Essential pre-trip servicing

By: Anita Pavey


Mechanical failures can cause more than heat stress!

With the touring season fast approaching, it’s time to give some thought to pre-trip servicing. While it’s often a topic left to the fellas, I’d thought I’d share some of my own experiences to reflect on how bad luck or poor maintenance can really put a dampener on your trip.

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CAR COOLING

Of the key maintenance items that make up a pre-trip inspection, your vehicle’s cooling system should be at the top of the tree. I’m not talking about the air-conditioner or those four glass windows that move up and down, but the radiator and its related parts.

As you may know, regular servicing doesn’t cover every item at each interval, which is why it’s important to let your mechanic know your travel plans, so he or she can check the vital components prior to any extended trip. Towing puts considerable strain on your vehicle’s cooling system requiring it to be in top-notch condition.

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I know all this from experience. A month into our big lap, we noticed higher than normal temperature readings on the gauge, as we were winding our way through the tall timber area along the south coast of Western Australia. Sure enough, we found stinky coolant blowing out the overflow pipe and down the inside of the front guard. Mechanics crawled all over the car trialling different solutions and scratching their heads, as part of the test and replicate process, but to no avail. Yet pop the van on, and the problem was almost instantly replicated. It ended up being a warped head which cost us over $5000 to repair and the loss of four weeks from our trip.

Compounding the problem, later in the trip, our low coolant alarm developed some corrosion on the reading element, causing the alarm to sound erratically from time to time. It only added to the paranoia.

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Funnily enough, there is a native bush down the east coast that smells a lot like coolant. It didn’t help our situation and caused additional stress and worry about another impending expensive repair.  

ANDERSON PLUG MAINTENANCE

Moving into the electrical area, the humble Anderson plug is a maintenance item often forgotten. For many vans, the Anderson plug plays a key role when exploring the back roads away from mains power.

Anderson plugs are exposed to corrosion which affects the contact points and the efficiency of recharge. An Anderson plug cover goes a long way to protect the integrity of the system. Regular checks should keep them in optimum working order, with a rub down with emery paper as required and a protective squirt of the rust and corrosion inhibitor WD40. Make sure you have all the required fuses too, as sourcing replacements in the back blocks is near impossible.

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A basic check of the Anderson plug circuit can be done by looking at the volt meter on the van. A fully charged AGM battery at rest will show around 12.8V. When hooked up to the vehicle with the Anderson plug connected, the volt meter will read much higher, often over 14V, which proves the circuit is working. Regardless of the initial voltage, the Anderson plug voltage should be higher. Fuses should be your first port of call when troubleshooting.

If your RV is fitted with a comprehensive battery management system such as the Redarc Manager 30, the summary screen will show the source of charge (DC) and the level of the incoming charge.

Don’t leave mechanical responsibility to your significant other. Gain a general understanding of how things work because one day, the responsibility may well fall on you. But don’t panic. Knowledge acquisition in these areas is all part of the fun of touring.

See you on the trails.

The full feature appears in Caravan World #563. Subscribe today for the latest caravan reviews and news every month!