buying a second-hand 4wd
The Milk Carton parked up on the Great Ocean Road.

Basics of buying a second-hand 4WD

THIS month I thought it would be a good idea to introduce you to the ‘Milk Carton’ – Flexible 4WD Solutions’ own 2008 GU Nissan Patrol!

Yes, I know what you’re thinking, the Milk Carton; what the? The name came about during one of our infamous trips where a mate randomly burst into laughter and once he calmed down simply said: “It’s a milk carton because it’s big, white and three litres.” It simply stuck!

Before jumping into our experience, I’d like to chat about the basics of buying a second-hand 4WD. Before you start looking for your next (or first) rig, have a think about what you need and what you want out of it. Work out what you are primarily going to be using the rig for.

There’s no point getting a single-cab HiLux with 500kg leaf springs when you never tow but want to go off-road every weekend. If you aren’t the only person driving the car, have a chat to your partner about what they feel comfortable driving and parking. Ensure you have a solid idea of your budget and keep an open mind when looking for vehicles.

Remember to do your research on the make and model and find out what common faults they suffer from. An easy way to do this is to join relevant Facebook groups and online forums. It takes next to no time to make a quick post asking what to look out for, and most members will be more than happy to share their knowledge. An example of a commonly missed check on GU Patrols is the radiator crossmembers, which are renowned for rusting.

On D22 Navaras, to determine worn steering components and hard off-road use, check for a triangular notch in the chassis rail directly behind the front left wheel.
Once you’ve narrowed your search down to a few options, do some research on the going prices and work out what year and model you can realistically buy within your budget and then mock up some insurance quotes.

Young enthusiasts are often caught out when buying their dream car. After spending upwards of $20,000, many then find out their new pride and joy is going to cost $2000 a year to insure, which sure can be disheartening! For Flexible 4WD Solutions, the Milk Carton represents a sense of adventure, even if we’re not hitting the dirt.

Although we loved our well-known D22 Navara, we decided it was time for something with more space, comfort, coil springs and a blank canvas upon which to create our dream tourer.

What a view!
The not-so Twelve Apostles.
buying a second-hand 4wd
The Milk Carton cruised along Sea Cliff Bridge.
A beautiful flowing creek alongside the author’s campsite.
Bald Knob Lookout put on a show.
A storm rolled in over the Great Ocean Road.

As we looked into buying our new car, we made the bold decision to make it a memorable experience, and what better way to do so than to turn a purchase into an adventure!

So we expanded our search south to Melbourne and soon enough found the perfect canvas. It was a tidy ZD30 CRD Patrol with low kilometres and a few little goodies already fitted. In the blink of an eye, my girlfriend Sammy and I were checking in at Brisbane Airport to fly down to Melbourne with everything needed for an epic road trip: two sleeping bags, two pillows and a bag full of clothes.
Bring it on!

If you are like us and live for adventure, there’s a few things you need to add to your checklist before booking flights. First, jump online and do a PPSR check on the vehicle. Such checks are vital for you to know if the car has been in a significant accident or if the owner is trying to flog it off when they still owe money on the car.

Second, have a chat with locals of the area you’ll be visiting and ask them to recommend quality mechanical shops. A comprehensive mechanical check will cost roughly $150 and any legitimate seller will be happy to facilitate this. While we were preparing for our trip south, our Melbourne mate from Chomps Customs was performing swift work on ‘the Squid’, a TD42T GU Patrol, just so he could pick us up from Melbourne Airport and be our chauffeur for the day.

Soon enough, we were crawling all over the prospective purchase, hoping the mechanic who completed our pre-purchase inspection gave us good advice and we wouldn’t be heading home empty-handed. Well it turned out to be exactly what we had been looking for!

Regardless of a pre-purchase inspection completed by a mechanic, it is still vitally important to do your own checks before handing over the cash for a new 4WD purchase. Always make sure you take a torch and take your time. Start by walking around the car and ensuring all the panels line up. Check for poor-quality or bubbling paint and rust spots, particularly in the wheel arches and door trims.

For a 4WD with roof racks, stand up on the sills or a ladder and check the roof for rust drippings. Look through the engine bay using your torch and check for oil residue and fluid leaks, and check the fluid levels and quality of the fluids. If the engine bay smells like paint or degreaser or is extraordinarily clean compared to the rest of the car, then start asking questions.

I always recommend climbing underneath the car to check for leaks, worn bushes and rust. While you are under there, poke a finger into the chassis rails because any four-wheel-drive that has been driven on the beach or done significant off-road driving will have evidence in the chassis rails. Most importantly, if you aren’t convinced, walk away. Always trust your gut.

Before the big trek home, it was time for a coolant change and a quick trip to the shops to buy our bed for the week – a foam mattress shoved in the back of the GU. However, we soon found out the rear seat latch had broken and we were unable to fold the seats all the way forward. Time to get creative, and eight 24-packs of water from ALDI later the gap in the Patrol’s boot was filled perfectly.

Instead of heading straight up into the Victorian High Country and on to home, we decided to hit the Great Ocean Road and check out the Twelve (or not-so twelve anymore) Apostles. After a lot of stuffing around, we hit the road just after dark, which was an interesting experience to say the least… buying a new car and then immediately venturing down unknown windy roads on a dark and stormy night.

We didn’t really plan ahead for a place to stay that night, so had to make a few quick phone calls as we travelled down the iconic Great Ocean Road. Unbeknown to us, the only campsite able to take us in that late at night turned out to be the most beautiful campsite we had ever seen. From the moment we woke to see our surroundings, we were in complete awe, with beautiful green grass, sheer cliffs and a pristine flowing creek surrounding our camp.

After spending the morning taking in the view, we ventured on to the Twelve Apostles. What a stunning drive, even though we had picked the most miserable day weather wise. After battling with the elements and taking in the beautiful sights, it was time to start the 1900km trip home. This is when we began to truly fall in love with the big GU, but the romance was short lived as we noticed the big girl feeling sluggish.

Sure enough, a tyre valve had let go and we were running on a flat. Luckily, in a small town we were able to find spare valves and fix the tyre before heading off again. The next day, we stopped in to see our good mate who I introduced last month, Paul from Jetn Fabrications. Paul was nice enough to put us up for a couple of days while we explored Wollongong and caught up with the guys in the area.

It’s awesome to have such good mates spread across the country who are always willing to catch up and have a good time. With some guidance from Paul, we found an amazing restaurant with a stunning view overlooking Wollongong, which definitely made for the most scenic ice cream we had ever eaten. Sadly, our time on the road was limited because new car parts awaited our arrival at home, so back to Brisbane we went.

After a 14-hour drive, we hit Brisbane, but it wasn’t quite home time yet. What was supposed to be a quick stop at Autobarn ended up being a free-for-all!
About $600 later, we left with everything we needed to service the new rig and start our build. Wasting time is never an option for us at Flexible 4WD Solutions.

The Milk Carton spent less than 24 hours in our driveway before it was fitted up with new gauges, upgraded drag links, Performance Suspension Racing heavy-duty tie rods and a shiny new Dobinsons 2” lift kit.

The team at Flexible 4WD Solutions thrives on spontaneous adventure. No matter what we are doing, we ensure we make it a memorable experience.
For 4WDing advice and to keep following our adventures, jump on Facebook and like Flexible 4WD Solutions.

About Greg Bell

I am a keen off-road enthusiast and driven entrepreneur from Brisbane. Based in southeast Queensland, my mates and I travel all over the east coast of Australia chasing extraordinary tracks. For expert advice and all the best gear at incredible prices, check out my business page at

Check Also


Mt Crosby new vehicle bridge is open to traffic

The new Mount Crosby Vehicle Bridge is open, providing a more flood-resilient connection across the …

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *