5 things you MUST DO after buying a 4wd

5 things you MUST DO after buying a 4wd

So you just got your hands on the bargain of the century. You gave it the once over in the previous owners driveway, and they told you how everything on the vehicle has been serviced or replaced only last month. Do you believe them? Heck no you don’t! There will always be something that you fail to spot, or were unable to check. Once the seller has accepted your seemingly petty offering of cash, you need to get that thing straight home and perform some exploratory surgery. It’s time for the big first service.


Step 1: Change EVERYTHING!

Sure the engine oil looked clean, but how do you know it wasn’t topped up with lawnmower oil or something? You hear people asking the question all the time: “which is the cheapest oil? I don’t care, I’m selling the car”. And I’m guessing you didn’t crack open the drain plugs on the diffs or gearboxes in the sellers driveway did you? I know I wouldn’t! Drain the driveline oils and check for chunks of metal which could indicate serious trouble, milky oil which means water has got in there somehow, and horrible burnt smells which may indicate cooked LSD (limited slip diff) or general abuse.

Handy Tip!:Remove the filler plug from gearboxes and diffs before the drain plug. You will be extremely sad if you drain it all and can’t refill it because the plug is stuck!


 Step 2: Cooling System

Overheating is one of the most common problems we all hear about, and they can be a right pain in the arse to chase, not to mention expensive if you ignore the problem! If you’ve just bought an older vehicle and there is no record of any recent radiator work, I would be inclined to take it to a radiator specialist to have the cores rodded out. Cost’s about $100 and I know people who’ve seen radiators 80% blocked! If you’d rather not do this, at least pull it out and have a go at it with the hose and a soft brush to remove any mud, grass seeds or dead bugs from the fins. Once you’ve dropped it back in, change every hose in the cooling system and change the thermostat too if you can find the time. I’m sure most people reading this will know better, but don’t just fill it with water. Use a good quality coolant/distilled water mix.

Handy Tip!: Order a full set of hoses at your local parts store, it’s highly likely they don’t carry a full set in stock and everybody seems to realise this when the 4wd is in pieces!


 Step 3: Filter Change

I could not understand how my Patrol had possibly survived when I first changed the fuel filter. The entire bottom of the filter was full of mud! Had I let it go unchanged much longer, it could have been catastrophic! Some vehicle have cabin air filters which NEVER get changed. It’s not detrimental to the vehicle, but for the sake of your lungs you may as well chuck a new one in. Then of course there’s the air filter. This is probably the only one you can leave a bit longer if it looks clean. You may have a reusable filter installed. They are awesome if you keep em clean, but can be a bit messy.

Handy Tip!: Wipe a little oil around the seal of any screw on filters. This keeps the seal from sticking and makes it easier to remove next time around.

Step 4: Electrical

Got yourself a petrol powered 4wd? Don’t be shy to throw a new set of spark plugs and leads into it. If it was running rough, this will probably fix it. Even if it’s running fine; a good set of plugs and leads will go a long way to improving power and economy. While we are on the subject of electrical goodies, check the battery levels and top up with distilled water if needed and pour some boiling water over the terminals if there is a build up of corrosion. Check that all terminals and wiring are firmly secured. Do a walk around and check that all the lights are working, and pop open the fuse boxes as well to check for blown fuses or ones with the wrong amperage which may lead to destruction later on.

Handy Tip! Nuke as many plugs and connectors as possible with some contact cleaner, and follow it up with electrical grease. This will help prevent water ingress and possible problems in the future.



Step 5: A Good Eyeballin’

Last of all, put your new ride up on some axle stands and roll about underneath. Arm yourself with a grease gun and hit all the grease nipples, and use a crow bar or pry bar to lever suspension parts around to check for excessive movement, worn bushes and odd noises. Rotate each of the wheels and listen for grinding or clunking noises which could indicate bad wheel bearings. Place your hands in a 12 O’clock and 6 O’clock position and attempt to rock the wheel. If there is play there, put a new set of wheel bearings on your to-do list. Not only will doing all of this help you pinpoint any problems, but it will get you familiar with the underneath of the vehicle.

Handy Hint!: Hands in the 12 O’clock/6 O’clock position to check wheel bearing play, hands in 9 O’clock/3 O’clock to check for play in the steering.


 Now your basic servicing is all up to scratch! What you hit next is up to you, but for me it’s often about ripping out untidy wiring or accessories and doing a neat job. Wiring is always an area people slack off for some reason!

See you out there!


Alex Garner

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  1. letmebefree
    June 19, 06:56 Reply
    We bought a 100 series Landcruiser and I get nervous because my partner is doing so much to it! I will trust that you blokes know what you are doing!
    • Alex Garner
      June 19, 21:05 Reply
      Sometimes I do things to my vehicle to try and improve it, then I make it worse. But it always gets better in the end :)
  2. jimmy
    June 19, 16:09 Reply
    I Brought 100 Series Landcruiser its a bit old but thanks for the info im jacking it up next chance i get .
    • Alex Garner
      June 19, 21:03 Reply
      The older it is, the better off you are going over it with a fine tooth comb I rekon Jimmy.
  3. Great post mate. Some very important points there. I reckon the best person to work on a 4WD is yourself - you know the job is done right, and you learn as you go! Aaron
    • Alex Garner
      June 21, 09:55 Reply
      That is so true Aaron, even still if you get it wrong you know the job isn't done right and you can get it fixed up! :p
  4. Sensh
    October 05, 13:05 Reply
    Great post as always. Oh, and the cabin air filter actually CAN cause some damage to the air conditioning system if left too long blocked. That is a very often overlooked replacement... Thanks again, and keep up the good work!
    • Alex Garner
      October 07, 20:30 Reply
      Ah good point! I suppose it wouldn't do the fan much good to try pulling air through a stack of leaves and whatnot!

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