OB13: Maintaining and Repairing Your Rig

It’s bound to happen to anyone who travels off-road at some point. Something is going to break on your rig, whether it’s at home or on the trail. Maintaining and repairing your rig is a vital part of preparing for the adventure. A weekend trail run doesn’t mean you have to pack a full toolkit. However, a week or more may mean packing more than you would take during a weekend run. Another factor to consider is the age of your rig. Newer vehicles aren’t going to need as much attention as the older ones will, however, you still may find yourself performing repairs regardless of age.

Understanding the ins and outs of your rig helps alleviate the frustrations when a breakdown happens. The built versus bought dilemma plays heavily into how much you know about your rig. Having even a basic knowledge of automotive repair, whether it’s self-taught or you’ve taken some courses, can go a long way. This means the difference between fixing your rig and getting going or having to call in someone who does, which can get very costly when you’re not on regular roads.

PMCS & Inspections

The military adheres to what they call Preventive Maintenance Checks and Services (PMCS). These checks and inspections occur at different intervals throughout the year as well as before, during, and after missions. Checks are done at an operator level as well as at a field maintainer level. Each check is different at the different levels. Field maintainer checks are more intrusive than operator checks and often involve required service for differentials, engines, transmissions, and more. Operator level checks are checking for damage to the vehicle, fluid levels, and the vehicle is operating how it should.

Planning PMCS for your vehicle is a good idea. Before, during, and after checks should happen while you are out on the trail. Interval checks should happen at specific times during the year such as monthly, weekly, or semi-annually. You can also set up a checklist of items to check before leaving for any trip that can include topping off fluids, checking tire pressures, checking for damage, etc.

Building a Toolkit and the Cost Factor

In order to get up and running with a toolkit, we have included the below list that details a basic setup you should consider carrying. By no means is this a complete list as you are sure to find something specific for your chosen rig. Google can also be an invaluable resource when deciding what to include in your toolkit by providing common failure data on certain parts and vehicle specific tools that might be necessary.

Lower cost tools might be enticing because of the entry point they provide for a full set, but rest assured the cost of more expensive kits is worth it. As overlanders, we tend to spend money on expensive upgrades to get us t that remote spot. Spending the money on a toolset, whether a full one or buying individual pieces will be more beneficial than buying low-cost tools.

In order to get you up and running with a toolkit, we have included the list below that details a basic setup you should consider carrying. By no means is this complete as you are sure to find something specific to your rig you will want to carry or even have a personal preference over certain tool types. Google is also your friend in determining what to carry, how to store it, and finding the best bargain on cost.

  • Toolbox/Storage:
    • Hex wrenches
    • Socket(s) and ratchet(s)
    • Vice grip(s)
    • Hammer
    • Channellock(s)
    • Adjustable wrench(es)
    • Box end wrench(es)
    • Plier(s)
    • Screwdriver(s)
  • Tire repair kit
  • Jumper cables
  • Expendable items:
    • Epoxies
    • JB Weld
    • Wire
    • Front and rear replacement bulbs
    • Fuses
    • Engine oil
    • Coolant
    • Transmission oil
    • Zip ties
    • Duct/Gorilla tape
  • Work gloves
  • Eye protection
  • Rags
  • Repair and/or maintenance manual(s)

Cleaning Your Rig after a Trip

It might seem trivial to say it’s important to clean and wash your rig, but it’s not. Depending on the conditions you encountered, not cleaning them off could cause damage. You should spray down and clean your vehicle after each trip. Along with the exterior, the interior of your rig should also be cleaned to keep seats and carpeting nice.

It’s a good idea to run your rig through a car wash after to get the underside cleaned off. Living in states that salt their roads can cause body damage and rust. Again, running through a car wash a couple of times over the winter goes a long way in preserving the body and metal parts.


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