dielectric grease to electrical connectors can help to protect them from corrosion which could otherwise result in engine warning lights, reduced performance or, in a worst case scenario, severally corroded electrical terminals that are impossible to restore.
Your drive-train system does a lot of work during an off road excursion so it’s imperative to take extra care of all the drive-train components - you should familiarise yourself with the different lubricants required and their designated service intervals.
Monitor the fluid condition and level often low levels can indicate a leak, with the usual suspects being damaged or worn seals and gaskets. If you discover a significant amount of metallic filings, it could be an indication of a component breaking down, such as a bearing or a gear.
Manufacturers will provide recommendations for when these oils should be changed, however, if you’re often operating your vehicle outside of normal conditions you should change the lubricant sooner than recommended. Remember - you can never ‘over service’ a vehicle.
In a typical 4WD, you’ll have the following key driveline systems to monitor and maintain:
- Transfer Case
- Front Differential
- Rear Differential
‘Below deck protection’
Brake hoses are vulnerable components and can be susceptible to damage from rocks and tree roots. Always check these carefully when doing your periodic underbody examinations.
Before heading off road, we recommend cleaning the brake lines and unions, as well as applying an anti-corrosion spray like soft seal, particularly if you’re going to be jaunting in areas near the coast.
Traction control system and descent control systems will utilise antilock ABS sensors, and in vehicles that use self-levelling air suspension height sensors, connectors should be protected with dielectric grease to keep the sensors operating correctly.
Any exposed metals should be all dressed with a protective coating depending on the age of your vehicle. All grease points should be greased and it’s also wise to lubricate the small joints that connect height sensors to the suspension componentry.
Clean up when you’re done
After an off-road adventure, a good pressure wash is advised as it’s the best time to remove mud and sand. You can always invest in your own pressure washer for home, however, there are public facilities available for you to use for a small fee if you don’t have the space to do it at home or don’t want to create a mess.