As the Unsealed 4X4 team sits around filling up the weekends working on our respective four-wheel drives, one question keeps coming up: once we’re done building our rigs, what spares should we take into the great unknown with us. Especially as once we’re clear of this lock-down thing, we’re gonna want to get the hell outta Dodge. We’ve knocked together a list of the top 10 spares you should carry in the spare-parts drawer of your tourer that’ll get you out of strife if the defecation were to hit the oscillator.
Spare drive belts are pretty non-negotiable. If you break one out the back nowhere, there goes your water pump, alternator and, depending on your vehicle, vacuum pump, power steering and – heaven forbid – your aircon! Keep a good spare that’s not 30 years old and perished.
If you’ve not replaced your radiator hoses since Noah was playing footy for Jerusalem, chances are you should be carrying a set of spares. It’s also worth thinking about any little ancillary hoses – there’s one behind the head of a lot of Tojos that few know about, and if it lets go, it’s all over. Carry spare top and bottom hoses and some self-amalgamating tape, as it can get you out of a pinch.
With so many four-wheel drives these days running independent front suspension setups, CVs are common failures. The regularity of this will depend on your driving style, the tracks you tackle, and whether your CVs display any warning signs that they’re worse for wear. If you’ve got the space in your rig, keep a spare set, but if not, drive gently, gently.
Alternator (or brushes)
If you plan on heading through water or mud, your alternator is often the first thing to wear it. Whether it be mud from tougher tracks or grit from river and creek crossings, you’ll miss your alternator when it’s gone. If you can, keep a spare, or if you’re handy with a soldering iron and the tools, a spare set of brushes are the most common part to fail on an alternator, and these can be swapped out in a matter of minutes. If the voltage regulator goes, however, you’re on your own.
If you’re in an auto, and depending on how remote you plan on heading, a starter motor could be a worthwhile spare to throw in. Manuals will be able to limp home, so long as you make sure you park up every night on a hill. But if you’re in an auto, you won’t get your four-wheel drive running again without a new starter.
If the outback is where you’re heading, or you’re planning on doing miles and miles in the dust, a spare filter element for your air box is a solid idea. If you’re doing a long trip and you’re in convoy (you shouldn’t be close enough to worry about this but…) chances are your air filter will choke on dust and dirt. It’ll be well worth throwing in a fresh air filter once you’ve hit your overall destination – the halfway mark of the trip – so you’ll have more power and better economy for the run home. Also throw in a spare fuel filter and an oil filter, and enough engine oil.
It’s worth keeping a spare set of wheel bearings with you or, at a minimum, a hub socket and a tub of grease so you can nip them up if need be. If you’re towing a camper or a caravan, it’d be wise to take a spare set for the trailer too. If you do take a set of bearings, make sure you take the right-sized hub socket too – ask me how I know.
Vehicle specific spares
This one comes down to what specific vehicle you’re driving. Does your make/model have any known weak points or sensors that suddenly die because they’re having a bad day? Do a bit of research; ask other owners or your local mechanic if there’s anything vehicle specific you should carry with you. You could save yourself the expense and hassle of a tow, or several days waiting for parts to turn up, if there’s something specific you could have packed before you left.
You’d be surprised the things you can patch up with fencing wire. It generally won’t fix a problem but will often save it from getting worse, or doing more damage. Exhaust hangers are a case in point; you can strap up an exhaust on a broken hanger with some fencing wire, saving it from breaking off further down the road and spearing through the floor of your rig. Fencing wire has a million uses; sometimes you just need to think outside the box to make good use if it. Oh, and cable ties… lots and lots of cable ties.
Parts and consumables
When it comes to parts and consumables, we’re referring to handy items like WD-40, gaffer tape, Devcon/metal putty, RTV sealant… and did we mention cable ties? These are the sorts of things you always want to have rolling around your tool bag. While you might not need them all that often, you’ll be glad they’re in your toolbox when you do, so make sure you’ve got them. Throw in a ground-sheet or tarp to work on too, instead of having to lie in the mud, sand or snow; fixing broken stuff is a lot less stressful if you’re warm, dry and relatively comfortable.
Final things to keep in mind
If you’ve managed to pack all the known trouble parts for your four-wheel drive, and have the right spares, the last thing you’ll want to look at will be having the tools to install those parts. There’s no point carrying a spare alternator if you’re unable to pull the old one-off. Make sure you are able to remove and replace the parts that might give you grief, otherwise you may as well not carry spares at all.