Ten tips before driving off-road
Have you recently purchased a 4WD, or looking to get one? With a 4WD it isn’t just the new vehicle that’s exciting, but the thought of the new places it can take you.
Before you take your 4WD off-road, make sure you have a good understanding of what’s required to go four-wheel driving. Even if you are already well-versed in off-roading, this guide will refresh your memory before you head off on your next adventure.
- Be prepared before you hit the road
If you plan to head off into remote areas, make sure your vehicle is ready to handle the terrain. This means getting your 4WD regularly serviced and inspected plus packing some essential spare parts, tools and recovery gear in case you need them.
- Be conscious of your tyre pressure
When you’re not driving on a smooth surface, remember that you will often need to drop your tyre pressure. For example, when on soft sand your tyres should be around 14-18 psi and on gravel they can be lowered to around 18-25psi. Make sure you pump them back up when you hit bitumen again so you don’t damage your tyres. In order to do this with ease, you will need a quick tyre deflator and a 12v compressor.
If in doubt as to what tyre pressure you should opt for, ask a local or fellow 4WD owner who knows the area or just experiment. Low tyre pressures are great for driving through soft sand but beware on rocky surfaces as you can damage the wheel rim. And no doughnuts on the beach, you don’t want to roll a tyre off the rim…
- Don’t go out alone
This one is pretty self explanatory but it’s hard to test the limits of you and your 4×4 without someone else around to help out if things go pear shaped plus you can act as each other’s film crew! If you are going it alone, recovery gear like winches etc become a necessity.
- Understand the terrain
Are you driving over mud or sand? Crossing a river or heading down steep terrain?
Whatever the journey, make sure you understand the ground conditions before you drive. If it looks like a difficult patch of off-roading, walk the path before you drive it, checking out the condition of the route. It’s often helpful to get a spotter to guide your way through these tricky sections.
Wheel placement is key, think about where your tyres need to go to avoid bottoming out the underside of your car.
The better your understanding of the terrain, the less likely you are to get caught in a difficult situation.
- Have recovery gear on hand
If you do get stuck, you need to have the right recovery gear to get you out, especially if you are in a remote area. Research the type of recovery gear you might need before you buy though, as it can get expensive and add up quickly. But also don’t scrimp on the items you do decide to purchase, as you don’t want your equipment failing you when you need it most.
Imagine getting stuck on the beach with an incoming tide only to find out the cheap winch you bought has burnt out and just isn’t going to get you out.
Some of the basics to include in your recovery arsenal are:
- Sand tracks
- Tyre deflator/gauge
- Rated recovery points
- Tow points/tow ball hitch replacement
- Accessible shovel
- Snatch straps, tow strap, extension strap
- Tyre repair kit
- High lift jack
Here is an example of a good starter recovery kit that we have available for order:
Alternatively, contact us for a quote on our package pricing for a complete kit for your vehicle.
- Invest in a snorkel and breather kit for water crossings
If you plan on crossing any rivers or other bodies of water, it’s worth investing in a snorkel and breather kit. A snorkel is a raised vent that allows for engine intake air to be taken from a higher point. When crossing rivers it will prevent debris and water from being sucked into the engine.
Most diffs and transmissions have breathers to stop them from pressurising. Often these breathers sit quite low on the vehicle and can draw in water on even a shallow river crossing. As we know water and oil don’t mix, if this happens you could soon be up for a new transmission. An inexpensive breather kit extends the breathers up into the engine bay where they should stay nice and dry.
If you don’t have either of these, don’t risk it and check your owner’s manual for a maximum wading depth and walk the river first.
- Keep the momentum
One basic 4WD tip is to keep the vehicle moving as the momentum will help you to avoid getting bogged in loose ground. Use a low gear and keep the revs high, you want to avoid changing gears over boggy sections as it will cause you too loose momentum. Even autos may need to be put in manual mode. If you’re confident there are no obstacles, get into the right gear and have some fun!
- Know your vehicle’s capability
Before you hit the road, understand your 4WD’s limits so you don’t push it too hard. Make sure you know how your accessories work. If you’re going by yourself ensure that you have the right accessories to get yourself out of a jam and look after your vehicle. These accessories can include bullbar, winch, lift kit, tow bar, snatch and tow straps, heavy duty clutch, driving lights, snorkel, breather kit, diesel pre filter and much more.
Obviously we are all limited by budgets and can’t go spend thousands on fun accessories such as these but at a minimum you should carry some sort of recovery kit with snatch straps and tow ropes and have decent rated recovery points on your vehicle.
- Have respect for the bush
Most of the time we’re 4x4ing through national parks and protected areas. Stick to the designated tracks where possible, not only doing the right thing by mother nature but also potentially avoiding a flat or some panel damage.
- Don’t forget to carry out checks
Finally, before you are heading off into the off-road sunset, it is a dry subject but we strongly recommend checking your insurance policy and coverage. Some policies are better than others, and cover installed accessories (which normally have to be specifically noted), and off-road use. Also examine your manufacturer’s (or extended), warranty, and read the fine print. Sometimes there are conditions to the installation of 4WD accessories, or the use of your vehicle.
GCCEM can assist with providing expert advice and all your quality 4×4 accessories, 4×4 suspension, 4×4 lift kits, upgrades, electrical fits outs and more. We have experienced mechanics fitting suspension and auto electricians wiring up winches and dual battery systems right here on the Gold Coast. We access top quality products from EFS, Dobinsons, Bilstein, Terrain Tamer, Oz Tec, MCC, AFN, Runva, Redarc, Narva, Warn, Hayman Reese, Exedy, Extreme Outback and more.
We offer special pricing when packaging a number of items together and Interest Free Finance on your 4×4 wish list may be available. See here for more information.
If you’re spending the money on quality accessories make sure they are installed by experts!
Contact us with any queries you have or a quote on your dream package.