4WD Basics And Essential Tips For Every Beginner
From couples to young (and growing) families, to the fellas taking off on their annual camping or fishing trip, to grey nomads exploring the length and breadth of Australia… 4WDs are the vehicle of choice when it comes to towing boats and caravans. For many people, 4WD touring is their passport to some of Australia's most spectacular natural hiking and camping wilderness that the ordinary passenger vehicle just wasn't cut out to reach.
While off-road and 4WD adventuring is serious fun, it can also be extremely dangerous without the right gear - no matter how much your experience behind the wheel or how many vehicles you've driven across your lifetime. There's a lot to familiarise yourself with when it comes to 4WDs and much of what you need to know will only come with trial and error.
When dropping into your nearest Anaconda store, we suggest speaking directly with our team members for tips and advice on responsible off-roading. Picking the brains of the experts is a great way to increase your knowledge. In the meantime, here are some important basics and essential safety precautions to get you started on the right track.
Try Some Training
If you're new to the world of 4WD touring, many drivers have found enrolling in an off-road driving course valuable. Not only do you get expert tuition in the finer points of off-roading but such courses will often take you through other aspects of the trip such as route planning, vehicle preparation, understanding weather and trip conditions from a 4WD perspective and how to safely change a tyre in challenging conditions.
Know Your 4WD
Whether you've invested in something that's come straight off the production line or you've made an informed secondhand purchase, knowing your car's limitations is the most important safety tip of all. Spend as long as it takes to go through the specific owner's manual that comes with your vehicle.
The manual will outline important information about your 4WD like its maximum towing capacity, height clearances, approach and departure angles and the break-over angle (the largest angle your 4WD can climb without scraping the undercarriage or differentials) and recovery points if you need to be winched out of bother. It will also outline how to use driver assistance aids including ABS and downhill assist/descent control.
Knowing this type of information will more often than not save you from becoming stuck and/or irrevocably damaging your car. So, if you're buying a secondhand 4WD and it doesn't come with a manual, insist the seller supply one or go for another vehicle that has one.
Plan Your Route
Planning your route is as important as understanding the limits of your 4WD. Taking the time to research the roads to your destination will ensure you don't end up over your head in terms of your driving skill or the types of terrain your 4WD will be able to handle.
Many tracks on public land are rated on a scale from easy to very difficult through to advanced. State motoring bodies like the NRMA and RAC, as well as a number of online forums, can be great sources when it comes to getting up-to-the-minute information about roads and tracks across Australia.
Before you head off on any 4WD adventure, always make sure your car has been serviced and any potential problems your mechanic may have identified have been fixed. Make sure your water and fuel jerry cans are topped up, your vehicle's electricals are all in working order and your car is roadworthy.
Never Leave Home Without…
Whether you're an expert or a novice when to comes to off-road driving, there are a number of must-have items you should always be carrying with you. As you become more experienced or you begin exploring a wider variation in terrain, your recovery and equipment requirements may expand but, as a starting point, here are some of the basics you need for exhilarating and safe off-road fun.
Carrying a tyre pressure deflator, which includes a gauge, is an important accessory to have in your 4WD. Reducing the air in your tyres is often part of the drill for getting where you need to go or, in certain circumstances, helping get you out of a sticky situation.
Likewise, on those occasions when you need to let some air out of your tyres, the quickest way to get them back up to peak operating pressure is with a portable air compressor. As well as taking care of your 4WD tyres, an air compressor makes light work of the kids' bike tyres, inflatables for a day at the beach, footballs, netballs and basketballs. Simply connect the 12V adapter to your car's battery and you'll be off and running in no time.
Recovery tracks are another must-have option in your 4WD for off-roading. Recovery tracks give your tyres the additional traction they often need to get out of sticky situations like bogged sand, snow or mud. They can also play an important role in helping winch either your car - or someone else's - to safety.
Although some recovery tracks double as shovels, having a purpose-designed shovel available can also come in handy for digging sand, mud and snow from around tyres. A jack that's weight-rated to safely lift your 4WD or caravan for tyre-changing, or placing recover tracks under, is also vital so don't leave home without one.
No matter what type of recovery work you're doing, always wear some form of protective gloves to avoid possible injury and to keep yourself in top shape for the rest of your holiday or journey.
There's a bit to consider when it comes to responsible 4WD touring but, if something goes wrong, you'll be thankful you put in the extra effort. And, you're equipping yourself with the items and knowledge for many years of rewarding off-road adventures to come.