A modern vehicle is an expensive investment that for those of us is not a luxury item, but a necessity. To get the best from your Ute it is important to look after and maintain it in the best condition possible. This not only helps to ensure your safety but helps to maintain its value. Today’s modern vehicles are very sophisticated and many aspects of a complete service are best left to a professional mechanic, but there are a number of maintenance steps you can take yourself to ensure your driving safety and pleasure, avoid unnecessary break downs accidents and help maintain your Utes value.
These simple stress free maintenance steps should be done regularly between full workshop services and before any long trip you take. But the first thing you should do when you get a vehicle is to familiarise yourself with the owner’s handbook where you will find diagrams and instructions for your particular model of Ute.
Checking your Engine Oil, Transmission Fluid, Power Steering Fluid and Brake Fluid levels
The first thing is to locate your dipstick, in a manual vehicle there is only one, but an auto will also have one for the transmission fluid so be sure the verify which one it is engine oil before filling. (It should say on the top). It is usually colored plastic knob that is formed into a loop or has a rounded top that your finger can fit through to make it easier to pull out.
Use a clean cloth or paper towel to wipe the end clean so you can inspect it and tell where the fill and empty lines.
Insert the dipstick back into the engine, then pull it out again. The dipstick will go down into the engine sump and tells you how much oil is there.
You can then read how much oil is there. The ideal oil level is at the full mark. If the oil is above the halfway mark it is safe to leave it as there will be enough oil, but take note of this and check the level again after a few 100km.
If it is below the halfway mark, then add the recommended oil for your engine. (Diesel engine oil has special cleaners added to deal with any carbon build up. Petrol engines have different additives) It is best to add only 200ml at a time and then recheck and add a bit more if needed to ensure you do not overfill the engine (A very slight overfill is generally OK)
If you have your vehicle serviced at the manufactures recommended times and check the oil regularly and suddenly it has fallen it may be because you have gone past the service life of the oil and it is advisable to have it serviced and checked at a mechanic shop
Check the transmission oil in the same way and use the recommended transmission fluid.
The brake reservoir is on top of, or very near, the brake master cylinder, a clear white plastic screw top container with a viewing area so you can check the fluid level and top up if needed.
Check the coolant in the radiator (do not use plain water as an adequate anticorrosive is needed to stop electrolysis.
Check the visual condition of the rubber hoses around the cooling system and squeeze them to ensure the hoses are firm and have not gone soft.
With the assistance of another person who is outside the Ute to monitor the lights check their operation.
Check the indicators, park and brake lights as well as reversing and number plate light. It is also important to ensure your Headlights are working, both full beam and dipped as well as spotlights.
Check that all the instrument lights are working on the dashboard usually these will all light up when you turn on the ignition to the 2nd stage just before it activated the starter motor.
Check the horn and that all power windows operate correctly, it is important they work without the motor running in emergency conditions.
Check the condition of the drive belts between the engine and Alternator, some vehicles have several belts, driving the air-con, pump the power brake pump, water pump. If your Ute is fitted with a back tray, not a molded body, it may have a hydraulic lift pump connected to the engine or a separate electric hydraulic pump, the fluids and any belts of these need to be checked as well.
Filters; Fuel, Oil and Air
It is important to have a clean air cleaner, especially if you travel in dusty areas. Remove the cleaner and blow compressed air through it to remove any dust. If it is really soiled there are companies that clean them or you can purchase a new one. Many vehicles are now fitted with pollen and dust filters on the air-conditioning system so these also need to be checked and cleaned where necessary
The fuel filter needs to be changed regularly as it can become clogged from contaminants in the fuel and any moisture in your tank, see the manufacturer’s instructions.
The oil filter is best left up to your service center unless you have adequate facilities to collect and deal with the waste oil (this can be very messy).
Windscreen Washer and Wipers
Check the liquid level in the windscreen washer reservoir and top it up if necessary with a good quality windscreen washer solution. Over long dry periods the hot sun, the wiper blades can become brittle, so need to be checked and replaced as needed as well.
Your vehicle tyres are very important and maintaining the correct tyre pressure will increase your fuel economy and your Ute will handle and brake better.
Checking the wear of your tyres is a good way to gauge the condition of your Utes suspension. It the tyres are wearing unevenly if probably means you need to have this checked.
Tyre rotation is where you change the tyres by placing the left front tyre on the right rear and the left rear on the right front about every 10,000k will help to extend the life of your tyres.
For safety’s sake it is a very bad policy to use 2ndhand tyres because the modern tyre is synthetic unlike the tyres of 30 years ago that were mainly rubber. These modern tyres start to break down and only have a safe life of 3 to 5 years even if not being used. Pure rubber tyres such as nylon tryes (not steel belted) are the opposite and get stronger with age, but they are more inclined to get punctured and usually reserved for offroad conditions think Lugg tyres.
I hope this has given you some insight into the types of maintenance that you can do yourself to ensure your own and your families safe, happy and motoring in your Ute.