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The Gearzette


- August 19, 2023

Nothing will make you happier than a road, overland, 4x4, or camping trip in your beloved, well-kitted vehicle. But, on the other hand, nothing will cause you more heartache and frustration than having a breakdown and wasting precious hours, days, or even weeks while you try and fix the problem. ​

One can meticulously plan the journey of a lifetime or a weekend away, but if you have not prepared or regularly maintained your vehicle, it could all end in tears with your car on the back of a recovery truck. Some call it the lift of shame. However, breakdowns can be avoided, and here is a list of our six recommended checks before you head off on any big trip or holiday.  ​

 ​ © Craig Kolesky & Craig Rhodes-Harrison

1. Tires ​

The only part of your vehicle that is always in contact with the driving surface is your tires. Yet many people don’t give their tires the care and attention they deserve. First, you must inspect your tires for nicks, bulges, and excessive signs of wear. Do they have adequate tread? Next, you should know how many miles you have done on your current tire set and when they might need replacing. Don’t forget to check the spare; ensure it is properly inflated and in good nick. You never know when you might need it.   ​

Hopefully, you have applied a rotation policy with your tires so they would’ve worn evenly. Don’t forget to change your tire pressures according to the terrain type. You won’t run the same pressures in deep sand, over big rocks, and along long gravel tracks. Running the correct tire pressure is a form of mechanical sympathy for both cars and tires alike.   ​

© Justin Kauffman

2. Pop the hood ​

The first things to check once under the hood are the fluid levels: engine oil, coolant, brake fluid, clutch fluid, power steering fluid, and window washer. Top them up if not at the right level. Take extra fluids if on a long, remote trip. If your battery is in the engine bay, ensure that the terminals are tightly fastened and that it has a healthy voltage reading. Make sure that the battery is safely secured in the battery box. This is an excellent time to inspect the hoses and belts for damage, bulges, or leaks. Finally, don’t forget the F-word: filters. When did you last replace the fuel, air, and oil filters? ​

© Josh Geelen & Harrison Schoen

3. Around and under​

If you have the resources to get your vehicle on a ramp to look underneath it, do so. If not, then you better crawl underneath it. Use a torch to look for any signs of leaks or seepage. Make sure there are no signs of damage. Are your shocks and springs or other suspension systems working as they should? Drivelines, axles, CV joints, and diffs should also be checked. Once your vehicle is off the ramp, get someone to turn the steering wheel back and forth while you watch and listen for anything unusual. ​

Walk around your vehicle and ensure all your accessories have been adequately secured. This includes the jerry cans or Wolf Pack Pro storage boxes. Nuts, lashings and bolts can loosen over time. You don’t want something coming off your vehicle at 70mph. ​


4. Regular Maintenance ​

The earlier you detect a problem, the less damage it could do. If your vehicle has been regularly maintained and serviced, then there is less chance of it letting you down. Regular maintenance and services will help give you peace of mind on your trip, mainly if you have used a reputable mechanic or service center.  ​

© Josh Geelen & Craig Kolesky

5. No new gadgets and gear ​

There are better times and places to try a new gadget or gear than a big road trip. Ensure you can safely navigate with your new GPS before leaving home. Don’t end up in Kathmandu instead of Timbuktu. It could be the most expensive typo of your life. If you recently purchased a new bottle jack to change tires, try it before heading off. Pack recovery gear such as shackles, snatch straps, and Maxtrax if you drive over technically challenging tracks. Pack the right equipment for the trip. ​

6. Plan B ​

Even the most well-maintained and reliable vehicles might suffer a breakdown. That is life. Carrying a few essential spares and proper tools might get you back on the road again. Some travel enthusiasts take along a diagnostic tool specific to their vehicle. Ensure you have taken out decent travel and recovery insurance that will cover any potential situation when away. You don’t want to be left stranded. Remember, hope is not a plan. Research the area you will travel to and know where you can find spares, assistance, or a suitable workshop. ​