OUTBACK KEV’S BEGINNERS TIPS – Your First Off-Road Adventure

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kenny1.cdr OUTBACK KEV’S HINTS & TIPS – YOUR FIRST OFF-ROAD ADVENTURE Untitled-2Thinking about making your first off-road riding 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 (or toughness) of your 4×4. Many of today’s 4x4s are not designed for true off-road activities. For serious off-road adventures, you’ll want a 4×4 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 track, here are some important ways to prepare yourself (and your vehicle!) for a fun, safe experience that you’ll look forward to repeating.

In this article, I cover everything from what to take with you, to what to do after your adventure.

  • How To Prepare Yourself and Your Vehicle
  • Trail Etiquette: Rules of the (Off) Road
  • Difficult Driving Tips
  • Getting Un-Stuck
  • Emergency Supplies To pack In Your Vehicle


  1. Make sure you know your vehicle well. It’s important to recognize your limits and those of your vehicle and not to exceed them.
  2. Know how your 4×4 system works and how to use the controls.
  3. Know where the spare tire and jack are located and how to use them.
  4. 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.
  5. Know where the lowest point of clearance is – usually the differential casing.
  6. Get used to driving your 4×4. Get a feel for its size and driving characteristics.
  7. Practice using the low ratio gearbox.
  8. If your vehicle is equipped with manual locking hubs, try them out.
  9. 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.
  10. Keep track of maintenance on filters, belts and hoses and keep all fluids topped up.

BE PREPARED. 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. TRAVEL 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 their phone number, the local police station number, or local rangers number, in case of an emergency. MAKE SURE YOUR VEHICLE IS IN GOOD CONDITION and ready for the off-road experience. Before leaving civilization, do a complete check of your vehicle before leaving. Make sure your tires (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 off. 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 and lower 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, thus making the vehicle less stable. Also, remember the additional height of your vehicle in the case you have a roof rack. 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.

RESPECT THE ENVIRONMENT YOU ARE IN. Be aware of the damage you and your vehicle can do to the environment.

Cruiser-out-of-the-bog-holeDON’T CREATE NEW TRAILS. Instead, stay on the established path. Otherwise:

  • If you venture off the road into the woods, you may get lost in an area where no one will be able to find you.
  • Your heavy SUV 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 SUV.
  • You will face a serious fine and/or a serious lecture from law officials.

DON’T LITTER not even candy wrapper. Remember that if you pack it in, pack it out. Do not dispose of cigarette butts from your vehicle. When dry summers arrive, anything can go up in flames and ruin the homes of animals.

SPINNING YOUR WHEELS As fun as it can be, don’t spin your tires and tear up the soil – it breaks the surface crust and leads to erosion when it rains.

USING ROCKS TO GET OUT OF TRICKY PLACES Should you need to pile stones up to get over an obstacle, then be sure to put the stones back where you found them afterwards.

TRICKS Leave your ego at home. Every vehicle (and driver, for that matter) has its limitations. Backing off early and accepting that a manoeuver is impossible or choosing another approach may prevent vehicle damage and, more important, personal injury. Never try a manoeuver that you are uncomfortable with.

155736125-sugar-glider-noosa-koala-nightRESPECT WILDLIFE Don’t disturb the wildlife; this includes plants and animals. We’re treading on their turf.

NO SPEEDING 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.

IMG_1176PASSING OTHER DRIVERS SAFELY Just as on the street, you should stay right to avoid oncoming traffic, if you can. If common sense tells you it’s safer to move left instead of right, then do so. If there is only room for one vehicle to pass, the rule is the more manoeuvrable 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 traveling uphill has the right of way. It is safer for the vehicle traveling downhill to back up, and it will be much easier for the downhill vehicle to get under way.

ALL TYPES OF TERRAIN 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. Keep the driver’s side of the vehicle close to obstacles so you can judge distances more accurately. (Just don’t forget about the rest of the vehicle!)

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.

DRIVING THROUGH TIGHT SPOTS Keep the driver’s side of the vehicle close to obstacles so you can judge distances more accurately. (Just don’t forget about the rest of the vehicle!) 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. Here’s what to do if you stall, get stuck, or break down.

IF YOU STALL YOUR VEHICLE 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 lose control very quickly. Instead, first turn off the ignition and apply the food brake very hard. Then apply the parking brake. After selecting a suitable route back down the hill, slowly depress the clutch, put it 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.

bogged-on-beach-1IF 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 tires so that you can drive over the obstacle. Try letting some of the air out of your tires (to about 10psi) – just remember to air them up again as soon as you can. (Remember that lowering tire 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 removing most of the mud, dirt, sand or snow that is blocking your tires, clear a path in the direction you’ll be traveling, so the tires can get enough traction. Carpet strips, wood, floor mats, brush, rocks, clothing or sleeping bags can be placed as traction aids under the tires in the direction of travel. If you still can’t get out, jack up the vehicle and fill the area under the tires 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 tire, 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.

imagesIF YOU CAN’T DRIVE OUT SAFELY It is 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.
  • Seek shelter from the elements, but try to make yourself visible (with smoke or a signal fire, or a brightly coloured tarp).

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. Here’s what to do if you stall, get stuck, or break down.

   Read Outback Kev’s HINTS & TIPS for Sand Driving