Are you just starting out with your first 4x4 ? Owned a four wheel drive for a while and not used it to its full potential ? Here you'll find helpful information which can help you get more from your four wheel drive.

It doesn't matter what sort of vehicle you have, what brand 4x4 you own or drive, so long as you're getting out using it.

Sure we all have a dream 4x4 however, due to budgets restraints and your particular circumstances you may not have the vehicle you long for. However while you have a vehicle, use it !

I've seen everything from basic little Suzuki Sierra's right through to mini monster trucks with huge lift kits and 37' tyres and they all have one thing in common.....getting the owners to where they want and putting a smile on their faces along the way.

  • There are a few things to remember when out on the tracks, first and foremost though is always be safe. It's not a good trip if you end up with damaged gear, broken vehicles or worse - broken bones. So always be safe in your travels. Take a minute or two to assess any situation before committing to it and stay calm. 

  • Always carry a good comprehensive first aid kit...and be sure on how to use everything that's packed in it.

  • Always try to travel with at least one other vehicle just in case. The last thing you want is to be stranded on the side of a hill somewhere with nobody there to lend a hand. 

  • Always carry a decent set of recovery gear. A bag packed with load rated D-shackles ( not the little cheap ones from the hardware ), a snatch strap, set of gloves and some chain can come in handy to get you, or other vehicles, out of trouble. 

  • The one biggest and cheapest off road accessory, modification - whatever you call it - is tyre pressure ! Learning a good tyre pressure for the conditions you're driving is paramount and FREE ! 90% of situations where a vehicle may struggle with traction while climbing, churning through mud holes, bogging down in sand etc could have been avoided with the right tyre pressure. A bit like how an elephant could walk on soft sand and would sink down less than a lady in high heels. More surface area gives better traction. In hill climbing, especially on a lot of Sydney's tracks which are predominately sandstone, lowering tyre pressure increases the length ie : the footprint of the tyre which gives a greater surface area of tread. Lower pressures also have a massive advantage on beach driving as the tread flattens out further and will glide over the top of the sand as opposed to trying to cut down deep into it. This simple habit of adjusting tyre pressures will have a massive difference on hgow you hit the tracks. Just always remember to pump them back up before hitting the asphalt on the way home. 

  • If you have to do a water crossing, it's best ( where possible ) to wait either overnight or at least long enough for the hot components of your driveline to cool down before plunging into cold water. The problem is that with a hot diff and cold water, the metal shrinks as it hits the water and this causes a capillary action where water is drawn inside the diff through any cracks and openings. This doesn't help diff oil, I can tell you that much. Diff breathers are another cheap modification that should be done to any vehicle if it will be regularly doing creek crossings. 

  • A snorkel should also be fitted if your'e doing regular and deeper creek crossings to avoid water being sucked into your inlet manifolds. Petrol engines are bad enough with water induction however diesels inhaling a lung full can mean the end of an engine due to hydraulic lock.....very serious and VERY expensive ! So get a snorkel or at the very least, a good tarp or water bra. 




























Be prepared




Take your time








Use the features you have










Be cautious of water





Two is company, three's a convoy






















Before you venture off road, it’s important to know and understand your vehicle’s capabilities and limitations.

Have a look under your vehicle as it’s important to identify the lowest point

Short nosed vehicles like the little Suzuki Sierra, Jimny and the Jeep Wrangler have very good approach angles because of the short distance between the front of the tyre tread and the front bumper bar. The shorter this distance the better approach angle. Similar to the rear of the vehicle with long overhanging rear bumper bars, worsened with long towbars can lessen the departure angle as these will tend to get caught up on steeper tracks and ruts etc. Often though you can get around this by picking a different line  and / or going at a cross angle instead of front on with both tyres at once. 


( usually the centre of the rear diff ), while also being aware of the tow bar, if it has one as these can hit on steep departure angles. Depending on the make and model, your 4x4 will have an approach and departure angle, along with a ground clearance figure and wading depth.  An approach angle and departure angle refer to the angle

of the hill face you can drive up front on without impacting the front or rear edges of your vehicle respectively. 

Many four-wheel drives – and most utes – allow drivers to switch between 2WD, high-range 4WD and low-range 4WD modes. Low-range is designed for the kind of low-speed and low-grip conditions commonly encountered when driving off-road. By driving the power through smaller gear ratios, you can reduce the speed down to crawling pace. These gears are are often referred to as reduction or crawler gears.

Low-range acts as a gear multiplier to give the driver extra control over dicey road conditions and allow much slowing ascending and desending control. .

transfer case diagram.jpg
rain to sun.jpg

You can load your car up with all sorts of gear to help get you out of sticky situations, but following a few simple tips can help prevent getting into them in the first place.

Always check the weather – not just for while you’re away, but for the time beforehand – because heavy rain can drastically change the surface conditions. It’s also worth taking some spare shoes in case you need to wade through any water to test its depth before plunging in headfirst.

It’s important to have some recovery gear if case you get yourself into trouble, a winch and/or snatch straps are essentials. Shovels, recovery tracks and a little elbow grease will often help you out of sandy spots too.


It’s important to take your time and plan your route carefully. It's not always just about the destination but the journey along the way so make sure you take it all in, see as much along the way as possible and make the most of your trip. 

Often too, the slower you take it, the easier it will be to conquer. 

The advantage to this too is if something goes wrong, and it often can, there will be less damage and less consequences if taking it steady, especially on tracks you may not be used to. Driving flat out over obstacles is a recipe for costly disasters !

When you arrive at an obstacle, take your time to properly assess the situation sizing up the best plan of attack.

Hill Descent Control (HDC) is a relatively new modern addition to some  4 wheel drives nowadays like the 200 Series LandCruiser, Prado's and Range Rovers etc but they're also coming through on some more basic models and HDC allows smooth and controlled hill descents on rough terrain without requiring the driver to touch the brake pedal. It uses the ABS system to brake each wheel individually, giving the car more control than a driver using the brake pedal, as manual braking only works across the axles. This can lead to wheels locking up and slipping down the hill, especially in muddy or wet situations.

Once HDC's engaged, most four-wheel drives allow the driver to change the crawling speed of the vehicle by using the throttle during descent.

Mitsubishi ASTC with Off Road Mode and H

It is really important to walk through any water before driving through it if you’re unsure of its depth and the speed of its flow. The golden rule is if you can't walk it, then you can't drive it. 1 litre of water weighs 1 kilo so a fast flowing river is far heavier than any 4x4 no matter its or set up !

Remember that no river crossing is worth losing a vehicle or a life.

If it’s safe to enter then approach slowly and maintain a consistent speed while in the water. Don't confuse speed with momentum. 

An aftermarket snorkel will help in deeper river crossings. 


Touring on your own in just one car is no issue so long as you're not going to far in or going too hard core. Where ever possible though, it is always best to travel with at least one other vehicle, especially if you’re new to four-wheel-driving or unfamiliar with the area you're in.

It’s also important to let others know where you’re heading to, give them a rough itinerary of your trip and when you're expecting to head back home too so they have an idea of where you'll be if something goes wrong ...

Touring on your own in just one car is no issue so long as you're not going to far in or going too hard core. Where ever possible though, it is always best to travel with at least one other vehicle, especially if you’re new to four-wheel-driving or unfamiliar with the area you're in.

It’s also important to let others know where you’re heading to and give them a rough itinerary of your trip and when you're expecting to head back home too so they have an idea of where you'll be should something go wrong. 

While the abocve is not a complete list, it will give beginners to four-wheel-driving the basics required to head off road with some theoretical knowledge, some practical know how and the confidence building to do it safely.


Driving off-road is great family fun, but the worst bit is trying to con someone else to wash all the fun off !

All the points listed here are only as a guide from personal experience and should anyone being thinking of heading off road, does so at their own risk. Do you own research, travel safe and enjoy.