Everybody had a first time off the bitumen, though some come better prepared than others.
Over the years, we've seen plenty of people doing it the hard way when going off-road. So, we've put together a list the 5 biggest rookie mistakes we see when going off road.
Obviously a 'road going' hatchback, sedan or even SUV isn't going to get you through rutted out mountain tracks or a soft beach approach. Most often we see people mix up the definition (and capability) of an all-wheel drive versus four-wheel drive vehicles.
Most AWD 'soft roaders' aren't meant to be taken off road except for the odd dirt road or trail. If you take them on the beach, it's highly likely you'll get stuck on the access track as they bottom out.
The main reason is that AWD's typically do not have sufficient ground clearance, gear ratio's (ie. no low range), inadequate suspension & use road going tyres (limited grip off-road) - when you combine this - they do not make for a capable off-road vehicle. Attempting bush or sand tracks in a car that's not made for it is a recipe for damage & problems.
Heading out off road requires a bit of preparation, not only for your 4x4, but also in regards to accessories and location planning.
Make sure you have the proper permits for the destination you're going and deflate your tyres accordingly.
Where possible, check with the locals (or National Park Conditions Reports) to see what the current track & tide conditions are. There is nothing worse than rocking up at a track that's closed or trying to drive on the beach at high tide. Also consider what you might need to recover yourself if you get into trouble; do you have recovery boards, snatch strap, a winch or at least a shovel on board?
If you do get stuck or break something, you might have to spend some time in the car (or digging the car out), so make sure you have plenty of water, food and medication. Conditions can change in minutes, from a dry track to one doused in run off from a sudden storm - so it pays to be prepared for all possibilities.
Phone reception is essential to call for help and there are a lot of places where only certain carriers work. Do your research prior.
Handy tip: Aldi Mobile is inexpensive and works on the Telstra network, so you can pick up a pre-paid card for just $5 and get connection typically in more places then other carriers. If there is no reception, in which case you're probably far from civilisation, definitely consider a satellite phone.
Just because it fits, doesn't mean you should take it all.
When you're finished loading your boot or ute, have a look at your suspension and judge for yourself if your vehicle is hanging too low to cover some of the obstacles you're about the encounter.
More importantly, check the load ratio of your car, and especially your roof rack. There is a maximum to what your roof can carry and what your roof rack can carry. If you overload up top, things can go pear shaped very quickly. Not only is it illegal, you can lose your rack, break your roof or do damage to other structures. Next to that, a heavy load on the roof makes your 4x4 more prone to toppling over or hitting low hanging branches & trees.
If you're towing, this is where things get really critical. You need to ensure you do not exceed the maximum load your car can both carry and tow, and would highly suggest doing some dry runs to ensure your weight management is correct. In the unfortunate case of having an accident when you found to be are overloaded or overweight, you will likely have any insurance claims denied.
Everybody has to learn somehow and asking questions is always a good thing, so thinking you know everything already is one of the easiest mistakes to make. Younger 4WD'ers tend to get overconfident in themselves and their vehicles abilities, leading to damage and sometimes (serious) accidents.
A few simple rules are to watch your speed, never go alone and asses every obstacle before attempting it. This includes walking a river or creek crossing before plunging in. Never go off the beaten track if you don't know what's ahead of you, without the proper gear, without a recovery car or buddy, communication devices and a way out.
Definitely don't get lead astray by others, listen to internet heroes or advice from strangers on social media, because they're often wrong or haven't actually been in the situation themselves.
Handy Tip: Take the time to watch some recovery video's from trained professionals. In the heat of the moment, when you're stuck and the crowds gather with so called 'advice' - it pays to have a cool, calm approach & keep your recovery by the book.
The last but certainly most important rookie mistake is to forget to have fun when going off road.
Many people are simply too stressed about what's up ahead, if they're going to break something or to get bogged on the beach. Unlike the Facebook pages showing cars bogged & broken, following a few simple steps prior and during your trip will likely result in an amazing adventure - most likely free from any issues.
Of course going off road means you'll get a scratch or two, your 4x4 will obviously get dirty & from time to time, you might get stuck.
Just remember to have fun along the way, smile and create good memories, it will all be worth it! And if you see a fellow car in distress or stuck, it does help to pay it forward and help out if you can at the time.
Any 4x4 purchased comes with complimentary
membership to join the Motorama 4X4XMORE Club, which includes invites to
tag-along tours to explore some of Queensland's most iconic 4x4 locations.
If you take you 4x4 to some remote location, over challenging obstacles or through rough terrain, you better make sure it's serviced properly. Make sure your 4x4 doesn't let you down when you need it most!