With any four-wheel-drive adventure, there's often a rutted gravel road or a dusty track on the way to that treasured hideaway, safe from the madding crowd.
Generally speaking, a quick jaunt on gravel won't present much of a problem to the modern 4x4. But lengthy dusty excursions take their toll and without some simple, easy maintenance, it doesn't take long for your pride and joy to start heading towards needing some avoidable repairs. Some manufacturers may list two maintenance schedules, normal and severe.
Relying on your standard service intervals may prove insufficient for very dusty conditions.
After any long stretch in the dirt, open a door and you'll instantly see how intrusive that fine powder can be as it penetrates every nook and cranny looking to exploit any flaws in the seals.
At these times, spare a thought for your engine. It has been working tirelessly in choking conditions while you enjoyed air- conditioning and a great stereo system.
Regularly checking your air cleaner element is a must. Despite modern design and the improved filtration characteristics of newer air boxes, fine dust has a cumulative effect on any air filter, slowly reducing the efficiency of airflow.
Before removing the clips, screws or nuts that hold the air box lid in place, wipe or blow off any excess surface dust, to reduce the chance of contaminants getting into the air box.
Remove the lid and carefully extract the element taking care not to tear or damage it. Hold a paper element in the same orientation as it was fitted in the vehicle (clean side up). Gently tap the element to loosen any heavy contaminants, allowing them to fall to the ground.
Compressed air can be used to gently blow air through the element to further remove bigger particles. Don't blast the element with high pressure. It might look impressive but it can have the undesirable side effect of compressing the fine element fibres, which will restrict airflow rather than improve it.
Clean out the air box with compressed air, a vacuum cleaner or a damp cloth. If you use compressed air; cover and protect the pipes leading to the engine to prevent blasting dirt into the engine internals. Make sure you remove your protective covers before refitting the air cleaner to avoid creating major problems.
Reinstall the element, taking care to ensure it is sitting into the air-box recess correctly and that the lid fits back easily without having to apply any force or pressure. Reattach clips, nuts or screws to secure the lid.While this preventive maintenance will assist in maintaining the airflow to the engine and slow the deterioration of the air cleaner's performance, it doesn't eliminate the requirement to regularly replace the element to ensure the best possible protection.