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Five must-do mechanical tips to prepare for a caravan holiday.

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Nov. 11, 2020

Your van or camper trailer is in top shape but what about your tow vehicle? Brake expert Bendix offers these top tips for preparing your car for holiday towing

With your passport set to stay in the bottom drawer for the foreseeable future, now is a great time to hit the road and explore this wide brown land.

With a four-wheel drive and caravan or camper trailer you can literally go -- and stay – almost anywhere across Australia, from Margaret River to Maroochydore, Ballarat to Broome and everywhere in between.

A caravan holiday is not only the ideal way to see Australia, but a great adventure for all the family. However, no matter how close or far away from home you plan to head, a little preparation to your tow vehicle will go a long way to keeping your trip safe and trouble free.

So, here’s five essential tips to ensure a safe and enjoyable road trip while towing.

Replace all essential fluids

Towing puts a lot of stress on the powertrain, and an easy way to ensure the engine remains healthy is to replace all the major fluids and associated filters.

The most obvious and critical fluid is the engine oil. This can easily be changed in the driveway with a simple set of tools. Before you do anything though, check the owner’s manual for the manufacturer’s recommended oil specifications and whether it requires a different viscosity or weight rating when towing heavy loads (or in hot weather, if you’re heading north).

When replacing the oil, also fit a new oil filter and new washer/O-ring on the sump plug.

The transmission will also be doing a lot of heavy lifting when hauling, so make sure it has fresh fluid. Consider flushing the cooling system too.

Replacing the air filter and fuel filter will help the engine run smoothly, and more efficiently. Having a spare one of each tucked away could also prove handy, especially when heading into dusty areas.

Finally, ensure the washer fluid bottle is full of clean water and/or screen cleaner.

And if all this sounds a bit too hard to attempt yourself, your local workshop and trusted mechanic can help.

Upgrade the brakes

Brakes are a key safety consideration when towing. Hauling a caravan naturally means your tow vehicle’s brakes work a lot harder than normal.

Before you head-off, at the very least have the brake rotors, pads and calipers inspected and serviced by a specialist.

While you are there request replacing the brake fluid with high quality, appropriately DOT rated replacement to prevent it from boiling in hard use, as brake fluid deteriorates over time by absorbing moisture from the atmosphere. This is particularly important if you’re heading to the high country where long, steep descents are prevalent.

Upgrading the brakes is an even better solution. Leading brake expert Bendix makes this simple with its Ultimate 4WD Brake Upgrade Kit.

The Bendix Ultimate 4WD Brake Upgrade Kit is available for all popular modern dual-cab utes including the Toyota Hilux and Ford Ranger, as well as Holden Colorado, Mitsubishi Triton, Isuzu D-Max, Mazda BT-50 and Volkswagen Amarok. Kits are also available for the Toyota Landcruiser 70 & 200 Series, Prado and Nissan’s Y61 Patrol.

“The Ultimate 4WD Brake Upgrade Kit is a comprehensive package which includes all the hardware to significantly improve the braking performance of your vehicle,” Bendix Product Manager, Ian Campbell told caravancampingsales.com.au.

“Our Ultimate Brake Rotors are vented and feature diamond-tipped slots that not only ensure consistent stopping power but are better at eliminating dirt build-up in off-road conditions.

“The high carbon material used in their construction, combined with the pillar ventilation technology improve thermal conductivity for consistent performance too,” Campbell explained.

Bendix 4WD Brake Pads are in turn specifically designed for the slotted rotors on heavy-duty four-wheel drive vehicles, providing high-temperature stability and fade resistance while reducing brake dust and noise.

When paired with Bendix Ultimate Braided Brake Hoses (included in the brake upgrade kit), the replacement Bendix pads provide a consistently firm pedal. This is thanks to the fact the Bendix braided hoses are more rigid and expand less under high pedal pressures.

And, to keep the brakes in tip-top condition, the Bendix Ultimate 4WD Brake Upgrade comes with one litre of Bendix heavy duty brake fluid, a can of Bendix Cleanup and a tube of Ceramasil lubricant and a heavy-duty touring case.

Your regular mechanic can fit the Bendix Ultimate 4WD Brake Upgrade Kit. For more information, visit the Bendix website <<<<< use this link https://www.bendix.com.au/product-range/ultimate-4wd-brake-upgrade-kit >>>>>>>>

Check the condition of your tyres

The extra weight of a caravan (as well as people and all your holiday gear) puts extra strain on your tow vehicle’s tyres.

This is particularly the case if you’re heading off the beaten track on gravel roads. So, assessing the tread depth and condition of your tyres is a critical yet simple safety check.

Obviously, make sure there is enough tread and that there are no slow leaks or objects stuck in the tread. Also take the time to look for any small cuts or abrasions in the sidewalls -- on both the outer and inner sides of each tyre.

Don’t forget to do the same with the spare tyre and the tyres and spare on your van too.

Replacing all four tyres is ideal, but if you have to replace just an individual tyre, fit one that is not only the right size (with identical speed and load ratings to the others) but preferably one that is the exact same brand and variant. This will not only ensure consistent stability on all variations of terrain but also gives you the ability to rotate the tyres for longevity.

Lastly, check the manufacturer’s recommended pressures on the tyre placard (usually located on the inside of the driver’s door sill) and inflate the tyres to the appropriate pressure for the load you are carrying.

If you are heading off road (onto soft sand or muddy terrain, for example) lower tyre pressures will play a critical role in providing traction and preventing punctures. Having a quality tyre gauge and portable compressor (to re-inflate them when back on tarmac) are therefore must-have four-wheel drive accessories. Many 4x4’s user’s manuals or the tyre manufacturer will have recommendations on the correct pressures.

Check and adjust your headlights

Driving through the outback is notoriously dangerous at dusk, dawn and during the night -- even more so if you can’t see properly.

So, before you go, at the very least walk around the car and van together and make sure headlights and high beams, indicators and brake lights are all working correctly.

Most modern cars will be fitted with self-levelling headlights that adjust the angle of the beam according to the rake of the car (which can be pitched with the nose a little higher in the air when towing). If not, you can manually adjust the angle of the headlight beam with a simple set of tools.

Check the owner’s manual for instructions, or have a specialist do this (with the van attached).

Having the headlights adjusted properly will ensure you have the maximum light penetration for better vision at night, and also prevent other road users from being startled. Cleaning your lights also helps

Replace the battery

Finally, there’s nothing worse than being stranded in the middle of nowhere by a flat battery. The easiest way to prevent that occurring is simple -- replace it.

Car batteries are often overlooked in general maintenance, but they do have a finite life and begin to lose performance after time. This is particularly the case in more modern machines that draw a lot more on the electrical system to run the array of ancillaries and computer-controlled functions.

Fitting a new battery will give you the kind of peace-of-mind to cross the country trouble free.

And there is certainly no harm in taking the old one with you too… Just in case you do need it.

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