FIRE Going Beyond NO.6
THE 4X4 EDITION AUSTRAL IA’S BEST
àPLUS WHAT MAKES A 4X4 HOW TO: BASIC SKILLS AND TECHNIQUES DO’S AND DON’T IN A RECOVERY SITUATION ESSENTIAL GEAR FOR THE 4WDER
outdoors SINCE 1958
Every cloud has a silver lining, and rose has a thorn. Whilst the progressions of modernity has made for a comfortable and long life full of importance and events, that successful progress has brought with it an undeniable urge to get away from those very things that we value: roofs, walls, power plugs, restaurants, traffic lights and roads. If you are anything like us, there is nothing better for recharging ones batteries as an escape into the wilderness. Leaving your worldly troubles packed up at home, you earn a sense of unbridled freedom when you escape past the urban fringe. Australia is a pretty big place, so you’ll need some transport if you want to really get away. The 4WD is the Australian vehicle of choice, and is just as much a part of our image as the barbie, pavlova, lamingtons and thongs. After all, the four wheel drive conquered the desert and it tamed jungles. It built engineering feats like Snowy Mountain Hydro Scheme, and they work the mines that dot our country, and sit in the driveways of millions of Australian’s homes. If they are looked at as a tool for adventure, they really can’t be beaten. What makes a 4X4 a 4X4 though? And what should I know before I get behind the wheel? We cover that, plus a lot more in this copy of Campfire. So stick your transfer case into low range, and enjoy the ride.Yours in camping,
The Ray’s Outdoors Crew
What Makes a 4X4? THE IMPORTANT DIFFERENCES THAT MAKE A 4X4 TICK.
Although appearances have changed over the years, the basic principles of a 4X4 are largely the same.
THE ORIGINS What’s at the heart of a 4X4? What makes it tick? Obviously it’s the fact that four wheels are driven, allowing it to traverse some tough terrain. There are some cars with four driven wheels, but don’t really qualify as a real four wheel drive. So what’s the difference?
As a rule of thumb, a real 4X4 has a transfer case, or low range. This is like an additional gearbox that changes the overall drive ratio of the main gearbox. Changing from high range to low range gives you a much lower ratio, which multiplies torque at the wheels many times. Steep hills? No problems. Heavy weights? The same deal. The transfer case is what makes the 4X4 such a brilliant workhorse, and so capable in the rough stuff.
low-lying suspension and driveline componentry, and you’ll get an idea of what you can drive over before you belly out. Pay attention to your Approach, departure and rampover angles as well; as they will determine what sort hilly country you can tackle before risking some serious (and costly) damage to your rig.
CLEARANCE A good 4X4 will have good clearance. That is, the amount of space between the ground and the truck. Measure between flat ground and your
Long-travel suspension systems with plenty of articulation allows for stability, with tyres staying in contact with the ground.
Traditional 4X4’s have a second gear stick to operate the transfer case, whereas more modern iterations use a knob or button.
A proper 4X4 will have plenty of clearance underneath for crossing rough terrain.
Articulation refers to suspension travel, something that allows a 4X4 to ‘walk’ across terrain without wheels losing contact with the ground. Live axles and coil springs are generally best suited to long travel, but don’t discount your leafsprung and independent-suspension setups straight away either- most modern 4X4s sport an independentlysprung front end.
What Makes a 4X4? THE IMPORTANT DIFFERENCES THAT MAKE A 4X4 TICK.
LOCKING DIFFERENTIALS Locking Diffs are best thing in the world for increasing your traction offroad. They stop a differential from sending available torque to the wheel(s) without traction, which would otherwise see you come to a grinding halt. Full-time 4X4’s should have a locking centre-differential, where lockable front and rear diffs allow for the ultimate in offroad traction.
which will redirect drive to the wheel with traction, which will give the car forward momentum. Diff locks are largely seen as the ultimate accessory for offroad capability.
TRACTION CONTROL Traction Control isn’t just for the bitumen, you know. ABS modules in 4X4s can be used to control drive to specific wheels. If one wheel is in the air and spinning, the ABS controller can brake that wheel,
RUBBER Typically speaking, a tyre that is better onroad will typically be worse offroad, and vica-versa. This is being challenged by modern tread designs and composite materials, which can almost give you the best of both worlds. A 4X4 should at least be sporting some all-terrain or mud terrain tyres which have a tread design with large enough voids to deal
with offroad work and grab at terrain rather than sliding. Highway terrains don’t really cut it, as they fill up with mud way too quickly, and don’t ‘self clean’ very well when spinning.
An open tread design offers more grip off road, but can affect performance and comfort on road.
READY YOURSELF. A good recovery kit is essential for 4X4. Always be prepared with the XTM 4WD Recovery Kit. XTM 4WD Recovery Kit I 215584
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How To: 4WD BASIC SKILLS AND TECHNIQUES
ne of the most exciting things about 4X4ing is the variety and complexity of terrains that you will find yourself on. They are always different from one-another, and need slightly different approaches to conquer. Here are some basic tips on some of the more common scenarios you will find.
SAND On sand, tyre pressures are key. Safe and correct pressures vary between tyre size and type, wheels and vehicle makes and model. A good rule of thumb is 16-22psi, which allows the tyre to ‘balloon’ out. This spreads the weight of the car across a larger surface area, or tyre ‘footprint’. It’s important to select your gears early on soft sand, and avoid lots of gear changes that sap momentum. Take it slow and steady, and take a good air compressor and a long-handled shovel with you. This will allow you modify your tyre pressures to suit conditions, and dig yourself out if things don’t go to plan.
MR4X4 Pat Callinan shows how important tyre pressures are in the Simpson Desert.
Mud can be slippery, deep, thick and gluey. It can also be a lot of fun! It’s important to approach mud with a bit of a prepared plan in case things go pear-shaped. Plan your recovery before you need it, and identify the obstacles that might stop you. You’ll need to lower your tyre pressures, 20 psi is a good starting point, but that varies according to the specific application. Attempts should be slow and controlled, allowing your tyres to grip (rather than spin) with deft throttle control. Use momentum as sparingly as possible, but it’s often a necessary evil. Clearance permitting, use wheel ruts to your advantage; they typically have the firmest ground underneath, and keep you going in the right direction. If you can’t see the bottom of a puddle, always check to see how soft and deep it is before committing the 4X4.
Broken record warning: lower your tyre pressures for these situations. There isn’t a situation I can think of offroad where lower tyre pressures aren’t an advantage. Sure, you lose a tiny bit of clearance, but you gain a whole lot more grip. Use 1st and 2nd gear, low range for rocky situations. Rocks can yield good grip, so try to allow your 4X4 to amble across obstacles without bouncing around. On the other hand, shaley situations can prove to be quite slippery. Choose your line wisely, looking for the line of least resistance. Grippy sections of rock means damage to your driveline is a distinct possibility if you are too heavy-footed with the accelerator, so try and ease your rig over obstacles rather than bashing through. If you run out of grip or clearance, you can then ease your way back and attempt another line.
UPS AND DOWNS The main and most important rule when inclines are involved is to always stay straight, never tackle them on an angle. Going downhill is all about engine braking; choose a low gear (low 1st for the really steep stuff) and let the engine’s compression control momentum. If you need to brake, do it as gently and gradually as possible; sharp stabs can cause you to lose precious grip. Going up, you want to use as little momentum as possible, but enough to get the job done. When you are picking your line, look for one that will allow your 4X4 to keep all four wheels planted on the ground as much as possible. Keep your vehicle’s clearance in mind, as well.
WATER CROSSINGS One of the funnest and most exhilarating things you can drive in your 4X4, water crossings are also the most dangerous. Rule number 1: inspect the crossing to see what the floor is like and how deep it is. If you
can’t tell, walk it. Walking a crossing gives you the best information for tackling it successfully. Getting stuck halfway across isn’t great, and neither is water damage to your car (which can easily be terminal). Plan ahead and use extreme caution. If the water is flowing too fast to walk, then it is too dangerous to drive, full stop.
A Quick Guide to tyre pressures offroad
SAND: 16-22psi. This can go lower if needs be, but low pressures risk tyres losing their bead on the rim during spirited driving. So drive gently! CORRUGATIONS/ROUGH ROADS: 26-34psi. Lowering your pressures slightly give you better grip on dirt and a much better ride, allowing your tyre to absorb some of the bumps.
DRIVER TRAINING Hands down, the best way for a beginner to learn the ropes of 4WDing is to do an accredited course. There are plenty located around Australia, just do a quick google search to find more information. These courses give you a solid foundation technical and theoretical knowledge to kick off your off-road experience, ensuring you have the basics covered and you start out off the right foot.
SNOW: 16-22psi. Snow doesn’t offer much traction for the 4X4, so you have to be careful and pay attention. ROCKS: 16-22psi Lower pressures allow your tyre to conform to the shape of the obstacles, offering more grip through undulations. MUD: 18-24psi. Knocking more air out does deliver more grip, but it comes with the risk of contaminating and losing your bead, and rolling a tyre off the wheel.
Video Tips For more pointers on rights and wrongs from MR4X4 Pat Callinan, click here to head over to the Rays Outdoors website for tonnes more video tips on 4X4ing.
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Location, Location, Location SOME OF THE BEST SPOTS IN AUSTRALIA
THE TASMANIAN WEST COAST Rich mining history can be traced through the rugged mountains and dense, ancient forests that run through the Tasmanian West Coast. Visit the Wilderness Railway and make your way to the remote and unspoilt coastline and forest wilderness alike.
THE TASMANIAN EAST COAST Incredibly beautiful bays and beaches, undisturbed wilderness and plenty forests and waterfalls make the East Coast a 4X4erâ€™s paradise. There are five National Parks of note down the East Coast, most notably Freycinet National Park that has the iconic white sandy beaches and pink granite rock forms.
If there was a 4X4 bucket list competition, the Cape would win hands-down. Thousands of tourists make the pilgrimage to the northernmost point of Australia every year, and stand at sign for an obligatory photo. For a 4X4er it can be as tough as you like: the infamous old telegraph track is optional and very challenging.
Location, Location, Location SOME OF THE BEST SPOTS IN AUSTRALIA THAT YOU CAN VISIT IN A 4X4. THE HIGH COUNTRY The home of Man From Snowy River, the Victorian High Country runs along the southern end of the Great Diving Range, what’s also known as the ‘Australian Alps’. This is true alpine country, rugged mountains of incredible beauty. In fact, this is the only part of Australia with mountain peaks over the 2,000 metre mark. The history of cattlemen, evidenced today by the many huts that dot the countryside, is an important part of the Australian story, one that can be explored by 4X4..
THE SIMPSON DESERT If Cape York wins the competition, then the Simpson Desert is hot on its heels as number two. Doing the east-west crossing of the ‘Simmo’ means you will have traversed over 1,100 sand dunes, including the biggest, iconic ‘Big Red’ that stands ninety metres above sea level. If the remote nature of the country isn’t alluring enough, the rugged beauty of red sand and blue skies should be.
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Needs and Wants ESSENTIAL AND HANDY GEAR FOR THE 4X4 AND DRIVER.
AIR COMPRESSOR: Tyre pressures are your strongest ally offroad, and the ability to increase your pressure is just as important as letting them down. Air compressors are small, relatively cheap and can run happily off 12V power. A word to the wise here: a cheap compressor is a cheap compressor, and chances are it will need replacing a lot sooner than you imagine. Combined with an accurate guage, your compressor will increase your confidence and capability by a country mile.
A hand winch is a good alternative to an electric winch. You might change your mind after using it though!
RECOVERY KIT A good recovery kit is an essential for a 4X4. Basic ones will only have a snatch strap and a couple of shackles, but try and get one with a towing strap, a strap dampener and an equaliser strap as well. If you have a winch, a winch extension strap, tree trunk protector and snatch block are well worth adding. Add a sturdy long-handled shovel and some rated recovery points, are you are off to a superb start. What else you will need depends on the situation; different scenarios and vehicles need different things, so don’t be shy to add and remove things as you see fit.
COMMUNICATIONS Whether it’s a satellite phone, UHF radio, your mobile phone or a PLB (Personal Locating Beacon), having some communications with the outside is very important from a safety point of view. If all goes well you won’t need it, but on the off chance you will need to call in some help, communication could save a long walk (or worse).
SPARES: Machines being machines, something things go wrong. 4X4s break just as much as their 2WD brethren, so
it pays to be prepared if something goes wrong. Simple belts and hoses are always a good idea to carry, along with zip ties, some sturdy tape and other odds and ends. If you are looking at some rough conditions ahead, throw in a spare shock, some extra coolant and bearings as well.
What you need will depend on your expectations and abilities, but you should always take a toolkit that can cover the basics. If you aren’t the most confident spanner wielder, then grab yourself a workshop manual for your make and model for some help.
There’s nothing like going out and getting lost in the scrub, buts it’s also great to know which way to go when you have to get back to civilisation. A good paper map should always be the first port of call for navigating in the bush, GPS units can supplement paper will real-time locating, track logging and other information.
Ray’s Outdoors inspires and enables everyday Australians to make the most of the outdoors. Whatever the activity, Ray’s has everything you need to make the outdoors yours.
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