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4x4 Off-Roading

From OCAU Wiki

By off-roading, this is not refering to main tracks, etc. It's refering to the good stuff, where you spend half your day up to your axles in mud, and climbing hills.

Vehicle Choice

Buy a 'heavy duty' 4 wheel drive such as:

  • Toyota Landcruiser (Prefered weapon of choice due to better design and diff ratios). This is the "sentimental" favourite amongst the 4WD fraternity, though the recent switch to an independent front supension (IFS) on some models of the 100 series has raised doubts as to whether or not the 100 series can still be referred to as a "heavy duty" vehicle. Many people still prefer the older 80 series instead.
  • Toyota Hilux (Good value for money 4x4, diff ratios are not as good as Land Cruiser but still more than enough)
  • Nissan Patrol (Esp with the older models they are good for general off road or people who don't want the big challenges. The diff ratios are not the best so be careful on the steep stuff)

- There are many other very capable vehicles out there also, some may consider them slightly inferior to a Patrol or Landcruiser, but being lighter, more fuel efficient and cheaper to buy are three big plusses in my book. These include vehicles such as the Nissan Pathfinder, Toyota Prado, Mitsubishi Pajero & Challenger. Also the Suzuki Sierra is a very capable small vehicle.

Stay away from 'soft roaders' as they're just not up to the job. A soft roader may be considered as a vehicle that doesnt have a locking center differential that enables drive to be sent to front and rear axles in slippery conditions, ground clearance is too low and doesnt have low ratio. However, some soft roaders do have their place, Rav4's and Forester GT's are great on sand, particularly the Forester if it has had a turbo upgrade, I have driven one of these and 0-100 in 5.6 secs for an additional $3500 means sand dunes become mole hills.

Safety Tips

  • Where possible go with another vehicle. However, if you are on your own always play it safe, if in doubt, dont go down the track.
  • Remember, going off road puts a lot of stress on every part of the vehicle, so whether it is a day trip or a weekend away, NEVER leave home without the following:
  • Plenty of spare water for you and the car. Cooling systems can get leaks when a vehicle is pushed hard regularly, and there is nothing worse than being stuck out somewhere with nothing for you or your car to drink.
  • Spare fan belt.
  • Tow ropes and/or tow straps. Look for something which is rated for at least 2 times the weight of your vehicle (I personally use straps rated at more than 3 times my vehicle weight 6 tonne straps). If you get bogged its going to take a lot of force to get you out. Also a winch or a "snatch'em'strap" can get you out of a lot of trouble. PLEASE BE CAREFUL WITH STRAPS AND CABLES!!! if they break under load they can have more than enough force to take your head clean off your shoulders!!!! When using them tie things like an old jumper in the middle of each strap (or more than one per strap, the more the better). This will help slow down a ballistic strap and helps reduce the chance of injury to you and damage to the vehicles concearned. If using more than one strap use good quality shackles (at least 2 tonne but higher is better) and make sure they are always fastened all the way and there are no bends of cracks in them. They aren't a cheap item but will last a long time if they are looked after. If your straps have loops in the ends then you can also put one strap though the loops of another forming a U shape setup. This effectively doubles the load tolerance of the strap. If the strap starts fraying it is at the end of its service life. If you have a tear that is more than 5% of the width of the strap/cable then replace it. Dont try to repair straps and cables. If a steel cable starts to unwind itself then replace it. The twisting thats in it when you buy it is done to increase its strength.
  • Spare oil. The last thing you want is to get a leak and have nothing to top the engine up with.
  • If in doubt take extra fuel. Good quality Jerry cans can be expensive but those extra litres of fuel can get you out of trouble.
  • Tools. You dont necessarily need a full tool box (though the more the better) but at least a basic set so that you can do any basic repairs.
  At a minimum you will want:
  * A good selection of spanners. 
  * A socket set. 1/4in drive is usually enough, but if you can bring along a 1/2in, set then all the better.
  * A can of WD40. Usefull for getting water out of electrics, such as distributer caps, and around spark plugs.
  * A can of Aerostart. Use this if you have trouble getting the vehicle started due to water, or if you have run the fuel tanks
dry and after adding fresh fuel need to give the car a little helping hand to get going, use this stuff sparingly on petrol motors
as it can do damage. Also be careful not to breath this stuff in, if you get to much in to you, you may end up passing out, due to 
the high concentration of Ether.
  • Mobile phone. If you have a 2 way radio then all the better, but at least having a mobile phone gives you a chance to call someone.
  • Food. Dont be afraid to bring extra just in case you get stuck somewhere.
  • A good map of the area you plan on going to. Ideally you will want a good topographical map, as these not only show where the steep stuff is, but have better detail of roads and access tracks.
  • Always let someone know where you are going, and when you expect to be back, this way they can raise the alarm if you get stuck somewhere and don't return in time.
  • Make sure your car is in good running order prior to your trip. Dont leave it to the last minute. If in doubt get it checked.
  • Suitable tyres. Dont try and go off the beaten track with road tyres or cheap all terrains. They will only bring you grief. If you plan on going off road a lot then perhaps investing in a good set of mud tyres is a good idea. Also try and avoid using mag wheels. A good set of steel rims will last longer and not crack and break apart like mag wheels can.
  • Run your tyres pressures lower than you would for road use. Too much pressure in the tyres can cause problems in the soft and sloppy stuff.
  • Make sure your windscreen wiper blades are in good condition and that there is plenty of water for the wipers.
  • Make sure all greasable points are greased. Areas include drive shaft universal joints, steering compontents and if you have them dont forget the greasable shackles. Use a grease that has a water dispersant in it. This will help keep water out of the vital parts. Castrol are an example of a company that make a good quality grease and a tube is worth about $12 and will last you ages.
  • If you go off road often then service the vehicle more often. You may not realise it but when you are off road you are pushing the vehicle a hell of a lot and hence there is more wear etc. Servicing the vehicle more often ensures that the vehicles is not using oil and filters that are past their usefullness.
  • And above all else dont push harder than your vehicle and skill level will allow. In the end its all about having some fun!! :)

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