Some people love 4x4 vehicles, the true 4-wheel drive works of engineering like Jeeps and 4x4 pickups that allow you to seemingly go anywhere on the planet. You can climb up a 40-degree rock trail with some planning and skill (always careful to protect the environment, of course), or you can get through the deepest snow.
But with that added capability comes additional complexity, drive-train components and other systems that less capable vehicles don't have. And that is why when it comes to 4x4s, you have to maintain them a little differently from those vehicles that spend their lives on pavement. Here are some of the key things to keep an eye on:
- Transfer case—This transfers power from the engine to the wheels. A transfer case has fluid in it that needs to be changed at intervals recommended by the manufacturer. Your service advisor will let you know how often that is and will keep track of your service dates. You will need to make sure the transfer case seal is working properly. Otherwise, transmission fluid could get in and cause damage that is costly to fix. Some transfer cases have an electric motor that shifts it through gears, and its connections are often exposed to the elements, making them vulnerable to damage and corrosion. Proper maintenance will keep those connections working like they should
- Front and rear differentials—These also have to have the right amount of fluid and should be checked regularly. Your service advisor can let you know when you need that fluid changed as the owner's manual recommends. It's important the service is performed correctly with the proper lubricant so it will work the way it is designed to.
- Brake lines—Those 4x4s practically beg to go into wet spots. They also are great machines to conquer snow: road salt, brine and all. Moisture, salt and brake lines are a recipe for corrosion, so brake lines need to be inspected regularly. There are anti-corrosion sprays or white lithium grease that can retard corrosion. Remember, getting there is half the fun, but not being able to stop is no fun at all.
So enjoy your 4x4 and what it can do that other vehicles can't. Just remember that even though it's tough on the outside, it needs special care to keep it going. Oh, and remember to take care of the environment when you go off-roading, too.