In most parts of the western world, winter means icy roads, heavy snow, and dense blizzards. Out here, it means rain, mud, and low temperatures. Utes are custom made for Australian conditions, especially hard-wearing off-road driving. But our climate is hot and dry for most of the year, so when things get wet, our beloved utes need a little more attention to maintain their rugged form.
Quality ute trays are made from tough aluminium, platinum, or alloy, and these are all rust-resistant materials. That means your ute tray won’t suffer much under the insistent pelt of rain. But since you know your tray is safe, you might forget about the items that are stored in the back of your car.
Also, rain can cause other problems beyond rust. Your tray might get waterlogged, which can breed mosquitoes, slugs, frogs, and other water-loving creatures. Check the drainage on your ute tray, and clear it often to make sure it doesn’t become a portable swimming pool. You might consider putting in a temporary cover or tarp for the duration of winter. It makes for easier clean-up and will keep your cargo dry as well.
As you’ll be driving through mud, check your wheels and suspension system to ensure adequate shock absorption and traction. If you don’t have one already, install a bull bar and a solid winch in case you need to drag yourself out of a sticky mess. Get a few heavy duty tools like an axe to chop down logs for extra support in case of slippery situations.
While you’re at it, get your ute a full winter check-up. Make sure all your brakes are in working order, get new tyres or re-tread them as necessary. Check that the undercarriage is up to date and that all the bushes, gears, and rotors are well oiled. This is especially important because they will be exposed to a lot of moisture and you don’t want them getting clunky. It’s also a good time to refresh your paint job since any dings and scratches could lead to a severe case of undercover rust.
With so much water in the air and so much mud on the roads, it can be tempting to neglect the cleanliness of your car. Ironically, your ute needs to be even cleaner during winter, because the cakes of mud can hide damage that might need immediate repair. Park your ute in a covered area to avoid unnecessary exposure to moisture.
Don’t forget about the inside of your ute. The passenger cab can easily acquire a damp, mouldy smell, or worse, a visible mould problem. Make sure it’s always dry and well ventilated, and when you park it, keep the windows firmly shut to avoid moisture from seeping into the car.
If you’ve been out in the rain, even if it was only for a few seconds as you dashed to the car, you’re probably a little damp. When you get into your vehicle, you’re bringing all that potentially hazardous precipitation with you. Once you get to your destination, run a vacuum or air dryer through the car to make sure you’ve gotten rid of all excess water. Otherwise, when you close the doors and go to sleep, you’ll be trapping all those droplets inside your car and leaving it ripe for an attack by mould.
Also, for the duration of winter, you might consider swapping out your car upholstery. Fabric seats and carpets may keep you warm. But they also absorb a lot of moisture. If you can’t do a complete re-upholstering, maybe get some removable mats and seat covers in vinyl, leather, or plastic. They are easier to clean, and are waterproof, making them perfect for winter weather.
Regardless of your fuel efficiency throughout the rest of the year, try to keep a full tank during winter. You never know when you’ll get stuck in waterlogged traffic or be forced to work your way out of a swamp that used to be a road. As you hazard the winter weather, you might have 99 problems, but fuel shouldn’t be one.