Want to learn more about 4x4's or want to improve you’re off-road driving skills?
To gain access to 4wd passes and beach permits click LINK Passes Permits And Fees
There are heaps of 4x4 driver training courses available which specialise in certain makes and models of vehicles you drive and all you need to take is your vehicle with a full tank of gas, and you will learn in a day what it takes many people years to learn on their own.
A beginner’s course, "A Guide to Off-Road Driving" is a great way to start, even if you are a novice first-timer or those who call themselves "veteran off-roaders.
These training courses are designed to instill confidence in your driving abilities and let you experience your vehicle in varied conditions in order to learn its capabilities and disabilities. For those veterans give you a refresher course and knowledge on any improved safety equipment and methods.
There are also multi-day courses with professional instructors, making it easy to turn your Four Wheel Drive training into an off road vacation!
If you are an overseas visitor and have an International Driving Permit and intend to hire or purchase a Four Wheel Drive in order to do some Four Wheel Driving or Sand Driving, check out our driver training courses before you start travelling across Australia. We have seen lots of accidents from inexperienced drivers who simply do not know how to drive in our Australian conditions. Please, do yourself and your passengers a favour and save lives by doing a course. It really should be mandatory.
4x4 is a vehicle with four wheels that's powered by four wheels (4WD)
4x2 is a vehicle with four wheels that's powered by two wheels (2WD)
The first digit refers to the number of wheels and the second digit refers to the number of driven wheels.
When to use 4 high:
- for traction when the area isn't steep
- extremely slippery conditions
- rocky, gravel roads
- extremely muddy areas
Low Range Four Wheel Drive
4L is for creeping along at slow speeds. It reduces the strain on your vehicle, just remember to stay below 40kms an hour in low range. While it does not provide more traction, it does provide 2-3 times more torque at about 1/2 or 1/3 of the speeds in high range. Low range gear ratios are approximately half that of high range.
When to use 4 low:
- passing through soft sandy areas
- on rough rocky trails
- water crossings
- climbing steep hills
- descending steep hills
Thinking about making your first off-road driving adventure? Regardless of whether you're heading to your favourite fishing spot that's off the beaten track, or taking the family out for an afternoon off-road picnic, or going sightseeing for a day to a nearby waterfall, you'll want to be fully prepared for your off-road driving adventure.
The type of off-road experience you pursue depends on the size and make of your 4x4. Many of today's 4x4s are not designed for true off-road activities. For serious off-road adventures, you'll want a 4x4 with a chassis frame that's built to withstand the punishment of off-road obstacles.
Taking your vehicle off-road can be one of the most enjoyable things you can do on four wheels. But before you venture off the beaten path, here are some important ways to prepare yourself and your vehicle for a fun, safe experience that you'll look forward to repeating.
- Make sure you know your vehicle well. It's important to recognize your limits and those of your vehicle and not to exceed them.
- Know how your 4x4 system works and how to use the controls.
- Know where the spare tyre and jack are located and how to use them.
- Know your vehicle's dimensions - height, width, length, approach angle, departure angle and ramp angle - so that you can pass through tight areas without damage.
- Know where the lowest point of clearance is - usually the differential casing.
- Get used to driving your 4x4. Get a feel for its size and driving characteristics.
- Practice using the low ratio gearbox.
- If your vehicle is equipped with manual locking hubs, try them out.
- Know where your engine's air intake and engine computer are located so you'll know the maximum depth of water that you could cross.
- Keep track of maintenance on filters, belts and hoses and keep all fluids topped up.
- You never know when you'll find yourself stuck or broken down, without help around, so be sure to pack all of the appropriate "emergency" supplies. And be aware of changing weather conditions before you go.
- With at least one passenger, and at least one other vehicle whenever possible.
- Let someone know where you are going, and set a time to contact them to let them know you are okay. Don't forget to take along your phone and their phone number, and any emergency phone number or recovery specialist, just in case.
- Make sure your vehicle is in good condition and ready for the off-road experience, and do a complete check of your vehicle before leaving.
- Make sure your tyres (including the spare) are in good condition and inflated properly.
- Look under your vehicle for any leaks or mechanical problems.
- Make sure all of your fluids are topped up.
- Check the condition of your steering and brakes.
- All repairs should be carried out before leaving home.
Pay attention to how you load your vehicle
- Loads should be distributed evenly within the vehicle if possible. Loads behind the rear axle will sag the rear of the vehicle, limiting your departure angle and clearance.
- If you have a roof rack fitted, be aware of weights and how they are distributed. Excessive loads will change the centre of gravity, making the vehicle less stable. Also, remember the additional height of your vehicle due to the rack.
Carry a Good Four Wheel Drive GPS
- Always know where you are, where you're going, and which route you intend to take.
- Be time-conscious... What may look like a short trip on the map may take many hours in 4-wheel drive -- so allow enough time for safe travel.
We use the Hema Navigator for all our on and off road GPS Navigation. It shows off-road typography and can track data and direct you back the same route should you need to in an emergency.
- Be aware of the damage you and your vehicle can do to the environment.
- Off-road driving is a game of finesse. Your goal should be to have minimal impact on the terrain, while managing to get through it.
- Do not blaze a new trail.
- Stay on the established path.
- You will spoil it for the rest of us, who wish to continue Four Wheel Driving. More trails are being closed every day due to the carelessness and disregard of the environment.
- If you venture off the road into the bush, you may get lost in an area where no one will be able to find you.
- Your heavy 4WD will damage the ground and embankments by leaving ruts that will deepen and erode with each passing rain.
- You will be damaging the surrounding plant and animal life.
- You may do damage to your 4WD.
- You will face a serious fine and/or a serious lecture from law officials.
- Don't litter - not even a cigarette butt or a lolly wrapper. If you pack it in, pack it out, it’s not that hard really!
- Don’t rubbish Australia.
- Don't spin your tyres and tear up the soil - it breaks the surface crust and leads to erosion when it rains.
- It wears your tyres down very quickly, save your money!
- Should you need to pile rocks up to get over an obstacle, then be sure to put the rocks back where you found them afterwards.
Leave your ego at home
- Every vehicle and driver, for that matter has its limitations.
- Backing off early and accepting that a manoeuvre is impossible or choosing another approach may prevent vehicle damage and, more important, personal injury. Never try a manoeuvre that you are uncomfortable with.
- Peer pressure can lead to serious damage of your vehicle, if you do not know what you are doing and don’t feel comfortable, so just don’t do it!
- Don't disturb the wildlife; this includes plants and animals. We're treading on their turf.
- Slow down. Enjoy the scenery. Live the experience to the fullest. You don't want to spend time repairing damage you wouldn't have caused had you driven a little slower.
- Just as on the street, you should stay left to avoid oncoming traffic, if you can.
- If common sense tells you it's safer to move right instead of left, then do so.
- If there is only room for one vehicle to pass, the rule is the more manoeuvrable the vehicle, or the more experienced driver, should yield the right-of-way.
- When two vehicles meet on a grade and there isn't a safe place to pull over, the vehicle travelling uphill has the right of way. It is safer for the vehicle travelling downhill to back up, and it will be much easier for the downhill vehicle to get under way.
- When driving off-road, you should be familiar with how to manoeuvre your vehicle on all types of terrain, and under a variety of conditions. Here are a few tips to get you out of some tough predicaments.
Driving through deep ruts
- Heavily used tracks often become deeply rutted, to the point where it is impossible to drive without getting the undercarriage hung up. To prevent this, drive with one wheel in the rut and the other wheel on the middle hump.
- If there is enough room on the side, drive with one wheel on the hump, and one on the far side of one of the ruts.
- Check out the hill before you rush over it.
- Check to see if no one is coming up the other side.
Driving through water
- Be cautious and have fun. Driving through water doesn't count for a bath.
- Sooner or later, your vehicle is likely to get stuck or experience mechanical failure.
- If you pack the basic tools and supplies, you should be able to get under way again.
Don't change gears
- in the middle of a water crossing
- going up or down hills
- on sand dunes
- Be prepared to engage low-range Four Wheel Drive before you need it.
- Don't operate Four Wheel Drive on hard dry surfaces.
- When in doubt, use a lower gear!
If you stall
- If your vehicle is about to stall on steep incline or decline, DO NOT depress the clutch! This could cause the vehicle to "free wheel" and you could loose control very quickly. Instead, first turn off the ignition and apply the foot brake very hard. Then apply the parking brake. After selecting a suitable route back down the hill, slowly depress the clutch, and put the gears in reverse, let the clutch out, and simultaneously release the parking brake and the foot brake slowly. Then start the engine. With an automatic transmission, never shift the gear lever to Park, as this may lock the transmission and you may not be able to release it without the aid of a winch.
If you get stuck
- If you get stuck on a rock, stump or log, survey the situation first to determine the best way to free the vehicle without damaging it. If you're stuck on an object that can be moved, jack up the vehicle and clear away the obstacle. If you're stuck on an object that can't be moved, jack up the vehicle and fill under the tyres so that you can drive over the obstacle. You could also try letting some of the air out of your tyres (to about 10psi) -- just remember to air them up again as soon as you can. (Remember that lowering tyre pressure also reduces the vehicle's overall height and therefore the vehicle's ground clearance.) Lock the differential locks (if fitted), and use as high a gear as possible. After shovelling away the mud, dirt, sand or snow that is blocking your tyres, clear a path in the direction you'll be travelling, so the tyres can get enough traction. Carpet strips, wood, floor mats, brush, rocks, clothing or sleeping bags can be placed as traction aids under the tyres in the direction of travel.
- If you still can't get out, jack up the vehicle and fill the area under the tyres with sand, rocks, logs, brush, packed snow or any combination of these. If the jack sinks into the ground, use piece of wood as a base. (Never crawl under a vehicle that is supported by a jack!)
- Snow chains are not only a benefit in snow and ice, but can work wonders in mud as well. Typically, you'll fit them on the rear wheels, especially if you're climbing up a hill or towing. Sometimes it may be necessary to fit them to the front or to all four wheels.
- The best way to get unstuck is with a winch. A winch takes the hard work out of vehicle recovery. It also allows a lone vehicle a means of freeing itself. Another vehicle can be used as an anchor, but natural anchors, such as trees, stumps and rocks, are the handiest. When no natural anchors are available, a spare tyre, log or any other similar object that can be partially buried can form an anchor. It may be wise to use several items and group them as a single anchor. Never winch with fewer than five turns of cable around the winch drum. With fewer turns, the cable may break loose from the drum under heavy load.
If you can't drive out safely
- It's important that you stay with your vehicle, and find a way to make yourself visible to others.
- Keep calm, don't panic and don't waste time and effort wondering "what if?" "If only I hadn't done that!".
- Spend your time constructively. Think through all your options. Take stock of your supplies and situation.
- If help doesn't come in a reasonable amount of time and you choose to hike out, avoid walking during the hottest times of the day. Walking in the morning and evening is best.
- If you must leave your vehicle, leave a note telling the direction of your travel, your destination, and the date and time you left.