Half of all cars sold in Perth each year are Sport Utility Vehicles (SUVs) which isn’t surprising because they fit the whole family, have good storage, sit high on the road and are All Wheel Drive (AWD). Out of all those AWDs /SUVs, a fair percentage come in the Four Wheel Drive (4WD) category.
The COVID changes in holiday plans might have you thinking on how you could use your SUV to have an adventure in your own backyard.
Firstly, what’s the potential of my car? AWDs and 4WDs have both similar and different characteristics. One thing they both have is 4WD capability. That is, power going to all four wheels unlike normal cars, where power goes to just two wheels, back or front. Nearly all AWD vehicles are constantly in AWD, which allows for better handling and traction, especially on gravel or wet roads without the driver needing to engage anything. There are many types of AWD vehicles, with the Subaru arguably being the best known in our opinion.
The 4WD vehicle, such as the Toyota Land Cruiser, is more capable off road than most AWDs. That is because 4WDs usually have higher clearance, which enables them to go on rougher roads. With most 4WDs the driver presses a button or pushes a lever to physically engage all wheels. Serious 4WDs feature low range gearing that allows the vehicle to take on very steep or rocky terrain.
The biggest difference in laymen terms is that an AWD doesn’t go to extreme 4WD locations, but you can do some off-roading: hard beaches, rough dirt or corrugated roads etc. It means you can still get to see some amazing places a 2WD would find tough going.
So what are the 4WD basics we should know before answering to the call of the wild?
Where to Start?
We thoroughly recommend doing a fully accredited 4WD course to learn the ropes and gain confidence. That way, you will know what you and your vehicle is capable of. You get to learn in a safe controlled environment under expert instructors. You find out how to negotiate soft sand, go up and down steep hills and how to get through mud and water crossings. Most importantly, you find out how to do it all safely and what to do when things go wrong. There are plenty of 4WD Training courses to choose from in Perth.
Go on a Tag-a-Long tour
Once your course is done and dusted, it’s time to give your vehicle an off road workout. But as rank beginners, don’t push above your weight and hit the Canning Stock Route the next day. One option is to dip your big toe in first and go with others who have plenty of experience under their fan belt. A great way to start is to hook up to a tag along group where you have plenty of company and expertise. There are commercial tag a long tour operators in Perth or you could always join one of many 4WD clubs that do weekend and longer trips. Then, once you have gained some skills, knowledge and confidence, you can get out with your family and friends.
Although exploring in your 4WD is fun and exciting, there are some important safety issues. Your course instructors are a full bottle on this sort of stuff, but here are a few of things to be aware of from our many years of experience.
- Some off road tips: Go with another vehicle so help is on hand if needed.
- Pack necessary recovery equipment just in case things go pear shaped. Local 4WD accessories retailers can help you out on what to take.
- Take plenty of drinking water.
- Fill the fuel tank before setting out. Driving off road uses up more fuel than being on hardtop.
- Never, never drive through water without checking the depth first, usually by walking it. If any doubt, don’t do it. The only time you don’t check the depth by walking is in rivers in croc country like the Kimberley.
- Never leave your vehicle if you break down. A vehicle is much easier to spot than one person aimlessly walking in the bush.
- Being environmentally sensitive when driving off road is absolutely essential. For example, here just a few things to do.
- Always stick to formed tracks and no bush bashing which destroys the natural vegetation and causes erosion.
- Don’t light campfires when there are fire bans.
- Always show consideration for your fellow travellers while driving or at campsites.
- In station country, leave the gates as you find them. Leave open gates open and close gates you have had to open to drive through. A gate might be open for cattle to get to water.
These tips and advice are from our years of experience on the road traveling our beautiful state. Of course speak to one of the experts and specialists as mentioned above for specific information on your vehicle and your travels.
Who’s ready to take the challenge and start exploring?