20 things you should never do in a 4WD recovery

Being bogged in your 4WD isn’t the most pleasant feeling, but there are plenty of ways to get yourself moving again. There’s nothing abnormal about being stuck; people recover bogged 4WD’s every day of the year. However, there are still many, many people who don’t have the knowledge or consideration to safely recover a stuck 4WD. Too often when things go wrong, it involves snatch straps, which are not designed for every single 4WD recovery you come across. So,

If you don’t know already, there have been more than a handful of people in Australia alone (and many, many more worldwide) killed or seriously injured by 4WD recoveries that have gone wrong. When you get a 4WD stuck, the forces required to get it moving again can be substantial, well into the 5 tonne plus mark. Safety is obviously the most important factor when it comes to recovering a 4WD, but from a practical sense, recoveries can be made very difficult with the wrong techniques.

However, before I do, here is a video that I think you should consider watching. Please note that it is graphic; two people are killed when a 4WD recovery goes badly wrong. Please view the video with caution; this is serious stuff:


Use the tow ball

I’m going to put this as number one. Luckily, this has been publicised a lot more in recent years, but people still seem to think it is ok to throw a snatch strap over the tow ball when recovering a 4WD. Tow balls are not designed for the sort of stress a snatch strap or winch can put on them and are actually very brittle. If you snatch off your tow ball, it’s very likely to shear off, and fly through the air.

A chunk of metal like that, flying through the air as quickly as it does has the potential to kill, and it has done in the past. A few years ago a lady was killed near Geraldton whilst recovering a stuck 4WD on the beach. The tow ball broke off the vehicle being recovered, flew through the front window and killed her. Such a tragedy and she was only trying to help out.

Please don’werese tow balls for recoveries. We don’t need any more accidents or deaths.

Stand close to the action

The next ‘big’ mistake so many people make when recovering a 4WD is to stand close to the action. Yep, its exciting, and you want to see what is happening, but you need to be at least 1.5 times the length of the strap or winch cable away from the action. You’ll still be able to see, but it means if something does go pear shaped you aren’t going to get wiped out by a piece of recovery gear.

Spectators are the worst for doing this; those who have no idea and just want to see what the fuss is about. Just politely inform them to move out the way, and refuse to recover a stuck 4WD with those standing nearby. It’s not worth the risk.

Recover before using a shovel

Using a shovel might not be the easiest job, but spending 5 minutes digging around a stuck 4WD reduces the forces put on your recovery gear dramatically. You want to dig in front of all 4 wheels, to give the vehicle a chance to pop up onto the surface again without having to push half a tonne of mud, snow or sand out of the way first!

Join snatch straps together with a shackle

Snatch straps come in a variety of lengths. However, in many situations, you aren’t able to get close enough to use just one snatch strap. The logical step then, is to join two together. This is fine, providing you do it with a bit of care and consideration. Joining two snatch straps (or any straps involved in a 4WD recovery) together with a shackle is very, very dangerous. The shackle isn’t likely to break, but snatch straps do on a fairly regular basis, and that shackle will fly through the air until it hits something, or comes to the end of the strap.

If someone is in the way of that chunk of flying metal, they aren’t going to be in very good shape. The correct way to join two snatch straps together is by feeding one end of snatch strap A through the eye of snatch strap B. Then, feed the same eye of snatch strap A over the other end of snatch strap B and pull it tight. This only takes a few seconds and ensures that both snatch straps are held together firmly.

To stop the pulling tight when doing a recovery, roll a newspaper or magazine up and stick it between the 2 straps. You can recover a 4WD without doing this, but you will spend hours trying to get the knot out afterwards. Trust me, I know; I’ve had to do it!

Rush around

Stress levels are elevated for sure during a 4WD recovery. However, it pays to take a second to stand back and consider what you are doing. There are plenty of different ways to recover a stuck 4WD, and you should decide on the quickest, safest and easiest method! Unless the tide is coming in, or your car is being filled up with water, you have time to consider what your options are, set the recovery up carefully and methodically, and get the bogged 4WD out without anything breaking! Have a think about, and factor that into the way you set about it.

Recover from points that are not rated

Very, very few 4WD’s come from the factory with

If you don’t believe me; ring your manufacturer and ask. I bet they won’t give you written evidence stating their factory points are suitable for snatch or winch recoveries.

Your car may have a couple of ‘points’ that look like they are good for recovering off, but take a closer look and you will be surprised. Most of these points are actually tie down points, which are used for transporting the vehicle. The way that the hook, loop, angle or plate is attached to your chassis is a dead giveaway of how strong they are; if it is not held there by at least two M12 grade 8.8 bolts, you shouldn’t recover off it.

The result of doing so is the same as having a shackle or tow ball fly through the air. Tow points aren’t light either, and could easily kill someone.

Use 4WD recovery gear that is not rated

Not only do your recovery points need to be rated, but anything that is involved in a 4WD recovery should be stamped or tagged that it is rated. Shackles are a scary example of this – if your shackles are plain grey with no writing stamped on them, they are not rated! They are classed as general purpose and are not manufactured for lifting or recoveries. All rated shackles will be stamped with their WLL (working load limit), and usually, have coloured pins.

The most common shackles used in a 4WD recovery are 4.75 tonnes; avoid using anything that is rated less than this.

Likewise, equaliser straps, snatch straps, tree trunk protectors, snatch blocks, winches, hooks and anything else you may use in a 4WD recovery must be rated. Using something that isn’t could lead to a breakage, which is something you really, really want to avoid. Always consider the; it’s not worth the risk.

Ignore your tyre pressures

are the most critical thing you can control when 4WDing. There’s a good chance that the 4WD you are recovering is not running the right tyre pressures, so now is the time to double check. In sand especially, this is the easiest way to make a recovery simple, safe and quick. Don’t be afraid to let your tyres down a bit more if needed; it makes a huge difference.

Make sure you factor in the pressure change as your tyre warms up; its a significant difference.

Recover a vehicle in reverse

This is less of a safety thing, and more of a ‘don’t break your vehicle’ consideration, but its worth mentioning. Your 4WD gearbox is not as strong in reverse as it is in first, or second gear. If it is possible, turn your vehicle around and recover the stuck 4WD going forwards. I know this isn’t always possible, and I have had to recover in reverse, but bear the weakness in mind and you won’t be up for a new gearbox.

Use a snatch strap on a vehicle badly bogged in mud

This is a matter of perception, but in general, a vehicle that is really badly bogged in mud is not one that should be recovered by a snatch strap instead, a winch,

and plenty of hard work on the shovel is the better option.

If you’ve ever been badly bogged in mud this will make perfect sense; mud has a level of suction that is truly unbelievable. The moment you stop moving, the mud sucks down on your 4WD and refuses to let go, without a lot of force applied. The problem though is that a snatch strap applies a lot of force over a very short amount of time. If it manages to pull the vehicle out then you are in the clear, but if it doesn’t, all of that force goes through your chassis snatch strap and recovery points.

A winch is a much better option, as it gradually applies pressure until the suction is broken and the 4WD moves (or something breaks!). The best thing to do is dig as much mud away as possible, lay your matrax down and winch out. Again, not everyone has a winch, so you have to make do with what you’ve got available, or come up with a new plan!

I’m not suggesting you chuck your snatch strap out when going 4WDing in the mud, just be aware of the extra stress you can put on your 4WD by using a snatch strap on a heavily bogged 4WD in the mud!

Ignore the second recovery point

It’s good practice to recover off two points. Ideally, you should have two rated recovery points on the front and the rear of your 4WD. If you are recovering or being recovered, you should use an equaliser strap in between both points, with the winch or snatch strap attached to this. The load is then spread over two recovery points and puts a more even force on your chassis. A bent chassis is the last thing you want from a day’s 4WDing!

Choke a strap

Whether it be snatch straps, equaliser straps or tree trunk protectors, it is a bad idea to choke a strap. What I mean by this is putting the eye of one strap through the other, and pulling it tight around something(like most dog collars are). By doing this, you drastically reduce the strength of the strap, and may break it. In the case of tree trunk protectors, you should just basket the strap around the tree – feed one end around and attach the strap or winch onto both equal length ends of the strap.

I have seen people do this with snatch straps when joining them together too. Bad idea; join them as described above!

Add more potential missiles to a recovery than needed

There is a well known rule when it comes to 4WD recoveries. Don’t add any more equipment into the equation than needed. The more you add, the more potential missiles you have that could break and hurt someone. An example of this is using a shackle to attach a winch hook to a tree trunk protector, or equaliser strap. Do away with the shackle, and attach the hook directly onto the strap. If you have rated hook recovery points, you don’t need to use a shackle. If you need to join snatch straps, do it as described above, not by using a shackle!

Take off full pelt for the first snatch recovery

Once you’ve been bogged a few times, you will quickly gain an appreciation for the amount of force required to pull a stuck 4WD out. This varies considerably based on the situation, but more often than not you don’t need a full speed recovery. I always flinch when I see someone take a huge run up to snatch another 4WD out. This puts a ridiculous amount of stress on everything involved.

A good way to recover the 4WD is to start off slow, and get progressively quicker if you don’t get the car out the first time. In general, most snatch recoveries work just fine if you leave 1 – 2 metres of slack strap, and take off with the bogged vehicle turning its wheels slowly.

Use recovery equipment that isn’t suited for your vehicle

You can buy a range of different sized snatch straps, winches and other recovery equipment. If you have a Suzuki Jimny, you shouldn’t be using the same winch, snatch strap or equaliser strap as someone with a 4 tonne Land Cruiser and camper trailer hooked on the rear. Make sure the recovery gear you have suits your vehicle; if it is too light you risk something breaking. In the case of snatch straps, if it is too heavy (like using an 11,000kg snatch strap to pull out a Sierra) it won’t stretch properly.

Don’t join things together that aren’t meant to be

Some of you would have seen drag chain, which can be used in some forms of 4WD recoveries. However, don’t attach it to a snatch strap, or use a tow rope and a snatch strap together. They aren’t intended to work together and can cause serious damage.

I’m going to dob on myself here; not long after I bought

My Hilux

(with very limited 4WD experience!) I got really, really badly bogged down near Collie, and had very limited success recovering myself from the clay mud with a mates Patrol and several snatch straps. To cut a long story short, we ended up with a very dodgy recovery taking place. It was like this – my 4500kg recovery hook, with a 6000kg snatch strap attached to it, then an 8000kg snatch strap joined to that, a length of drag chain attached to that, being pulled out with a tractor, and a 60 series Land Cruiser attached to the back of the tractor. We did have Maxtrax under the wheels, which I think are the only things that saved us. I look back now and am absolutely horrified. If something had broken, I’m positive there would have been someone killed.

How could I have been so stupid? The answer is simple; when you are in a high-stress situation and you don’t know any better, risks are taken that shouldn’t be. Thankfully, the Hilux was recovered and no damage was done, to vehicle or person. I’m glad to say that there have been some very steep learning curves along the 4WD recovery learning path!

Recover a 4WD with several vehicles without considering the risks

On occasion, one 4WD will not be able to recover a bogged 4WD. A good example of this is trying to winch a stuck 4WD out of sticky mud; in many cases, the vehicle winching the bogged 4WD out will get pulled towards the muck, as a pose to the other way around. In this situation, you’ve got a few options, but one of the more common ways is to anchor the recovery vehicle to another 4WD. This is fine, as it just stops the 4WD from moving forward as easily.

However, I have seen photos of a bogged 4WD being winched by another 4WD, who in turn is being winched by another 4WD. You need to remember that the forces are greatly increased when doing this. Occasionally people will have 3 cars joined together with snatch straps, all working as a train to pull a stuck car off a soft beach, for example. Again, this can be fine, providing the stresses are kept down and its done safely. Food for thought.

Ignore the dampener

It’s a good idea to use a dampener when recovering a stuck 4WD by winch or snatch strap. It is there purely to reduce the recoil, should something break. You don’t have to buy a dampener; a big jumper or towel works just as well, but it’s worth putting one (or two) on.

Keep your thoughts to yourself

I don’t like telling people what they are doing is unsafe, but if you are a witness to a recovery that you think is dodgy, it’s worth speaking up about it. Obviously, its a judgement call, and you have to feel safe with doing this but don’t keep your thoughts to yourself.

I remember being down at Yeagarup beach a few years ago and coming across a Jeep that was bogged to the chassis rails. A 4WD club had turned up and got stuck into the recovery. They pulled the snatch straps out, had a bit of a chat to the driver, and set the recovery up. I looked at what they had done; joined two straps together with a shackle. Half of me said ‘say something!’, and the other half said, no, they should know what they are doing.

Now, this wasn’t a normal beach recovery. We are talking about a done up V8 Landcruiser who gave it the berries with a big run up, and a heavy jeep with zero digging having been done, well and truly bogged. I didn’t say anything, and the car was recovered without anyone getting hurt, but its the perfect example of when you really should say something. Imagine if a strap had broken, and one of the many spectators had been hurt, or killed? I wouldn’t have been able to live with myself.

Spin your wheels at a rate of knots

If you get stuck in a 4WD, the worst thing you can do is put your foot down on the accelerator. Ironically, this is usually the first thing people do when they get stuck. If your wheels turn and you don’t move forward, you are going to sink. The longer you stay on the accelerator, the deeper your hole gets, and the harder it is to be recovered.

This is the same as when you are being recovered; a gentle turn of the wheels is a good idea as it helps to pop you back onto the surface, but there’s no need to have your car bouncing off the rev limiter!

From my perspective

I’m going to be brutally honest here; there are a number of things on this list that I have done in the past. When I look back at the way we started 4WDing, I am incredibly glad nothing broke, and no one got hurt. I can recall several recoveries where we put a snatch strap over a tow ball. For those that have never been told, it seems the logical thing to do. Dig a little deeper though, and you soon realise they are highly dangerous! I’m glad that I’ve learned a lot, and can now pass on some of the things I’ve picked up, and hopefully save someone from getting hurt.

I’d love it if you shared this with those who may not know what they are doing is unsafe.

How many of the things above have you done before? How did you learn that what you were doing was unsafe?

What’s the best tyre pressures for beach driving?

If your 4WD gets bogged on the beach, there’s a good chance you are running your tyres with too much air in them. Every vehicle and beach is different, but often people are far too conservative when it comes to deflating their tyres enough for beach driving.

There’s nothing more frustrating than getting stuck behind a bogged 4WD on the beach, whilst they struggle to move half a meter because of the wrong tyre pressures.

Why do you let your tyres down for beach driving?

When you let air out of your tyres, the surface area of rubber contacting the ground increases. It gets slightly wider, and a lot longer. From full tyre pressure down to around 15PSI your surface area nearly doubles. This means that instead of the weight of your 4WD being distributed over each tyres small footprint (and forcing the tyres to sink), the load is spread over pretty much double the area, and allows the tyres to float over the top of the sand.

What happens if I don’t let my tyres down enough?

Asides from dramatically increasing the chances of your vehicle getting bogged on the beach, you work your engine considerably harder. A 4WD that has to bulldoze its way through soft sand as a pose to allowing the tyres to float over the sand will often run much hotter, and can easily cause engine damage if you aren’t careful. This also results in using a lot more fuel than if you adjusted your pressures properly.

You will find that you dig huge ruts with tyre pressures that are too hard as well, which will make it very difficult for anyone else to follow in your tracks.

Asides from the giant ruts, tyres that are not deflated enough spin and create bumps on the track. You might not think it makes much of a difference, but its a terrible feeling trying to follow a track whilst you are getting thrown up and down! After a big Easter at Yeagarup the tracks were so badly chopped up that it was almost impossible to get enough momentum to drive up the exit dune.

The bottom line though, if you don’t let your tyres down enough you risk getting stuck. If this happens to be as the tide is coming up, you are putting your pride and joy at risk.

How do I know when I have the right tyre pressures?

It takes a bit of practise to get the tyre pressure correct. For some beaches, you barely have to let the air out at all. For many beaches in WA though, you won’t make it more than 10 metres from the entrance without proper tyre deflation.

When your 4WD tyres are deflated correctly for beach driving, you should be able to roll without any acceleration for at least a couple of meters. If you take your foot off the accelerator and the vehicle almost immediately bogs down and stops, you know the tyres are digging in and not floating, like they should be.

Your vehicle shouldn’t be struggling to drive on the beach either; even the softest beaches can be driven by most 4WD’s without any issues. If your car is struggling, go down a bit more and you will be amazed.

If there are signs asking you to reduce your tyre pressure to a certain amount, please follow them. They are there for a reason, and you will chop tracks up without the right pressures.

What’s the best tyre pressures for beach driving?

For most vehicles, 16PSI is an ideal starting point. Even heavy Land Cruiser and Patrols (like my 80 Series is when it’s loaded up) can be safely driven along the beach at 16 PSI. For light weight vehicles, like Jimny’s and Sierra’s, you can start off at around 12 PSI. I would not go above 35 – 40km / hour at these pressures!

Be aware that if you corner quickly, your chances of rolling a tyre off the bead increase phenomenally. You should never brake hard, or turn quickly on soft sand anyway, but even more so when you have low tyre pressures.

The heavier your vehicle is, the more air you should keep in your 4WD. Likewise, if you go up in tyre sizes, you gain flotation and may not need to deflate them as much.

Another thing to remember is the temperature of the air in your tyres. This varies considerably, and your tyre pressures will change a lot depending on whether you read the gauge after driving for a while, or when the tyres are cold.

Don’t be afraid to let more air out

If your vehicle is struggling at 20PSI on the beach, let some more out. If you go down to 15PSI, that’s 25% less air in the tyres. 5 PSI might seem like very little, but it makes a world of difference. If you really get in trouble, don’t be afraid to let your tyres down to 8, or even 6 PSI. Obviously, you need to be very careful at these pressures, but they will get you out of trouble if you are buried to the chassis rails with an incoming tide!

I have run my 80 Series Landcruiser at 8 – 10 PSI several times, when the sand was very soft. I don’t like doing it, but with the soft sands we get over here in WA sometimes you have no choice!

Have you been stuck on the beach?

I’d love to hear your stories; leave a comment below. What tyre pressure do you automatically drop to for beach driving?

Improving your 4WD’s Fuel Economy

Let’s face it; four wheel drives aren’t exactly the most fuel efficient cars, but the places they can take you more than makes up for the extra cost. When you are parked up on one of the best beaches in the world with no one in sight, the hole burning in your pocket is soon forgotten! Regardless of what you drive, there are a number of things that you can do to improve your fuel economy, which I will go through below.

Working out your fuel economy

To start off with, how many of you actually know what your four wheel drives fuel economy is? In Australia, most people refer to it in litres of fuel used per 100 km. To work this out, simply divide the fuel used by the number of kilometres done, and then multiply it by 100.

For example, if you filled up with 78.5 litres of diesel, and you did 502km, just divide 78.5 by 502 (0.15637). Then, multiply it by 100 and you get 15.637 litres of fuel used per hundred km. I make it a habit of working out the economy as I walk into the fuel station to pay for it, so I can keep an eye on how the vehicle is performing. Be sure to factor in larger diameter tyres when you are working this out!

  • Clean your air filter

Your air filter takes 5 minutes to clean, and can result in huge improvements to your fuel economy. Simply unclip the filter housing, remove the filter and inspect it. Give the filter a few taps against the tyre, and see how much dust comes out. I usually keep tapping it until the dust stops coming out. It only takes a few minutes behind another vehicle on a dusty road to warrant cleaning your air filter, and I try to do it at least a couple of times on each camping trip. By installing a snorkel, you will find the air filter needs cleaning much less often too, as it sucks clean air in.

  • Tyre Pressures in a 4WD

    What pressure are your tyres?

    Check your tyre pressures

The more air you have in your tyres, the less rolling resistance they have and the greater fuel economy you will get. However, don’t go and pump your tyres up to 60PSI, or they won’t handle safely on the road and you will wear them out very quickly. The compromise is to find the pressure that evenly wears your tyres, whilst not working the vehicle too hard. The bigger the tyre, the less air required to keep the vehicle rolling. If you haven’ heard of the 4PSI rule, it’s a good one to learn.

Particularly on sand, if you don’t let your tyres down you will make your 4WD work considerably harder and it will use a lot more fuel. Adjust your tyre pressures for the terrain you are driving on and you will get better economy, more traction, less damage to the tracks and to your 4WD and less chance of something going sideways.

  • Get a wheel alignment

If your wheels aren’t properly aligned, they can be working against each other. If the front wheels are not parallel with each other, one is trying to go one way and the other a different direction. This guarantees you are going to use more fuel than necessary; so make sure you get it checked out from time to time.

  • Snorkel on a 4WD

    A snorkel has a number of benefits

    Allow the vehicle to breath better with a snorkel

A snorkel helps to feed the engine with clean air, and will usually result in a more economical 4WD. It also makes it safer to do water crossings, and minimizes the dust that gets sucked into your air filter.

  • Restricted 4WD exhaust

    Factory exhausts often restrict the airflow

    Install an exhaust that allows better flow

Most four wheel drives come with exhausts that restrict the flow of the engine. However, if you go too big on the exhaust size, you will find the vehicle uses more fuel as there is no back pressure. For the 80 series turbo diesel, a 3” exhaust is the perfect combination.

  • Service your vehicle

If your vehicle is overdue for a service, don’t put it off any longer. It’s costing you in the economy, and likely reducing the life span of various components on the 4WD. At the very least, replace your fluids (engine, transmission/gearbox/transfer case) and diffs!), and check the brakes work properly! Oil turns to sludge over time and will make the engine work harder, thus using more fuel.

  • Quality fuel goes a long way

    Pay attention to where you fill up

    Fill up with quality fuel

Some people are going to disagree with me here, but every time I fill up at one of the lesser known fuel stations, I get worse economy than if I fill up at a Shell, Caltex or BP. The fuel qualities must vary and can have a big impact on your economy.

  • Drive more economically

If you find yourself accelerating hard and braking often, your fuel economy could be drastically improved. Whilst hearing the rumble of a nice 4WD engine with your foot flat on the floor is appealing, it’s eating a big hole in your wallet! Take your foot off the loud pedal earlier when approaching intersections, and allow the vehicle to engine brake or roll to lose momentum rather than hitting the brakes hard at the last minute. You will find that this will preserve your vehicle better too; the brake pads will need replacing less often, the tyres will last longer and the wear and tear on the vehicle overall will be lessened.

  • Remove anything out of your vehicle that isn’t needed

If you only use your roof rack once a year, pull it off for the rest of the time. You will save about 10% in fuel. The same applies for big tyres, camping gear and excessive tools in your car. If they aren’t needed, take them off and you will be very surprised at how much further a tank of fuel will go.

  • Check your sensors are working properly

Modern 4WD’s have a number of sensors that impact on your economy. These include MAF and O2 (oxygen) sensors. If they are faulty or damaged, they can have a drastic impact on the amount of fuel that you use!

  • Fuel increase via bigger tyres

    Bigger tyres will usually cost you more fuel

    Run the correct size tyres (or re-gear the 4WD)

Have a look at the nameplate on your 4WD to check that it is running the correct size tyres. If you (or the previous owner) has gone up a tyre size, you will find the fuel economy will generally decrease. This is because the vehicle has to work harder to turn the tyres. Even though your RPM for any given speed has dropped, the engine will have to work harder as you have effectively re-geared the vehicle. This is always a compromise, and you can look at re-gearing the vehicle to suit the larger tyres as an alternative.

  •  Engine modifications

A common modification is to install a turbo, or an intercooler (if you already have a turbo). These will provide the vehicle with more power, and if driven in a similar manner should also provide better fuel economy.

I’d love to hear what your fuel economy is – post up your vehicle, year, engine size and fuel type too!

My 1990 80 Series Land Cruiser with the 1HDT 12 valve factory turbo diesel engine gets around 14 – 17L/100km, fully loaded with a substantial number of modifications and a fair bit of 4WDing thrown into the mix.

What do you carry in your 4WD?

There’s a fine balance between packing too much gear into your 4WD, and not having enough. We’ve found it takes some time to find that balance, and you continually get better at taking what you need, and nothing more.

However, if you are using your 4WD off road, you should have more than the standard jack and wheel brace in the back of your 4WD!

How do you know what to carry?

You wouldn’t get very far throwing everything you ‘might’ need into the back of your 4WD. You’d run out of room too quickly, and your 4WD would be overweight by a mile. So, below are a few of the things we consider when packing.

Perth to Newman

All loaded up, on the way to Newman

80 series in Esperance

Where are you heading?

Where you are going

There’s a big difference between heading an hour from the city to do a bit of beach driving and crossing the Simpson desert. Your trip length, road conditions and distance from the nearest services should play a role in guiding you to pack the right gear. If you are close to help, you can do without some specialised tools and spare parts. Head to somewhere remote though, and you are on your own!

How long you are going for

A short play in the local mud holes one afternoon calls for a difference amount of gear in your 4WD than a 5 week trip through the Kimberley. Obviously, there is nothing saying you can’t take it all, but you don’t need to!

Remember to cater for water, food, spare parts, cooking equipment etc, and have a backup plan should things go bad. We always take a little burner plate that screws straight onto an LPG bottle. That way, if you have a problem with your main cooker, you can still eat. We lived for over a week off that little burner stove after the Coleman one went down in Esperance!

Likely breakages or problems

The longer you own your vehicle, the more you know about it. Every vehicle has its weak points, and you should factor this into packing your 4WD. For example, some vehicles have a problem with the bearings going in various pulley’s after water crossings. There isn’t much you can do about it, except for carrying spare pulleys and belts should one let go!

4WDing at Harvey

The harder you push your 4WD, the more likely it is to break

What you are doing

If you’ve ever driven on a really rough 4WD track, you’d appreciate the hammering our 4WD’s take. The amount of time you are spending off road, and the condition of the tracks should play a role in what you take with you. A days driving on a rough corrugated road will do more damage to your 4WD than a week on the bitumen! If you plan on doing endless corrugations, things like a spare shock absorber won’t go astray!

Your competency on the tools

I’ve seen people take tools with them on 4WD trips that they can’t even name! If you aren’t able to competently use the tools and gear you have with you, they can be more trouble than they are worth. That said, you only need someone with you who knows how to use the tool, and then its of use.

Think about what is practical too; I don’t think you are going to strip an engine down in the middle of the desert, so do you really need the tools to do so?


What you carry in your 4WD can be the difference between life and death when it comes to some of the more remote 4WDing in Australia. Things like the correct amount of water and food are imperative that you get right, as are methods of communication. If you get into serious trouble in the middle of no where, how do you get help? On our 5 weeks up north we carried a SPOT gps tracker, which is essentially a more capable EPIRB that can call for emergency help anywhere.

Your space available, and weight capacity

Just because you can fit it in doesn’t mean you should! It’s vital that you keep your weight down in a 4WD, and especially under the maximum GVM and GCM. The more your 4WD weighs, the more stress is put on every single component, and the more likely something is to break.

What does your 4WD weigh?

Overloading is nasty

Don’t overload your 4WD

Some people go way overboard with what they keep in their 4WD, and others are too lax. It’s all about finding a comfortable medium, and the longer you use your 4WD the better your understanding.

Who you are travelling with

There’s a big difference between travelling solo, and going with a group of mates. There’s no need for everyone to bring a comprehensive bush mechanics kit if you are going in a group. Spread the load over the group, but ensure you have the gear you may need for your vehicle, like hoses, belts, hub sockets etc.

What do we carry in our 80 series Land Cruiser?

Our 80 has been built as a tough tourer, and it does a very good job. Despite this, I’ve got a range of gear on board, to keep it going should something not go to plan out in the bush. Majority of the time we keep the same items in the vehicle; its just the quantities of water and food that change!

Kimberley 4WD

Our 80 in the Kimberley

Food and cooking

We normally take a tub for cooking gear (plates, cutlery, frying pans, pots, cutting boards etc), a tub or 2 for food and a smaller tub for washing up gear. Do yourself a favour and get some decent quality tubs; the clear $10 ones aren’t going to cut it when you are bouncing your way down a 4WD track in the middle of no where. There’s nothing worse than having to pick up cans of tomato from one side of your 4WD to the other!

We bought a Coleman Eventemp burner some time ago, and have been pretty happy with it. We haven’t had a trouble free run, but it is simple to use, quick and easy. I mentioned above that we carry a single burner that screws straight onto the burner for a bit of redundancy; you need a cooker!

Cleaverville crayfish

A couple of crays at Cleaverville

We’ve got 3 jerry cans that carry 20 litres of water, and then a smaller 5 litre one. We find this is plenty of water for two people, for up to a week.

Our choice of cooling is an Evakool 55L fridge/freezer. For short trips, we will run this just as a fridge, but anything over a couple of days and it gets split into a fridge freezer. This works very well, and hasn’t given us any issues.

Fishing and diving

With more fishing opportunities than you can poke a stick at, we pretty well always carry our fishing gear. It changes depending on when and where we are going, but you’ve got to have a fish, or go for a dive!

Esperance fishing

A salmon caught down near Esperance

Thomas River Esperance

Spearfishing from Thomas River


We are pretty happy with our sleeping arrangement. We use an Oztent RV5, two Blackwolf mega deluxe mattresses, Coleman Bigfoot sleeping bags and pillows from home. Comfortable, warm, easy to set up and reliable, in all weather conditions. That, and you don’t have to pack anything away when you want to go for a drive in your 4WD.

Oztent in the Kimberley

We love the Oztent

Chairs and table

We spend a fair bit of time just sitting around, enjoying what Australia has to offer. We use a plastic blow mould table, an Oztent and an Oztrail chair and are quite happy with them.


Heavy duty jack and jack plate

Combination spanners

Sockets (including a 54mm narrow wall one for the wheel bearings)


Brass punch and cold chisels

Vice grips

Stanley knife

Allen keys

Pipe wrench

Pliers (pointy nose, normal, multi grips, circlip)

Ball peen hammer

Broome Oil seal

Cleaning the axle up for a new seal

80 series rear

Cleaning out the back of our 80 Series

Spare belts and hoses

I carry a full set of radiator hoses and belts, along with a number of little fuel hoses. Along with this is a range of different hose clamps, so if something does let go it can be replaced without leaving us stranded in the middle of nowhere!

Rubber and linatex

Rubber is an amazing thing. You can use it for a heap of different things, and if you can get your hands on some Linatex, it’s even better. It’s essentially heavy duty red rubber, which does a fantastic job as a dampener, protecting two things from rubbing together, making o-rings etc.

Spare tyres and puncture repair kit

With the Kaymar Rear bar, we’ve got two tyres on rims mounted permanently on the back of the 80. Fingers crossed, but we haven’t had to use any just yet! We also carry a Ridge Ryder puncture repair kit which has been used a couple of times on other vehicles. A great set, that is awesome value for money.

Bolts and nuts

It’s a good idea to have a range of nuts and bolts, along with washers in your vehicle. Make sure they are the same pitch and thread size as your vehicle, and when you notice a bolt has fallen out of the radiator you can easily put a new one in. We keep a small container of bolts and nuts in the back of the car, should we ever need it.


I picked up an extra wheel bearing kit for the front and the rear of our 80 series, in case one ever let’s go whilst we are travelling. I make sure to regularly touch the hubs of all 4 wheels when we pull over, as this gives you a very accurate idea of the bearing condition.Your wheel bearings should never get hot enough that you can’t put your fingers on the hub. Be aware of the brake heat though!

The bearing kit comes with the axle seal, and I keep grease in the car too. On our trip to the Kimberley I noticed the rear right axle seal was leaking. As we were in Broome, we picked up a new seal from Toyota (to keep our spare set) and fitted it up there. I found the axle had a small groove, and despite my efforts to make the seal run on a different part of the axle, it still leaked a little!

Tie down straps

Ratchet straps are incredibly useful for everything from holding your gear on the roof rack to securing broken parts under your 4WD. Quality ocky straps are useful too.

Cable ties and duct tape

They say if you can’t fix it with duct tape and cable ties, you haven’t used enough! Seriously though, these are extremely useful for a whole range of applications and are an absolute must in that back of your 4WD

Fencing wire

Some decent width fencing wire is extremely useful for getting a broken 4WD back to civilization

Recovery gear

We carry a heap of recovery gear on board. A number of our trips are solo, so having the gear to get out when no one else is around is imperative. As of now, our recovery gear list includes:

Rated recovery points (2 on the front and 3 on the rear)

Recovery hitch

(2 sets)

Smittybilt 10,000lb winch with synthetic rope

Tree trunk protector

Equaliser strap

Winch extension strap

Snatch block

Various rated bow shackles

Two snatch straps (11,000lb and 8,000lb)

Full length shovel

Recovery blanket

Tyre gauge

Tyre deflator


Once you’ve been

Bogged in a salt lake
several hours from the nearest help, you learn to be self sufficient, very quickly! We had 4 snatch straps between two vehicles, and that was pretty well it!

Use your shovel first

Bogged out near Israelite Bay

Oil and fluids

On our trip around Esperance, we had just gotten back from a short walk to an amazing beach, when I noticed a puddle of oil under the 80 series. After a bit of investigation, I found the nuts holding the differential in place had all come loose, allowing some of the oil to leak out. After tightening them back up, I cleaned it all up and pulled out my spare differential oil, topping it up and then we were on our way.

I always carry 5 litres of diff/gearbox/transfer case oil and 5 litres of engine oil. Being an older diesel it will burn oil from time to time, and I like to have plenty on hand if something were to go wrong. We carry a 1-litre oil bottle too, which has a funnel allowing us to easily fill things up (it’s pretty hard to fill a diff up with a 5 litre oil bottle!).

On our trip to the Kimberley, we took 15 litres of engine oil, as I needed 10 to replace the oil at its 5000km service interval. Your fluids on board should match the places you are visiting

We also carry loctite stud locker and loctite 401 (general purpose), a 5-minute araldite mix (in two syringes), WD40 and some metal putty.

Repairing the land cruiser

Stopping the oil leak in Esperance

First aid kit

Our first aid kit changes on each trip, depending on who we are going with, and how far away from civilization we are going. Our normal first aid kit is one from St Johns, which has all the essentials. From there, we build our own side kit- burn cream, stingos, detol cream, panadol and whatever else is missing.

However, on our trip up north we took a huge St John of God kit with everything under the sun (about the size of a backpack) as it was just us going, with no one else to rely on. We also put in a big first aid book that goes through various recommendations and treatments for different injuries. Its all well and good having a great first aid kit if you don’t know what to do when someone gets bitten by a snake or breaks an arm! Yep, we’ve both done senior first aid kits, but you aren’t going to remember everything.


Our 80 series has an aftermarket filter which separates water and other contaminants. I’ve got a spare one that sits in the car at all times, along with a spare oil filter and air filter.


I’ve never been very good with 12V electrics. Perhaps I haven’t taken the time to learn enough about it, but I recently bought a Narva kit which came with all the crimps and crimping pliers. This kit has been extremely useful for various modifications to our 80 series.

We keep at least 5 of each fuse size (and spare fuses for our compressor) in the glove box. Along with that, I’ve got a number of offcuts (and new bits) of electrical cable in different sizes in the back of the car, in case something is fried. I also keep a spare fuse holder.

We run a 100-watt solar panel on the roof, that keeps our dual batteries topped up for the fridge and lighting.

How do you pack it in?

Space is always a problem when it comes to longer trips. We have roof racks, and have removed the middle seats. Anything light weight goes in the middle (or it is tied down) and everything else goes in the drawers in the rear, or on top in tubs. It was tight on our trip up north, but you soon get into a routine of packing up quickly and easily.

Do you carry the right amount of gear?

As I said before, its a very fine balance. Don’t carry too much, but don’t leave the necessities at home! What do you carry in your 4WD? Do you have enough, or do you carry too much?!

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.


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


. 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


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


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


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


, 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.


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


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


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 –


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


, 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?



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