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DIY Checks That Will Keep Your 4WD On The Road

We rely on regular maintenance services to keep our 4WDs in shape, but there are a few things that need to be checked more regularly.

Our 4WDs are held together by parts that will fatigue, rupture, loosen and break if left unchecked. It takes a deliberate hand and a disciplined approach to keep our vehicles serviceable and running efficiently over the long haul. By maintaining and using our 4WDs properly, we can prolong their lifespan. Let’s take a look at what these checks entail. 


Actively look at your 4WD for defects and potential problems - and not just a superficial look. Consciously look at the tyres every time you approach your 4WD. Do this often enough and you’ll identify what your tyre looks like normally, which will help you notice when one has deflated overnight, even if only by 10psi. Catch the problem early and avoid it becoming a major safety issue.

Look to see if your wheel nut indicators have moved. You can buy ‘wheel nut indicators’ to help with this task. At less than $1.50 each, they are a very worthwhile investment to ensure that you don’t get overtaken by one of your wheels on the highway.


Check the inner side walls of your tyres to ensure they aren’t damaged and don’t forget the spare if it’s under there. You’re looking for blisters or gouges out of the sidewalls. 

Other things that might stand out include a loose exhaust or a stick jammed somewhere. Or perhaps some loose wiring because of a snapped bracket or flimsy zip-tie. Is there a water or oil leak? Is there evidence of ants or rodents?


Pop the bonnet and check the fluid levels of the things you’re allowed to touch. These days vehicle manufacturers highlight the things you should look at with bright-coloured lids. Check your fluid levels and battery terminals for corrosion and to see if they are loose, then top up and tighten what you can.

Look for exposed wiring or bundles of leaves and plastic where they shouldn’t be. Rats have an uncanny fondness for nesting inside engine bays, chewing water vessels and wires, and settling into interior fans. Ignore them at your peril. You may also be familiar with snakes’ affection for the warmth of engine bays where they can snuggle in. They may dislodge drive-belts and cause your engine to overheat, a situation that can turn serious once you hit the open road. Keeping your bonnet open overnight can prevent issues with rodents and snakes.


It’s only after conducting all these checks that you should turn on the ignition. But don’t drive off just yet!

Look at the dash to see if there are any warning lights illuminated. Then check that everything that blinks and swishes does as it’s designed. If not, take time to work out what’s wrong. 

How about the indicators and lights? They may work on the dashboard, but are they working on the outside of the vehicle? Failure to indicate properly can cost you $200 and a couple of demerit points. Worse, you could cause a road accident.

How are the fuel gauges? Do you need to top up before you go? And how about those mirrors? Are they adjusted for you, or have they been changed by another driver? 



Keep this handy checklist in the glove box and add to it to meet your specific requirements.


  • Before starting the engine:
  •   check all of the rig’s wheels for security, and the tyres for wear and correct pressure.
  •   check outside and inside to ensure the set-up is secure and correct.
  •   check underneath for obvious defects, hitchhikers and damage.
  •   check that the fuel, oil, coolant, windscreen washer and brake fluids, and battery terminals are correct.
  •   clean the windscreen, external mirrors, lights and reflectors.
  •   check fire extinguishers, first aid kit and a tool kit; and 
  •   check spare tyre (pressure and for damage) and changing equipment.
  • After starting the engine: 
  •   listen for unusual noises.
  •   check everything that turns on, flashes, beeps and swishes.
  •   check that the fuel and oil gauges are operational.
  •   adjust all mirrors.
  •   check for steering, handbrake and footbrake faults.
  •   complete any other requirements specified within the vehicle user handbook; and
  •   fix any defects/deficiencies before you set off.

When you stop

  • Check fuel, oil, and coolant for leaks
  • Check the tyres and wheel nuts
  • Check hubs and brake drums for overheating
  • Check the stability of the load on your roof racks, ropes and caravan 
  • Check all lights and indicators
  • Clean the windscreen

End of each day

  • Check the coolant levels
  • Refuel and top-up oils and lubricants if required
  • Check all lights and indicators
  • Clean the vehicle
  • Clean out the interior and the load compartment
  • Complete any other requirements detailed in the vehicle user handbook 
  • Identify and fix any defects/deficiencies ASAP


  • Syd Bignell: January 29, 2024

    Add in reversing cameras to the cleaning list like mirrors etc
    Add in a review of 4wd engaging process and a preparation drive in a suitable just off the road location that includes engaging options in transfer case to check it does work as it should

  • Anthony TOOP: September 20, 2022

    Check list is handy.

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