Chop Shop 4x4 Off-Road Professional Technicians & Subject Matter Experts


Posted on May 21, 2018 by Sesar Gonzalez | 0 Comments

Everything You Need to Check in Your Pre and Post 4X4 Inspections


There’s something special about flipping your vehicle into 4x4 and blasting through giant puddles, all the while your wheels are spinning mud in every direction.

For those who haven’t 4x4ed before, it’s one of those things that you can only relate to if you are into off-roading. Whether you are a new or experienced driver, there are several things you are going to want to know about before you set out on the trails. And if you are new, we recommend you familiarize yourself with some of the basics of 4x4ing.

When it comes to 4x4ing, it’s important that you complete a thorough pre and post-4x4 inspection. This will help you top up the right fluids, check the integrity of key systems, and make sure that your vehicle will make it through the trip without any problems. Because when you’re out on the trails, getting stuck isn’t fun and a costly mistake to make.

In this article, we are going to talk about the following:

  • The steps to take in your pre-4x4 inspection
  • A few must-have accessories for every off-roader
  • The things you need to check in your post-4x4 inspection
  • How to ship your vehicle if you are travelling to distant events
  • A few extra tips to help you get more out of your 4x4ing.

The Pre-4x4 Inspection

You’ve got a few things to check before you actually set out. As fun as off-roading is, it puts a lot of strain on your vehicle and you want to ensure it’s up to the task. The best way to make sure you’re prepared is to complete a thorough pre-4x4 inspection.

Don’t worry, we’re going to walk you through it step by step.

  1. Check Your Lights

We know this makes us sound like the cops, but you need to have working lights. This means that your headlights, reverse lights, brake lights, and indicators need to all be working. And this rule is even more important if you are off-roading with a group.

Lights are so simple, but they are an essential form of communication out there on the trails. This is especially true if you find yourself off-roading at dusk or night.

Here’s a great example.

On dusty roads, your taillights help other drivers behind you judge distance and reduce the likelihood that they will hit you.

Do the right thing and check all your lights. Cycle through each of their settings, and determine that they are lighting up when turned on.

  1. Check Your Fluids

You’re about to put your vehicle under a lot of strain. There are several fluids you are going to need to check, replace, and top up.

  • Oil: Start by checking your oil. If your current batch of oil is even remotely close to being finished, change it.
  • Windshield Washer Fluid: Some people forget to do is top up their windshield washer fluid. It’s not always going to clear your windshield, but it’s nice to have for those moments where you need a little extra visibility.
  • Radiator Fluids:Fill your radiator overflow bottle. Your engine is going to be working very hard while you rip through puddles, ditches, and other obstacles. In cooler areas, you won’t have to worry about your engine overheating as much, but if you’re 4x4ing in a dry and hot locations like in California, Arizona, Utah, or Nevada, your radiator is going to be working overtime.
  • Brake Fluid: Check your brake fluid. Losing your brakes during off-roading is a terrifying experience and something that I don’t recommend for anyone.
  • Power Steering Fluid: Top off if needed.

  1. Check Your Belts

If you’ve ever had a belt snap while on the trails, you know how important it is to check your belts. Start by looking at the alternator, fan, and power steering belts. Any belts that appear dry, worn, and cracked should be replaced.

Oh, one more thing.

Remember that old belt? If it still works and is just worn, keep it. You can use it in emergencies should your other, newer belt snap while out on the trails.

  1. Check Your Battery

The first thing you want to check is if your battery is clamped down tight. A loose can dislodge, become disconnected, and can cause other issues that you won’t want to deal with when you’re driving.

You will also want to make sure that your battery isn’t corroding. Applying a little bit of grease on the terminals can help protect it from oxidation.

  1. Check Your Wheels / Tires

There’s no off-roading without a decent set of tires. If you have time, take your wheels off the vehicle and check the inside of your tires for any damage that may cause a flat.

Here’s a few other things you need to check:

  • Tire tread depth:If your tires have less than 30% of their original tread depth, you may want to change them.
  • Tire tread wear:Look to see if the wear on your tires is even. If it isn’t, you may need a wheel alignment.
  • Foreign objects: Make sure there are no foreign objects embedded in your tires. On a long trip, a random piece of metal could puncture your tire and cause a flat.
  • Side walls:Scan them to see if there are any splits, bubbles, and foreign objects.
  • Spare wheel: Many people forget about their spare wheel. Take the time to check it out. You never know when you are going to need it.


  1. Check Your Brakes

Brakes are easy to diagnose because you can often detect them by simply driving the vehicle. Still, we recommend you take a look at your brake pads and rotors.

For your pads, check that they aren’t past the indicators. When it comes to your rotors, you need to look for any major signs of wear or cracks.

  1. Check Your Suspension

If you have a reliable jack, raise your vehicle and inspect its suspension system. You want to check whether the suspension is intact, that the ball joints are functional and haven’t split, and that the steering rack is in working order.

  1. Check Your Winch

Are you planning to off-road in a muddy area? You’re going to need a working winch. If you already have one, test it out by pulling it all the way out. See if it will properly pull your vehicle when engaged.

  1. Check Your 4x4 Settings

You’re almost ready to go. The last thing you will want to test out is your 4x4 settings. Head over to somewhere with low traction. We recommend a gravel road or grass. Throw your vehicle into 4x4-low to see if the system engages and provides you with the traction you need.

Did Everything Check Out? You’re Ready to Go

This list may seem extensive, but trust us, you need your vehicle to be in peak condition before you put it to the test out there on the trails.

You can’t avoid major breakdowns, but you can easily prevent simple ones from happening with routine checkups and maintenance.

The Post 4x4 Inspection

Upon returning, you’re going to need to check several things.

  1. Identify Problems from Your Trip

Can you recall any times where you hit a ditch hard, knocked against a boulder, or any other situations where you may have damaged your vehicle? If so, start by checking those potential problem areas. Take note of these problem areas and make arrangements to have them fixed.

  1. Clean Your Vehicle

I’m willing to bet that your vehicle is filthy. After all, it’s not off-roading if you don’t come back with a little mud and dust.

  • Grab a hose and start cleaning the exterior of your vehicle.
  • Hose off and dislodge any mud from the undercarriage.
  • Blast the engine compartment to dislodge any debris that make its way inside.
  • Clean your tires and the inside of your wheels.

It’s going to be a lot easier for you to see spot new damage if you can actually see the damage.

  1. Check Your Tires

The main reason why you need to check your tires is to see if you have any punctures. The day you get home, check your tire pressure and repeat this step the next day. If you spot a noticeable difference in your tire pressure, you may have a leak.

  1. Check Your Differential / Transmission

There’s a good chance that your differential and transmission took a beating during your trip. Look for any damage and leaks. Be prepared to change your transmission fluid if you were in deep water. If the fluid is milky-white, it has likely been contaminated and will need to be changed.

  1. Check Your Shocks

Take a look at your shocks as well. You’ll want to see if they have any dents or leaks.

  1. Check Your Brakes (Again)

We never said you wouldn’t have to check many of the same things again. The main thing you are looking for when it comes to your brakes is any noticeable damage.

If you were off-roading in mud or sand, scan your brake drums and make sure they aren’t full of it.

  1. Check Your Suspension / Steering

Slide under your vehicle and take a look at your track bar, control arms, springs, bump stops, and general steering column. While underneath, you should check for any major signs of damage, dents, and looseness.

  1. Grease Your Vehicle’s Joints

If you drove through fairly rough conditions, you may need to grease the joints and bearings of your vehicle.

  1. Check Your Frame

Walk around your vehicle and check its frame for any noticeable cracks, dents, and ensure that any weld lines and high stress areas are still intact.

  1. Check Your Engine

It wouldn’t be 4x4ing if you didn’t put your engine to the test. Show your vehicle some love by inspecting its engine. You’ll want to look for any leaks, check any hoses, clamps, and determine if anything is worn out.

  1. Check Your Fluids

Just like before you set out, you’ll want to check your fluids and make sure nothing is low or leaking. Because you filled all your fluids before you left, it’ll be easy for you to determine if anything is damaged or leaking.

  1. Check Your Winch

The last thing we recommend you do is to check your winch again. If you tested it before you left and never used it, chances are that it will still work. Still, we recommend that you do a quick test.

Shipping Overseas? No Problem

If you’re planning to ship your vehicle overseas, or to any of the trails we recommend throughout the United States, you’ll want to follow the general steps we outlined earlier in the article.

The most popular form of shipping your vehicle is the roll-on, roll-off method. However, in order to prepare your vehicle for shipping, you’ll need to follow a few basic steps and it will need to be in working order.

Rinse and Repeat for Your Next Trip

And there you have it. You’ve just completed a thorough pre- and post-4x4 inspection. There are a lot of things you have to check if you want to keep your 4x4 vehicle in good shape. You may skip many of the steps we’ve recommended, but we wanted to provide a thorough guide to teach new and experienced off-roaders the type of things they should look out for.

No matter what you decide, always prioritize safety and keep blazing those trails.




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