Top Six AWD & 4X4 Maintenance Tips

Across the country, all-wheel-drive (AWD), four-wheel-drive (4WD), and four-by-four (4X4) vehicles are more popular than ever. Not only is AWD great for off-roading, but it makes slippery commutes safer and improves sports car performance. If you drive a compact, coupe, sedan, SUV, or pickup truck, 4X4 maintenance is essential for keeping your ride on track.

Like all vehicles, your AWD vehicle requires the usual regularly scheduled maintenance items, such as engine oil changes, tire rotations, and air filter and spark plug replacements. What differentiates 4WD vehicles from other vehicles is the equipment that delivers torque to the opposite axle. Typically, 4WD means adding a transfer case or centre differential, a second drive axle, an additional driveshaft, axle shafts, and another axle differential. These extra parts require regular attention to keep them in good condition.

Six 4×4 Maintenance Tips

1. Differential oil – It might be tempting to grab the first bottle marked “gear oil” for your rear differential, but with limited-slip differentials (LSDs), which require special additives, the locking mechanisms may not work properly with plain gear oil. Consult your owner’s manual for the correct fluid for each gear box in your 4×4.

2. Anti-corrosionRust is a way of life here, but that doesn’t mean you can’t slow it down. Start with regular cleaning, especially after off-roading or driving on salted roads. You should also apply anti-corrosion spray to critical chassis components, such as brake lines, brake cables, shock absorbers, suspension arms, and frame members.

3. Fluid interval – The general rule of thumb is to change differential and transfer case oils every 25,000 to 50,000 km (check your owner’s manual to be sure). If you tow, haul, or off-road, you may need to change them more often. Some AWD vehicles don’t specify anything more than inspections and topping off.

4. Grease fitting – While many newer vehicles feature so-called maintenance-free joints, there are still a few 4X4s with greaseable joints. These might include ball joints, driveshaft U‑joints and slip joints, and suspension arms. Be sure to clean the fitting before pumping in grease to prevent contamination.

5. Tire rotation – Drivetrains in AWD vehicles are susceptible to stress and increased wear due to uneven tire size or traction. Regular tire rotations, usually every 7,500 km, will keep the size and condition of your tires roughly the same by distributing different wear patterns across the whole set of tires.

6. Increased wear – Off-roading, towing, and hauling cause everything to wear out faster. Regular inspections are critical. Experienced 4X4 maintenance technicians know where to look for wear, such as in wheel bearings, ball joints, shock absorbers, and sway bar bushings and links.

Whether you’re cruising the dunes at Sandbanks in Ontario, crawling the rocks in Thetford Mines, Quebec, or just commuting on the highway, make sure to keep your AWD drivetrain running smooth with regular visits to your local NAPA AUTOPRO shop.

Check out the transfer case services available at any of our 600 NAPA AUTOPRO locations for routine maintenance and repairs. For more information on 4×4 maintenance, chat with a knowledgeable expert at your local NAPA AUTOPRO service centre.

Benjamin Jerew