Off-roading is nothing like your daily commute, and the driving skills you need to safely navigate the rugged dirt roads of Australia don’t even compare to cruising down pavement. However, with a bit of background knowledge and some practice, you’ll be ready to head off into the wilderness with your 4×4 vehicle.
If you’re ready to get off the beaten path, here’s what you need to know about off-roading.
Know your vehicle and it’s capabilities
Every vehicle is different, so never make assumptions about what your truck or SUV can and can’t do. You need to understand which off-road features your 4×4 has, it’s clearance, and more. Your owner’s manual will have a lot of this information, but vehicle-specific forums are another great place to learn about the types of terrain you can tackle.
Learn how to use your truck’s most important off-roading systems
Any off-road capable vehicle will have a few key systems that help you navigate the rocky, rutted terrain of a typical 4WD trail. These include:
- Traction control. The majority of modern 4×4 vehicles come equipped with some degree of traction control. Yours might have a simple on/off setting, or a complex electrical system with different settings designed to conquer a variety of traction situations. Either way, the system controls wheel slip so that torque is transferred from tire to trail. If you’ve never experienced traction control kicking in, it can be a surprising feeling, but you’ll know when the system is doing its job.
- 4WD High and Low. You’ll need more torque than usual to traverse 4WD roads, and this is where 4WD Low comes into play. You can’t drive fast in Low, so remember to switch back when you’re done off-roading.
- Locking differential. Also called “diff lock” or “locking diff,” a locking differential controls the speed of your wheels. If you get stuck on the trail, this ensures the wheels turn at the same speed.
Make sure you have the right equipment
A capable 4×4 isn’t the only tool needed for a successful off-roading trip. You also need:
- First aid kid
- Jerry can with extra fuel
- A spare tire, plus the required tools to change a tire
- High-lift jack
- Portable air compressor
- Tow rope
- Spare water in case the radiator overheats
- 4wd body armour
- 4wd bull bars
- 4wd scrub bars
- 4wd Bash plates
- Carbon winch
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Other useful tools include a fire extinguisher and a two-way radio for communication with your off-roading companions. Winches are also handy for truly tough terrain.
When off-roading, you need to think about what you’ll do if you get stuck. At the very least, you need to know your vehicle’s recovery points, which are the points where a hook and strap can be attached from your vehicle to another allowing the other 4×4 to pull you out. If you aren’t sure where these points are be sure to check your owner’s manual.
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