PRE-TRIP SERVICE GUIDE
Planning a trip to northern Australia? Let’s look at the different kinds of maintenance you can do to help have a trouble-free escape
Many of you will be gearing up right now for your northern adventure and having a well-prepared set up is paramount to success. In this article, we take a look at the maintenance requirements in getting your vehicle and RV ready for that northern escape.
Any trip away requires your tow vehicle to be in good condition, so a routine service and maintenance regime should be high on your agenda. When travelling north, we need to focus on particular areas of the vehicle. Here are some specifics to look at:
Wheels & Tyres
Remember what we said about evaporative cooling and perspiration? Well, air conditioners essentially recycle perspiration. Gross, we know. But just imagine if the water vapour that evaporated off your body could be caught, condensed back into a liquid and used again to cool you down over and over again. And instead of water base perspiration that might cool you down a few degrees, it was a chemical that could cool you down to 20°c below the ambient air temperature. Well, that’s essentially how air conditioners work.
Engine Cooling System
The sheer fact that your vehicle is towing puts its cooling system under load. Add climatic conditions into the equation and your vehicle can be pushed to its limits
trying to keep the engine cool. Arrange a thorough inspection of the cooling system, radiator, water pumps, and all associated drive belts and hoses prior to your trip. Replace if necessary as roadside service is a long way away between towns!
Staying cool whilst driving requires your air conditioning system to be working effectively. A cooling system that’s not working properly will not only make the drive unpleasant, but will add an extra load to your vehicle’s engine. The pollen filter should be inspected and replaced if necessary. Check the system is fully charged with the appropriate levels of gas and the compressor drive belts are in good working order. This will ensure your air conditioning system works efficiently and effectively.
On a trip up north you can expect to be occasionally travelling on outback dirt roads where dusty conditions prevail. Have your air filter in good working order to ensure your vehicle breathes correctly and gives you the appropriate air fuel ratios. It’s a good idea to have a spare with you. Fuel filters can be tested when
travelling to remote outback destinations where fuel storage faces extreme and harsh conditions. It’s not uncommon here for fuel to be exposed to contamination. Not only do you want to have a clean fresh filter before taking off, carrying a spare filter means you can continue on your journey in the event it needs to be replaced.
Depending on your time of travel and route, it’s not uncommon to experience plagues of insects when travelling north. The dead bugs not only make a mess on your windscreen and paintwork, your radiator cooling system could also quickly come to a stop if they’re allowed to clog up. Attach appropriate insect screens to your vehicle’s front to protect the radiator system that can easily be periodically cleaned.
High temperatures and cloud free days mean extreme inside vehicle temperatures. Use appropriate shade devices and insulating deflectors where possible to reduce heat penetration. Consider how best these might be used on your vehicle’s glassware.
Suspension System and Tyres
It is important tyres, suspension, wheel bearings and brakes are serviced in readiness to handle the conditions ahead. Be wary of tyre flat spots if your RV has been sitting around for a while. Check inflation pressures and ensure there are no hairline cracks or fractures in the side walls. You should also check a tyre’s age as they will often show no signs of wear in the tread. Tyres face their biggest challenge in hot climatic conditions and it’s the tread that often outlasts the condition of the tyre. Delamination can occur catching the driver unaware.
Your fridge is going to be working harder due to the climatic conditions and tropical environment. Have it serviced before you leave and set up for northern conditions. Check seals and the gas connections and burner. Installing a small fan at the rear of a three way fridge will assist with circulation.
Windows & Seals
Travelling on dirt roads can lead to dust entry when window and door seals are damaged or beyond their service life. Visually inspect and clean all seals and screens and check that closed windows completely seal.
Skylight Vents and Hatches
Your RV’s rooftop can often be overlooked when it comes to maintenance. Skylight vents and hatches are a source of dust and insect entry when not sealing correctly. Check seals and pay particular attention to any screens where insects can enter.
Water tanks should be cleaned and flushed with an appropriate cleaner. Check the filters are in good working order and that all plumbing, pumps and lines show no signs of leakage.
Shading your RV
Check the condition of your roll out awning prior to departure. Ensure the vinyl is in good condition and the retraction mechanisms and slides operate correctly. Consider adding an external shade awning for the far side of your van to help keep the fridge cooler.
Protecting your Vehicle and RV
Road conditions up north can vary from bitumen to one lane highways or dirt. Take precautions to protect your vehicle and RV from stones from passing vehicles by installing a stone deflector. Also considering covering the rear window on wagon type vehicles and the front of your RV.
When it comes to your RV’s electrics, check your batteries are functioning correctly by fully charging them. Run all your electrics to verify that your batteries are holding appropriate voltages. Ensure they recharge through your solar system and regulator. Consider having a battery retail outlet conduct a load test on them if they are a few years old. Shop around as many places will do this as a free service.