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At Least Every 2 Hours Take a Rest Break

Australia is a vast and at times lonely place. What better way to see the hard to get to places then by 4WD.

If you don’t go prepared you risk never getting to your destination. Below are a few hints and tips to get you to where you are going.

It is recommended to get training from a 4WD professional before attempting any 4WD expeditions.

Eight simple tips to enjoy your next 4WD adventure

1. Make sure someone in your group has some ‘First Aid training and experience’. You may be hours or even days from the nearest medical personnel.

2. Always let someone know where you are going and when you are expected back. Contact the nearest Police Station or National Parks Rangers. Give them contact details for you and the people you are travelling with, and make sure you contact these people upon your return. Many an expensive search has been launched to find someone who is sitting safely in a hotel room or at home.  

3. Bring plenty of water, sun cream, sensible clothes.

4. Don't try anything in your 4WD vehicle that you aren't experienced or skilled enough to do. Joining a local 4WD Club is a great and safe way to develop skills.

5. Learn basic 4WD Recovery skills.

6. Most mobile phones wont work off the main roads. Buy a quality HF radio. These can effectively operate over thousands of Kilometres.  

Contact: for further details.

7. Important equipment to take with you. Recovery shovel, Satellite safety beacon, Air jack, Fire extinguisher, and other specialised equipment for the area you are going to visit.

8. Know the driving conditions you are likely to encounter before you depart.

Driving on sand

Lower tyre pressures to about 100 kpa (15psi) as this widens the footprint on the sand. Before doing this, check your inflation device is working properly. You will need to reinflate your tyres after a fun day on the sand.

Drive smoothly with gear changes at high revs.

Ensure wheels are pointing straight ahead when taking off. This uses less power to get you moving and minimises the chances of tyres ‘digging in’

Avoid the soft sand at the base of dunes and gullies and where possible, follow in others tyre tracks as this tends to be firmer / compressed ground

Make turns as wide as possible and only travel straight up or down dunes. This minimises the chance of wheels digging in in and causing a roll over.

Avoid braking where possible, by coasting to a stop.

Do not floor the accelerator if you are bogging down as this will only worsen the situation. When bogged, try to reverse on your own tracks.

Thoroughly hose down your vehicle after a beach trip as salt water is very corrosive

It is recommended to get training from a 4WD professional

before attempting any 4WD expeditions.

Driving on Mud

Different types of mud require different driving techniques and equipment.

If the mud has a greasy top layer and a hard bottom layer, narrow tyres are best as this will allow them to cut through the top layer and bite the hard surface below. Wide tyres in this situation tend to float on the greasy top layer without reaching the hard surface underneath.

Thick gooey mud tends to favour wide tyres as they give some flotation. You drive on this mud as you do on sand. Lower your tyre pressures to about 20-25psi.

Regardless of what type of mud and what width tyres are fitted, the tread pattern needs to have large lugs to allow the tyre to ‘self clean'.

If they don't, do this, they fill with mud and the tyre becomes slicks and minimise their chances of getting traction.

Road tyre are not suitable for mud. A way of overcoming mud with road tyres is to fit chains, but this will cause significant damage to the track. It is better to allow if possible, the track to partially dry out then to use chains.

There are two main types of tyre chains, the bar or ladder pattern and the diamond pattern.

The bar pattern is better for mud as it really bites into the surface. The diamond pattern is normally used for snow driving. It provides a smoother ride as the chain is in constant contact with the surface and has side-slip resistance.

The bar type has more of a digging action.

Both types of chains can be used in either situation so if you do purchase them, choose the sort for your main type of driving.

Driving on the peaks between tyre tracks can provide firmer ground as water tends to collect in the wheel tracks. Sometimes however, the existing wheel tracks may have cut through to the firmer surface underneath and provide the best traction.

Moving the steering wheel left to right about 90° from the centre can help the front wheels bite into the mud in search of traction. Do not turn the wheel too far as you can end up making things worse.

Mud driving is unpredictable and you need to have a knowledge of different driving techniques to know which one to apply in each situation. What doesn't change is the need to have good mud tyres with big self-cleaning lugs and good recovery equipment.

Mud, especially clay and thick mud, tends to stick wherever it touches, It can build up under the wheel arches to the point it acts as a brake on the tyres. This type of build-up is obvious and has to be cleared immediately, but other types of build-up that are not so obvious but still need immediate removal is on the rims. Even a small amount can throw your wheel balance out dramatically and can lead to uneven tyre wear and a vibrating steering wheel.

Once all visible mud has been removed, its necessary to check items like diff and gearbox breathers to ensure they are clear, otherwise it con lead to seal damage in the long term. Also check all drain holes on the chassis etc to ensure they are not blocked. Its surprising how mud can even find it’s way to block drain holes on the bottom of doors!  

It is recommended to get training from a 4WD professional

before attempting any 4WD expeditions.

Driving on Rocky ground and gravel roads

Rocky ground should be attempted at low speeds to minimise vehicle contact with the terrain.

High ground clearance is important as it allows for larger rocks to safely pass underneath the vehicle, minimising the chance of scraping vulnerable vehicle parts.

Good suspension travel allows the wheels to remain in contact with the ground.

Independent suspension usually provides a smoother ride but limits the wheel travel and ground clearance.

Live axle front suspension generally does not provide as smooth a ride, however the advantage of live axles are when the wheels hit a bump, the whole axle rises with the wheels to absorp the bump. This maintains the same clearance from the diff to the ground.

When large drop-offs or ledges are encountered, by allowing one wheel at a time to mount the obstacle. Be aware how this will affect the position of the vehicle as turning at an angle to a down hill ledge may result in the side rollover angle being reached.

When travelling on long straight stretches of gravel roads, speed creep can occur and when a bend is encountered the high centre of gravity of most 4WD's may cause you to cross to the other side of the road or lead to a high risk of rollover.

If a sudden obstacle e.g. a kangaroo, appears it is very important not to swerve while braking. This goes for any road surface and not just gravel roads. However it is more critical on gravel roads as once a skid or slide starts, it is very difficult, if not impossible, to regain control.

In part-time 4WD's it is best to use 4WD on gravel roads to gain the better traction and road-handling of 4WD. It is not necessary to use the centre diff lock of permanent 4WD's on gravel roads.

Corrugated gravel roads can cause severe vibrations causing vehicle damage. Nuts can rattle off and electrical components can be damaged. To minimise these problems find the right combination of vehicle speed and tyre pressures.

Increasing vehicle speed until it 'planes' over the corrugations can reduce vibration significantly, but the planing speed may be too high for the driving conditions.

Depending on the corrugations, planing speed is around 60-80 km/h. Lowering tyre pressures reduces vibration as the tyre sidewalls act as shock absorbers.

However this can cause the tyre to heat up and can lower tyre life and may even cause tyre failure. It is sometimes better to sacrifice tyre life and lower tyre pressure to reduce the damage being caused to the vehicle, as well as the comfort of the vehicle’s occupants.

After driving long distances on poor quality roads, it is a good idea to check all nuts and bolts to see they haven't vibrated loose.

It is especially important to check all suspension components. The easiest way is to use an adjustable spanner and when a loose nut or bolt is found, use the proper size spanner to tighten it rather than risk burring the head.

When driving on dusty roads, its a good idea to have all your windows closed and the ventilation control set to outside air with the fan on high.

This pressurises the vehicle interior slightly and helps reduce the amount of dust being sucked into the vehicle.

When another vehicle approaches, move the ventilation control to "recirculate" to stop dusty air coming in. Move the ventilation back to outside air once you have passed through the other vehicles dust trail to ensure effect of pressurisation is not lost.

The biggest problem area for dust intake is from the rear tailgate.

Check that the rubber seals are in good condition and that they seal when closed  

It is recommended to get training from a 4WD professional

before attempting any 4WD expeditions.

Water Crossings

Walk the crossing to check its depth and don't cross fast flowing water. If the water is too deep or fast flowing for you to cross, then it is the same for your vehicle.

As a general rule, if its above the top of your wheels its probably too deep.

A water crossing should not be attempted by inexperienced or ill-prepared 4Wdrivers.

NEVER attempt a water crossing where the water depth is above the air intake height. If you intend doing regular water crossings, its a good idea to fit a snorkel as it raises the air intake to your roofline. It doesn't mean you can use your 4WD as a submarine!

Place a tarp across the front of the vehicle and drive at a steady speed as this will create a bow wave resulting in less water entering the engine bay therefore less water the radiator fan can spray over the ignition system and less chance of water entering the air intake

Diesel vehicles are usually better for water crossings as you do not have the ignition system to worry about.

Water in the ignition system usually results in a stalled engine and not actual engine damage and usually occures when you find yourself stuck in the middle of a crossing.

Depending on the water depth, its advisable to climb out of your window rather than open the door and flood your carpets.

To minimise stalling from a wet ignition, it’s a good idea to spray all the ignition system with water repellent like WD-40 beforehand.

Pack recovery gear on top, ready for use. You don’t want to pull out everything from the boot when you are stuck in the middle of the crossing.

Driving Technique

Take off seat belt and wind down window as this allows for a quick escape from your vehicle if something goes wrong.

Using low range second gear at 1500-2000 rpm (for most vehicles) creates just the right bow wave. Its important to get the speed just right as too fast will send water everywhere while too slow may flood the engine bay.    

Avoid using the clutch.

Do not over-rev engine if you lose traction. If the engine stalls, place the gear in neutral without using clutch. Takeoff in 1st low.

After successfully crossing to the other side, if the crossing was at axle depth or deeper necessitates a checking of the diff oil for water contamination.

Having an extended diff breather is not a 100% guarantee that water did not get into your diff.

Checking your diffs for water contamination is very easy. Since water is heavier than oil, it will collect at the lowest point in the diff, right where the drain plug is located. After allowing time for your vehicle to cool, just loosen the drain bolt and run a small amount (~20mls) of the diff oil into a glass.

If you have water present, the diff oil should be drained. It is best to flush the diff several times to ensure all traces of water are removed.

Milky coloured oil also indicates water is present and should also be changed.

Also check electric winches as water can also effect these. No point in finding out the winch is not operating when you may need it.

A water crossing is something that should not be taken too lightly as it has the potential to do expensive engine and drive-train damage.

However, with the right vehicle preparation and post crossing maintenance, you can enjoy some of the most challenging 4WDriving around.

It is recommended to get training from a 4WD professional

before attempting any 4WD expeditions.

Get out and see the real Australia, we recommend going by 4 Wheel Drive, Click here and enjoy the great adventure videos from the boys of ‘Break Free 4x4’

Six Must-See 4X4 Locations

in Australia

Do you know how big Australia is? As big as the continental United States. Bigger than most of the countries in Western Europe combined. And what do we have in all that space? Endless vistas of untouched countryside just waiting to be explored. And what’s the best way to explore that space? With a  4X4 of course. The huge distances and rough, varied terrain make a well stocked four wheel drive, or perhaps two or three, absolutely essential for making your way through the outback.

But you’ve got a four wheeler already, don’t you? So now that you’re stocked up with a tough vehicle, plenty of supplies and a thirst for adventure, where do you go? You could close your eyes, point in a direction and head off, but if having a little more structure to your journey is more your cup of tea there are a host of already blazed trails that you can follow. Don’t think that following in the footsteps of those who’ve gone before takes any of the thrill out of the adventure: these trails are some of the most rugged, long and remote in the world.

1: Cape York Track - Queensland

That pointy bit at the top of the map goes on for a long way, and in it is some of the most exceptional four wheel driving to be had in the country. At 850 kilometres, this isn’t the shortest adventure you can make, but neither is it the longest. It is one of the more difficult however, with rough terrain, deep river crossings and vertical ascents. If you’re an experienced driver you’ll be rewarded for these challenges with spectacular views, great fishing from the tip, and the sense of accomplishment from having headed as far north as it's possible to go in this country. This trip is best to make over the winter months, as the summer wet season can bring flooding rains and make rivers totally impassable. Not a place you want to be trapped.

2: Ocean Beach - Tasmania

The shortest trip on this list but still one of the most spectacular. This trip covers the entire length of Tasmania’s longest beach, a good 40 kilometres. The cold and the unpredictable seas make swimming undesirable, but sightings of sea lions and seals should make up for this. There are also mammoth waves at up to 20+ metres, whose mist can create the impression of fog which is certainly a sterling sight to see. The beach is also known for whale strandings, though hopefully this is one particular sighting you don’t make. This trip is more suitable for beginners, though there are treacherous sand conditions at the Hently River mouth. Travelling with another vehicle for potential recovery is recommended

3: Nambung National Park and Surrounds- Western Australia

The areas in and around the Nambung National Park contain some of the best scenery in WA. Ideal for sightseeing as well as the challenge of the drive itself, Nambung also contains the famous Pinnacles Desert. This desert is full of striking, vertical limestone formations, which is an absolute must see on any 4X4 trip in the area.

4: MacDonnell Ranges - Northern Territory

If desert scenery is your thing it doesn’t get much better than what you’ll find in the MacDonnell ranges. Remote and virtually unspoiled, the ranges are ideal for simply cruising around, taking in the sights. Expect to visit glorious gorges and ancient, crumbling mountain scenery. Despite the desert conditions, there are many cool rock pools located within the gaps and gorges, making it a great place to relax as well as explore.

5: Eyre Peninsula - South Australia

In you prefer the coast to the desert, the Eyre Peninsula in South Australia, near the Great Australian bight, offers some of the most spectacular coastal scenery in the world. With civilisation nearby, this is one expedition you can afford to make as a beginner with the whole family and without your vehicle packed to the rafters with food, water and petrol.

6: The Alps - Victoria

Another trip not for the novice offroader. At such high altitudes, this trip is best made over the summer months as temperatures can get seriously low in winter. The scenery you’ll encounter here is some of the most varied in elevation that you’ll encounter anywhere, which makes for some spectacular walking tracks and breathtaking views. However that same elevation makes the going tough. Once the site of the Victorian gold rush, there are several historical sights in the alps to take in. This is one trip the experienced off roader should not miss.   

"This article was brought to you by Yakima Australia"

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Yakima Australia

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4WD Tips

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