4WD Driving Techniques
Before you go on your trip know your 4WD and the operation of free wheeling hubs, transfer box levers, etc.
IN THE BUSH
- If you’re unsure of the ground ahead, especially if there’s mud or water, get out and check it
- Keep thumbs outside the steering wheel
- Don’t change gear in the middle of a tricky section
- If in doubt always choose the lower gear
- Tyre pressures play an important part in off-road driving. Lowering tyre pressures helps in getting through. 140-180 kpa (20-26 psi) is a good tyre pressure for bush tracks.
- Low tyre pressure = lower speed
- Cross small ridges ‘square on’
- Cross ditches at a slight angle
- Straddle ruts, however on slippery downhill sections, it’s best to drop into them if they’re not too deep. On uphill sections, stay out of them if possible. On deep rutted sections you may need to do some road building.
- If you begin to lose traction going uphill, or along a rutted track, or in mud, turn the steering wheel from side to side. This may help you keep moving. Take care you don’t career off to the right or left though!
ON STEEP HILLS
- Low second or third gear is generally best for going uphill
- Low first gear is best for steep downhill
- Don’t touch the clutch
- Use the footbrake sparingly and with caution
- Avoid turning the vehicle sideways on a hill
- Allow any vehicle in front plenty of room
- If the vehicle begins to slide sideways, very slight acceleration and steering into the slide will normally straighten your descent
- If you stall going uphill, don’t touch the clutch or accelerator. See the stall start technique for what to do.
- Winching is the safest way to tackle steep slopes, when all else fails.
- Speed and flotation are the keys to success. High ratio is best, if possible.
- Lower the tyre pressure to 140kpa or 20psi. You may need to go lower (lower tyre pressure = lower speed). Remember to reinflate your tyres as soon as you’re back on hard ground.
- Stick to any existing wheel tracks – it’s a lot easier.
- Avoid sudden changes in direction or acceleration. Coast to a stop if at all possible.
- Tackle dunes head on.
- Avoid braking at all costs when descending a dune, Keep the nose of the vehicle pointing downhill. Don’t go fast, but not so slow that the wheels stop rolling, or the vehicle begins to slide sideways. A touch on the throttle will keep the wheels moving and the vehicle pointing in the right direction.
- If you get stuck, try and rock the vehicle backwards or forwards, building up a small stretch of hardpack sand that you can accelerate off from. Don’t spin the wheels!
- Have your recovery gear handy.
- Wash your 4WD down after use.
- Carry chains and fit them when required.
- Prepare your 4WD vehicle and carry safety gear.
- Keep to roads and tracks that are open to traffic.
- Drive as if you have no brakes. Use gears instead.
- Drive with low beam lights on.
- Remember, vehicles travelling uphill have right of way.
- Don’t travel when visibility is poor.
- Park only where directed and as close to the bank as possible.
- Leave the vehicle in gear.
- Don’t use the handbrake – it could freeze on.
- Lift the wiper blades off the windscreen.
- Be patient. Watch out for other travellers and animals.
- Check the crossing including the exit before you plunge in.
- Water depths of up to 30cm can be handled fairly easily, but will depend on the type of bottom and the current flow. Soft sand and/or a strong current can make even a shallow crossing a problem. A snorkel for deeper water may be required.
- Spray electrical components with WD40 before entering the water.
- Loosen the fan belt unless it has an auto clutch (auto clutch will still spin at higher RPM). A spinning fan can spray water onto the electrics.
- In deeper water (over 30cm) remove fan belt and fit blind to help create a bow wave.
- Keep speed down, but fast enough to create a bow wave – low second gear is best.
- Do not disengage clutch or change gears.
- Keep the engine running, even if you stop. If the engine does stop, DO NOT restart it. Winch or snatch out.
- After crossing, dry your brakes out. Check all oils for contamination if you’ve been driving regular, deep crossings, or you’ve become stuck.
- Speed and power are essential. Good tyres help.
- Low second or third are probably the best gears.
- Move the steering wheel from side to side rapidly to improve traction.
- Keep a steady pace.
- Stay out of ruts if possible.
- If you do become stuck, rock the vehicle backwards or forwards by alternating between first and reverse. You’ll be surprised at what perseverance can do.
- When a vehicle stops on a steep hill, don’t panic. Think and stay calm.
- Brakes on – both foot and handbrake.
- Switch engine off if not already stalled.
- Ease clutch in.
- Select low range, reverse gear. Clutch out.
- Check to see if track is clear to reverse and that the wheels are pointing straight ahead, not on an angle.
- Handbrake off.
- Footbrake off – but keep it ready for action.
- Keeping your foot away from the clutch, start the engine and proceed backwards slowly down the hill. Don’t touch the clutch or the accelerator.
- Slight ‘feathering’ of the brake is possible, but take care.