42 things you must know about 4WDing

Anyone can buy a 4WD and take it off road. Unfortunately, this means a lot of people are heading off road without the faintest idea of how to use their 4WD, and what to do when things go wrong. I’ve witnessed this on countless occasions, where vehicles and people have been put at risk due to a lack of knowledge. Best case scenario; you look like an idiot. Worst case; you do damage to your 4WD, or kill someone.

This post is a summary which links to many of the articles I’ve written over the last few years. These go into much further detail on each subject. I hope you find it useful, and if you do, please pass it on to your mates!


Lancelin dunes 4x4

Great, now what?

So, what are the things you must know about 4WDing?

Tyre pressures are critical

The air pressure in your 4WD tyres is not just important, its critical. I’d even go as far as to say it is the most important factor you control when heading off road. It’s the difference between sinking to the chassis on a soft beach and idling your way through. It’s the difference between getting a puncture and not, or having a back breaking ride compared to a relatively smooth and comfortable one! Tyre pressures should be adjusted based on the terrain you are driving on. I’ve written

6 reasons tyre pressures are critical when 4WDing

, and they are all extremely important.

The

Best tyre pressures for beach driving

are vastly different to high speed gravel driving, but there are many other factors that determine the right tyre pressure. Things like tyre size, weight and speed all play a role in your tyre pressures.

Did you know as you drive, the air in your tyres warms up, and because of this, the air pressure also goes up? You can read more about this at

Tyre pressures; do you check them hot or cold?

If you take just one thing from this post, learn to run the right tyre pressures for your vehicle on the terrain you are driving on. It makes a world of difference.


4WD Tyre pressures

Tyre pressures are critical

Having a basic recovery kit is not optional

Those who take their 4WD offroad without so much as a tyre gauge are asking for trouble. There are a few items that should be the

Must have 4WD recovery kit

. Keep it in the 4WD at all times, and you never have to worry about it.


80 series rear

You don’t need all this, but a basic recovery kit is a must

 

You need rated recovery points

I only know of one 4WD that comes from the factory floor with

Rated recovery points

; the Isuzu MUX. That means every single other 4WD does not have points that are suitable for winching, towing or snatching off unless they have been replaced with aftermarket ones. If you haven’t got at least one rated recovery point on the front of your 4WD, and one on the rear, you shouldn’t be heading off road.


Load tested recovery point

Look for the stamped rating


Rear recovery hitch

A rear recovery hitch

For the rear, you can get a

Recovery hitch

, but take the time to consider how strong your tow bar is too! Trying to recover a 4WD without rated recovery points is extremely dangerous and can easily result in damage to your 4WD or injury to people.

4WD recoveries involve serious risk

When a 4WD gets bogged, using another vehicle to tow, snatch or winch it out puts an immense amount of force on both the vehicles and the recovery gear. Unfortunately, there have been a number of people killed when 4WD recoveries have not gone to plan. Sometimes this is due to poor quality equipment, but more often than not it comes down to using the wrong equipment, with the wrong techniques in place.

To start with, here are

20 things you should never do in a 4WD recovery

. Before you get involved with a 4WD recovery, you need to understand the risks, what could go wrong, and have a plan to remove/reduce the risk. Be aware of

The weakest link in your 4WD recovery

, and take the extra time to do it safely.

Make sure you use equaliser straps and dampeners to reduce the load and chance of something flicking if it breaks.


Salt lake in a 4WD

How would you safely recover this?

You will get bogged, eventually

Every single keen 4WDer I know has been bogged at one point or another. There’s nothing wrong with it; sometimes a soft beach will catch you out, and other times a big mud hole will grab your 4WD and stop it in its tracks. What matters is how you go about getting the vehicle moving again. Take your time, do it safely and look out for each other.

I wrote a post a while back where I go through

4 of the times I’ve been badly bogged in a 4WD

. In each situation, we got out without anyone getting hurt, and without any damage to our 4WD’s. I will admit to doing things incorrectly when I first started 4WDing, and am glad nothing went wrong.

What should you do when you get bogged?


Fresh water crossings

One of my less favourite 4WD moments

If you get bogged, you provide the recovery gear


Recovery in Albany

You get bogged, you provide the recovery gear

It’s really rude if you get stuck and ask to use someone else’s recovery gear. You drove into the sloppy mud hole; your new snatch strap is the one that should get filthy in the recovery. If you do use someone else’s gear, make sure you return it in as supplied condition, or at least offer to wash it or pay for their time (beer usually works!).

Low range, high range and locking hubs


Part time kit 80 series

Manual locking hubs

I’ve seen people get bogged because they don’t know how to lock their hubs. Every vehicle is different, and you need to know how to make all 4 wheels drive before you head off the bitumen. Sometimes this involves manually locking the front hubs, but most vehicles these days are auto locking.

From there, you should have a basic understanding of the gearing in your transfer case. High range is the choice for majority of your 4WDing done at a reasonable speed. Low range should be used for slow speed 4WDing, where you need maximum traction. You have substantially more torque in low range, and that makes it perfect for hill climbs, mud runs, soft beaches, steep descents and recovering a bogged 4WD.

This can be vehicle specific though; my old Hilux could barely take off on a beach in high range!

Don’t engage 4WD on a bitumen road, or you are asking for something to break (unless your vehicle has a centre differential).


Engage 4WD

Understand how to engage 4WD

You aren’t welcome everywhere


Locked gates means no entry

Stay out if the gates are locked

Just because your 4WD increases your accessibility doesn’t mean you are allowed to be there. National parks, private property, water catchment areas and even beaches have restrictions as to where you can drive.

If you come across a locked gate (so long as it isn’t a gazetted road), that means you aren’t welcome. It doesn’t mean you get to drive around it, or tear it open. Respect the rules, look after the bush and keep the 4WD tracks open. Ignorance is not an excuse; do your research prior to heading out.

Walk the line before you drive it

If you get to a section of a 4WD track that you are a bit unsure about, stop your 4WD, get out and have a look. Think about what might cause a problem, and what is likely to damage to the vehicle. You should know what line you are going to take before you hit a technical section! Winging it easily results in things going wrong!

Look for side angles, think about where your wheels are going to be, and what is likely to get you hung up.


Walk the track first

Get out and have a look first

It’s ok to use the chicken track

I know how it is when you are out with mates; its a competition to see who can get through something. However, don’t be afraid to take the chicken track. I can tell you from personal experience nothing puts more of a damper on your day out in the 4WD than a drowned 4WD, or a big dent in one of your panels! Know where your limits are, and stick to them.

You can learn a lot from other people

The best way to learn 4WDing is to head out with a good mate who knows what they are doing. They can answer all your questions, and give you the confidence to safely drive your 4WD. If something goes wrong, you have someone to rely on.

The more you talk to people, the more you will pick up about 4WDing. There are plenty of forums online that provide a myriad of information. If you need model specific information, you can easily find it online. The more time you spend out on the tracks the more skills you will pick up. Get out there, and talk to people!


4WD recoveries gone wrong

The more you head out the more you learn!

Stop spinning your tyres

One of the most common mistakes people make when their vehicle begins to sink or stops moving is to put their foot flat on the accelerator, spinning the wheels as the RPM flies through the roof. This results in a 4WD that has now sunken twice as much as it would have if you’d just backed off the throttle and stopped!

If you aren’t moving forward (or backwards!), spinning your wheels is a bad idea. It’s not good for the tracks, your 4WD, and those involved in the recovery. A 5 minute recovery will turn into an hour long ordeal through a few seconds of carelessness on the throttle!

I’m not suggesting you never spin your wheels; its inevitable, and a bit of a stab now and then can get you through some situations. Mud especially is a terrain where you do need to spin your tyres a bit to clear the tyres, but if you aren’t moving forward you are wasting your time!


Tyre spin

If you want to get really bogged, spin your tyres!

Snatch straps are not suitable for every single 4WD recovery

Snatch straps are a fantastic bit of recovery gear, when used correctly and for the correct application. These days though, when someone gets bogged, the first thing that comes out is a snatch strap, and its not good practice. There are a heap of other options that should be considered before the use of snatch straps, and they should never be used in situations where high levels of force are required.

When should you use a snatch strap?


Snatch strap recovery

Snatch straps are not safe in high stress situations like this

The shovel is your friend

Yep, I get it; using a shovel might be hard work and take some time, but it is one of the best and safest ways to get a bogged 4WD moving again. A few minutes on the end of a shovel will make a 4WD recovery much safer.

At the very least, get your mates to dig; you have to drive the 4WD after all!


Take the easy way out

Get the shovel out!

Know where you are going

Australia is a big place. A really, really big place. If you head out without the right maps or GPS and lose your way, you can be put at serious risk trying to find civilisation again. Paper maps are essential, and you need to know how to use them. Above and beyond that, an offroad GPS is cheap as chips these days, and will make your life much easier and safer.

What are your communication options?

If you are heading into an area where you are unlikely to have mobile phone reception, how would you communicate with someone if you needed to? UHF radio’s are cheap, and extremely useful. They are also found in almost every well used 4WD. From there though, you have a heap of other options; satellite phones, SPOT GPS, HF radio’s and your basic Epirb.

Your communication options should be reflected in how remote the trip is, who you are travelling with, your experience and the probability of something going wrong. Stay safe!


Hitting a sand wall at high speed

How would you call for assistance?

Avoid going alone

It’s always better to travel with at least one other vehicle. I can tell you from personal experience that you will always feel more comfortable travelling with another car. Obviously, this is not always possible, and if you have a reliable 4WD coupled with the right gear and understanding you are on the right track.


Big Tagon Beach

A second vehicle is always a good idea

Carry a first aid kit

You can pick up a really good first aid kit for under $100. Considering it could save your life (or someone elses!) one day, they are a cheap investment. We also carry a St Johns first aid book; despite having first aid training I wouldn’t remember the correct way to treat every single injury.



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Keep your thumbs outside of the steering wheel

When you are driving along a 4WD track the wheels of your 4WD get knocked one way and the other, which in turn moves the steering wheel. Make sure you don’t keep your thumbs wrapped around the steering wheel on the inside. If the wheels bite, it will flick your steering wheel around and likely break one of your thumbs. Not something you want to happen; keep your thumbs outside of the steering wheel!

Wear decent footwear in slippery terrain

The good old pluggers (thongs/flip flops) are an extremely popular bit of footwear for 4WDing in Australia. It’s almost an Aussie standard. The thing is though, if you slip on a steep hill in your thongs, you’ve got a pretty good chance of hurting yourself. Wear some decent shoes or boots, so you have more grip, and if you do slip over you reduce the chance of a rolled or broken ankle!


4WD footwear

Wear some decent shoes!

The reverse hill start (for manual vehicles)

With the number of automatic 4WD’s on the market this is becoming less and less used, but for manual 4WD’s, you should know how to do the reverse hill start. Lets say you are making your way up a muddy, slippery and steep hill and you manage to stall your vehicle. You instinctively jump on the brakes, and hope that the vehicle doesn’t slide backwards. What you should do next is pop the car into reverse gear, and let the clutch out. This means the gearbox on your 4WD is stopping all 4 wheels from turning.

From there, to reverse in a controlled manner downhill, all you need to do is turn the car on with the clutch out and the vehicle in reverse (low range). It will start, and reverse down the hill with zero wheel slip and you can control it perfectly. The danger of not doing this is that in between letting the clutch out and taking your foot off the brake your 4WD can begin to slip. Once it starts to slip, you are in serious danger.


Reverse stall position

Know how to safely reverse down a hill

You don’t need every accessory on the market

With the huge number of 4WD accessories on the market today, its seems like people modify their 4WD without any real purpose! The irony of it is often those who have less modifications have seen more of Australia than those with high accessorised 4WDs. The truth is, reliability is far more important than suspension lifts, bigger tyres and

Lockers

. Of course, that’s not to say they don’t have their place, but don’t let it put you off enjoying yourself in a stock, or mildly modified 4WD.

Do you really need all those 4WD accessories?


4WD Accessories

You don’t need every accessory on the market to have a good time

You are responsible for looking after the bush

We’ve got a beautiful country in Australia. There are so many pristine places you can take your 4WD to, and its a privilege that some people don’t deserve. It’s all common sense and general respect; what you take in, you should take out. Don’t leave your rubbish behind, rip up camp sites, destroy public property or leave your toilet paper blowing in the wind. Don’t wreck Australia.

Look after our bush; abuse it and lose it

.


Rubbish in the bush

Take your rubbish home!

4WD’s are not boats

Possibly the worst decision you could make in a 4WD is to drive through water that you can’t see the bottom of, or that is deeper than your 4WD is designed to drive through. If you use your 4WD as a boat, you will be up for extremely expensive repairs when things go wrong. 4WD’s without snorkels should not be driving through more than about 500mm of water (and less for some modern vehicles). If you suck water into the engine (which is extremely easy to do), you will destroy your engine. If you get bogged in a decent puddle, its pretty easy to write your vehicle off purely from water damage to the computers and interior.

You should always walk the puddle or crossing, or at least use a stick to feel the bottom and check the depth. In the northern parts of Australia where salt water crocodiles live in the water, you shouldn’t walk the crossing. Instead, only cross if you know how deep the water is, the current is not excessive, you are confident and you’ve come up with a way to recover your vehicle should something go wrong. Take the required precautions!


Water crossings in a 4WD

A really deep water crossing

Power is not everything

Ever since the invention of cars, there’s been an obsession with power. As technology continues to progress, 4WD’s are becoming more and more powerful. The thing is though, power is not everything. Sure, its important, but not having a V8 twin turbo diesel is not going to make your vehicle unsuitable for 4WDing. Traction, clearance, wheel placement and common sense go a lot further than power will ever get you!

Coming from a 2.4 litre carby Hilux I can tell you that even without bucket loads of power you can still drive a very capable 4WD. Power is helpful, but its not a requirement for getting out there and enjoying our 4WD tracks.


Hilux 4WD

We still had heaps of fun in our gutless Hilux

Check the weather forecast

We never head out without knowing roughly what the weather is doing. This is most important for rainfall as a bit of rain can turn a simple track into a day long slog through slippery mud. However, knowing the temperature forecast allows for you to take the right camping gear and clothes too. It takes 2 minutes before you head off, and ensures you have the right gear with you.


4WD weather considerations

The weather can change tracks overnight

Tell someone about your plans

Try to let a neighbour or good mate know where you are going, and when you expect to return. Should something happen when you are out in the bush, you want someone to know as soon as possible that you are overdue, and get people looking for you!

If you overload and abuse your 4WD, it will break

4WD’s cannot be loaded up with everything under the sun and then bounced along 4WD tracks all day long without something breaking. If you haven’t taken the time to work out

How much your 4WD weighs

, its something you should do. Consider where the weight is sitting too; lots of weight on the roof, or behind the rear wheels is asking for trouble.

What is your payload and GVM? What about your GCM and maximum towball weight? Land Rover seem to be the only 4WD manufacturer that drops the maximum towing and payload of their 4WD’s when used off road. Why would they do that? Because its the logical thing to do! 4WD tracks apply more stress to your 4WD, and the heavier they are the more likely something is to fail.


4WD weights are very important

Consider the weight of your 4WD

Obviously, there is only so much you can do with the weight. However, if your vehicle is heavy, you can adjust the way you drive; take it slower, look after your 4WD and it will handle the drive much better. The last thing you want is to break down in the middle of know where. Chassis damage is not something you want to know about!

From an abuse perspective, if you think you can bounce your 4WD up rocky hills all day long without something going wrong, you are in for a shock. Even the toughest 4WD’s have their limitations, and if you don’t drive with a bit of mechanical sympathy you will find them very quickly!


4WD mechanical sympathy

Drive with mechanical sympathy

A good driver makes all the difference

4WDing is a skill. I’ve seen people drive fairly standard Pajero’s through places I’d have to think twice about driving in my well modified 80 series. The line that you pick makes all the difference when it comes to serious, offroad driving. There’s nothing better than seeing someone in a mildly modified 4WD out drive a heap of decked out 4WD’s, purely because of driver skill. Everyone starts somewhere, and you will pick up the skills as you head out more.

It’s all about wheel placement

All the power in the world makes zero difference if your wheels can’t get any traction. When you are 4WDing, you should always be thinking about where your wheels are in relation to the high and low parts of the track. Consider where it is slippery, what sort of angle the line you are taking is going to put on your vehicle, and how your suspension is going to flex. You should know where the low points are on your 4WD (like the differential pumkins) and drive accordingly.


4WDing in WA

Pick your lines carefully

Take your tow hitch out

A lot of people head off road without removing their tow hitch. On the beach its less important, but for rocky and muddy tracks, a tow hitch will often get knocked as it reduces your departure angle. In some cases, you can end up with a huge amount of the 4WD’s weight sitting on the tow hitch, which makes it easy to get bogged. A rear recovery hitch is the best thing to have in your hitch receiver, as they barely stick out at all and are there for when you need them.


Remove your tow ball hitch

Remove your towball hitch when 4WDing. A hitch receiver like this is perfect

Excess momentum often results in something breaking

Almost every time we head out 4WDing, you see someone trying to use momentum to get through an obstacle. Whether its flying full pelt into a huge mud run, or bouncing their way up a muddy hill, momentum has to be used very carefully. It has its place, but its when you are flogging your 4WD that things most often go wrong.

We saw a brand new Jeep do an insane amount of damage up one of the hills in Mundaring, purely because it was the ‘lock, stomp and steer’ attitude. You need to find the right amount of momentum for each situation. Too much though, and you’ve got a recipe for disaster.


4WDing momentum

Momentum is an easy way to break something

If your 4WD is not road legal, your insurance company can leave you high and dry


4WD insurance

is a complicated beast. However, I can make it really simple. If your vehicle does not comply with the local road regulations, your insurance company can decline any claim you make. In WA, you can’t raise the roof of your vehicle more than 50mm in tyres, body lift or suspension lift without getting it engineered. That doesn’t stop a huge number of 4WD’s that are over the 50mm from driving on the road, but it does mean their insurance companies can weasel out of any claims.

This is a grey area; some people believe that the modification must contribute to the accident for the insurance company to deny a claim. In many cases, illegal 4WD’s are covered, purely because the insurance assessor has no idea. However, do you really want to be in that position and have to risk your pride and joy? You can find out more about this at

Is your 4WD Legal?


4WD engineering approval

What are the chances of insurance covering this?

4WD insurance will not cover you everywhere in Australia

Hypothetically, lets say you got bogged in your 4WD at the local beach, and the tide came up, filled it with salt water and silt. Would your

4WD insurance company

cover you? Are you sure? Some insurance companies in Australia will not cover you for beach driving, and have a range of other little clauses to catch you out.

What about the local 4WD tracks? Are you allowed there? Whilst reading the fine print is a right pain in the behind, asking questions and getting written documentation from your insurance provider is a good place to start.


Salt water bath on the way to Wedge Island

Are you covered for beach driving?

Bigger tyres and lift kits are not always better

There’s a common misconception that the bigger your suspension lift and tyres, the more capable your 4WD is. The reality is nothing could be further from the truth. Fitting bigger tyres and suspension may give you more clearance, but it has a heap of downsides that everyone seems to forget.

Fitting Bigger Tyres to your 4WD

comes at a fairly serious price. There are plenty of

Downsides of 4WD accessories and modifications

.

I believe in modifying with intent. If you understand and need the suspension lift and tyres, go for it (within the legal boundaries), but really consider as to what you are achieving (and losing out on!).


4x4 tyre legalities

Bigger is not always better!

Use a spotter where possible

There are plenty of times when you aren’t able to see enough of the 4WD track to steer in the right direction. The most common place for this to happen is on steep hill climbs; as the driver, you are left seeing the bonnet of your 4WD and that’s about it.

Get a mate who knows what they are doing to stand outside the vehicle, and direct you. They can make sure you aren’t going to drive into a huge hole, or smash your sills on a big rock!


4WD spotter

Do you trust your spotter?

Modify your 4WD to suit you

People are very quick to judge the 4WD you drive around in. The thing is though, it is your 4WD, and it should be built to suit you. Ignore the haters, and modify your 4WD to suit your requirements. The best advice I can give is to really consider what you want the 4WD for, and where you want it to be in the future. Far too many people purchase a 4WD, spend a fortune modifying it and then come to the conclusion that it doesn’t actually do what they want it to.

You are in a difficult situation then, with limited options. You can sell it and upgrade (and lose a lot of money in the process), continue modifying it in the direction you want to go, or just put up with the vehicle. None of the options are very attractive, so you want to get it right at the start! So, how do you

Build and Buy the perfect 4WD?


22R hilux

Our Hilux was fun, but we didn’t think long term enough

Use the engine when going downhill

Your engine should be used to do as much braking as possible. This is especially important on slippery descents. If you use the brakes, they can easily overheat and fade away. Worse still, you can end up slipping down the hill with all 4 wheels locked up.

Use your engine to control your speed; 1st gear in low range will have your vehicle idling down slippery hills with minimal wheel spin, and a much greater control. Even though its not intuitive, avoid using the brakes unless you absolutely must use them, as they quickly lock the wheels up. If your wheels begin to slip, you are actually better off giving the throttle a bit of a push to get the wheels turning at the same speed as you are moving. Your engine will control your 4WD down a steep hill much better than you can by feathering the brakes!


Engine slowing the 4WD down

Slow and steady downhill; use the engine and gearing

Don’t be a tool

We don’t need tools when it comes to 4WDing. I’m talking about those who speed past families on the beach, or drive around with people on the roof racks and in the back of utes. Those who throw their bottles and cans out the window, drink drive on 4WD tracks and don’t clean up after themselves. Those who disrupt family camp grounds, or intentionally damage the environment and 4WD tracks.

4WDing in Australia is a privilege, and you wreck it for everyone. Show a bit of respect to your fellow 4WDer’s, and this great country.


Be safe, and enjoy WA!

Don’t be a muppet

Look after your 4WD and it will return the favour

If you treat your 4WD with care, it will look after you for many years. Neglect it though, and it will be the biggest money pit you’ve ever owned. I’m talking about regular (and quality) mechanical servicing, quality modifications, driving the vehicle carefully and not bouncing your way up rocky hill climbs. Wash the salt off your vehicle after you’ve been to the beach, inspect it regularly on trips away for things that are wrong and it will reward you with years of reliability.


4WD maintenance and care

Look after your 4WD and it will look after you

Things like

Driving your 4WD through salt water

are avoidable, and do serious, long term damage to a 4WD. I’ll never understand it. Mud is another thing that causes huge damage to your 4WD, and despite the repercussions its hard to avoid it! Have a read of

Mud; your 4WD’s worst enemy

.


Mud on the Holland Track

Lots of fun, but extremely costly too!

Driver training never goes astray

Nothing beats proper 4WD training, from a certified 4WD trainer. Hands on experience will ensure you learn the right way to use your 4WD, the first time. Don’t get into bad habits! There are a heap of 4WD clubs and businesses that offer a variety of 4WD training. I’m not suggesting its a requirement, but if you haven’t got someone to show you the ropes (the right way) its a great alternative.

4WD’s are not cheap

I’m not going to sugar coat it. Owning a 4WD is not cheap, in any way you want to look at it. You’ve got fuel, repairs, rego, insurance, modifications and the list goes on. They will cost you quite a bit of money; just

Look at how much I’ve spent on our 80 series

! However, the benefits of owning a 4WD outweigh the costs by far. Have a read of

Why I own a 4WD

.


4WD expenses

It’s all worth it in the end

Overall

There are a heap of things you need to know about 4WDing. Hopefully I have covered a large majority of them. However, know that there is real danger when people head off road without the skills, gear or understanding of how to safely use their 4WD.

What have a missed on this list? Stay safe and enjoy the 4WDing in Australia!

15 ways to avoid drowning your 4WD

Drowning your 4WD can be one of the most expensive mistakes you will ever make off road. Once you get water inside your vehicle, you are in for a huge job cleaning it, and that’s if you get lucky. If you are unlucky, water can cause substantial damage and result in uneconomical repair via electrical and trim damage, future corrosion or a hydrolocked engine.

It only takes 30ml of water to be sucked into your engine to cause permanent, serious damage to your 4WD. If you are lucky and the engine survives, you’ve still got a massive job cleaning the carpets, seats, drawer systems and your trim. Believe me, its not fun!

So, how do you keep the water out of your 4WD, and avoid drowning it?

Bogged 4WD in water

You want to avoid this at all costs!

Is there another way around?

In many cases, 4WD’s are drowned because people choose to drive through a water crossing, instead of taking an easy track to one side. A perfect example of this is at the Mundaring Powerlines Track near Perth, where people regularly drown their 4WD’s in huge mud runs that are over a metre deep with extremely steep entrances and exits.

Instead of driving on the solid, dry ground to one side, they take a chance and plunge into a huge pool of water, and often get stuck. If you want to avoid drowning your 4WD, stay out of the big water crossings if possible!

Mundaring Powerlines Track

Why drive through it if you can drive around it?

Walk the crossing first

When it comes to water crossings, the biggest mistake people make is not taking the time to get our of their vehicle and walk the crossing. Whilst it isn’t practical or comfortable to stop at every crossing, is it really worth the risk?

I’ll be honest here; I have driven through plenty of water crossings without walking them. I’ve also had the unfortunate displeasure of coming to an abrupt stop in over a metre of water near Lake Jasper, with both lockers on, correct tyre pressures no recovery straps in place. All because I didn’t take the time to walk the crossing.

Needless to say, I had a few minutes to sit and reflect on my poor decision, as my

80 series Land Cruiser

slowly filled with water!

From that moment on, I’ll never go through anything that looks even remotely suspicious without either walking it, seeing someone else drive through it or at the very least poking it with a stick from the side!

4WD recovery

Not my most memorable moment

Exceptions

It would take all day to do most 4WD tracks in the wet if you stopped at every single puddle of water, so there are some exceptions to the rule:

  • With experience, you can make your own decisions; a puddle that is on a hard surface, with no sharp edges and is not too big is unlikely to cause you any issues. Idle into it very slowly and if you are comfortable, proceed with caution.
  • If you see someone drive through the crossing and are confident you will have no issues
  • If there is the chance of salt water crocodiles in the water (like many of the northern parts of Australia!)

If you are at all suspicious of a water crossing, its better to be safe than sorry. Get out of your car and have a good look, poke the crossing with a stick or walk it; you will never regret getting wet if it prevents serious damage to your 4WD!

Remember the water flow

For river crossings, one of the most dangerous aspects is the speed at which the water is flowing. Sometimes its obvious; if water is raging downstream at a reasonable height you would be mad trying to drive across it. Water is intensely strong, and has pushed plenty of 4WD’s off the crossings and into the river. Not only is it extremely dangerous for your 4WD, but you can easily put your lives and passengers at risk.

Again, this comes down to experience; if it is over wheel height and flowing quickly, you are taking a big risk. If you can’t walk the crossing easily, you shouldn’t drive it.

Another tip is to put something on the water and see how quickly it floats downstream, but bear in mind the under current can be stronger than the surface.

Again, if you aren’t sure, is it really worth the risk?

Warren River water flow

How quick is the water flowing?

Know your maximum depth

4WD’s are not boats. They are designed to cross some water, but there comes a point where it is simply too deep for your 4WD to safely traverse. Your owners manual should tell you how deep the vehicle can wade (remember this is still water, and doesn’t factor in water flow!).

Most 4WD’s range from 200 – 800mm without snorkels. If you exceed this, you risk serious engine damage.

It’s worth looking under your bonnet and seeing where the air comes from; my old

Hilux

had its air intake right at the front of the bonnet; one decent gulp of water through the engine bay and it would have been all over. The higher the air intake, and the less likely it is to get water into it the better!

This is one aspect where you absolutely must not risk it. If you suck water in through your air filter, you can completely destroy your engine in seconds.

Even with a snorkel, you’d be mad trying to drive through something deeper than just above the bottom of your windscreen. At that depth, you risk having your vehicle float, and lose the required vision to safely control your crossing.

Navara water crossing

How deep is too deep?

4WD water crossing

How well do you know your 4WD?

Know your 4WD

The more you know about your 4WD, the better off you are. Not only do you want to know the maximum wading depth, but you want to know about any electrics that could cause issues, whether you have

differential breathers

, where your low points are under the vehicle and how much of an angle you can tilt on before it becomes dangerous. If your radiator fan is direct drive (that is, it spins all the time), you risk damaging your radiator badly by allowing water to make it harder to turn the fan.

The more comfortable and knowledgeable you are with your 4WD, the better off you are!

80 Series Land cruiser snorkel

The Safari Snorkel on our 80 series

Install a snorkel

A 4WD snorkel connects to your air box, and pulls air from near the roof height of your 4WD, which in theory means you can drive through deeper water. However, it doesn’t guarantee the safety of your vehicle by doing so! Water above bonnet height has a whole series of other risks that you must consider!

Check for air leaks

With so many different types (and qualities) of snorkels on the market these days, its important to make sure they are sealed completely. Usually the snorkel will not leak at all, but there is always a few joins in between the air box and the snorkel itself, as well as the airbox down to the engine.

Make sure there is no air leaking, or you may still drown your 4WD even with a snorkel fitted! Hose clamps, cracked elbows, poor sealant and vibration damage can result in air being pulled in lower than your snorkel entry, which also means you can suck water in and do serious damage.

Ensure your tyre pressures are correct

Tyre pressures are critical when it comes to 4WDing. There is a direct correlation between tyre pressures and traction; running the wrong pressures when you are attempting a water crossing can easily result in a drowned 4WD. Picking the right tyre pressures depends on your vehicle, what you are carrying and the terrain you are driving on. Have a look at

6 reasons 4WD tyre pressures are critical

for more information.

Get your tyre pressures right though, its not worth the risk!

4WD tyre pressures

Let your tyres down to suit the terrain

ELocker traction upgrade

Turn the lockers on if you need them!

Engage maximum traction

You want maximum traction when it comes to water crossings. Not only do you have to push water out of the way, but you may have to battle soft surfaces, holes, rocks and water current pushing you the wrong way. As a minimum, you should have the front hubs locked, your 4WD in Low Range and the center differential locked (if you have one).

If you have front or rear

Lockers

, they are also a great idea, depending on the application. The more traction you have, the less likely you are to stop moving, and drown your 4WD!

Remember your electrics

Electrics and water don’t mix very well. On petrol engines especially, water can cause huge dramas with electrics. The way to avoid this is to reduce the water that contacts them; the correct speed and a water bra is a good start, along with silicon spray or WD40. This repels water from the electrics, and keeps them dry!

You’ve probably all seen a petrol 4WD go through some water, and run rough for some time after. My Hilux used to splutter badly after some crossings, and we had to open the distributor once as water had gotten inside on a crossing, causing it to stall.

Bogged Defender on the Holland Track

Paul’s defender didn’t like the water on the Holland Track!

Check the exit

It’s easy to inspect the crossing at the start and middle, but a lot of people forget to check the exit as well. You are in a pretty sticky situation if you get to the end of a long, deep water crossing and come to a vertical exit! Always make sure you are able to safely exit the crossing too!

Use the right momentum

I wrote a post a few weeks ago covering

4WD momentum

. Water crossings need to be approached with the right level of momentum, or you will do damage. Too quick and you risk pushing a heap of water into your engine bay, and too slow and you risk getting stuck. What you are looking for is to create a bow wave, that leads your 4WD through the crossing.

Make sure you pick the right gear, and stick with it. In most cases, second gear in low range works perfectly. Keep the vehicle in its optimum rev range and drive the crossing with the best chance of success. Do not use the clutch in a water crossing; you can get water inside, and it will never be the same.

Water crossing in Collie

Approach the water crossing with the right speed

Go in prepared

If you aren’t 100% confident with a water crossing, take the time to hook a strap onto the front or rear

Rated Recovery points

, and then hang it (or wrap it) out of the way, where it is accessible should the worst happen.

Have another vehicle ready, so if you do get stuck, it takes a minute to hook the strap up and pull you out, rather than 10 minutes trying to hook a strap on in freezing cold, muddy water!

Buy the right 4WD gear

Get your straps ready!

Use a water bra

A water bra (or just a tarp), can be attached to the front of your 4WD just before going through a water crossing, and dramatically reduces the water that flows into your engine bay. These are cheap insurance, and work extremely well, especially on petrol 4WD’s.

Remember the risk

Above all, consider the risk. If you aren’t confident, is it really worth it? What could possibly go wrong, and what would it cost you? Does your 4WD insurance cover you for water crossings, and for the area you are in?

Drowned 4WD

What’s the worst that could happen?

I’ve seen far too many 4WD’s get written off, or badly damaged through water crossings that haven’t gone to plan. They can be a lot of fun, but they can also literally dampen your trip away.

Have you had any close calls, or bad experiences with water crossings? What have I missed in this post? Leave a comment below; I’d love to hear from you!

How to accurately work out your fuel economy

How many times have you had someone say to you their 4WD is only getting 500km out of a tank of fuel? What does that mean to you? How big is the fuel tank, and how far are they running it down? What size engine, tyres, and driving habits do they have? Were they doing 90km/h on flat ground, or sitting on 110km/h up and down hills on cruise control? Fuel economy varies wildly depending on where and how you are driving. You can easily monitor your fuel economy every time you fill up; it takes a few seconds to do!

It is very useful to keep an eye on your fuel economy, as you can plan your fuel stops for future 4WD trips, ensure the vehicle is running as it should and understand how different conditions can change your fuel consumption.


4WD fuel economy

No matter what you pay for fuel, its worth knowing your economy

Is your speedometer correct?

The first thing you should really do is ensure that your speedometer is correct. If you have changed tyre sizes, there’s a good chance it won’t be! If your speedo is not correct, your trip meter won’t be either. You can do this one of two ways; drive along with a GPS at 100km on the speedometer and see what the GPS says (less accurate), or drive 100km on the vehicles trip meter, and see how many km you have done according to the GPS.

There will be a difference if you have changed tyre sizes as the bigger the tyre the less revolutions per kilometer it will do, compared to the original tyres on the vehicle. This puts your speedo out. For people that have gone from 265’s to 285’s (or 31’s to 33’s) your speedo is usually out by 5 – 10%.

Fitting bigger tyres to your 4WD

usually results in worse fuel economy. How much, is dependant on many factors; see the link for more information.

For our 80 series, 100km on the trip meter is actually about 105km – its out by 5% due to the larger diameter tyres.

Once you understand the difference in your speedo, you can work your fuel economy out every time you fill up. Simply remember to add 5% of your trip meter to the reading, and you can get an accurate economy figure.


Speedometer correction

Bigger tyres put your speedometer out

Working out your fuel economy

The easiest way to work out your fuel economy is done when you fill up at a service station. Fill the tank all the way, until the nozzle clicks. Once you’ve paid, get back in your car (move out the way!) and reset the trip meter. From there, drive your vehicle around until you want to fill it up again.

When you put more fuel in, fill it up again until it clicks, and take note of the number of km you have done on your trip meter.

If you haven’t changed your tyre size, you can skip the trip meter correction step. If you have changed your tyre size, remember to factor in the extra km you have actually travelled due to the tyres.

An example

Lets say we put 98.5L of diesel in our 80 series, and we’ve done 653.8km on the trip meter. We know the trip meter is out by 5%, so we multiply 653.8km by 1.05.

This gives us a correct reading (after factoring in the tyres) of 686.49km.

From there, simply divide the amount of fuel you’ve used (98.5L) by the number of km (686.49). The result needs to be multiplied by 100. This gives you an accurate fuel economy reading of 14.35 litres of diesel per 100km.

KM done on trip meter when filling up = 653.8

653.8 x 1.05 = 686.49km done on 98.5L of diesel.

(98.5/686.49) x 100 = 14.35 litres of diesel per 100km.


A 4WD GPS

We use our GPS to double check kilometres travelled

Using an app

You can use a number of different apps which work out your fuel economy and record it for you (Fuelly, Road Trip etc), but remember these won’t work out your tyre diameter changes, which makes big difference.

Don’t rely on your cars computer to tell you

A lot of modern 4WD’s will tell you the average fuel consumption, and estimate the number of km’s you have left in the tank. This is handy, but not always very accurate. This is especially the case if you have changed your tyre sizes, as the vehicles computer works off a certain number of revolutions of the tyre per kilometer, and you’ve just changed that by fitting bigger tyres to your 4WD.

When will I use more fuel in my 4WD?

4WD’s are not small, or light weight, and they do tend to use their fair bit of fuel. However, you will use a lot more fuel by doing the following

Driving in soft sand


Fuel consumption on sand

Sand driving will chew the fuel

Soft sand is usually where you will go through the most fuel. This is where your vehicle is working the hardest to maintain momentum, and as a result uses more fuel. For petrol vehicles, you can use up to 50% more fuel, and diesels usually around 30% more (but this does depend on your vehicle!)

Driving at 110km/h

The difference between doing 90km/h and 100km/h is huge on your fuel economy (usually a litre or 2 per hundred km). Going from 100km/h to 110km/h is substantially more. Often this is in the realms of 1 – 2 litres per 100km too; if you have the time you can save a huge amount of money by slowing down!

Accelerating rapidly

Your driving habits play a big role in your fuel economy too. If you are accelerating quickly, braking hard and changing throttle positions rapidly you will use more fuel!

Running under inflated tyres


22R dual cab hilux

Under unflated tyres causes excessive fuel consumption

Your tyre pressures are critical to good fuel economy. The more you inflate them the better your economy will be. However, if you run them too hard you will have very little traction and risk having an accident. For most 4WD’s tyre pressures in between 30 and 45PSI is appropriate.

Towing a trailer

The moment you tow something, your vehicle has to work harder. Sometimes this is made worse by wind drag, but in majority of cases its just the fact that you are dragging a weight behind your vehicle.

Roof racks, bigger tyres, different tread patterns and more weight


Big Caravan

This is going to hurt your fuel economy!

Anything that makes your vehicle work harder is going to make your fuel economy worse. by adding things to the vehicle that decrease its aerodynamics (like bar work, roof racks etc) your engine has to work harder to push the vehicle along.

If you change to a more aggressive tyre pattern, the airflow around the tyre is disrupted, and you will notice a higher consumption.

The same goes for adding more weight to your vehicle; if you put a 50kg backpack on yourself you will use a lot more energy to move around too!

Bigger tyres will make your 4WD use more fuel, as it has to work harder to turn the tyres. Even if your RPM drops at a given speed, your 4WD still has to work harder!

Sensors and other electrical/mechanical issues

For many modern vehicles, having a sensor (like the MAF) slightly dirty will send your fuel economy through the roof. These control the way the engine behaves, and if they aren’t in pristine condition you can expect poor fuel economy. The same goes for Exhaust gas recirculation systems, which tend to cake your engine up with build up. Fuel and air filters are another common cause of high fuel consumption too.

There’s a range of other things that will affect your fuel economy, but if you take the time to work it out every time you fill up, you will get an idea for yourself!

Our 80 series 1HDT fuel economy

Our turbo diesel 80 series is not the most fuel efficient 4WD on the market. It’s nearly 26 years old, and has done 374,000km. We knew this when we bought it, and have been extremely happy with it.

For general driving around town and taking it easy our 80 gets around 14.5 – 15L/100km.

If we are travelling at the speed limit on longer trips with some gear in the back it seems to go up to around 16L/100km, and on our 9000km trip to the Kimberley we averaged 16.7L/100km. This included a fair bit of 4WDing, sitting at 110km/h where allowed and not really taking it too easy.

For a vehicle that weighs quite a bit, has bigger tyres, almost every accessory under the sun and is 26 years old, we are extremely happy with it.


4WDing Australia 80 series

Filling up with fuel in our 80 Series

What fuel economy do you get?

What sort of fuel economy you get in your 4WD? Let us know a bit about it, and how often you check your fuel economy!

Stuck on the beach in your 4WD? Here’s what you should do

So, you’ve sunk down in your 4WD on the beach, and don’t know what to do next. Firstly, relax; although its a pretty uncomfortable position to be in, you can get yourself out without damaging anything but your pride!

4WD bogged on the beach

It’s not the end of the world; we’ll have you moving again soon!

How do you get moving again?

I’ll run through a number of steps that you need to complete, before being on your way again:

 

 

 

Wheel spin on the beach

Spinning your wheels just makes it worse!

Stop spinning your wheels!

The biggest mistake you can make when you stop moving on a beach is to keep spinning the wheels. You will see that if your 4WD stops moving forwards, it begins to sink! The more you continue to drive, the further you sink, and the harder its going to be to get moving again. The best practice is to stop spinning the wheels the moment you lose momentum. Do this, and your 4WD recovery will be simple and easy.

If you are not moving forward, don’t keep spinning your wheels; you are only making it worse.

80 series AVM hubs

Manual locking hubs on our 80 series

Check you are in 4WD, with the front hubs locked

You wouldn’t believe how many people drive onto a beach without putting their vehicle in 4WD. For older vehicles, there’s a second gear stick that needs to be moved into high range (H) or Low range (L). Newer vehicles generally just have push buttons, or a different gear stick arrangement. Also, check your front hubs are locked; this is what transfers drive to the wheels. For older vehicles, you will have to get out of the vehicle and turn the hub to the 4X4 position on both sides. Modern vehicles have auto locking hubs.

Your hubs are located in the middle of your front wheels.

4WD Aerodynamics

Tyre pressures make all the difference

Let your tyres down further


Tyre pressures

make all the difference when it comes to beach driving. A couple of PSI will completely change the way your vehicle floats on the sand. How much have you let your tyres down? If the answer is anything above 15 PSI, you need to let more air out of your tyres. If you are badly bogged, you can let them down progressively all the way to about 8 PSI. Anything below 10 PSI and you are at risk of rolling a tyre off the bead if you turn quickly when moving, but to get a bogged 4WD going again you can go all the way to 5 PSI (only if you absolutely must!).

If you go from 16 PSI down to 10 PSI, you’ve lost 40% of the air in your tyres, which gives you a much greater surface area and thus a whole lot of extra floatation. Don’t believe this makes much of a difference? Try it; you will be blown away. If you are regularly 4WDing, get yourself a good quality

Tyre deflator

; you won’t look back.

Out came the Maxtrax

Get on the end of a shovel!

Dig some sand away

Yep, now for a bit of work. You should always carry a full length shovel with you. What ever you have, dig with it, around all 4 tyres in the direction you want to move again. If you are bottomed out on the chassis, you have a lot of work to do. The idea is to get the vehicle’s weight back onto its wheels. The more you dig away, the easier it is to get moving again, so take your time.

Tyre pressures for beach driving

Steer a little downhill

If you are on a slope, steer towards the water

The biggest mistake people make when they get bogged on a beach with the sand sloping towards the water is they try and take off away from the water. It’s human nature I suppose, you want to keep your 4WD away from the nasty salt. The thing is though, you will almost never be able to get moving again up a slope; you need to steer down to get a bit of momentum first.

I’m not suggesting you drive directly towards the water, just make sure you aren’t heading uphill at all, or you risk getting bogged even worse. If your vehicle is crab walking, there’s a good chance you need to steer further down hill, or let your tyres down more.

Rock forward and backwards

A good test to see how you are fairing after doing the above steps is to take off forward half a metre, and go backwards half a metre. Keep doing this until the vehicle moves easily back and forward. You now have a harder section to take off from, and have the best chance of getting out of your predicament.

Take off, slightly downhill

Now for the final step; when you are ready, take off with the vehicle driving slightly downhill. Wait until you have built up some momentum (at least 3rd gear in low range, or high revs in 1st gear high range) and then you are ready to attempt driving back up to the top of the beach. Hold the revs, and if you start to lose momentum, be aware you can get it back easily by driving back towards the water slightly.

Avoid any wheel spin, and if you begin to sink again, stop immediately and re-assess.

Mates and 4WDing

You’ll get going again in no time!

Don’t panic

It can be stressful getting bogged on a beach, especially if you have others in your care. I was driving from Lancelin to Wedge Island some time ago in our 80 series, with the tyres down at 15 PSI, and took a line a little too close to the water to get around two other bogged vehicles. Our big 80 started to go down more than it was going forwards about a metre away from the waves that were rolling in. It’s not a very pleasant feeling at all, but you need to get past that and do something about it. I decided to stop driving, rather than sink badly and let the tyres down.

I jumped out, and let 3 tyres down to 10 PSI. The last tyre (rear left) was so badly buried I couldn’t even get to the tyre valve. I got back in, gave it a few berries towards the water (and we were very close!) until I grabbed 3rd gear in low range, and then comfortably cruised back to the top of the beach. It’s counter intuitive to drive towards the water, but you don’t have a choice!

Snatch strap down south

Set the snatch strap up safely

If you have a second vehicle

If you are travelling with a second vehicle (which is ideal), you can use a

Snatch strap

or winch to get you moving again. Obviously, it pays to do some of the steps above; ensure 4WD is engaged, let your tyres down and dig some sand away.

 

Using Maxtrax or Treds

Maxtrax 4x4


Maxtrax

make life

The easiest, safest and quickest way to recover yourself on a beach is to use a set of traction boards. I haven’t used Tred’s, but would recommend

Maxtrax

in a heartbeat. Dig a bit away, wedge them under your wheels and drive out; its that simple.

Have you been badly stuck?

Let me know below; what’s the worst you’ve been stuck on a beach? How did you get out?

My bogged 80 series

Bogged at Lancelin

Are you being misled by 4WD tow ratings?

So, you’ve got a heavy caravan or boat that you want to tow? Don’t be misled by the advertising! Just because your 4WD has a certain ‘towing capacity’ doesn’t mean you can actually tow that under normal conditions.

Today, you can pick up a number of new 4WD’s that have a claimed 3500kg towing capacity. The thing is though, its completely misleading, to the point where you are almost guaranteed to be overloaded towing something that’s 3500kg. How is that possible?

Weight requirements towing

Is your 4WD within the legal weight requirements?

How do they mislead you?

Any vehicle on the road must comply with a number of different weight requirements, whether they are towing or not. Lets keep it simple, and just look at the Gross Combination Mass (GCM). This is the maximum amount both your 4WD and trailer can weigh as a combined weight.

Whilst you might be able to tow the maximum amount the vehicle is rated for, it can only be done under some pretty severe weight limitations. This is in relation to what the tow vehicle itself has on board in terms of weight; anything from passengers to extra fuel, 4WD accessories and general gear.

Towing with a 4WD

Don’t rely on the sales pitch for what you can tow

A more in depth look at 3500kg towing capacities

Take a dual cab Ford ranger, which has a GCM of 6000kg, and a claimed towing capacity of 3500kg. Remove the weight of the vehicle (with nothing in it!) from the GCM and you have 3800kg. Then, remove the 3500kg trailer you are towing, and you are left with a mere 300kg.

Now, put 4 people in the back of the Ford ranger, and there’s a good chance you are overloaded. Bear in mind this is without considering ANYTHING else in the 4WD. No extra fuel, no bull bar, no drawers, no fridge, water, winch, recovery gear and the list goes on. It also doesn’t consider the tow ball weight, which you need to consider.

Let’s go the other way. The same Ford Ranger, decked out with lots of accessories and gear, weighing in at the maximum weight of 3200kg. Given you can’t exceed the GCM of 6000kg, you are left with a maximum towing capacity of 2800kg.

Now, how many 4WD’s have you seen, decked out with every accessory under the sun, loaded to the hilt and towing a trailer that’s over 3 tonnes?

4WD's make great tow vehicles

How much do you think this weighs?

How do other vehicles compare?

The Dmax has a 5950kg GCM, and 3500kg towing capacity. Take away the towing capacity and you have a maximum weight of 2450kg. Given the vehicle weighs 1930kg empty, you’ve got a capacity of 520kg

A Triton has a 5885kg GCM, and a 3100kg towing capacity. Remove the towing capacity and you have a maximum weight of 2785kg. With the vehicle weighing 1965kg, you are left with 820kg.

The NP300 Navara has a GCM of 5910kg, and a 3500kg towing capacity. This leaves you with 2410kg. Minus the weight of the vehicle and you can carry 489kg.

If you want to see how your vehicle compares, find it on here –

http://www.redbook.com.au

What does it mean?

As long as you are aware of the above, and you make sure you are within the GCM, towing capacity and pay load of your 4WD, you won’t have an issue. The problem though, is so many people are not aware of these things, and would probably be horrified if they did know. There’s a huge number of 4WD’s on the road today that are towing and would not be legal. Not good.

Remember that a 500kg pay load can get eaten up pretty easily. Have a think about

What your 4WD weighs

, and you might be surprised. Even better, take it over a weigh bridge and see for sure, but be prepared for a shock!

Perfect beach

Even a 4WD not towing anything can be surprisingly heavy

What if I am over?

If you are over your payload, or Gross combination mass, you are going to want to do something about it. In the event of an accident, you may be liable for the damage that happens, as you were not driving a vehicle that met the law.

4WD insurance claims

can be denied, and you could end up in a world of legal pain if someone is hurt. It’s not worth the risk; you are required to drive a

Legal 4WD

on the road, and are responsible as individuals.

Final thoughts

I think its shocking that vehicle manufacturers can proclaim such towing capacities without explaining that they come with severe limitations. It’s appalling, really. Whilst I understand ignorance is not an excuse, there is a certain amount of trust that you put into a 4WD manufacturer!

What do you drive and tow? Are you within the limits?

15 things you may not know about your 4WD

There’s a lot to learn about 4WDing. Whether you are new to the scene, or you’ve been exploring this magic country for many years, you can still pick up something new. In this post, we look at 15 things that you may not know about your 4WD.

Your speedo is probably not accurate

You’d expect your speedometer, odometer and trip meter to be on the money, right? The truth is, even a brand spanking new 4WD is allowed to have some speedometer error. At 100km/h it can be up to as much as 10km/h, which makes a substantial difference.

However, with 4WD’s, the most common way to alter your speedo readings is to fit different size tyres. Usually, bigger size tyres are chosen, and this will make your speedometer read lower than you are actually going. If you’ve gone up a few sizes on tyres, your speedo will often be close to accurate, or it may read a little low. If you go up more than a few sizes, your speedo could be out by as much as 20%. If you are keen on knowing more, have a read of

Fitting Bigger Tyres to your 4WD

.

It pays to get a GPS, and check the difference. You can do this while sitting at a constant speed, but the most accurate way is to log 100km on both your trip metre and a GPS, and then compare.

Our 80 Series Land Cruiser

is out by just under 5%, running 50mm bigger tyres.

This is important, as you don’t want to pick up a new 4WD (even if its just new to you), and get done for speeding because you didn’t know the speedo was reading wrong! If it does read incorrectly, there are a number of ways you can get it fixed without changing your tyre size.

Bigger 4WD Tyres

If you are running bigger tyres, your speedo is probably out

How old are your tyres?

Any form of rubber will perish over time. This is made worse when its subject to the abuse a 4WD tyre gets, but as your tyres age they will perform worse. Every tyre in Australia has a 4 digit number stamped inside a little box on the sidewall, which tells you the manufacturing date of your tyre. If you want to know more, have a read of this –

How to tell the age of your 4WD Tyres

.

According to the tyre guru’s, once your tyres get to around the 5 year mark, they are considered old, and you should be looking at replacing them.

Something to bear in mind is that your new tyres could already be up to a year or two old when you get them, depending on how long the tyre store has had them. If you don’t rack the kays up, its easy to hit the 5 year mark and still have a tyre that looks perfectly good.

I’m not saying the moment your tyres hit 5 years old they are going to fall apart, but its an early warning sign to pay more attention to them. Look for any signs of perishing, including cracks and worn sections. The last thing you want is to have a blow out at speed!

Tyre age stamp

Look for the two numbers; this shows the 49th week of 2011

It may not be legally modified

There’s nothing nicer than a 4WD running a big, quality suspension setup and huge muddies. They look tough as, idle through huge ruts and are a heap of fun to drive. The thing is though, most of them are not legally modified!

The consequences of driving a vehicle that has illegal modifications go much further than just getting a yellow sticker. You can be liable in the case of an accident, and by law your insurance company does not have to cover you.

If you’ve changed your tyre size, suspension, wheel track, brakes, body or chassis, you’ll want to have a read of this;

Is your 4WD legal?

4WD roll over

Should the worst happen, are you covered?

Your factory hooks are not rated for recoveries

You will get bogged in your 4WD, eventually. It happens to everyone, and its just part of the fun. What’s not fun though, is hearing about someone every couple of years in Australia who gets killed by a 4WD recovery that has gone wrong.

You put a heap of stress on lots of different components when recovering a 4WD using a winch or snatch strap, and you can very easily kill someone when it isn’t done correctly. The ‘hooks’ that come with your 4WD from factory are not rated to be recovered off. Before you head off road, you should get a decent set of front and rear

Rated recovery points

, and have them mounted correctly to the chassis with grade 8.8 bolts.

Even then, use a bridle where possible, and a blanket, dampener or towel over the recovery strap so if it does go pear shaped no one gets wiped out by it.

ARB Bull bar recovery points

Do you have rated recovery points?

What’s your Payload?

It’s scary to see some 4WD’s on the road, loaded up with more gear than you can poke a stick at. If you don’t know already, head over to

Redbook

, select your vehicle and under dimensions, there’s a figure given for your Pay load. This is the legal amount of weight your vehicle can carry, as deemed safe by the manufacturer. If you are towing, the weight on your tow ball comes off this too.

At the very least, take the time to write down the weight of everything on your car, including passengers, extra fuel, water, modifications etc. I guarantee you will be very close to the payload when heading off on a trip away.

If you are over the given pay load, you are putting excess strain on the vehicle, may not be covered by insurance in the event of an accident and could be fined badly if the authorities decide to weigh your vehicle.

Over weight 4WD

Is your 4WD over weight?

What size lift kit are you running?

One of the more challenging things to do when you get a 4WD that is new to you is to find out what sort of lift kit it is running. Over time, even stiff springs will sag, and it becomes very difficult to know whether you are running a 2″, 3″, 4″ or something else.

So, what can you do to identify the lift you have? Firstly, look for blocks between the chassis and the body. Obviously they aren’t going to shrink, and if you have 50mm blocks then your vehicle has been raised by 50mm using a ‘body lift’. From there,you have a few options.

The easiest is to ring your vehicles manufacturer, and ask them for a measurement to identify it. They should be able to give you this, but remember to give the right information, as they vary regularly between different years and models.

Beyond that, forums that are set up which are dedicated around specific model vehicles are a gold mine. On most of them, you should be able to tell you the measurement between the inner guard and centre of your hubs for different lift kits.

Remember that over time springs will sag, and a vehicle with an old 4 inch lift may be lower than one with a new 2 inch lift.

Lift kit in a 4WD

What size lift kit are you running?

Tow ball death

Tow balls are not for snatching or winching!

Tow balls are not suitable recovery points

If you are new to the game, one thing you absolutely must not do when 4WDing is use the tow ball as a recovery point. Yep, its easy to drop a strap over the tow ball and take off, but these are not designed for huge amounts of energy to be applied within a split second.

They will shear, and having a steel ball hurling through the air faster than you can see (usually towards another vehicle or person) is the last thing you want to do. They might look strong, but they most certainly are not.

Want to know more? Check out our latest post;

Tow Balls in 4WD Recoveries can kill you

.

Weight behind the rear axle can be dangerous

We covered payload earlier in the post, but you’d be mad to take a chunk of that weight and have it sitting behind your rear wheels. Do yourself a search on google, for bent 4WD chassis. Scary stuff.

You know what most have in common? Either they were overloaded, or they had the weight positioned too far back. I saw a photo the other day, of a badly bent, new Mitsubishi Triton dual cab, which had a heavy rear bar mounted, along with a spare tyre on one side and 4 jerry cans of fuel/water on the other side.

Add it up; Rear Bar 50kg, tyre and swing arm 30kg, second swing arm and 80L of fluid, and you are looking at about 180kg right at the back of your chassis. Hit even a small bump, and what do you think is going to happen?

If you are going to carry heavy weight, make sure its positioned either in front of the rear axle, or on top of the axle. The further back you put it, the more stress its going to put on the last third of your chassis.

Rear axle weight

Watch the weight beyond your rear axle

Your insurance company may not cover you everywhere

There’s a lot of insurance companies in Australia that offer cover to 4WD vehicles. The thing is though, they are not all equal. Some insurance companies treat your 4WD as if it is the same as an ordinary car, and their level of cover may not suit your requirements.

When you take out 4WD insurance, be sure to ask where you are covered in Australia. Some companies will not cover you for driving on gravel, non-gazetted road, private property or beaches.

4WD insurance is a very important part of owning a 4WD; if you want to know more about it, have a read of this –

What to look for in 4WD insurance

.

Our 80 at Lancelin

Are you covered in the dunes?

You may not be able to tow the maximum towing capacity

The number of heavy trailers being towed within Australia has gone up significantly in the last few years. Whether its a big boat, caravan or car trailer, there are very strict regulations on what you can tow.

Your 4WD will come with a maximum towing capacity, which you must not exceed. However, manufacturers are getting very sneaky and unethical, and are advertising maximum towing capacities that you would only be able to use under very unlikely situations.

I won’t go into it too much in this post, but if you need to tow something heavy, you may have to ensure your 4WD is as light as possible. As an example, think about a new Ford Ranger; if you are using the maximum towing capacity of 3500kg, you are only legally allowed to have 300kg of weight added to the 4WD itself. Take away the ball weight and just one passenger, and you are going to be overweight already.

For more information, have a read of this;

Are you being misled by 4WD towing capacities?

Towing with a 4WD

What’s your towing capacity?

Tyre pressures should vary from 4WD to 4WD

Tyre pressures are one of the most important factors you have in your control when it comes to 4WDing. There’s a heap of guides out there that will tell you what tyre pressures to run, but you really need to tailor it for yourself. To start off with, check out

6 reasons tyre pressures are critical when 4WDing

.

You should not be running the same tyre pressures as all of your mates; as you (more than likely) drive different vehicles. Every vehicle should have its own set of tyre pressures, based on the weight of the vehicle, tyre dimensions, terrain and speed.

If you didn’t already know, your tyre pressures will go up and down as you drive, due to the temperature change of the air inside. There’s more information on that here;

4WD tyre pressures; do you check them hot or cold?

Have a look in your vehicle owners manual, which will tell you the recommended tyre pressures for certain tyres. If you do

Fit bigger tyres to your 4WD

, you can lower the pressures a little. As always, pay attention to the way the tyres wear. If the middle gets worn out, your pressures are too high. If the outsides get worn out, you are running them too low.

4WD Tyre pressures

Every 4WD has its own correct tyre pressures

Your roof has a weight limit

Even though a roof rack seems like a convenient place to load your gear onto, the manufacturer of your 4WD has set weight limits to what the roof of your vehicle can withstand. For most 4WD’s, its only 100kg, although there are a few that have 150kg roof load ratings.

100kg may not seem like much, but have a think of what happens when you hit a bump off road; the forces on the roof are substantial. Overload your roof, and you end up with a high centre of gravity and you could easily damage your roof.

Have a think about what you have on your roof. Steel full length roof racks in my opinion, are a complete waste of money. I removed one from a mates Patrol a while back, made by one of the more reputable 4WD accessory companies, and it came in at 66kg. That’s a ridiculous amount of weight to have on your roof racks, without even starting to store anything. You don’t have to put much more on the roof and its already overloaded!

Roof top tents are also something to be wary of; many of them weigh around the 50kg mark; that’s a lot of weight. Often I’ll come across vehicles in the bush who are carrying several jerry cans, big toolboxes and half of their kitchen on the roof. While it might be convenient, its not legal, nor safe!

Roof Rack weight

Mind the weight on your roof racks

The driver is just as important

At the end of the day, your 4WD only makes up a portion of how far it will go. Modifications and accessories can make a big difference, as does starting with a capable 4WD. That said, in my opinion, the driver behind the wheel of your 4WD makes just as much difference.

I’ve seen some very standard 4WD’s tackle tracks that have blown me away; if the driver knows the right lines and has plenty of skill they make a massive difference.

Your safe wading depth might be much lower than you expect

Last week, I wrote a post about

Staying out of the water without a snorkel

. If you don’t know what the safe wading depth is in your 4WD, take the time to find out. This is the depth of water that you can safely drive through without doing any permanent damage to your 4WD.

By permanent, I mean electrical or mechanical damage, which can be easily enough to write your vehicle off. Most vehicles have a wading depth of in between 400mm and 800mm. However, if you hit a small water crossing at speed, it doesn’t have to be that deep to cause serious damage to your 4WD.

Your vehicles manual should tell you the wading depth. If you aren’t happy with it, look at installing a snorkel.

4WD wading depth

What’s your 4WD’s wading depth?

Where’s the lowest point on your 4WD?

I mentioned the quality of a driver plays a huge role in how far your 4WD will go earlier. One of the things an experienced 4WDer knows is where the low, and vulnerable parts on his/her 4WD hang down. You need to know what is likely to get hung up on your 4WD, so you can pick your lines, and reduce the chance of any damage.

On vehicles with solid axles, your differential pumpkin will be the lowest, along with the transfer case and sometimes the sills below your doors. Obviously, the aim of the game is to avoid hitting these, as you can do some very costly damage!

What else?

I’m sure there are stacks of things I’ve missed here. What else should you know about your 4WD before you head off road?

 

 

Private bush camping south of Perth

Imagine pulling into a beautiful property only 3 hours from Perth knowing it backs onto the Blackwood River, has toilets and showers, plenty of firewood and no one else to disturb your peace and quiet for the duration of your stay. Sound like paradise?

Over the WA day long weekend, we left Perth on Friday at about 4:30PM, bound for just that. We didn’t have much of a plan, except to get away from the big smoke with some mates.

Enjoying the Blackwood

The Blackwood River, all to ourselves

Loving the fire down south

Plenty of great camp fires

A few 4WDs with us

Driving across the paddock

Where is this place, and how do I get there?

This stunning location is known as Wedge Tailed Eagle Retreat, and is located not far out of Boyup Brook. It’s 3 hours south east of Perth, down Albany Highway, and located on Boyup Brook Road. From the southern suburbs, its only about 2 and a half hours; easily within reach on your Friday afternoons!

Feeding the sheep lentils

Feeding the sheep one morning

Sheep at Wedge Tailed Eagle Retreat

Some very friendly sheep

About Wedge Tailed Eagle Retreat

Right about now, you are probably wondering how we found out about this fantastic property. It’s owned by a lovely lady by the name of Sylvia, who was using a property sharing website that has since been closed on her behalf. You can find the official Facebook page here – 

https://www.facebook.com/Wedged-Tailed-Eagle-Retreat-204725659431/?fref=ts

Wedge Tailed Eagle Retreat is a lovely property with a few hundred sheep, that backs onto the beautiful Blackwood River. The paddock is on a slight slope and has two big dams and lots of green grass.

At the back of the property, there’s a little fence which stops the sheep getting down to the banks of the Blackwood. You are able to access this area by foot, but vehicles are stopped from entering due to dieback.

Sylvia is trying to restore this area back to its original state, by protecting it and planting native flora back in its place.

Dam in the south east

One of the dams. There’s yabbies in the dam too!

Blackwood River camping

Enjoying a foggy morning over the Blackwood

Blackwood River exploring

Exploring the property along the Blackwood River

What facilities are there?

Asides from more room to set your tents up than you could poke a stick at, there’s hot showers and toilets at the homestead, a few picnic tables around the place and power if you require it. There are a few steel plates where you can cook your food on with a fire too.

Toilets and showers

The homestead has showers and toilets outside

Bacon and Eggs while camping

Bacon and eggs over the fire

What can you do there?

Kayaking up and down the Blackwood river is popular here, as is fishing, bird watching, swimming (if you dare; its freezing!) and just relaxing around a big camp fire. There’s plenty of wood to burn, and a fair bit of land to explore.

It’s the perfect place to base yourself for a weekend, and head out exploring the area around Trigwell, Boyup Brook and Arthur River.

Blackwood River kayaking

Kayak down the Blackwood River

Camp fire in WA

Have epic camp fires. This was a pile that needed burning

Volleyball down south

Play a game of Volleyball

How much does it cost?

Camping is $15 per adult per night, and $10 per child. It’s not super cheap, but you get the whole place to yourself and its in a pretty spectacular location.

Blackwood River WA

It’s a spectacular part of the world

How do I book?

You can book by visiting the Facebook page;

Wedge Tailed Eagle Retreat

. Send her a PM or ring her, and Sylvia will get back to you.

It gets cold down there!

We expected it to be cold, but it was freezing. Both nights got down to the negatives, and resulted in some pretty serious frost in the mornings. We were all very glad of being able to have a big fire every night! Make sure you take warm clothing, and good quality sleeping gear. There’s nothing worse than spending the night shivering away!

Smart Bull Bar Frost

Frost on the Smart Bull Bar

Frosty wind screen

Not going to be seeing much through that for a while!

Foggy morning on the blackwood

The fog was pretty amazing

Was it worth it?

We had a fantastic time at Wedge Tailed Eagle Retreat. Realistically we did very little; relaxed around the fire, kayaked up the river, wet a line a few times, played a few games of Volleyball and Frizby, and just enjoyed our time away from the city.

It’s rare to be able to take off with mates and leave the big smoke behind, and something we were all very pleased about!

Magic fire dust

Magic fire dust

Relaxing while camping in WA

Relaxing under the stars

If you are keen to find more camp sites, check out these posts – 7 Amazing Camp Sites within 3 – 5 hours of Perth ,and 7 Fantastic Campsites Near Perth .

No snorkel? Stay out of the water in your 4WD

Water crossings are an everyday part of 4WDing. Whether its a puddle, long mud run or river crossing, if you are out and about in your 4WD you will come across water.

Pentecost River Crossing

Crossing the Pentecost on the way to El Questro

Please, take 5 seconds to consider the risk of driving through it, especially if you don’t have a snorkel fitted.

What is a 4WD Snorkel?

80 Series snorkel

The Safari snorkel on our 80 Series

Most snorkels on 4WD’s are plastic, and run down the outside of the A pillar, and through the inner guard to the engines air intake. They are essentially an extension of the factory air intake which can then suck air from a higher location.

What’s the purpose of a snorkel?

Any car requires air as part of the combustion process, and from the factory, it sucks air through an intake close to the engine bay. These days many suck air from inside the inner guard, but in the past they have been located anywhere near the top of the engine bay.

The primary issue with this is that contaminants, including dust but most especially water, can easily get flicked or pushed into the air intake, which then goes through your air filter, and if you aren’t very careful, into your engine.

Snorkels on a 4WD

Providing clean air (and no water) to your engine

A snorkel dramatically decreases the chances of water getting into your engine, and sucks air that is higher off the ground, which is also cleaner. If you’ve ever driven on a dusty gravel road in convoy, you’d be very familiar with this; the air around the bonnet and below is often full of dust, and above it is much cleaner.

A teaspoon of water can write your 4WD off

For most vehicles, all you need is a single teaspoon of water to get through the air intake and filter, and your engine will hydraulic lock. If that sounds nasty, it should, because it is! In this situation, your engine will seize and stall, and your forward progress will end. That’s not a good thing if you are half way through a deep puddle; by the time you rig up a recovery you are going to be swimming inside your vehicle.

If you are very lucky, and mechanically minded, you can sometimes get the engine to run again. However, especially with modern vehicles, your chances are not fantastic. Hydraulic locked engines often have serious damage done to them, as water won’t compress like air, and it forces things to bend or break.

Navara water crossing

How deep is too deep?

If you’ve done engine damage, there’s a very high chance that your insurance company will write your vehicle off (assuming you have

good quality 4WD insurance

!). This is without even considering water damage to the interior (and exterior electrics) of your vehicle.

Don’t go through water without a snorkel

Most full size 4WD’s have a wading depth of around the 600 – 800mm range, without a snorkel. However, if you plough into a water crossing and it splashes everywhere, its possible to get water into your engine bay in only 200 – 300mm of water.

If you absolutely must go through water without a 4WD, take it slowly and don’t splash your way in. Excessive momentum can be the difference between making it and drowning your 4WD!

Drive slowly through salt water

Slow and steady wins the race

Drowned 4WD’s in Perth

Every year, there are more than a handful of 4WD’s that get drowned in and around Perth (and no doubt the rest of Australia). Some of these have snorkels and have gone through very deep water, but many of them are inexperienced 4WDer’s who don’t check the depth of a puddle before driving through. Most importantly, many don’t have snorkels!

A good mate of mine a few months ago took his relatively new BT50 out to the Mundaring Powerlines Track after some pretty serious rainfall. He’d done the track several times before, and wasn’t new to the 4WD scene. He came to a crossing (which could have been driven around!) and having done it before, was confident he’d have no issues.

However, the crossing was just a little deeper than in the past, and after getting halfway across without a snorkel, his 4WD stalled, and died. It took over 15 minutes to rig up a recovery (do you know how hard it is to attach snatch straps to recovery points in dirty, freezing cold water?!) and in that time water got into the 4WD, almost up to the seat level.

Long story short, the vehicle had to be dragged back to the road, loaded on a tow truck and taken to the dealership, where they wrote it off on first glance. It was a stressful week, where he waited to hear whether his expensive family vehicle would be covered by insurance!

Water is deceptive

If you take one thing from this post, know that water crossings are seriously deceptive. You should always walk them, or at the very least use a stick to check the depth and surface conditions (excluding where there are salt water crocodiles around!).

Don’t assume that it will be the same depth as last time, or that because you have muddies, lockers and a lift kit you will make it through. Some of the crossings at Mundaring for example, are deep enough to have 100 Series Land Cruisers running 37 inch tyres and 6 inch lifts floating away (yep, that’s another story!).

Above all, if you can avoid driving through it in the first place, do that; its not worth the risk.

Here’s a few pics of our 80 series, after I decided to drive a track around Lake Jasper that I hadn’t checked the depth of. Even with brand new muddies, twin lockers, plenty of power and a snorkel, I bottomed out half way across, and ended up with some water (thankfully not heaps!) inside the vehicle. I should have known better, but made a foolish mistake and paid for it!

Our 80 bogged

Yeah, that was a bad move

Moving out of a big puddle

Recovered by a Nissan too!

What to do if your engine stalls in water

If you enter a water crossing, and your engine stalls, DO NOT try to start it again. In many cases, trying to restart an engine that has sucked water in will lead to serious damage. Recover the vehicle, and if you are lucky, you may get away with draining fluids and water, replacing the air filter, removing glow plugs or spark plugs and turning it over until all the water is out of the engine. Asides from damaged pride and some time spent on the side of the track, sometimes you can get away with it.

Is your snorkel water tight?

If you have a snorkel, check that it is completely air tight from the air box right through the inner guard to the snorkel. Many have fittings that are just pushed into each other, and will still leak water very easily. A snorkel is a preventative measure; if the water is flowing quickly, or you hit it too quickly, or its too deep, nothing will save you! Treat water crossings with the respect that they deserve, and you won’t have an issue.

Air tight 4WD Snorkel

Is your snorkel air tight?

Overall

If this post stops just a single person from writing off their pride and joy, then its done its job. I’ve seen the pain and frustrations of friends having to replace or rebuild 4WD’s that have been damaged by water. Get yourself a snorkel, enter water only after you’ve thoroughly checked it out and you’ll have a blast out there.

15 common mistakes to avoid when modifying your 4WD

The 4WD accessory and modifications industry has never been bigger than it is today. You can get everything from BCDC battery chargers through to chassis extensions, hot water on demand systems, portal axles and everything in between. Whilst this is great in many ways, it creates a huge opportunity for people to make costly mistakes when it comes to modifying their 4WD.

4x4 accessories

What modifications do you really need?

It’s not hard to throw thousands of dollars at a 4WD in accessories and modifications. The thing is though, are you getting good value for money, or are you just flushing it down the toilet? There’s a heap of common mistakes that are made when adding accessories and modifying 4WD’s in Australia.

Expecting to get your money back

Lets start with a blunt fact. You are not going to get your money back on modifications and accessories fitted to your 4WD. You may get a percentage of it back, but when it comes to sell your pride and joy you will always think it is worth more than it is.

If you understand this, every dollar you spend on your 4WD is pretty much gone, and not coming back. Use this to pick your modifications wisely!

Take a 15k 4WD. If you spend 15k on modifications, do you think its realistically going to sell for 30k? If you do, I have bad news for you; it wont. Some modifications do add value, but in this scenario I doubt you’d get more than 18 – 22k for the same vehicle.

4WD accessory resale

You never get your money back on 4WD accessories

Not understanding what you want from your 4WD

There’s a lot of different types of 4WDing. Some people can’t get enough of the hard core mud and rock driving, with others who are happy just to cruise up and down the local beach, and then there’s those who just want to get out and tour this amazing country without finding the hardest lines and pushing their 4WD’s to the limit.

Modifying a 4WD is a compromise in many different ways. You will not get a 4WD that is perfectly reliable, economical, practical and extremely capable off road. It simply does not exist. You can have some of each, but a 4WD that is set up for a particular style of 4WDing will not exceed in others.

My ultimate advice is to really find out what you want from your 4WD, and modify it to meet that criteria. Why would you want to lift your 4WD, put big muddies under it and throw thousands of dollars at other accessories to climb over huge rocks if you just want a reliable 4WD explore Australia with?

Using your 4WD for what its built to do

What are you going to use your 4WD for?

Starting with the wrong vehicle

Unfortunately, its common occurrence for someone to purchase a 4WD, and spend a fortune trying to modify it into something it will never be.

If you want a vehicle that is set up for serious, hard core 4WD tracks and abuse, then get something that is designed to do this. Don’t buy an independent front suspension vehicle, lift it 4 inches, throw a set of 35’s on it and expect it to last bouncing up and down rocks!

I’m not saying Independent suspension vehicles are rubbish. Quite the contrary – they have the ability to be capable and are much more comfortable than a solid axle vehicle. However, they were never intended for hard core rock work, and nothing you do (asides from a solid axle swap) is going to change this.

4WD accessory requirements

Start with the right 4WD for your requirements

Not having an end plan in mind

When you’ve owned your 4WD for a long time, its not hard to clock up the modifications list. You do a few changes here and there, and before you know it, your list of accessories and modifications is longer than you’d like to admit.

I’ll admit, I am guilty of this – I’ve had our 80 series for a number of years now, and as time has progressed the number of modifications has grown astronomically. At the back of my mind I knew we wanted a capable tourer, but I never fully considered what I had to do to make this work.

80 series land cruiser build

Before and after of our 80 series

When you don’t sit down and work out what you want out of your 4WD, you pay for it in a few years time. I added accessories to our 80 series over a number of years, and sat down one day to work out what I’d actually spent, and nearly died.

If you want to know more about it, have a read of this – 

How much have you spent on your 4WD?

A few grand spent each year on mods and accessories soon adds up when you’ve had the 4WD for a a good chunk of time.

Over modifying

We’ve done a fair bit of 4WDing throughout Western Australia. We’ve covered most of the coastline all the way around, and plenty of inland places. Some tracks are close to home, and some many thousands of kilometres away.

I can’t get enough of checking out other people’s 4WD’s as we travel. You know what the irony is? The majority of people who are out there using their 4WD the most do not have a massive list of accessories and modifications. You don’t need lift kits, lockers, power upgrades, huge tyres and every electrical accessory under the sun to get out there and enjoy your 4WD.

I’ve learned that you should have a good reason to modify your 4WD. Don’t add accessories just because everyone else has them; unless you are looking for a way to spend a bit of coin. Modify your 4WD to make it meet your requirements. If its not capable enough, by all means look at lockers and bigger tyres, but if you aren’t having any issues with your 4WD why change it?

You can spend a fortune over modifying, when that money could be put towards an amazing trip, like the

5 weeks we spent in the Kimberley!

Look for improvements in comfort, capability, reliability and functionality.

4WD modification tips

What’s going to give you the most enjoyment from your 4WD?

Not considering the legalities

You have a responsibility to drive a 4WD on the road that complies with the local regulations. It’s not just an ethical requirement, but the law states your vehicle needs to be roadworthy. Would you believe me if I told you a large percentage of 4WD’s on the road are not legal?

You probably wouldn’t, and that’s because there’s not enough information passed around. If your vehicle has bigger than 50mm tyres, or the roof has gone up by more than 50mm (by way of tyres, suspension or body lifts), it is not legal without an engineering certificate in Western Australia. If you are towing a heavy caravan, there’s a good change your combination will be overloaded, purely because of

Dodgy 4WD tow rating marketing tactics

and again, a lack of information.

So, what does it really mean? Put simply, there’s a whole range of really nasty risks that you are taking by driving a 4WD that is not legal on the road. Want to know more?

Find out if your 4WD is legal

.

Rearranged Rover at Lancelin

Is your 4WD legal?

Modifying for looks over practicality

Whilst a 4WD with a massive lift and huge tyres looks really cool, its often not practical. You’ll use more fuel, have a much higher centre of gravity and more than likely have worse handling. There’s nothing wrong with adding a bit of bling to your 4WD to make it look good, but I would suggest accessories and modifications should be added for practical improvements.

At the end of the day, you need to use your 4WD, and to me, that’s way more important than how it looks.

Not researching enough

There’s more information online today than ever before. Unless you are going for a very unique modification or accessory, you will find model specific advice about just about anything on the internet. Sometimes it takes a bit more searching, but I guarantee it will pay off.

Before you fit the bigger tyres, have you made sure that you are buying the right offset rims to ensure the tyres stick within the guards, and aren’t going to scrub? Before you add the lift kit, have you thought about your brake lines, and the adjustments required to differential angles and brake bias proportioning valves?

If you don’t take the time to research before adding accessories to your 4WD, there’s a good change it will bite you in the rear. Consider everything; do a brand comparison, look for owners who have the modification you want and see what they think, shop around for prices and in general just take your time. Do it once, and do it right.

4WD accessories

Find someone else who’s done the mods and learn from them!

Not considering the weight

Another part of 4WD modifications and accessories that people don’t know enough about is weights. Your 4WD cannot carry every 4WD accessory under the sun along with your camping and recovery gear without being overloaded and totally illegal.

Find out your payload, and then add up everything on your 4WD that has weight to it. Lets look at a typical example:

Bull bar, second battery, winch, sidesteps, roof rack, cargo barrier, rear drawer system, fridge with food, 40L of water, clothes, spare parts and tools, UHF radio and lighting, recovery gear, portable electronics, cooking equipment, tent, camping chairs and table, 3 adult passengers and 40L of extra fuel. Total weight of around 750kg, and you can guarantee most people carry more than this. Pay loads vary from about 550kg to 1100kg in 4WD’s, and if you are towing something you need to take off the tow ball weight too.

It’s extremely easy to go over your pay load, which in turn puts your 4WD at more risk of breaking, and deems your 4WD illegal.

Want to know more? Have a look at this blog post –

Is your 4WD overweight?

Hilux 22R

What does your 4WD weigh?

Letting the bug bite too hard

The 4WDing bug will bite you, and hard. You’ll want to do all sorts to your vehicle, but remember to take the time to stop and really think about why you are doing it. Don’t get caught up adding every accessory under the sun without quality, justifiable reasons for doing so. You will regret it if you let the 4WD bug bite you too hard!

Buying in the wrong order

There is a certain order that you should modify your 4WD. Some things don’t matter, but there are a number of items that should be added before others.

The most obvious one is your suspension. Please, don’t get a nice new suspension package before you consider the weight of your vehicle now, and in the future. So many people do this, and after they install a bull bar, winch, rear bar, drawer system, long range fuel tank, second spare tyre etc etc find their springs have sagged.

Suspension should be added only when you know how much weight your 4WD is going to carry, as it needs to be matched to this. Get it wrong, and your springs will sag, or you will have a terrible ride. Nothing is more off putting than a 4WD with a poor ride.

Likewise, spending money on engine modifications before you’ve upgraded your exhaust is a bad idea.

Take the time to add your accessories and modifications in the correct order and you will save a bucket load of money, time and hassle.

Suspension in a 4WD

Add the weight and then do the suspension

Not considering the downsides of 4WD modifications

Every accessory and modification you add to your 4WD comes with a number of downsides too. Everyone gets caught up with all the benefits, and totally forgets to think about what it may do to your vehicle that you won’t like. Ever wondered why when something breaks on your 4WD, more often than not it has to do with something you’ve changed? There’s a reason for this!

Just a brief example; everyone wants to fit bigger tyres to their 4WD. You get more flotation, better tractionand more clearance. What’s the catch though? You lose power, use more fuel, have speedo and odometer errors, cannot idle as slowly anymore, put more stress on your driveline, increase the center of gravity and the list goes on.

I won’t go into much more than that here, but this post does –

The downsides of 4WD accessories and modifications

Buying poor quality gear

We’ve become quite the disposable society. When something breaks, you chuck it and buy another one, accepting that it probably won’t last very long before you have to replace it again. Don’t fall into this category; buy quality gear that lasts, and your pocket will thank you.

There’s been a huge flood of cheap and poor quality gear to the 4WD market. In almost every case, if it seems cheap, there’s a reason for it. Compare it to the reputable brands, and then look for quality differences. Sometimes the cheaper price comes from a lack of quality assurance, meaning some people get reasonable quality gear whilst others get absolute lemons.

When you are out in the middle of no where, you want gear that you can depend on. Do your research, and you will find very quickly that sometimes that cheap winch or recovery kit you’ve been eyeing off is not a good decision (from both a financial and safety perspective!)

Not setting a budget

Again, I fell for this one, big time. A few grand spent here, and a few grand spent there, and you end up with a build over a couple of years that has cost an absolute fortune. 4WD’s are not cheap. They are not cheap to own, to insure, to rego, to repair and most definitely to modify.

Sit down and think about how much you want to spend on your 4WD, or you may find in a few years time that you’ve spent way more than you intended to.

I recommend you think about how much of Australia you could explore with the money you spend on every accessory. Is it better to have a decked out 4WD, or a heap of memories of amazing places you’ve been to with friends and family?

East Landing camping

A decked out fourby or lots of this? The choice is yours!

Not considering the snowball effect

I’ve discovered many times that when you add a 4WD accessory, it results in needing to add something else. Sometimes this is predictable, and other times its less simple to foresee.

If you are adding more weight, there’s a good chance you will need to adjust the suspension setup. Once you fit bigger tyres, and add more weight, you lose power and then want to do engine modifications to get the power and fuel economy back.

There’s no point having a dual battery system if you can’t charge the batteries other than driving your vehicle; out comes a solar system, dual battery isolator or BCDC charger. What ever you want to modify, have a think about how this is going to change what you need in the future.

Every modification has the potential for wanting to do something else, and if you don’t think about it, you can waste a lot of money.

Overall

Take your time when it comes to modifying a 4WD. Think, research and compare as much as you can. Ultimately, the 4WD is built to serve you; set it up in a way where it does this perfectly. Don’t worry about what others do to their 4WD’s, or what they think of yours. If it suits your needs, its the perfect 4WD.

I know I’ve made a number of these mistakes in the past, and I am sure plenty of you have too. Let me know below what you’ve done and regretted, along with anything that I may have missed!

15 things you may not know about your 4WD

There’s a lot to learn about 4WDing. Whether you are new to the scene, or you’ve been exploring this magic country for many years, you can still pick up something new. In this post, we look at 15 things that you may not know about your 4WD.

Your speedo is probably not accurate

 

Image result for join the group

You’d expect your speedometer, odometer and trip meter to be on the money, right? The truth is, even a brand spanking new 4WD is allowed to have some speedometer error. At 100km/h it can be up to as much as 10km/h, which makes a substantial difference.

However, with 4WD’s, the most common way to alter your speedo readings is to fit different size tyres. Usually, bigger size tyres are chosen, and this will make your speedometer read lower than you are actually going. If you’ve gone up a few sizes on tyres, your speedo will often be close to accurate, or it may read a little low. If you go up more than a few sizes, your speedo could be out by as much as 20%. If you are keen on knowing more, have a read of Fitting Bigger Tyres to your 4WD.

It pays to get a GPS, and check the difference. You can do this while sitting at a constant speed, but the most accurate way is to log 100km on both your trip metre and a GPS, and then compare. Our 80 Series Land Cruiser is out by just under 5%, running 50mm bigger tyres.

This is important, as you don’t want to pick up a new 4WD (even if it’s just new to you), and get done for speeding because you didn’t know the speedo was reading wrong! If it does read incorrectly, there are a number of ways you can get it fixed without changing your tyre size.

Bigger 4WD Tyres

If you are running bigger tyres, your speedo is probably out

How old are your tyres?

Any form of rubber will perish over time. This is made worse when its subject to the abuse a 4WD tyre gets, but as your tyres age they will perform worse. Every tyre in Australia has a 4 digit number stamped inside a little box on the sidewall, which tells you the manufacturing date of your tyre. If you want to know more, have a read of this – How to tell the age of your 4WD Tyres.

According to the tyre guru’s, once your tyres get to around the 5 year mark, they are considered old, and you should be looking at replacing them.

Something to bear in mind is that your new tyres could already be up to a year or two old when you get them, depending on how long the tyre store has had them. If you don’t rack the kays up, its easy to hit the 5 year mark and still have a tyre that looks perfectly good.

I’m not saying the moment your tyres hit 5 years old they are going to fall apart, but its an early warning sign to pay more attention to them. Look for any signs of perishing, including cracks and worn sections. The last thing you want is to have a blowout at speed!

Tyre age stamp

Look for the two numbers; this shows the 49th week of 2011

It may not be legally modified

There’s nothing nicer than a 4WD running a big, quality suspension setup and huge muddies. They look tough as idle through huge ruts and are a heap of fun to drive. The thing is though, most of them are not legally modified!

The consequences of driving a vehicle that has illegal modifications go much further than just getting a yellow sticker. You can be liable in the case of an accident, and by law, your insurance company does not have to cover you.

If you’ve changed your tyre size, suspension, wheel track, brakes, body or chassis, you’ll want to have a read of this; Is your 4WD legal?

4WD roll over

Should the worst happen, are you covered?

Your factory hooks are not rated for recoveries

You will get bogged in your 4WD, eventually. It happens to everyone and its just part of the fun. What’s not fun though, is hearing about someone every couple of years in Australia who gets killed by a 4WD recovery that has gone wrong.

You put a heap of stress on lots of different components when recovering a 4WD using a winch or snatch strap, and you can very easily kill someone when it isn’t done correctly. The ‘hooks’ that come with your 4WD from factory are not rated to be recovered off. Before you head off road, you should get a decent set of front and rear Rated recovery points, and have them mounted correctly to the chassis with grade 8.8 bolts.

Even then, use a bridle where possible, and a blanket, dampener or towel over the recovery strap so if it does go pear shaped no one gets wiped out by it.

ARB Bull bar recovery points

Do you have rated recovery points?

What’s your Payload?

It’s scary to see some 4WD’s on the road, loaded up with more gear than you can poke a stick at. If you don’t know already, head over to Redbook, select your vehicle and under dimensions, there’s a figure given for your payload. This is the legal amount of weight your vehicle can carry, as deemed safe by the manufacturer. If you are towing, the weight on your tow ball comes off this too.

At the very least, take the time to write down the weight of everything on your car, including passengers, extra fuel, water, modifications etc. I guarantee you will be very close to the payload when heading off on a trip away.

If you are over the given payload, you are putting excess strain on the vehicle, may not be covered by insurance in the event of an accident and could be fined badly if the authorities decide to weigh your vehicle.

Over weight 4WD

Is your 4WD overweight?

What size lift kit are you running?

One of the more challenging things to do when you get a 4WD that is new to you is to find out what sort of lift kit it is running. Over time, even stiff springs will sag, and it becomes very difficult to know whether you are running a 2″, 3″, 4″ or something else.

So, what can you do to identify the lift you have? Firstly, look for blocks between the chassis and the body. Obviously, they aren’t going to shrink, and if you have 50mm blocks then your vehicle has been raised by 50mm using a ‘body lift’. From there, you have a few options.

The easiest is to ringyour vehicles manufacturer, and ask them for a measurement to identify it. They should be able to give you this, but remember to give the right information, as they vary regularly between different years and models.

Beyond that, forums that are set up which are dedicated around specific model vehicles are a gold mine. On most of them, you should be able to tell you the measurement between the inner guard and centre of your hubs for different lift kits.

Remember that over time springs will sag, and a vehicle with an old 4 inch lift may be lower than one with a new 2 inch lift.

Lift kit in a 4WD

What size lift kit are you running?

Tow ball death

Tow balls are not for snatching or winching!

Tow balls are not suitable recovery points

If you are new to the game, one thing you absolutely must not do when 4WDing is use the tow ball as a recovery point. Yep, it’s easy to drop a strap over the tow ball and take off, but these are not designed for huge amounts of energy to be applied within a split second.

They will shear, and having a steel ball hurling through the air faster than you can see (usually towards another vehicle or person) is the last thing you want to do. They might look strong, but they most certainly are not.

Want to know more? Check out our latest post; Tow Balls in 4WD Recoveries can kill you.

Weight behind the rear axle can be dangerous

We covered payload earlier in the post, but you’d be mad to take a chunk of that weight and have it sitting behind your rear wheels. Do yourself a search on google, for bent 4WD chassis. Scary stuff.

You know what most have in common? Either they were overloaded, or they had the weight positioned too far back. I saw a photo the other day, of a badly bent, new Mitsubishi Triton dual cab, which had a heavy rear bar mounted, along with a spare tyre on one side and 4 jerry cans of fuel/water on the other side.

Add it up; Rear Bar 50kg, tyre and swing arm 30kg, second swing arm and 80L of fluid, and you are looking at about 180kg right at the back of your chassis. Hit even a small bump, and what do you think is going to happen?

If you are going to carry heavy weight, make sure it’s positioned either in front of the rear axle or on top of the axle. The further back you put it, the more stress it’s going to put on the last third of your chassis.

Rear axle weight

Watch the weight beyond your rear axle

Your insurance company may not cover you everywhere

There’s a lot of insurance companies in Australia that offer cover to 4WD vehicles. The thing is though, they are not all equal. Some insurance companies treat your 4WD as if it is the same as an ordinary car, and their level of cover may not suit your requirements.

When you take out 4WD insurance, be sure to ask where you are covered in Australia. Some companies will not cover you for driving on gravel, non-gazetted road, private property or beaches.

4WD insurance is a very important part of owning a 4WD; if you want to know more about it, have a read of this – What to look for in 4WD insurance.

Our 80 at Lancelin

Are you covered in the dunes?

You may not be able to tow the maximum towing capacity

The number of heavy trailers being towed within Australia has gone up significantly in the last few years. Whether it’s a big boat, caravan or car trailer, there are very strict regulations on what you can tow.

Your 4WD will come with a maximum towing capacity, which you must not exceed. However, manufacturers are getting very sneaky and unethical, and are advertising maximum towing capacities that you would only be able to use under very unlikely situations.

I won’t go into it too much in this post, but if you need to tow something heavy, you may have to ensure your 4WD is as light as possible. As an example, think about a new Ford Ranger; if you are using the maximum towing capacity of 3500kg, you are only legally allowed to have 300kg of weight added to the 4WD itself. Take away the ball weight and just one passenger, and you are going to be overweight already.

For more information, have a read of this; Are you being misled by 4WD towing capacities?

Towing with a 4WD

What’s your towing capacity?

Tyre pressures should vary from 4WD to 4WD

Tyre pressures are one of the most important factors you have in your control when it comes to 4WDing. There’s a heap of guides out there that will tell you what tyre pressures to run, but you really need to tailor it for yourself.

You should not be running the same tyre pressures as all of your mates; as you (more than likely) drive different vehicles. Every vehicle should have its own set of tyre pressures, based on the weight of the vehicle, tyre dimensions, terrain and speed.

If you didn’t already know, your tyre pressures will go up and down as you drive, due to the temperature change of the air inside. There’s more information on that here; 4WD tyre pressures; do you check them hot or cold?

Have a look in your vehicle owners manual, which will tell you the recommended tyre pressures for certain tyres. If you do Fit bigger tyres to your 4WD, you can lower the pressures a little. As always, pay attention to the way the tyres wear. If the middle gets worn out, your pressures are too high. If the outsides get worn out, you are running them too low.

4WD Tyre pressures

Every 4WD has its own correct tyre pressures

Your roof has a weight limit

Even though a roof rack seems like a convenient place to load your gear onto, the manufacturer of your 4WD has set weight limits to what the roof of your vehicle can withstand. For most 4WD’s, it’s only 100kg, although there are a few that have 150kg roof load ratings.

100kg may not seem like much, but have a think of what happens when you hit a bump off road; the forces on the roof are substantial. Overload your roof, and you end up with a high centre of gravity and you could easily damage your roof.

Have a think about what you have on your roof. Steel full-length roof racks, in my opinion, are a complete waste of money. I removed one from a mates Patrol a while back, made by one of the more reputable 4WD accessory companies, and it came in at 66kg. That’s a ridiculous amount of weight to have on your roof racks, without even starting to store anything. You don’t have to put much more on the roof and it’s already overloaded!

Roof top tents are also something to be wary of; many of them weigh around the 50kg mark; that’s a lot of weight. Often I’ll come across vehicles in the bush who are carrying several jerry cans, big toolboxes and half of their kitchen on the roof. While it might be convenient, it’s not legal, nor safe!

Roof Rack weight

Mind the weight on your roof racks

The driver is just as important

At the end of the day, your 4WD only makes up a portion of how far it will go. Modifications and accessories can make a big difference, as does starting with a capable 4WD. That said, in my opinion, the driver behind the wheel of your 4WD makes just as much difference.

I’ve seen some very standard 4WD’s tackle tracks that have blown me away; if the driver knows the right lines and has plenty of skill they make a massive difference.

Your safe wading depth might be much lower than you expect

Last week, I wrote a post about Staying out of the water without a snorkel. If you don’t know what the safe wading depth is in your 4WD, take the time to find out. This is the depth of water that you can safely drive through without doing any permanent damage to your 4WD.

By permanent, I mean electrical or mechanical damage, which can be easily enough to write your vehicle off. Most vehicles have a wading depth of in between 400mm and 800mm. However, if you hit a small water crossing at speed, it doesn’t have to be that deep to cause serious damage to your 4WD.

Your vehicle’s manual should tell you the wading depth. If you aren’t happy with it, look at installing a snorkel.

4WD wading depth

What’s your 4WD’s wading depth?

Where’s the lowest point on your 4WD?

I mentioned the quality of a driver plays a huge role in how far your 4WD will go earlier. One of the things an experienced 4WDer knows is where the low, and vulnerable parts on his/her 4WD hang down. You need to know what is likely to get hung up on your 4WD, so you can pick your lines, and reduce the chance of any damage.

On vehicles with solid axles, your differential pumpkin will be the lowest, along with the transfer case and sometimes the skills below your doors. Obviously, the aim of the game is to avoid hitting these, as you can do some very costly damage!

What else?

I’m sure there are stacks of things I’ve missed here. What else should you know about your 4WD before you head off road, don’t forget to leave a comment.

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