Walk It Now or Swim It Later – How to Tackle Water Crossings

In our last issue we started to dissect “single vehicle accidents”. As outlined in our inaugural crash index, the Club 4X4 portfolio has seen a significant representation in claims where there are no other vehicle involved. In an effort to break things down, last week we focused on the types of incident occurring on sealed roads. Emphasising on collisions with animals, car park bingles and loss of control – we discussed ways to prevent these sorts of accidents and we also had some great feedback from readers around prevention techniques and tools.

To round things out, this week we will discuss the different types of incidents that we are seeing on unsealed roads and tracks. It’s no big surprise that driving on dirt isn’t the same as driving on tar but there are a couple of similarities in the types of claims that are being lodged with us. Namely, animal strike and loss of control. It’s not that surprising really; our cuddly friends call the bush home. We had a lot of great information followed by commentary from readers in the last article, so we aren’t going to rehash that here. Suffice to say from our perspective, driving to the conditions is the most important thing that one can do.

Single vehicle incidents

By far the most common incidents we’ve seen here are vehicles sliding into embankments or cresting peaks (dunes and track formations) and finding a surprise on the other side. Often the former happens during wet and muddy conditions and would more often than not, see a mixture of panel and or suspension or chassis damage. For such low speed events, the amount of mechanical damage that can be done between sway bars, steering racks and even CV joints and diffs is surprising. These circumstances have also tested our ability to retrieve vehicles and also add to the cost of the overall claim. What we can say given some of the locations we’ve seen, you don’t want to find out that you’re not covered when you’ve done some damage deep in the high country and you need a specialist to remove you!

Water Crossings

Water crossings are a massive contributor to our overall claims costs for the year. The issue with these claims is that the cost of repair is large and depending on the value of the vehicle may result in a total loss– which when you consider how we value a vehicle can be much more costly than it is for a vanilla insurer. Combine this with the fact that we are hell bent on insuring as many of the 4×4 and off-road travelling community as possible, you can see how we would wear the lion’s share of water damage claims!  You can’t be a specialist 4X4 insurer without covering water crossings and we cover fresh water, salt water and everything in between!

We have seen a trend of Jeep Wranglers and Renegades involved in such claims – with and without snorkels. Looking into things further identified horrendously designed factory air intake. How they get away with it is beyond us but please, if you want to do any water crossings in this type of vehicle, get a high quality snorkel fitted!

The claims listed above can be prevented with a few tips and thought processes outlined below:

1)      Do you need to go down that track/road – It’s great to be insured, but do you want to end your day here? Then be without your rig and worry it won’t ever be the same? Is there a different way around or can you wait until conditions change? There no heroism in wrecking or breaking your rig – if this excites you, you either have too much money or rocks in your head.

1)      Are you driving to the conditions? – Things like speed come into play as well as wheel placement and conditions under those 4 small patches of rubber (which should be running at an appropriate inflation level of course!). When tackling water crossings, the idea is to have the right amount of speed to create a bow wave which keep water away from your engine and helps with forward momentum.

2)      Am I setup for this? Are you going beyond your limit or the vehicle’s limits? An off-camber and rutted decline down a muddy clay-based track in a vehicle with highway terrain tyres is a recipe for disaster and downright irresponsible. Do you need or can you benefit from using a water bra? Don’t worry about the guys sitting on the bank watching you (I’m talking to everyone up the cape earlier this year) – get that water bra on and make sure you can continue your journey. The water bra or crossing cover basically forces the water away from the engine and works hand in hand with the momentum above to create that bow wave. With many new cars totally reliant on sensors and other electronic wizardry, it’s a small investment in our opinion.

3)      Can I walk it? Generally if you can’ t walk it you shouldn’t drive it! This goes for steep muddy inclines or declines as well as water crossings that may be too deep or experiencing tidal or flood based flow that could wash you off course.

So that’s our Crash index for the year and I think a good way to wind down for the Christmas break. Remember the points above – there’s no point going that extra step if it’s going to cost you the trip or worse. As always, if you have any further tips please share below for the rest of the readers!

Here’s a view from our mate Pat Callinan tackling a crossing up the Cape with some handy pointers on making sure you get through!

Happy Touring!

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Comments 7

  1. Hi , I read this on another website :
    ‘Don’t cross with a hot engine, transmission and diffs. It’s important to allow it to cool. The sudden cooling and contraction of metals can cause serious damage. Your vehicle can cool down while you are checking the crossing.’

    How long one should wait before crossing ?

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      Good One Alex,

      Yes – do give the car 20 minutes or so to cool down if possible. Also when you get out the other side dab your brakes to clear them of water and or mud


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  2. You simply do not know when crocs are around. If you are in croc country no one can give you an iron clad guarantee that they are not there. However if you’re looking at, say the cape, then with all the traffic up there it is unlikely in most places that crocs will be present. Just keep an eye out and even have a spotter if you’ve got to go into any water deeper than your knees. Look for signs as to how deep the water is eg other cars, other people, you may as well lessen your own risk!

  3. Pingback: Policy Changes - Water Crossing Claims - CLUB 4X4

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