What is better for any camper than rolling down a back road somewhere in the boondocks, knowing your next big adventure is just around the bend? It’s exhilarating, a giddy anticipation of every adventure that is to come!
But in order to experience all of those adventures, understanding your transportation is vital – particularly when heading out alone into the boondocks. It is important to educate yourself on how to handle your vehicle and understanding things that affect basic mechanics before heading into the boondocks so that you are prepared if and when something goes wrong.
Maintaining your vehicle is the key to preventing larger problems down the road.
If you go camping frequently or live on the road, this is extremely important for your safety and general ease of travel. Learn how and when to maintain your vehicle to prevent problems with mechanics; it is, after all, a machine that needs care and attention.
Get regular oil changes and tune-ups, and be sure you have a mechanic who is checking on things like your vehicles spark plugs, hoses and belts every 30,000-60,000 miles.
Check your owner’s manual to find out how frequently you should change your oil – depending on your vehicle, the miles covered before you need to change your oil can range from 3,000-10,000.
Here is a quick video on doing an overall checklist before setting off
You can learn to do a few milder, regular inspections yourself!
Every 500 miles, you want to be sure to check on a few very relevant aspects of your vehicle. Below you will find a few simple, short video tutorials you can refer to:
Be sure to familiarize yourself with the mechanics of your own vehicle.
Every vehicle is different. Study your owner’s manual, and have a good chat with your local mechanic. As you spend time with and in your vehicle, you will begin to learn what level the fluids and gauges need to ride at to be considered healthy or flagged as abnormal. Being aware of all of this is vital for avoiding problems with mechanics in the future, or even getting to a mechanic on time when something does go wrong.
First of all, every woman should learn how to change her own tire if anything ever goes wrong.
Every one of these items should be kept in your vehicle at all times in case of tire trouble. Many will come with a standard vehicle. Be sure to learn how to use them!
- Tire iron
- Spare tire
- Tire repair kit (with plugs)
- 12-volt air pump (hooks to cig lighter)
- Tire pressure gauge checker
Be sure to ALWAYS:
- Carry jumper cables in your vehicle.
- Double-check that all lights are off, nothing is plugged in, and/or no trailer power cord is plugged into your vehicle. Any of these items could quickly drain the battery.
- Monitor the battery level by the gauge on your dash.
- If the battery is not charging when your vehicle is turned on, this means your alternator is broken. If the vehicle is still running, stay on the smallest roads possible (avoid highways!) and drive to the nearest mechanic. Don’t turn off your vehicle or you will be stranded.
If you are parking somewhere for a long time, every two or three days you should start your car and run the engine for 10-15 minutes.
Always have these extra items in your vehicle at all times:
- 1 quart of oil
- 1-3 gallons of extra fuel
- 1 gallon of coolant
Before heading into the backcountry, always be sure to:
- Check your oil level
- Check your coolant level
- Check your brake fluid level
Always keep a monitoring eye on your fluid gauges on the dashboard of your vehicle, to make sure everything is in good condition.
When driving on a rocky, backcountry road: if rocks are hitting bottom of your vehicle, pay extremely close attention to your oil pressure gauge. If your oil pan breaks, continued driving could kill your engine. If you see that the oil pressure is going down, stop your vehicle, and call a mechanic!