FIrst pA­rADE VE­HI­CLE CHECks

Are you good to go?

Camper Trailer Australia - - CONTENTS - WORDS SCOTT HEIMAN Pics SCOTT AND KATH HEIMAN

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.

CloCk­wise from top left: A daily check­list on the side of the cam­per en­sures noth­ing is for­got­ten; When was the last time you pulled out the tyre wrench?; Be­fore your pop-top pops, dou­ble check the latches; Check the tyre rim walls for dam­age.

CloCk­wise from top left: Rats can make nests and chew on your elec­tri­cals; Rigs stored in agri­cul­tural ar­eas are at greater risk of rat in­va­sion; Vis­ually in­spect the glass bulb in the wa­ter watch for al­gae and de­tri­tus.

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