Winter 4WD Tips to Maximise Your Adventure

Winter 4WD Tips to Maximise Your Adventure

Winter is an exciting time of the year for off-roading and 4WD adventures. Many of the most popular 4X4 tracks and trails around Australia take on an entirely new complexion when the days shorten and the temperatures drop.

To get the most out of your winter 4WDing adventures, we've prepared eight tips that will also help you protect your vehicle from unnecessary damage when tackling the Australian wilderness during the colder months.

Quick Links:

1. Plan Your Trip & Check The Local Road Conditions

Plan Your Trip & Check The Local Road Conditions

Spontaneity is great - it adds another dimension of adventure and excitement to many things in life - but, when it comes to 4WDing in winter, there's a limit to how 'random' you can, and should, be. In other words, planning, researching and preparing properly for your 4X4 trip is essential for having a fantastic time and making sure your vehicle, and the people in it, arrive home safe and sound.

Many popular trails and 4WD tracks are closed in the winter months due to flood risks, threats to local wildlife, cattle grazing rights or because the conditions on these tracks' terrains are just too dangerous - even for 4WDs! A lot of camping sites in national parks may be closed or off limits in winter too, for a variety of reasons such as safety and resource management.

Travel times on 4X4 tracks often blow out in the winter months, so you'll need to plan for a longer journey. For example, a track that might usually take three hours to complete in the drier months of the year could take five or six in winter.

Decide where you want to go, check the weather conditions for both now and during the time you'll be in that area and, most importantly, do your homework on the roads and trails you plan on using, and pack accordingly.

2. Prepare Your Vehicle

Prepare Your Vehicle

Whether you're heading off for a long weekend of off-roading, or you'll be travelling for an extended period of time on a camping holiday, an essential pro tip is to check your 4X4 is in excellent condition before leaving home.

Ideally, book in with your mechanic or manufacturer for a full service and safety check. If that's been done recently (within the last three months, for instance) or it's been only a short period of time since your last off-roading trip, you should still perform a quick check of your 4WD's battery health, oil, water and hydraulic fluid levels, your tyre pressures and tread levels, and a suspension check. If you have accessories like a winch and/or spotlights on your vehicle, it's vital they're checked or serviced according to the manufacturer's specs.

It might sound like overkill but, if things go wrong out there, you could end up in a pretty nasty situation or compromise your ability to recover your 4WD if parts and safety aids aren't working as well as they should. And that's not anyone's idea of fun and adventure.

3. Prepare Yourself

Prepare Yourself

As well as prepping your vehicle for adventure, you and your family and friends travelling with you, need to be amply prepared for the winter conditions.

You'll want to stay warm when you're out and about, so wearing the right clothes - like a purpose-designed winter jacket or layering to keep the heat in if you're visiting the snow - will add immeasurably to your comfort and health levels. Dressing properly means you can leave your 4WD to take some memorable photos, explore the local environment or - perhaps more importantly - keep warm if you experience electrical issues in your vehicle and can't use the heater or you're stuck somewhere overnight.

Packing plenty of fluids and some healthy food is also a good tip to follow when it comes to 4WDing in winter. When you have this stuff on hand, it's easy to throw an impromptu picnic, but it also comes in handy if you're in a sticky situation and you're waiting for help or, like the example above, you need to camp out in your car overnight for whatever reason.

4. Stock Up On Recovery Gear

Stock Up On Recovery Gear

One vital tip for making the most of your winter 4WDing adventures is to not leave home without recovery equipment in your 4WD. This is a non-negotiable! In winter, it's not hard to find yourself in some pretty hairy situations, and the importance of being able to extricate yourself from mud, sand and rocky terrain can't be understated.

Your recovery kit should include:

And, when it comes to winter - especially when travelling to areas that experience snow - you need to include snow chains for your tyres.

As already mentioned, if your vehicle has a winch, make sure you service it prior to setting off. If it has been serviced recently, it's good form to give it another quick test before leaving home, just to be extra cautious.

If you don't have a winch, the next best recovery tool is a snatch strap kit. While using a snatch strap is really effective for recovering a bogged 4WD, it should be your last resort - that's because snatch strap recovery is the most dangerous form of recovery. There are so many things that can go wrong when using a snatch strap, and it has the potential to cause serious injury if there's an equipment failure or the recovery points on your 4WD fail to cope with the load stress. Instead, where possible, use your shovel to dig away debris so your 4X4 tyres can gain traction. Recovery boards that double as shovels are great value.

5. Check Your Tyre Pressure

Check Your Tyre Pressure

Understanding the different kinds of tyre pressures you might need to use is a useful tip for winter 4WDing. Safely negotiating beaches and other types of sandy terrain - or completing river crossings and recovering your vehicle when you get bogged - rely heavily on lowering your tyres to a specific pressure level with your tyre deflator to increase their traction. Reinflating them back to their proper pressure levels with your compressor when you return to firmer, more reliable ground is every bit as important.

6. Have Correct Lighting For Darker Conditions

Have Correct Lighting For Darker Conditions

Today's leading 4WD makes and models often roll off the production line with state-of-the-art LED headlights as standard equipment. For off-roading, though, many experienced 4X4 drivers consider fitting driving lights as an essential aftermarket addition to their vehicle.

This extra lighting makes driving at night - or in darker than usual conditions like heavily overcast skies or when you're under the canopy of trees, for example - much easier to negotiate, which helps with illuminating what's coming further down the track. Such lights are great for spotting road hazards like fallen trees and local wildlife and, from a safe driving perspective, they play an important role in reducing eye strain and fatigue.

7. Avoid Water Crossings

Avoid Water Crossings

Water crossings aren't to be taken lightly. In fact, as any experienced 4WDer will tell you, unless you absolutely have to, it's best to avoid water crossings full-stop.

No matter how simple it might look, driving through water has the potential to cause serious and often terminal damage to your 4WD, as well as putting the people in your travelling party at risk. Having said all of that, if you absolutely must do one, here are some tips for successfully negotiating a water crossing.

Firstly, consult your owner's manual to confirm the wading depth of your 4WD. If water gets into your engine and brake air-intakes, you're going to cause some damage to your vehicle, especially if you have a diesel powered engine. Likewise, there's also the potential for water to get into your electrical system and that will end your trip real quick (and give you the added whack of an expensive repair bill - but that's only if you're lucky!).

The next step is to check for the safest entry and exit points of the water. To do this, you'll need to take a walk through the bed of water that you need to cross. While wading through the water, you should be assessing both the depth of the water and that the terrain underfoot will support the weight of your vehicle as you drive through it.

If the water depth and the firmness of the terrain all measure up within the safety limits of your 4X4, it's time to attempt the crossing. Firstly, adjust your tyre pressures accordingly - the more rubber on the track, the greater the grip, especially on slippery, rocky surfaces. All 4WDs are different but between 20 and 28 psi is usually the sweet spot for a safe water crossing.

Have your recovery gear at the ready - some experts advise attaching snatch straps to a rated recovery point and secured out of the way before you enter the water, instead of trying to attach them if you get stuck.

When driving through water, the aim is to avoid having to stop or do too many gear changes, so engage a low gear and take it slowly. If you're part of a 4WD convoy, only one vehicle should be attempting to cross at the one time. Having one 4X4 stuck in water isn't good, let alone two.

With some patience, planning and concentration, you'll be able to get your 4WD crossing safely through the water, and continue your trip with a smile on your face and your vehicle emerging from the water without a scratch.

8. Always Travel With Others

Always Travel With Others

A valuable tip for enjoyable winter 4WDing is to travel in groups. If your existing friendship group isn't into 4X4 adventuring, then it can be a fantastic way to meet new, like-minded people. More importantly, travelling in a group when you're off-roading is a smart safety practice.

4WDing in groups is safer than soloing because you can give each other a hand if you run into trouble along the way. You also have a second (or third) set of eyes when you're assessing some tricky sections of track and making the decision whether to continue on, or wait for conditions to improve. Furthermore, you have other sources of communication if your UHF radio becomes damaged or mobile reception is weak.

If you're on a longer trip, having others around makes it easier to spread the load - literally - when it comes to the amount of camping and safety equipment you get to pack for your 4WDing adventure holiday.

Try These 8 Awesome Winter 4WD Tips Today

Try These 8 Awesome Winter 4WD Tips Today

4WDing in winter is a sensational time to explore the many tracks and trails around Australia. As with a range of outdoor adventures, having the right equipment, and leaving home armed with a few tricks and tips to deal with things unique to off-roading in the colder months, is the way to maximise your enjoyment levels.

Don't let the preparation put you off - follow our tips and take advantage of the unique experiences that 4WDing in winter offers. You won't be sorry.

Explore our full 4WD range including recovery tracks, communication & navigation, auto accessories & electrical and much more. Also remember to check out our Adventure Centre for more exciting 4WD tips, exciting driving destinations and more, such as:

Find your local Anaconda store and check out our extensive 4WD range for your next outdoor adventure.




Get Club discounts, attend exclusive events and more