Congratulations on taking the plunge and hiring a 4X4 for an awesome off-road African adventure!
As a newbie to the wonderful world of 4-wheel drive, you’ll fall into one of two camps – those who think they know it all already, and those who are totally terrified and have no idea how to handle ‘their’ Camel-man-mobile safely, let alone get the best out of it!
This article is for you, whichever side you fall; never be too proud or too petrified to learn, for your sake and the sake of your passengers and fellow off-road track users.
Speed & Momentum
If you hit a spot of trouble DON’T accelerate – it can get you into a worse position. Slow down and take it easy – this helps you to keep traction and your tyres will work for you instead of spinning aimlessly.
When approaching an obstacle, you need momentum. The trick is to start a little way back to gain the momentum you need. This is a skill which you will master over time.
Don’t try new tricks when you’re out alone. Test your limits when you’re with more experienced drivers.
Use a stick to test a new mud hole for depth and softness. Remember a soft hole can prove impossible to escape! Enter the mud hole with a little momentum and if you feel that you’re getting stuck turn the wheel left to right to gain traction. Once you’ve gone as far forward as you can try reverse out.
Keep the windows up to avoid a mud shower or a face full of dust.
If you are truly stuck, try letting a little air out of your tyres for better traction and when you get out of the ditch don’t forget to fill them up again.
If you stall with your tailpipe under water, get towed out and pull the spark plugs before starting the engine again. A cylinder full of water can destroy an engine. When the plugs are out, however, the water will be safely ejected.
Go slowly over obstacles. Pull the hand brake a little for tension on the drive line to slow the vehicle and enable you to accelerate gently over.
Always hold the steering wheel with thumbs out when you’re off-road. If you hit a ditch or obstacle the wheel could spin too fast and hurt your thumbs. Keeping them out helps prevent injury. Keep your hands and arms inside the truck to avoid accidents.
Tools & Spares
Keep the following with you:
A hi-lift jack
Spare tyre and plug kit
Wear a safety belt
Don’t travel alone
Have a cell phone on you
Don’t drink alcohol when driving
Get back on the tar road before dark
Give fellow 4X4 drivers on the track plenty of space
Don’t race or churn up the soil needlessly.
Respect the land, the other people using the trail and the vehicle! Douse campfires, don’t litter (this includes cigarette butts), stick to trails so as to avoid damaging the plant life.
Leave your ego at home and remember it’s about having fun!