Australians are a nation of explorers, and if you’ve found our website, it’s probably because you like a bit of outdoor, off-road adventure. (Because towbars are an essential addition to most quality 4WDs and all-terrain vehicles.) From sand to snow, grass plains to muddy swamps, steep mountains to deep water crossings, Australia offers all of the driving possibilities you could possibly imagine. But can you drive them?
Here are some of our top tips for driving through the many terrains Australia has to offer:
- Water: **First off, if it’s moving flood water, and/or you don’t know the depth, forget it. Flood water can hide a multitude of dangers and the road can become highly compromised in a very short amount of time. It’s not worth the risk of ruining your car, and potentially losing your life. A British report revealed that ‘a third of flood-related deaths involve a vehicle because drivers take unnecessary risks’. Don’t be one of those drivers, it’s just not worth it.**
If it’s a regular stream, or still water across the road, or you really must drive through minor flood waters, enter slowly and then keep a steady pace. Don’t speed up on exit. After exiting, dry your brakes by using them gently. It’s also a good idea to get out and check that no debris from the water has been lodged anywhere in your vehicle.
- Mountains, hills, and steep descents: Many of us have been taught that little trick that, if you’re going over a relatively sharp change in road angle, it’s better for your undercarriage to drive it diagonally. (Most commonly helpful on those ‘crunchy’ changes between driveway or parking lot and the main road.) However, this little bit of maneuvering, the habit of going diagonally to smooth out changes in small steep surfaces is a big no-no when tackling actual mountains and significantly steep drives.
Driving diagonally or ‘zigzagging’ in these situations actually significantly increases the risk of you rolling your vehicle. Drive relatively straight instead, using the highest gear your vehicle can comfortably manage on the way up, and on the way down, avoid riding the brakes by shifting down gear. A good rule of thumb is not to drive down a steep hill or mountain faster than you can drive up it!
- Sand: Australia has a lot of sandy beaches and deserts, so if you’re an off-road driver, this is something you’re definitely going to encounter. In their article ‘How to drive on sand without getting stuck’, ‘Unsealed 4×4’ point to two key factors in successful sand driving – reducing tyre pressure and keeping a steady momentum fast enough to keep your vehicle ‘light’ on the sand, yet not too fast to get out of control. Check out their article for lots more details.
- Grass: Seems simple right? Everyone can drive on grass, surely? Stop and have a think about how slippery grass is when it’s wet – and you’re adding significant speed and weight to the equation. Alternatively, if you’re driving through long, dry grass for an extended amount of time, spare a thought to the possibility of how much of that grass, pollens, and seeds could be getting stuck in various parts of your vehicle’s engine. Drive slowly but steadily with an eye out for potential hidden hazards like tree stumps. Check that your engine is clear from debris.
- Mud: Firstly, as with all driving in unknown terrain, a few minutes surveying and planning before any attempted crossing could save you a lot of drama. When you’re in mud, it’s critical to continue moving forward as slowly as possible, but as fast as is necessary. Try to relax your steering grip a little and, to a certain extent, let you vehicle find the path of least resistance. Any quick, sudden jerking of the steering wheel is what you want to avoid.
- Ice and snow: Given the varied terrains here in Australia, it’s perfectly feasible to find yourself driving on sandy beaches in the morning and snowy hilltops at night. Ice and snow, like everything else we’ve mentioned, adds the need for increased caution and awareness in your driving. Drive slow, brake gently, allow an extended following distance, and always fit chains when advised. Snowsafe.org.au is a great resource to learn more.
So there’s some of our top tips! Further research and practice is definitely recommended before you go adventuring off the beaten track. As towbar fitting specialists, we know how essential a properly selected and fitted tow bar can be in off-road adventures and other extreme driving situations. Vehicles and drivers in compromised positions are always going to be eternally grateful if you’re there to tow them to safety. You and your tow bar can be the heros of the day! Get in contact to get your hero of the day towbar fitted.
Image source code: Jon Flobrant