The Little Things

The importance of daily vehicle checks when out in the field can’t be overstated.

It’s amazing how the little things always seem to catch us out. The little things that are so easy to overlook, are usually the things that end up stopping us in our tracks. I have said it before and I’m sure this won’t be the last time.
A friend of mine, Ben, has an 80 series Cruiser that is regularly serviced and very well maintained. On his last trip to Fraser Island in February, he encountered one problem, which had all the potential to stop him dead in his tracks.

The wheel nuts on his left front wheel came loose. It’s an easy fix and usually an easy pick up, but in this case it was very difficult to feel and was only noticed just before it stopped the vehicle. You see Ben was driving in very soft sand and the wheel had worked its way loose to the point that the wheel nuts were right on the edge of the studs and the rim had worn the wheel nut holes oval.
Ben didn’t actually feel this, as the soft sand almost hid the fact that the wheel was loose, and it was only picked up by one of the other drivers when they stopped to take some photos. Brett, one of the other drivers, just happened to look down and notice that one wheel stud was missing and all the other wheel nuts were loose. It quickly became obvious that the one stud had sheared off and all the others were about to be lost.
In this case Ben was able to jack up the 4WD with an exhaust jack, swap over to the spare wheel and use the remaining wheel studs and nuts to get him home. When he got back, we had a few hours work ahead of us to replace the wheel studs and nuts on that wheel.
The wheel studs are located in the bottom section of the wheel bearing hub, so to replace them we had to strip down the whole left front hub and remove the brake rotor from the hub in order to be able to get to the wheel studs. Once in there you can simply knock out the old wheel studs and replace with the new ones. There are two ways that you can secure the new studs in place. We did it by pulling them in with some spacers and the use of the rattle gun, but for home use you can easily knock them in with a hammer. If you do choose to do it that way, don’t go smashing them in with a hammer straight away.  Have a think about it first, as you will need to support the other side so you do not damage the hub. The easiest way is to support the hub with a deep socket so the wheel stud cannot bottom out and then you will be safe to use that hammer to locate the new wheel studs back into place.
Once you have fitted the new set of wheel studs, you can reassemble the disk rotor back onto the hub and then refit the hub back onto the vehicle, reassemble the brakes and double check that you haven’t left anything loose!
When far away from home, I still believe that we need to be more vigilant in checking our 4WDs daily, before we head out on our next drive. At a minimum, you should be checking fluid levels and keeping an eye out for leaks. In this case, a quick check over the basics would have prevented the problem.
Ben was lucky as he was able to get home, but if they hadn’t stopped for photos it could have been very different and a repair of this nature can take some time on the tracks. Parts would have been a problem and it would have taken some time to get a set of wheel studs and nuts into Fraser. At this stage, I haven’t met anyone that carries a set of wheel studs and nuts with them as part of their spares.
Daily trip checks are often over looked, so I hope this example is an eye opener for you all and you can come up with your own plan of action when you are out and about.

Clockwise from top left: Stripping down and removing the hub assembly from the vehicle; wear like this indicated that the wheel was loose for some time; in order to be able to replace the wheel studs the wheel bearing hub needs to be split from the disk rotor; note the damage to the threads on the wheel stud from where the wheel rim was rubbing; reassembling the hub back onto the vehicle, re-greasing the wheel bearing and tightening correctly; approximately two hours and $20 in parts later, the hub is reassembled.

Next time you’re out and about, make sure you do a quick channel scan and if you find me give me a shout. Over and Out!

Qualified motor mechanic Adam Adler has spent half his life under the bonnet of a 4WD and has worked for some of the top accessory companies and workshops. He knows what it takes to get your vehicle out there and back home in one piece. He runs the online aftermarket store

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