Hunting-Rig Maintenance

When to do more than what the manual calls for.

Anyone who has purchased a new vehicle recently has seen maintenance intervals get progressively longer. To go 5,000 or 7,500 miles between oil changes is the norm these days, and it’s not uncommon to log 50,000 or even 100,000 miles between tune-ups.

That kind of maintenance schedule is fine for a car that spends its life on clean, paved roads, but it could spell an early death for a heavily used hunting truck. Dirt, dust, mud and water all take their toll on engine and drivetrain components. You need a more proactive maintenance approach to keep your truck in top condition.

Fluids Come First
The simplest way to do this is to follow the “severe” or “heavy-duty” service intervals recommended in your owner’s manual. Doing so increases the frequency of critical fluid and filter changes, which is your first line of defense against engine damage.

If your manual doesn’t include a “severe” schedule, cut the “normal” schedule in half, or simply change your oil every 3,000 miles (or 2,500 miles for diesel engines). And don’t forget to change the oil filter, or a quart of dirty oil will flow into your engine when you start it again. During the oil change, check all your fluid reservoirs and top off any that are low. If the air filter looks more than just dusty, replace it. It’s also important to drain, flush and refill your cooling system at least once a year, despite some manufacturer claims that longer intervals are acceptable. Mechanics tell horror stories about corrosion buildup and resultant engine component failure due to coolant left in the system too long.

Beyond the Engine
At oil-change time, check the condition of the drive-axle seals, especially if your truck has made frequent water crossings. A hot axle plunging into a cold stream can create a vacuum that can suck water right through the seals, and water intrusion will quickly contaminate the axle grease.

While you’re under your truck, make sure the differential vent tubes are in good condition to keep water out of the axle housing. Also, remove any dirt or mud that has built up around the brakes, to keep grit from getting between the rotor and brake pads.

None of this is rocket science and it’s not terribly time-consuming. Just consider the time you spend an investment in your truck’s long-term health.