Off roading pushes a vehicle to its limits, putting a higher strain on every truck’s different mechanical parts. One of the ways that we reduce this strain and make our vehicles more durable is by modifying with heavy duty parts like stiffer suspensions and aftermarket bumpers. The other way is by keeping off road vehicles properly maintained so that mechanical failure is less likely.
While off roaders should always follow the recommended maintenance schedule for their vehicle, a modified truck requires a bit of extra attention. Add these important maintenance items to your vehicle care list to keep your prized off road truck performing its best!
Keep That Truck Clean!
Part of the fun in off roading is getting really dirty - so everyone knows what fun you've had! Truth is, all that dirt can hide problems after the fact. Before attempting any kind of maintenance, get that truck clean as a whistle and pay particular attention to the undercarriage and engine compartment. Without all the mud and grease covering everything, leaks and other damage will be much easier to spot.
Examine Your Truck Carefully
Once you’ve got that truck nice and clean, it’s time to carefully go over to look for trouble spots, any areas that are most likely to receive damage while off roading on the trail:
- Engine Compartment - Pop the hood and check all belts for condition; check and refill all fluids as necessary. Look for broken wires, connectors that have come undone, and visually inspect all hoses looking for damage. Pay special attention to the radiator, since it’s susceptible to damage while off roading, even if with brush guards or steel truck bumpers installed.
- Tires and Wheels - Start off by checking tire pressure after bringing your vehicle home from the trails, then check it again the next day. Leaks in off road tires can be sneaky and temperature fluctuations can affect tire pressure. Make a habit of always checking the condition and pressure of the spare tire as well, since it’ll do little good if it has a leak the day it’s finally needed. Also, check each tire’s condition and look for missing or broken lugs. Replace any if needed and make sure all nuts are tightly fastened.
- Shocks, Struts, and Suspension - Examine shocks and struts looking for leaks, dents, and any other signs of damage. Look at the control arms, springs, mounts, bushings, and other suspension parts; search for loose nuts or bolts, tightening those as you go. Then jack up each side of that special off road truck and check each wheel for cracks in the ball joints, wobbling, or any extra movement that could indicate a problem.
- Transmission and Differential - Get under the truck and check both the transmission and differential for leaks and other damage. Carefully inspect heavy duty differential covers as well since those can leak or become dented. Frequently check the transmission fluid, especially if the truck has been in water. Change the fluid if it looks milky, as there may be water in it.
- Brake System - Besides any routine checks and maintenance, always pay extra attention to the brake drums if the truck has been in water, sand, or deep mud. In addition, check brake lines often, especially if the truck has been lifted, since those can easily become overstressed or damaged in other ways, and create a very dangerous situation if they fail.
Regular inspection and vehicle maintenance are important for any car or truck. They can be even more important for an off road truck that is under much greater stress than the average road vehicle. To keep up with necessary maintenance and reduce the chance of mechanical issues, off road owners need to add the above inspections to their regular maintenance tasks. This is especially so if they’ve done modifications, whether those include steel bumpers or other custom parts.
With the right attention to those additional details, off roaders can catch the little issues before they become major problems and be ready for the trails the next time!