How many times you have heard of near misses involving wheels coming loose from a vehicle or camper while it’s moving at speed? And it’s not unusual to see campers and caravans on the road with windows or pop-tops flapping because they haven’t been secured properly by their owners at the start of the day.
These – and many more frustrating or heartbreaking scenarios – happen all the time. But the risks of these incidents can be greatly reduced if we make a habit of carrying out structured daily checks of our rigs.
So we thought we’d have a closer look at how best to keep our rigs ‘Good to Go’ while we’re on the road.
GOOD TO GO
Good to Go or ‘G2G’ is a term we sometimes hear to convey the sense that a series of duties needs to be completed before a task or journey is undertaken. For example, think of pre-flight inspections and other checklists that are used to ensure airworthiness in the aviation industry. In day-to-day lexicon, many people use these phrases to indicate that they’re ready and prepared for whatever task is at hand.
The same principle should apply when we get ready to put our rigs on the road for the day. Before we start the ignition, we need to be sure that our camper and tow-tug are G2G for the rigours of the road. If we don’t, we may put ourselves, our family, and other road users at risk – and we may cause unnecessary wear and tear on our setups.
After all, with a country that’s almost 8 million sq km in size, there are a lot of places in Australia where you don’t want to get stuck with a medical emergency or mechanical failure. This includes the huge proportion of the country where you’ll find no mobile phone coverage and which coincides with most of the 6 million kilometres of unpaved roads. That’s a lot of area for something to go wrong. And we can’t always rely on medical support – or, for that matter, mechanical support from roadside assistance. Even with premium policies, associations will have difficulty helping if you’re stuck further than 100km from remote regional centres.
CARE FOR PART-TIME TOURERS
Many hazards come about because the rig has been sitting idle while we’ve been busy with the day-to-day grind. With few Australians conducting maintenance between scheduled services, there are many reasons why your vehicle may not be G2G when it finally comes time to get away. For example, if your vehicle has been sitting unused, you may need to replace the oil – regardless of what your service manual says. It’s best to change the oil and filter after a 30-minute drive as this will help remove the oil sludge that has settled in the time between trips.
Damp, humid storage conditions can cause wheel cylinder or calliper seizure, particularly if your outer seals are in poor condition. Brake shoes or pads can lock to the drums or discs. The clutch on a manual car can also lock to the flywheel if the car is stored in damp conditions.
Unwelcome stowaways are another risk that’s amplified in agricultural areas. Mechanics will tell you, for example, that rats have an uncanny fondness for nesting inside engine bays, chewing water vessels and wires, and settling-in to interior fans. Ignore them at your peril. At a minimum, you risk creating minced rat next time you turn on your fan and, at worst, serious engine damage. You may also be familiar with snakes’ affection for the warmth of engine bays where they can dislodge drive-belts and cause engine overheating.
Once on the road, your vehicle may be vulnerable at any time due to the wear and tear of rough roads, long distances and repetitive use. After all, your rig is held-together by parts that will fatigue, rupture, loosen and break if left unchecked. So it takes a deliberate hand and a disciplined approach if you’re to keep your rig serviceable and safe over the long haul. By maintaining and using your rig properly, you’ll definitely prolong its lifespan. You’ll also give yourself the best chance of keeping yourself, your family and friends safe, too.
FIRST PARADE CHECKS
A good way to meet our responsibilities to maintain our rigs, is to get into the habit of conducting ‘First Parades’. This phrase is used by militaries and mining industries and it refers to a system requiring that the driver conducts the following checks prior to, during, and at completion of the use of the vehicle.
- First Parade Service: completed before the vehicle is first driven for the day.
- Halt Parade Service: conducted at each long stop.
- Last Parade Service: conducted at the end of the day/vehicle use, in addition to the halt parade servicing.
We’ve prepared a First Parade checklist as a tear-out that draws on multiple lists we’ve received through our years in active duty. You’ll see they’re equally applicable to caravanners, campers and 4WDers as they are to military or mining operators. The only difference is that, when we’re towing a camper, we may need to add to the list. For example:
- Is the awning strapped away correctly and the locking clamps to the pop up secure?
- Are the lights off, windows shut, doors locked and are the jockey wheel and levelling legs up?
- Is the hitch secure; do the lights work on the trailer?
So think about your own setup and add those additional checks that will relate specifically to your rig. If you’ve never done these types of checks before, talk to your local mechanic and ask him to run through what’s required.
If we routinely apply a First Parade system when we’re on a trip, and we conduct routine servicing on our rigs (both vehicle and camper), we’ll have a better maintained setup that will perform more effectively, economically and safely.
Check out the full feature in issue #105 August 2016 of Camper Trailer Australia magazine. Subscribe today for all the latest camper trailer news, reviews and travel inspiration.