Making the most of your 4WD
At Tough Toys we love all sorts of vehicles. We like to see a gleaming sports car, or a well maintained family runabout that’s looking good for its age. There’s one thing that depresses us though, and that’s a shiny 4wd that’s clearly never been anywhere rougher than the school car park in its life. We know that some people buy 4wd vehicles because they have lots of space but it really seems like, if you’re just driving it on the road, you’re not getting the most out of it. If you have an off road vehicle, but you never go off road, you don’t know what you’re missing. Australia has some great landscapes you’ll never see if you stick to the beaten track, but that wagon sitting in your driveway has the power to take you there.
Well, probably. If you’re interested in trying off-road touring the first thing to do is check what your vehicle’s capable of. Crossover SUVs are becoming very popular, because they give the comfort of a standard car with the size and space of a 4wd, but not all of them have full off road capabilities. The first thing to check is if your vehicle has four wheel drive or all-wheel drive. There are differences; all-wheel drive is designed for better handling on roads, but it will give you the grip to get around some pretty rough tracks too. Four wheel drive is a lot more capable, so if you really want to see the bush that’s what you’re looking for. Even 4wd models have different abilities though, with Land Cruisers, Land Rover Defenders, Mercedes G-Wagons and any Jeep with a trail-ready badge all capable of going practically anywhere.
Once you’ve worked out what sort of ground you can cover it’s time to start planning your first trip. Before you go anywhere make sure you’re properly kitted up. You’ll need some recovery gear, basic safety equipment and loads of fuel and water, on top of your camping gear. Don’t buy a tow rope from the supermarket motoring aisle; get a proper recovery strap. We can help you out with all the gear you need.
Next, find a mate to go with you. Off road driving isn’t the best thig to do solo, so get someone to come along and share the fun. If he has his own vehicle so much the better – you can recover each other when necessary. At some point it will be; everyone gets stuck once in a while. Also make sure people know where you’re going and when you’re due back. That’s a basic safety precaution.
Know your limits – that’s you and the vehicle. If you don’t have bash plates fitted watch out for rocks; they can quickly smash up your sump, exhaust and even suspension. Keep your speed down to where you can see, and avoid, any potential hazards. If you do see a rock or stump try to get a tyre over it; don’t straddle it.
Off-road driving is a huge subject and there’s always something new to learn, but if you follow a few basics you can get started in no time and you’ll quickly pick up more. If you have a 4wd you’re really missing out if you don’t use it to get out there and see the country. You won’t believe some of the ground you can cover after a bit of practice, so get yourself prepared and go do it.