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Preventative Checkup

Preventative Check Up • Jerry Dupree

Little problems can turn in to bigger ones. It is always good to check the electrical and cooling system before leaving home, and particularly when going off road where it is not as easy to find help. I bought a battery/alternator tester which only takes a few minutes when the hood is open while checking oil and other fluids. The battery tester costs a lot less than a new battery, but tells you whether you need a new one. Just connect the red connector to the positive battery terminal and the black one to the negative terminal or ground. The device has a switch, which places a load similar to starting the vehicle.

It measures the health of the battery by the needle showing whether it is good (black) or red (bad), therefore needing replacement. It is a lot more convenient than trying to start a vehicle with a dead battery. The same connections with the engine running will indicate how many volts the alternator is producing and how well it is charging the battery. There are smaller and cheaper devices, but this is the kind the pros use.

The next device is a radiator pressure tester. It fits on the radiator in place of the cap. Remove cap and install the tester and pump pressure into the cooling system and check for leaks. If there is a leak or reduction of pressure, this will be a good time to correct it rather than on the road, or back road. Be sure the engine is cold before removing or releasing the cap. I carry a full set of cooling system hoses in my truck and spare clamps.

Never start on a trip without checking the systems. I have been on out of state hunting trips when one member of the party had simple problems which resulted in a long stop for the whole group.