First Things First
Below is some advice and tips on 4wding and setting up your vehicle, but this really isn’t a substitute for proper 4wd driver training, even at a basic level. Have a read but please keep in mind that a basic 4wd training course will be much more beneficial. We conduct basic 4wd driver training in our club for club members. From in house introductory training to nationally recognised driver training courses put together by 4wd Queensland.
Have a look at our Training page for more information.
Principles of 4wding
If you read no further, please just read this;
Principle 1: Stop, Get out, Look
When out 4wding and you find yourself in a situation where you are not quite sure whats ahead or how to proceed, STOP, GET OUT & LOOK. Stop your 4wd safely, get out of your 4wd and go and have a look. It is the only way you can be certain what lies ahead and it gives you first hand information and some time to consider the next step.
Principle 2: Think, Assess, Decide
Take some time to think about whats ahead. Think about what line you will take and what might go wrong. Think about what you will do if it does go wrong. Assess whether you need to tackle the obstacle in front of you or is there another way around. Assess whether you AND your vehicle is capable of tackling the obstacle ahead. Then with all these things considered, and with your ego put to one side, decide if you are going to do it or not.
Get to Know Your 4wd
The first thing for you to do since you are new to 4wding is to get to know your vehicle. Learn how the 4wd systems works, learn how to engage high and low range 4wd, do you have to lock in the manual hubs or are they auto locking? Does it have fancy electronics such as traction control, stability control etc. What happens to these when 4wd is engaged? Best thing to do would be to read the owner’s manual and make sure you are clear how the 4wd system works in your vehicle.
The next thing to do is become familiar with the underside of your 4wd. Spend time lying under the 4wd making a mental note of wear the low points are, how much ground clearance you have etc. It may sound strange but you need to know where these low points are so when 4wding you can position your car to avoid hitting these low points on obstacles on the tracks.
Take note of things such as differentials, are they in the centre of the vehicle, or to one side, like the front diff of Patrols? Do the lower shock absorber mounts hang down below the axle tube? Does the exhaust hang below the chassis, does it run down the left or right hand side of the vehicle? Do parts of your transfer-case hang down low, like some Hilux’s?
Build up a picture in your mind that you can recall when you come to an obstacle on a track, such as a rock sticking up etc. It’s these low points that often cause you to get hung-up or stuck when 4wding, knowing where they are is half the battle.
Carrying on from knowing the underside of your 4wd, you need to have a feel for where the wheels are and where the corners and extremities of your 4wd are when you are sitting in the driver’s seat. Some of the biggest skills to master with 4wding is being able to pick the correct line or path over a track or obstacle and knowing where you wheels etc. are so you can position the 4wd on the line you have chosen. Weather that be placing a wheel up onto and over a rock, or avoiding a sharp tree root sticking out from the side of the track, straddling a big washout or squeezing between 2 trees. A lot of this comes with practice, choosing the correct line over an obstacle is something you will pick up by spending time out with experienced 4wders.
Tyre pressures is another important factor when 4wding. Don’t be afraid to reduce tire pressures for different terrain, its remarkable the benefits it can have. Increased grip levels, less tire damage, flotation on sand, more comfortable ride etc. The particular tire pressure for a particular situation can vary depending on the terrain, type of tyre, speed, how much load you are carrying etc. The important thing to note is to reduce speed and cornering ‘aggressiveness’ with reduced pressures and ensure you re-inflate tires up to normal pressures as soon as you get back on the bitumen.
As a guide for tire pressures, higher speed dirt roads say high 20’s to low 30’s psi. Lower speed rougher dirt tracks, low to mid 20’s psi. Really rough tracks/rocks mid teens to low 20’s psi. Hard wet sand driving, low to mid 20’s psi. Soft sand driving, high teens down to as low as 10 psi for very soft sand.
Experiment with the tyre pressures of your 4wd on different terrain to get to know what works best for your 4wd.
Look After Your Thumbs
The position of you thumbs on the steering wheel is also important. It sounds strange but if your front wheels hit an obstacle on the track it can feedback through the steering and spin the steering wheel in your hands. If your thumbs are inside the steering wheel, the ‘spokes’ of the steering wheel can injure or even break your thumbs. This doesn’t happen as easily on modern vehicles with power steering but it still does happen. Keeping your thumbs outside of the steering wheel is a good habit to get into.
Safety and Recovery Equipment
Safety is also very important, you need to ensure you have proper rated recovery points on your vehicle, both front and back. People have been killed from incorrect attachment points failing under recovery loads. Each model of vehicle is different and we could only advise on correct recovery points by looking at your vehicle.
You should also have some basic recovery gear in your vehicle. At a bare minimum we recommend a properly rated recovery snatch strap and 2 rated bow shackles. All these items must meet Australian standards and be marked appropriately. The Club has put together a Snatch Strap Users Guide that contains a lot of info about this subject. You can download a copy of the guide here.
Some other items we deem essential and recommend carrying in your vehicle is a fire extinguisher, first aid kit and some leather gloves. Some other things we recommend carrying is a compressor to re-inflate your tires and some sort of shovel to assist with vehicle recoveries. It is also essential that you receive training on how to use a recovery snatch strap to perform a recovery. These are very dangerous bits of gear if not used correctly.
We also recommend that people go 4wding with at least one other vehicle. It’s always a good idea to have 2 vehicles so that if one gets stuck or breaks down then the other vehicle can be used for recovery.
It’s also essential to have a mechanically reliable 4wd that you can be confident in. The last thing you want is for your vehicle to let you down while out 4wding. e.g. brake fade while on a steep hill, cooling system issues in the middle of summer while slow low range crawling, suspension failure on corrugated dirt roads etc. 4wding puts a lot more strain on the vehicle than normal driving and it’s important its kept mechanically sound.
As mentioned at the beginning, this document is no substitute for a basic 4wd driver training course.
We have two driver trainers in the Club who run training courses for club members, with assistance from other experienced 4wders in the club. There is a free basic introductory course that we encourage new members to participate in. This is so we can ensure that every member, regardless of their experience prior to joining our club, has at least the basic knowledge of 4wding and recoveries. This course concentrates a lot on safe and responsible 4wding and basic vehicle recovery.
The club is also able to deliver nationally recognised 4wd training courses put together by 4wd Queensland as a Recognised Training Organisation (RTO). The courses have a set curriculum and subject matter that must be covered and have theory and practical components to the training. The quality and high standard of the training is upheld by regular checks and audits by trainers from other affiliated 4wd clubs. These courses start off with the very basics and go from there.
We have exclusive access to a property called Branch Creek. We do a lot of drives out there and it is where we do the practical part of our 4wd driver training. We have a specially constructed track set up specifically for driver training. It allows us to cover an array of driving conditions and obstacles in a controlled area under the supervision of the trainers.
Please have a look at our Training page for more information about the training we offer club members.
The Rum City Offroaders 4WD Club was established in 2007. Our club is family friendly and welcomes anyone who shares in our passion for four wheel driving. We try to keep the formalities to a minimum with the goal of enjoying 4wding, the outdoors and the company of our fellow club members.
We are a family friendly Club and we welcome anyone who shares our passion for 4wding. We pride ourselves on welcoming all 4wd types and driver abilities and have a strong focus on driver training and guidance and of course fun. If you don’t feel comfortable driving a particular track or obstacle, we do not pressure you into doing it but provide guidance if you choose to have a go.
There’s a variety of 4wds in our club from stock Pajero’s & Rodeo’s to highly modified Patrols and Jeeps, we are even starting to get a few more Toyotas in the club. 😉
We have a variety of trips over the course of the year, everything from relaxed camping weekends to hard 4wding trips, social gatherings to month long trips to places like Cape Your. Also some fun events like bare foot bowls, mystery trips, ladies drives, and a little fun event called the Rum City Rumble.
If the Rum City Offroaders 4wd Club sounds like something you would like to be a part of, please head over to the ‘Join Us‘ page where we have all the information about becoming a member of our exciting 4wd Club in Bundaberg.
We hope you’ll join us on our next offroad adventure.