Scottish Toyota dealer Western Toyota and Arctic Trucks

For many, driving a serious off-road vehicle is as much about status as capability. Few Range Rover owners ever explore the limits of their car’s awesome off-road prowess, and we’re yet to see a privately-owned Mercedes-AMG G 63 caked in mud.

But if you’re one of those people who uses an off-roader for the purpose for which it was intended, we applaud you.

And to make your next expedition that little bit easier, Toyota Western, a dealer in Scotland, and off-road vehicle preparation specialists Arctic Trucks have teamed up to offer advice on preparing and maintaining your 4x4.

Russell Drew and Nick Cranfield, who have a combined total of 34 years’ experience in expeditionary vehicle maintenance, advised: “If you and your equipment cannot reach your destination then you might as well remain at home. There are various scenarios which could jeopardise an expedition or field mission and expertise is only ever as useful as the vehicle you are travelling in.”

Land Rover Defender Works V8

Russell and Nick’s top tips:

Always conduct a ‘First Parade Check’ of the vehicle before use.

Then carry out periodic checks as the day goes on, with intervals between checks depending on the terrain being traversed. At the end of the day or after use, the vehicle should be inspected, with all the essential fluids topped up and any damage or faults repaired. This, Drew and Cranfield claim, will leave your vehicle ready if you “need to make a fast move during the night or early morning”.

Wheel of SUV on gravel road

Pay particular attention to tyre management.

Off-road vehicles usually only carry one spare, so tyres must be checked to ensure they are inflated to the correct pressure and have sustained no damage. Not only do incorrect pressures increase fuel consumption, but they can affect vehicle handling and stability and make the tyres more susceptible to wear and tear.

The duo also suggest regularly check tyre pressures and know when to over-inflate or deflate them to suit the terrain. As a rule of thumb, soft surfaces such as sand or mud often suit deflation, as this gives the tyre a larger contact area. Remember to re-inflate the tyres when you return to normal road conditions though.

SUV adventure driving in nature on clay road

Know your vehicle.

You need to know which oils and fluids your vehicle needs, then keep all fluid levels must at their maximum. Keeping them fully topped up will stop the systems becoming starved on rough terrain and provides the driver with a benchmark - a measurable pointer that can be monitored to indicate oil or coolant consumption can be useful.

Inspect and test the vehicle’s tool kit regularly.

Where does the jack go? Does it work? Can you remove all the wheelnuts if necessary? Can you remove the spare wheel and is it fit for purpose? Undo all the wheel nuts and retighten. Ensure you know that you can remove any wheel if necessary. Replace locking wheel nuts, which add complexity, with standard wheel nuts.

SUV driving on mountain road with beautiful sunset

Think about what would happen if you run out of fuel.

Are there any special procedures to bleed and restart the fuel system? What measures can you take to prevent contaminated fuel from damaging the major engine components? After all, you may be in a situation where you have no choice but to refuel from a jerry can or a dubious fuel source.

Identify the location of your fuse box and relays and carry spare fuses.

If you need to, you can replace a fuse and can ‘borrow’ one from another circuit – for example, if the wiper fuse blows, it can be replaced with rear fog light fuse. Ensure you replace with a fuse of the same or lower current rating, because failure to do this can result in major component failure or, at worst, a vehicle wiring fire.

Jeep outdoor adventures

Always check the recovery points on a vehicle.

Identify the tie-down points and correct towing points (known as the rated recovery points). Are they fit for purpose? Recovery points can get damaged in rough terrain; you may need to consider alternative attachment points that will not damage the vehicle. Will the shackles in your vehicle’s kit fit the recovery points when you need them in an emergency?

Ford Ranger Wildtrak crossing river in Vietnam

Secure all cargo inside the vehicle.

All personal kit, supplies and vehicle recovery equipment must be strapped down. When ascending or descending, loose kit can become a missile. Secure the cargo to avoid injury to the occupants and damage to the vehicle.

Prepare, Prepare, Prepare.

Get the basics right and the rest will follow easily. The vehicle could save your life, so respect it. Carry enough basic kit to repair it, including a tyre repair kit and spare auxiliary drive belt and know how to use it all. As you progress on your drive, identify areas where potential repairs could be carried out locally. Mark them on a navigation log – you may need to revisit them in the future.