How to keep your car alive and save lots of money while traveling on wheels.
Many costly things can happen when driving lots of kilometers and regularly going on dirt roads. Based on what i've seen from other travelers and also my personal travel experience, I have gathered some tips and advices, and by doing these simple checks you can actually prevent major damage to the vehicle and save a whole lot of money, time and sweat that can be channeled to more fun things.
Check fluid levels and their quality: This is one of the most important things to check. Start from the engine oil, only check it when the engine is cold (levels are higher when hot) and car is placed on a leveled ground. Monitor the levels every 1-3 days to make sure there's no loss of oil probably due to a leak. if you do have a leak, make sure you top it up until you can arrive to a proper garage. Check the brake fluid for being at the right level and not being contaminated and old, if some is missing, add more and consult a garage for if break maintenance is needed. Check the steering fluid - in most cars you should have indicators for when the motor is hot and for when its cold, the levels are obviously showing higher amount when engine is hot. If you are low on hydraulic steering fluid, make sure there's no damage to the hydraulic pump ( you can do that by turning the wheel and listening to the engine, if the pump is going bad you might hear a whiney sound which changes by the RPM. If you are lucky, adding oil to the right level can solve this issue. If it's not solved by adding oil you probably need to change or do maintenance to the hydraulic pump or the steering rack. Check the coolant for color smell and quality, it shouldn't be orange and no oxidity should be found on the cap. Make sure it's not watery and there's a proper mix of coolant and distilled water.
If your car has a gearbox fluid indicator check for that as well, if not just ask a garage to check that every time you do the regular maintenance.
Regulate tire pressure: An uneven tire pressure can affect not just the tire's lifespan but the brakes, suspension and gasoline consumption. regulate the tire pressure at least once a week or every time you visit the gas station.
Drive responsible: Accelerate and brake gradually, this can also save lots of money on gasoline and can save you from accidents.
Check the shock absorbers and suspension: One of the most common issues in traveler cars is a heavy ware of the shock absorbers, if this is not treated in time, damage to more complicated and expansive suspension parts can occur. check you shock absorbers by touching them to make sure they are not "sweating" oil and do a bounce check - press the car to the ground, if it bounces more than 1 time you probably need to change shocks, also if you feel the car has gotten bouncy while driving it can indicate bad shock absorbers.
Choose the right roads: Unless you don't mind spending lots of money, I'd recommend looking far away for big rocks and holes in the ground when going off road.
Use proper gasoline: I recommend always having an extra gasoline container with you (except for when crossing borders) and avoiding deserted gas stations placed in the middle of nowhere if possible. These are more likely to have low quality gasoline that might have moist in it.
Place your car in the right spots: when you arrive to a city i wouldn't recommend parking in the middle of the street at the city center, you should park at legit guarded parking spots, it's worth paying more for an underground or guarded parking. Or you can park at the hostel.
When camping always try to analyze the territory for any possible risk or damage to the car.
Stay aware and never skip or postpone the regular maintenance always do the 10,000KM oil change, if your car has a belt make sure you change it ahead of time. at most cars gear fluid has to be changed every 60,000km. If needed, do engine tuning, change spark plugs, filters and have the injectors cleaned.
Monitor engine heat when regularly checking your engine every 1-3 days, also monitor if there's any change in engine heat, if you do suspect the engine is hotter, check the radiator for a leak and coolant levels, check for bad sensors and engine alerts and consult a mechanic.
Look under your car many things can hit the parts under the car during your trip, have a regular look under the car and look for any physical damage to the cartridge and look for oil spots or leaks. if you see anything suspicious, check oil levels and consult a mechanic
Monitor battery voltage and charge always have starting cables with you or a jump start. avoid turning the car on and off a lot without driving for some time. while camping, the car can be idle for a long time and battery voltage can drop, you can monitor that with a battery voltage meter, or just by driving the car regularly in order for the alternator to charge the battery. Also try to avoid leaving any lights on or doors open while the car is not moving.
Split weight equally If you have passengers in your car or anything heavy like a water container for example, try to split the weight more equally to preven lots of pressure on 1 tire and shock absorber. if this is not possible, monitor that 1 tire and shock absorbers more often.
Listen to the engine stay aware to how the engine sounds like, if suddenly you hear anything which wasn't there before like a whiney sound or a screech, it might be due to minor issues such as a loose alternator belt or a big issue such as gearbox.