Driving tips for 4WDs

We wish you a safe and incident free journey when driving one of our four wheel drive vehicles. The following driving tips will enable you to avoid the more common and easily avoidable causes of damage to this vehicle type.

Loss of control

A popular misconception with 4WD's is that unlike ordinary cars they can traverse any and all terrain at any speed. Nothing could be further from the truth. As with all vehicle types, speed should be in keeping with the prevailing road conditions.

Slow down

Slow down under the following conditions:
  • the road is corrugated, potholed or winding
  • when approaching dips or cattle grids
  • roads with a loose gravel surface
  • road in black soil country when damp or wet as they become very greasy
  • when it is raining
  • water over the road
  • animals on or in close proximity to the road
The higher ground clearance of a 4WD enables it to clear off road obstacles (within sensible limits) and also gives a better view of the road allowing the driver to anticipate problems.

An unavoidable drawback of high ground clearance to 4WD's is that they also have a higher centre of gravity. For this reason they will not corner at the same speed and safety as a car. Avoid sharp turns or abrupt manoeuvres as such actions may result in the loss of control or vehicle rollover.

Rollover

A common scenario resulting in an accident is where a driver travelling on a loose gravel road enters a sweeping corner too fast and brakes hard part way round. This action invariably leads to the tail of the vehicle swinging out and the driver over correcting with the steering wheel, leading to the loss of control and subsequent rollover.

While it would be far better not to enter such corners at speed, if in this situation avoid the temptation to brake hard - apply the accelerator gently and drive out of the corner. If the tail of the vehicle swings out turn the steering wheel in the opposite direction moderately - avoid over reacting and swinging the wheel from lock to lock.

Dusty, smoky and foggy

Would you drive blindfolded? Of course not, and yet many an accident has occurred in very dusty conditions off road, where the driver has pushed on despite severely limited or no vision!

Your safety and that of your passengers can be safeguarded in these conditions by following these simple rules:
  • Large or long vehicles in particular (such as road trains) will stir up dust clouds for a considerable distance and time. If coming up behind such a vehicle and you can't see ahead hold back where the field of vision is clear - wait until road conditions improve before attempting to overtake.
  • If such a vehicle is approaching, pull off the road (to the left) and stop. Proceed after the oncoming vehicle has passed and the dust has settled sufficiently to see clearly ahead.
  • If you're already into a dust cloud and can't see, pull over as far to the left as you safely can, and stop. To stop on the road itself is courting disaster should someone be coming up from behind and is also blinded by the dust.
  • SLOW DOWN in bulldust (deep loose dirt) as it will hide obstacles such as deep corrugations and holes.
They say patience is a virtue, and under these conditions it certainly is. Obey these simple guidelines and you will enjoy a safe journey.

The result of driving blind through dust!

Keep left

Where blind corners and crests appear on narrow roads, keep to the left as far as possible in case there is another vehicle coming towards you that you cannot see.Overseas visitors who normally drive on the right are to avoid the temptation to swing in that direction should another vehicle be encountered in the situation described above. To do so will surely result in a collision between the two vehicles.

Hill climbs and descents

(OFF ROAD)

Always inspect hills before attempting to drive up them. Know what  is on the other side and how you will get back down.

Coming down a steep hill can be more difficult than going up! Always:

  • use low gear - select in advance and maintain until the end of the descent
  • keep vehicle heading straight down the hill
  • do not lock the brakes - if the vehicle begins to slide, accelerate slightly to regain steering control

AVOID DRIVING ACROSS THE SIDE OF HILLS - IT IS HAZARDOUS!

Water crossings

Driving through water can be hazardous. Attempting to cross deep or rushing eater in particular may result in the loss of driver control and/or serious damage to the vehicle and its occupants.

To avoid these risks observe the following instructions and precautions:

  • beach work is prohibited
  • walk through the crossing before driving through - check for water depth and determine the best path free of holes and obstacles
  • the depth of water to be crossed must be less that the height underneath the vehicle's floor to avoid water damage to upholstery, floor coverings, mechanical  and electrical components
  • before proceeding select '4WD-LOW'. If the vehicle is fitted with free wheeling front hubs, switch them to the 'LOCK' position. Don't forget to switch them back to the free-wheeling position after making the crossing.
  • drive slowly through water at a speed lower than 5km/hour to avoid making waves.
  • even when travelling through shallow or still water, drive slowly and carefully as the water may be hiding obstacles such as rocks and holes.
  • after crossing, check brake operation - if they do not operate effectively, drive slowly and lightly apply the brakes to dry out the linings, whilst remaining aware of any vehicles in front or behind you.

Water damage

Water does not compress. If the engine takes in water, internal damage will occur and an overhaul will be required. Immersion in water can also damage electrical components and contaminate lubricants to the engine, gearbox and differential and wheel bearings.

Damage by water immersion is always very expensive to repair. Most if not all rental companies (including ours) require the client to reimburse in full for any such damage.

Animal Damage

Long journeys overnight in country areas greatly increases the risk of striking an animal - travelling during daylight hours is safest.If you see an animal on or near the road - SLOW DOWN - you can never tell which way they are going to go.

If you have the headlights on during darkness or early morning and see a kangaroo or wallaby ahead of the vehicle heading for the bush, don't assume that it is gone and the danger is over. Slow right down as in these situations these animals become confused by the headlights and more often than not will turn straight around and come back at the vehicle.

Headlight range

Should you swerve to avoid an animal on the road, or run it over? In this day and age of environmental concern most people would probably try and avoid the animal. In practice this is not necessarily the best course of action.

Sudden manoeuvres such as swerving can (and very often does) lead to the loss of control of the vehicle resulting in an accident and injuries. With this in mind, whose life is more important - the animal or yours and that of your passengers?

Obviously if a large animal such as a horse or cow is on the road and you can't stop in time the driver must brake hard and attempt to avoid a collision. In this situation make sure it is safe to run off the road (to the left), and avoid reefing the steering wheel as it may well lead to the loss of control altogether.

With smaller animals such as dogs, wallabies and kangaroos where a collision is imminent it may well be best to brake hard and hope for the best if the animal is struck. The alternative of savagely turning the steering wheel in a vain last minute attempt to miss the animal is courting disaster, especially if there is oncoming traffic, or the roadside is not safe for pulling over.


Disclaimer: The information contained on this site is general and is not intended to be advice on any matter. Nothing contained herein is intended to constitute an offer, inducement, promise or contract of any kind. Please refer to the terms and conditions of this website for further information.
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