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Latest 4WD Trips & Techniques

View All: Trips | Techniques | Touring

Nobody ever said Australia was short of challenging landscapes, and not many of them are more challenging than bulldust. This is very fine powdery dust, almost like talcum powder, that tends to form on dirt tracks. You’re most likely to find it in areas where tracks get boggy in the wet, then bake all summer – the north has plenty bulldust.

A lot of people enjoy driving on bulldust. If you like to spend time on a skid pan, you’ll love this kind of surface. For most of us, however, it’s a bit of a pain. Get it wrong on bulldust and you can end up with a messy recovery job, or even a serious accident.

So you’ve just pulled off the dirt onto a bitumen surface to drive on, but suddenly your 4wd refuses to go anywhere. You’ve played with the gears but the transmission is locked. Have you broken it? Well, maybe – but probably not. Most likely you’ve been caught by transmission wind-up.

Transmission wind-up is a pretty obscure problem, and not all vehicles are vulnerable to it. In fact it’s only going to affect you if you have a full-time 4wd vehicle with a diff lock.

A lot of modern 4wd vehicles come with an automatic gearbox, but the best of these also let you change gears manually – and there are still plenty of manual boxes out there, too. A lot of veteran off-roaders swear by a manual, because it gives you a lot more flexibility on really tough terrain. If you’re less experienced, though, you can get into a mess by choosing the wrong gear for the situation. Using a manual on the road is easy; in the bush it can be a bit more complicated.