While I may spend three quarters of my time out on the tracks writing yarns to get you guys and gals through the working week, I’m straight out in the shed getting the rigs back in shape for the next stint when I get home.
As you can imagine, there’s a heck of a lot of maintenance that needs catching up on between trips and I’m not just talking about the 4WD either.
That being said, I’ve gotten to know what gear needs the most attention when I get back from a trip, so take a walk in my shoes as I run you through a few of the predicaments I’ve gotten into, along with a few handy tips I’ve learnt along the way.
KEEPIN’ THE WHEELS SPINNING
After each and every trip, I’ll give the wheel bearings on the trailer a good check over. There are a few things I’ve found to look for but, in general, I always tend to pop the dust cap off the hub first to ensure the wheel bearing grease is still in good nick. That’ll give you a good idea what kind of condition the wheel’s bearings will be in. For example, if you spot any white spots in the grease it usually means that water has found its way inside the hub, and it won’t take very long at all for water to destroy your bearings altogether.
Before the bigger trips, it’s always a good idea to wipe the bearings clean and check the bearings closely for signs of pitting (indent damage), and either replace them or repack them with fresh grease.
The second check is the bearings adjustment, or pre-load. Most trailers run tapered wheel bearings, so it’s important to have the correct adjustment to ensure they are positioned on the stub axle and hub correctly so the weight spreads across the surfaces evenly. The easiest way to check ’em out is to jack each wheel up off the ground (with the trailer hitched to the 4WD), and wriggle the tyre from top to bottom. If there’s much free-play, they’ll need to be tightened up from the hub nut or replaced if they are worn.
WHEEL BEARING MAINTENANCE
1. To help stop water from penetrating the hub assembly, pick up a set of marine hub seals. They incorporate some extra support in the design so the seal doesn’t collapse when it’s submerged under water.
2. While you’re waterproofing the hub, fit a set of bearing protectors. The standard caps are nothing but dust caps, so you can kiss your bearings goodbye after a single water crossing or two if they’re still fitted.
3. When it comes to the correct bearing pre-load or adjustment, the idea is for the wheel to spin freely with no drag, yet there should be little to no free-play. I actually don’t mind having the slightest bit of play, to be honest, only so I know the bearings aren’t adjusted too tight. There’s nothing worse than burning a set of bearings out for the sake of a millimetre of free-play. If there’s bugger-all play, and the hub stays cool to touch while you’re driving, it’s a job well done, I’d say.
BRAKE MASTER CYLINDER
There’s a few different ways you can diagnose a dying master cylinder, but the dead giveaway for mine was it couldn’t hold brake pressure. So, if I depressed the brake pedal firmly it would slowly sink to the floor, and trust me, it’s not a nice feeling when you’re parked on a steep hill! It can show the same symptoms if you’ve got a bit of air in the brake line, or the brake fluid is in really poor condition, but chances are if the brake fluid is that bad it’s buggered the master cylinder anyway.
Believe it or not, another problem that can cause similar symptoms is loose front wheel bearings. The extra free-play basically allows the brake rotor to wobble so the brake caliper’s piston has to travel further for the brake pad to contact it, causing the brake pedal to sink lower. So it’s definitely worth checking before you rip the master cylinder apart.
THE TROOPY GETS TANGLED
On a recent trip out to the Watagan Mountains, NSW, I thought it would be a good idea to take the Troopy for an excursion through a tight and stupidly overgrown track. Yep, you guessed it – one snorkel, three roof racks and an awning later, I realised it probably wasn’t the smartest of options. I guess it’s the risk you take when you challenge Mother Nature, eh?
The problem was a thick vine got wrapped around the snorkel and awning, and literally tore everything from the roof and dumped it in a helpless mess on the track – Crikey’s not the only word I was saying, trust me! The roof racks and awning I could live with but, with a storm coming in, some trackside bush fixes were on the cards to patch up the poor busted snorkel. I ended up cutting an old plastic water bottle in half and taping it all up around the snorkel with electrical tape to help stop water or leaves getting into the air box and buggering the air filter up on the way home. Not a bad job, eh? Not sure what the warranty’s like on that repair job, though!
Check out the full feature in issue #94 November 2015 of Camper Trailer Australia magazine. Subscribe today for all the latest camper trailer news, reviews and travel inspiration.