7 Mistakes Every 4WDER Makes

In 4WD land, there is a right and a wrong way of doing things. A lot of the time, the difference is someone’s opinion. I reckon there are a few hard-and-fast wrongs however. With that in mind, we have put together a list of the seven most common 4WD mistakes. Which ones are you guilty of?

4WD Mistake #1: Not Airing Down (enough)

Airing down is your best ally for off-road capability.

It’s your most valuable asset on the tracks, and the easiest mod you can make to increase your capability tenfold: Air pressure. Driving serious off-road tracks with on-road air pressures is plain silly. I’ve been lazy before and I’ve done it; once you air down a good amount it’s incredible what a difference it makes. It doesn’t matter if it’s forest, desert, beach, grass or whatever. Low tyre pressures are the best.

When I say air down, I don’t mean going from 36psi to 32psi and calling it good. Don’t be scared to go down much further than that. Recommending blanket pressures for people is hard, because every 4X4, modification, tyre and driving style is different. But you need to take a decent chunk of wind out of those wheels to make a big difference. My tip here is to experiment: The only way to find your psi happy place is trial, error and experience.

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4WD Mistake #2: Being Overweight

There’s a huge difference in weights between new and old 4WDs.

Weight is the enemy – there are no two ways about it. Modern 4WDs are getting heavier and heavier these days; more power and trick electronics hide the fact 90% of the time, but the fact is still there: They are way chubby. Today, a top-spec Toyota LandCruiser Prado weighs in at 2,445 kilograms off the showroom floor. Back in 1996, the comparable 90 Series Prado weighed 1,848 kilograms, or a total of 600kg less… yep, that’s almost a Suzuki Sierra difference.

Payloads on these modern 4X4s are more often than not less than their older counterparts as well. To keep the Prado parable going, 862 kilograms of payload back in 1996 is now less, at 545 kilograms. Too many people load too much into their 4X4 – whether it’s accessories, gear or people – and don’t really have a solid grasp on what it all weighs.

Knowledge is power. Know what you actually weigh.

4WD Mistake #3: Being Under-Prepared

Before going 4WDing, always have a ‘minimum kit’ ready to go and packed in your 4X4.

This is the other side of the coin: Being under-prepared. When some people pack every damned thing on the planet, whether it’s useful or not, others go with markedly less than the bare minimum. If you add remote area travel into the equation, you’re starting to seriously play with fire. Consider a first aid kit, basic recovery gear and tools as a bare minimum; and carry extra food and water beyond what you’d normally need, just in case. Obviously, there’s a balance between points two and three here; and it’s really something that comes with time and experience.

If you are going to be out of a mobile reception, consider a satellite phone or satellite tracker like the Spot 3.  Check out a review here

 4WD Mistake #4: Being a D$%KHEAD

Please don’t be one. Please, for the sake of all of your 4WDing comrades, don’t. Driving like Marcus Grönholm along public 4WD tracks, chucking donuts on claypans, spinning your wheels mercilessly on hill climbs… it’s all classic dickhead behaviour, and you will be accurately and justly labelled as such if you partake. The big problem is that, other than tearing apart the countryside, 4WDers will always be tarred with the same brush (regardless of how small the moronic minority is), and this will inevitably be used as ammo against our lifestyle.

Instead, try this: Use your 4WD as a tool to visit beautiful, quiet and remote parts of this huge, sprawling continent; not as some kind of cheap testosterone thrill. The 4WDing fraternity comes under enough scrutiny already without ruining it for ourselves. If you’re keen to play up, that’s cool. Just do it somewhere that allows for it – like private parks. Don’t do it on the tracks and places that are open to the public and are maintained as such.

Get out there in your 4X4, overcome obstacles and get to places others can’t go. Test the limits of yourself and your 4X4, but just do it the right way… not the dickhead way. The bush isn’t our birthright, it’s our responsibility.

4WD Mistake #5: Buying Crappy Gear

You know the saying about the poor man buying many times. Often, you can spend a little more on something quality, and you’ll be far ahead from a ‘dollars’ point of view when that quality bit of gear outlasts numerous cheap options.

Let me clarify. The price tag of something doesn’t directly correlate to its inherent quality. Often, some products are just damned expensive; and brand will induce extra cost. Knowing the difference between a cheap crappy product and something actually worth its asking price isn’t an easy thing to do… especially with so much advertising and marketing happening. If something sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Set yourself a budget, and buy the best quality you can within that budget. Chances are, it will cost you less in the long run.

4WD Mistake #6: Going Too Hard

Often, stacks of momentum isn’t the answer. Use that clump of gelatinous matter between your ears, and think.

Believe it or not, going harder isn’t your only answer to tough obstacles. Sometimes, it’s part of the solution; but many forget that the brain is often better than the right foot for making a better driver. Pick your line thoughtfully. Jump out and walk the track a bit, think about your tyre pressures, and which gear you’ve chosen. It’s often too easy to get caught up in the moment, and just try and gun your way out of trouble.

4WD Mistake #7: Not Doing a Course

Taking part in a quality 4X4 course is easily one of the best things you can do for yourself, and your vehicle.

If you think there’s nothing to learn, you’re wrong. Whether you’re completely new to the scene or have been trawling the tracks for years, chances are there is a lot that you can get out of a good quality driving or recovery course. This is especially true if you find yourself behind the wheel of a modern 4X4, with more buttons than levers. Modern 4WDs need specific techniques and specialised knowledge to drive them to their best potential.

Club 4X4 customers can save on the cost of a 4WD course, plus you’ll get a 10% discount on your insurance if you’ve completed a recognised course!

What are your most loathed 4WD mistakes? Leave a comment below to let us know.


Source: Unsealed4x4

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Comments 14

  1. You hit the nail on the head with these tips especially the bush isn’t a birthright it’s a responsibility to use it without ripping it to bits if we keep doing it we will get shut out the greenies already have enough power don’t give them any more use the bush sensibly today so you can go back tomorrow and so can your kids if they get the 4×4 bug when they are old enough to drive

  2. Drive only within what level of expertise you have been trained to do
    & Train to do what level of off roading expertise you want to drive at

  3. All great sound tips.
    Be responsible on the tracks, assist those you’re with by spotting for them or assisting with a safe recovery.
    Tyre pressure is critical as is being prepared for where you are going.
    If you’re not prepared or not confident don’t let your mates goad you into it. They aren’t the ones who’ll have to pay for your vehicle repair or expensive recovery.
    Enjoy the ability to go places most can’t and meet great like minded people doing it.
    I’ve seen so much of remote Australia all because I have a well equipped vehicle to do so.
    And not to mention the great mates, guys and girls I’ve me through 4wding.

  4. Lack of punctuation. It kills me!

    Seriously though, the worst thing about the modern 4×4 being so capable is that the dickheads can get everywhere as well.

    The amount of rubbish left at and damage done to otherwise pristine places, no matter how far off the beaten track, gives me little hope for the future of our planet.

    1. Hi Alan, we couldn’t agree more. There is nothing worse than seeing rubbish left behind, and it happens far too often. And it is just pure laziness…

  5. Couldn’t agree more. My tyres are religiously deflated with my STAUN’s to approx 18 lbs hot tyre pressure before any 4×4’ing. Standard equipment that permanently resides in my veh is a first aid box that has been fitted out by my local pharmacist, a snatch strap/recovery kit with suitable attachment points on the veh. Yes it has a long range tank and steel bull bar. which has used up some of my cargo weight, however, I never pack more than I need. After 35+ years in law enforcement, driving lick a ‘Richard Cranium’ is a pet hate of mine. Inclusive in my now retired from profession was training in 4×4’ing to the level of instructor. In all my years (66 as at this time) I have bogged my 4×4 once and needed assistance to recover it. The one thing left out of this article is the lack of common sense exhibited by too many people, or that could be said to covered by items 5, 6 & 7.

  6. Great article. Totally agree with #1 My tip here is to experiment: The only way to find your psi happy place is trial, error and experience.
    The correct tyre pressure can make save mauch less stress on any trip.
    After owning and using 4WD’s for 35 years or more I thought I had it all worked out.
    My newest challenge is I now own a Discovery with 19inch wheels, in the past my toyotas have had smaller wheel diameter and higher profile tyres and I was able too run lower pressures.
    It seems with the lower profile much more risk of rim damage. Still playing with different pressures for different conditions. Any tips or experience from others would be appreciated.

  7. re no’ 5.
    at age 68. having driven a p.m.g. landrover at 18 , and others since , I am more than happy to use budget products ,i.e.winches , lighting and shelter, for occasional use. I fully understand there limitations.

    1. G’day David, totally understand. We are not advocating to always spend up on the most expensive, but make sure you are getting value. Id argue that if you rarely use something, then sure value is getting something budget. The key is to make sure you know / look after the item so it works when you need it!

  8. I am guilty of ignorance. I was driving around the perimeter of a salt lake. The ground was very hard and my tyres did not leave much of an imprint. After 20 minutes of driving, i decided that there was nothing else to see that we hadn’t already experienced and decided to turn around and go back the way we had come. I was still in 2WD. That was the first mistake. I turned into the sand bank to reverse up and felt the front wheels dig into the surface. I lost momentum. I locked in the hubs, put the Navara into 4WD and slowly reversed out of the situation. The rear wheels dug in and we became technically bogged. I had not dropped the Tyre pressures. Mistake number 2. I got the max tracks out, dug out enough mud hopefully to ride up on but the max tracks slid forward and buried themselves. We are now terribly bogged. Out comes the shovel but as much as we dug our selves out the worse we became bogged. We were sinking. No phone coverage and a long way from civilization. We did get help eventually and got out but was a BIG lesson to learn when exploring uncharted territory. I had a winch and all the goodies to get another vehicle out but did not have anything to winch to. I now have a towing shovel and hopefully do not have to use it again.

    1. What a story Andy! It’s not hard to see how it spiralled out of control after starting so easily though. And I think thats the problem – offroad, it doesn’t take much to go from OK to in serious trouble! Glad everything worked out in the end!

  9. 4WD Mistake #4: Being a D$%KHEAD
    With this in mind. Take look at all the adds that are on the idiot box when they advertise a new 4×4
    Holden Colorado with the Goat in the back, flat out, front wheel spins, bouncing through rivers and creeks.
    Ford, Nissan, BMW (Brain Muted Wanker), ripe tear up dirt roads, like hoons on a hwy.
    The all new Renault Koleos 4×4 with our very own Daniel Ricciardo doing donuts around a tree.
    With adds like these no wonder there are D$%KHEADS in the bush.

    Must say though wouldn’t mind one of those 4x4s, I have to wash mine after a tip out. Theirs are always nice and clean.

    We should all complain that this is D$%KHEAD advertising by D$%KHEAD advertisers, who don’t care (give a s##t) about this Great Land of ours. It’s all about the MONEY.

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