What’s the first thing you do when you first bring home a second hand 4WD? You assume nothing. Sure the person that sold it to you seemed honest, telling you that it’s got a regular maintenance history, and everything has been changed in the last month. But short of pulling the thing apart in their driveway you can never really be too sure. It’s time for the first big service!
Step 1: Change EVERYTHING!
The engine oil might look clean, but you don’t know that it’s been topped up with a good quality oil instead of a cheap lawnmower oil! Drain the oil and replace it with a good quality one, which can easily be found with the easy to use selection guides, or with the help of a team member at Supercheap Auto. Grab an oil, fuel and air filter, and a cabin filter if your vehicle has one. Clean air and fuel filters can make a difference to power and economy, and there’s no point running clean oil through a dirty oil filter right?
I suppose you didn’t crack the filler plugs on the diffs or gearbox in their driveway either? Don’t worry, neither would I. But you do want to check that these oils aren’t milky due to water ingress, have a burned smell or are a bit low. Change this oils while you are at it, that way you know for sure that it’s done and not doing your vehicle any damage.
Handy Tip!: Remove the filler plug from gearboxes and diffs before the drain plug. You may be pretty upset if you drain it all and can’t refill it because the plug is stuck!
Step 2: Cooling System
Overheating is probably the most common problem with any vehicle, and troubleshooting the problem can be a hit and miss affair, not to mention incredibly expensive if you ignore it. If the vehicle you’ve just bought has no record of recent radiator work, it may be a good idea to take it to a radiator specialist who can have the cores rodded out. It costs a little more than a standard flush but I know people who’ve had radiators 80% blocked! If your budget doesn’t stretch this far, at least pull the radiator out and have a go at it with a hose and soft bristled brush to remove mud, grass sees and insects from the fins. Drop it back in and change every hose cooling system hose and the thermostat too, if you can.
Don’t just fill the radiator with water or a nasty cheap coolant either, a good coolant will contain more active ingredient, meaning it will last longer and have better corrosion resistance and a higher boiling point..
Handy Tip!: Check your local Supercheap Auto for the full range of hoses to suit your 4WD. Just about any hose you need can be ordered in, and it’s better to have it all on hand than to wait for your order while the vehicle is in pieces!
Step 3: Belts
Have a look at the date the timing belt was last changed. This is not a job for the home mechanic, unless you are quite experienced. If the timing belt goes over its service interval, you run the risk of it snapping which can mean catastrophic engine failure!
Something that is easy enough for the home mechanic to change however is the fan belts or serpentine belt. Inspect the belts for cracking, fraying or that shiny glazed over look. If any of those are present it’s worth shelling out a small amount of cash to throw some new ones in rather than risk breaking down in the middle of nowhere!
Handy Tip!: If your belts are squealing, they may not need replacing. Try a can of Belt Grip spray instead.
Step 4: Electrical
If your 4WD is petrol powered, don’t be afraid to throw a new set of spark plugs and ignition leads into it. This can fix up rough running, improve fuel economy and even give a little more power. Check that the battery is topped up to the correct level, and fill with distilled water if needed. Any build-up of corrosion can be removed by pouring boiling water over it. Give all the terminals and wiring a wiggle to make sure they are firmly secured, and do a walk around checking that all the lights are working. I like to pop the fuse box open and check for missing or incorrect amperage fuses which could lead to problems later on.
Handy Tip! Hit as many connectors and plugs as you can with electrical contact cleaner, and apply some electrical grease to the plugs. This helps prevent water damage and problems down the track.
Step 5: A Good Eyeballin’
The last step is to get the 4WD up on some axle stands and have a good look underneath. Grab an SCA Grease Gun if you don’t have one, and load up all the grease nipples while you’re under there. Use a crow bar or pry bar to move suspension parts around and check for excessive movement, worn bushes or unusual noises. Check the wheel bearings by placing your hands at the 12 O’clock and 6 O’clock postions and attempt to rock the wheel back and forth. If there is any play and clunking going on, you’re gonna need a new set of wheel bearings installed.
This process will not only help you pinpoint problems, but get you familiar with the underneath of the vehicle and how things should look.
Handy Hint!: Check for play in the steering as well by placing your hands in 9 O’clock/3 O’clock positions and rocking side to side, feeling for clunking.
Now you can have confidence knowing that your new 4WD is in tip top shape! Where to from here? Well I like to get into the wiring and fix up the dodgy electrical modifications from the previous owner, how about you?