4WD Repairs & Servicing: What You Need to Know

Car mechanic performing repairs on the engine of a lifted vehicle in a workshop.

4WD vehicles need as much maintenance and repair servicing as any other vehicle. But what types of repairs and services should you look out for? Below is a list of 4WD service types which you, as a 4WD owner, should get familiar with.

Major Service

Major 4WD service is typically done every 30,000 to 45,000 kilometers depending on the manufacturer. This is a more comprehensive vehicle service which consists of different elements tailored to the make and model of the vehicle. It usually includes major check-ups of all parts and changing of fluids and oils. The cost varies depending on the specifications of service done. See our full Major Service checklist here as an example.

Minor Service

Minor services for 4WD are typically done every 10,000 to 15,000 kilometers depending on the manufacturer. Minor services are generally quicker compared to major services. This usually includes checking of all important parts of the vehicle and replacement of oils and filter. We offer a Free Minor Service and full checklist here. You will get an idea of what is covered in a minor service here.

Manufacturer’s Servicing

A manufacturer service, also known as the book or logbook service, is a service and maintenance schedule recommended by the manufacturer in order to keep your vehicle in tiptop shape while maintaining its resell value. This type of servicing is specific to your vehicle’s age, make, model, and mileage. The service providers then “log” all the services done for the vehicle on a logbook.

Expert Advice

Our expert advice is service specific to the current condition of your 4WD vehicle. This includes all the necessary repairs, maintenance, and modifications tailored-fit to your 4WD, depending on its current physical state. A vehicle needs to be checked by an expert first, and then you will be given a recommendation for all necessary services and repairs to be made.

Cooling System Service & Repairs

A properly working cooling system will circulate coolant throughout the radiator and engine, and helps cool down important components that heat when the vehicle is in use. Regular maintenance of the cooling system can protect your vehicle’s engine from overheating and long-term damage caused by heat.

If you notice steam or water vapor that looks like smoke pouring out of your vehicle’s hood, or your temperature gauge suddenly creeps up beyond the normal limit, or an unusual burning smell coming from the engine, it means your engine runs hotter than usual. This may indicate that there’s an issue with the cooling system so you need to have it checked.

Car undergoing maintenance on its engine in a workshop

Brake Repairs & Clutch Overhauls

Brakes are the most important safety component of your vehicle and they have to be kept in perfect condition. Proper maintenance of brakes must include disc and drum machining as both brake disc and brake drum suffer from wear and tear and could get warped.

Few symptoms that indicates your brake needs to be checked include:

  • Unusual noises or squeaking when you hit the brake
  • Your vehicle takes longer to stop than usual after you hit the brake
  • Strange shuddering when you hit the brakes
  • The steering wheel wiggles unusually when coming to a stop
  • Uneven pulling to one side when coming to a stop
  • You need to exert extra effort than usual when pressing on the brake
  • Your brake pedal goes all the way to the floor could indicate damage to the master cylinder or brake fluid leaking
Car mechanic servicing a vehicle engine in a workshop.

The clutch also wears out due to the continuous pressure between the clutch plate and engine flywheel. The clutch, including the flywheel, must be maintained and repaired as necessary to keep your 4WD vehicle safe.

A bad clutch may have these symptoms:

  • Difficulty in getting to reverse or any gear
  • Clutch pedal makes unusual noises, such as growling sounds when you hit the pedal or grinding sounds when you shift gears
  • The clutch pedal vibrates or shakes when you push
  • You need to exert extra effort when pushing the clutch
  • The clutch feels loosely connected

Depending on your vehicle’s make and model, and how overused it is, it’s recommended that you have your brake and clutch checked every 50,000 kms, or at least once every 2 years. For vehicles that are almost overused, brake and clutch service is ideal at least once a year.

Swivel Housing and Front Axle Overhauls

The swivel housing is affixed to the end of the front axle. Its mechanism works to allow the wheels to turn. Symptoms of a failing axle include loud clicking noises, unusual shuddering when driving, and grease leaking. Both the swivel housing and front axle must be properly examined, regularly maintained, and repaired as necessary. They must be checked during a major or minor service, at least once a year.

Wheel Bearing Repacks and Replacement

A wheel bearing is a set of steel balls held by a metal ring known as race. They work to make the wheels spin with as little friction as possible. A worn wheel bearing can lead to a long-term damage to the vehicle. If you hear unusual noises like metal grinding against metal that gets louder over time and loose steering when you drive, it may be a sign that your wheel bearing is loose or needs replacement.

Car mechanic performing repairs on the engine of a lifted vehicle in a workshop.

Steering Repairs, Wheel Alignment & Balance

As your tires wear, your wheels need to be rebalanced and realigned periodically to keep your driving smooth. When you start to notice a change in your vehicle’s handling, consider having the wheels checked for possible rebalance or alignment. Likewise, your steering must be regularly maintained as the pumps and motors that help you steer will eventually wear out.

The following symptoms may indicate that you need wheel re-balance or alignment:

  • Unusual vibration in the steering wheel
  • Uneven or rapid tire wear
  • Pulling to one side or drifting away from a straight line
  • Physical wear patterns on the tyres
  • Shuddering in the seat or floorboards

Suspension Repairs and Upgrades

Your 4WD’s suspension system connects the vehicle to its wheels. You may consider an upgrade to your suspension system when it’s already worn out and needs to be replaced. You also need an upgrade when you need your vehicle to carry additional load or perform additional tasks, such as adding a large trailer, horse float or caravan to the back.

Car mechanic troubleshooting a car issue under the hood, vehicle securely lifted on a platform in a professional repair shop.

Drive shaft repairs

A drive shaft is a mechanical component that transmits torque from a vehicle’s transmission to the differential of a vehicle. Your 4WD’s drive shaft is worn and needs repair if you experience clunking noise when driving, squeaking or rattling sounds, resistance when maneuvering, vibrations that intensify when the vehicle accelerates, and visible signs of U-joint wear.

Fuel System Repairs

The fuel system consists of the fuel tank, pump, filter, and injectors. It delivers fuel to the engine as required. The fuel filter can catch dirt and contaminants and can get clogged. This causes your engine to not get enough fuel it needs, which will make your vehicle unable to start, causes loss of power, or sudden engine failure. Regular maintenance of the entire fuel system is essential, and repairs or replacement should be made as needed.

Car mechanic working on a vehicle under the hood of a car, inside a workshop or garage more alt text

Gearbox Overhauls & Repairs

The gearbox is used to change the speed and power of your vehicle according to conditions.

Below are few signs you must watch out for that indicate a failing gearbox:

  • Buzzing or clunking sounds coming from the transmission
  • Slow response from changing gears
  • Leaking fluid
  • Burning odor
  • A sense of grinding when switching gears for manual transmission
  • Rough gear shift for automatic transmissions
  • Too stiff gears that make you exert more effort when switching
  • Too loose gears that feel unusual when you switch
  • Unusual noise when in neutral

Diesel & Petrol Engine Repairs

The engine needs regular maintenance and check up to ensure that it’s working properly. This should be checked during a major or minor service, or ideally once a year. Engine failure can cause major damage to the vehicle when not tended to promptly.

Few symptoms of engine failure include:

  • Loss of power
  • Increase usage of fuel even for the same distance
  • Unusual noises
  • Your engine will suddenly turn off and need to restart
  • Smoke odor from the engine
  • Unusual vibrations
  • Rough running engine
Close-up view of a car engine bay inside a garage, showcasing the vehicle undergoing service.

Transfer Case Overhauls & Repairs

The transfer case allows power to be transferred from the transmission to the front and rear axles by means of drive shafts. Your transfer case needs repair when you notice difficulty in shifting gears, hear grinding noises from underneath the vehicle, and see fluid leaking under your vehicle.

Differential Overhaul & Repairs

The differential allows the drive wheels to rotate at different speeds. As with other parts, differentials eventually wear out and need to be replaced. One sign of a failing differential is a strange noise from your axle area. It’s important to repair your failing differential immediately else you could lose control of your vehicle, and the driveshaft and transmission could also be damaged.

Mechanic working on a car engine under the hood in a garage

Auto Electrical Repairs

Your vehicle’s electrical systems need to be regularly checked and diagnosed for damage to ensure they work properly. Air Conditioning, interior & exterior lights as well as batteries, alternators and starter motors are considered auto electrical. When you see the battery light on your dash light up, you know it is electrical. If you see your oil light come on, you know it is likely mechanical.

Air conditioning Re-Gas Repairs & Servicing

Your vehicle needs a regular air conditioning service that includes a system leak test and replacing of lubricant oil. Your air conditioning must be checked for refrigerant gas leak. A re-gas must be done as needed to keep your temperature cool. Lack of cool air and odors are signs that you need re-gas or cleaning/changing of filters.

Pre-Purchase Inspections

A pre-purchase inspection is a professional detailed assessment done by an expert to determine the cosmetic, mechanical, and general safety condition of a vehicle before the actual purchase. This is typically done when you buy a second-hand or used vehicle.

Pre-Trip Servicing & Pre-Trip Inspections

A pre-trip service maintenance helps ensure that your vehicle is in its perfect condition for a long road trip. A pre-trip inspection, on the other hand, is important and mandatory for some vehicles for safety reasons. This helps prevent vehicle-related accidents on the road. Pre-trip inspections should include complete diagnostics, log book servicing, engine servicing and repairs, head servicing/repairs/replacement, and tyre servicing, balancing, and wheel alignment.

Car mechanic working on the undercarriage of a lifted vehicle in a workshop

Universal Joint Replacement

A universal joint (U-joint) connects two rotating shafts and allows them to move in the same direction. You will know when your U-joint is failing when you notice a squeaking noise, vibrations, clunking sound when shifting gears, and transmission fluid leaking. You may not hear the squeak when you’re traveling 10km per hour or more due to other sounds the vehicle makes.

If you need further advice, or for a certified technician to assess your 4×4 repairs, call us on (07) 3269 3158 or reach out to us. We are located 113 Connaught Street Sandgate QLD 4017. Feel free to visit us at any time.