"Anyone who has never made a mistake, has never tried anything new" says Albert Einstein. But you don’t have to live a hard lesson in order to learn from something. Especially when it comes to your 4x4 and especially when there are plenty of folks who have done the hard work and know what you need to avoid in the first place.
So, we rounded up some common 4x4 mistakes and what to do to make sure you don’t get caught out.
A kitted out 4X4 is not made overnight
Going for what looks good rather than what is functional
A common mistake is people not following weight limits and lift restrictions. These two things can be killers. It’s easy to tell the amateurs out there by the gear they put on their vehicles.
Quite a few people get a 4WD and straight away put new tyres on it, bigger suspension and sometimes fit it with a lift kit. They then forget that the standard tyre jack that comes with the 4WD will not extend to the new height.
This is because many people go for a 5” lift thinking that this keeps them legal. And then go and whack on some bigger diameter tyres. But if you do both, the combination of the 5” lift and the bigger diameter tyres more often than not will take you outside of what is legal. It’s a nightmare to understand but it is critical that you know your vehicle GVM and lift restrictions.
Another factor is adding too much weight. It’s very easy to overload and exceeds the GVM of a vehicle when kitting one out. Think about every bit of gear you are adding and bolting on.
Most 4WDs on the open road are overloaded (and most people don’t know this) and you have to be careful that this fact does not void your insurances. So it's important to check this and know the rules so you can make informed decisions.
Buying cheap stuff
If you buy something cheap don’t expect it to last long if used a lot. No two setup’s are the same and therefore no two needs are the same, but it makes sense to plan ahead. Sit down early on and plan what you want to ultimately achieve and work through the list, giving priority to your needs versus your wants.
After all, having to pay twice costs you more than doing it right in the first instance.
Not doing your homework
Most people don’t know that when asking for a dual battery system all they get is two batteries. Yes, that is a dual battery setup, but it’s not completed.
In order to charge the auxiliary battery properly you will need a DC-DC charger otherwise the second battery will never be at 100% capacity. Once the vehicle battery is charged, the second stops getting charged too unless you have a proper dual battery setup.
The other thing missing is the capability of starting the vehicle with the second battery, this is not included in your standard dual battery setup. Make sure you get a Deep cycle battery as your auxiliary otherwise you might end up with a second cranking battery.
Taking the cheaper route when selecting gear for your vehicles electrical system is not recommended
Not knowing how to get yourself out of trouble
Your touring rig is your pride and joy and you want to be able to trust and rely on the equipment you put on your vehicle. You don’t need all the expensive bells and whistles to get out there and go touring. Most often simple is best but it cannot be stressed enough how important it is to have a good quality winch that is going to pull your vehicle out or save you from some of those quite unlucky situations you might find yourself in.
If you are going to put your winch under a heavy workload you don’t want it to burn out mid-way through a recovery. At the end of the day you can pay a lot of money for your rig, so you don’t want it to be claimed by mother nature.
Added to this, is not getting the proper recovery gear. The handiest tool is a shovel, which can be used for a variety of things like digging yourself out of the sand or shovelling coals onto your camp oven, it really can be your best friend out on the road.
Never underestimate the importance of adjusting your tyre pressure
Tyre pressure is not one of those set-and-forget things. You have to constantly adjust for the driving they are doing. When you deflate your tyres, it increases the tyre’s footprint on the ground. The bigger the footprint, the more traction you have.
The idea is to keep the car from digging into the sand. Hence the more aggressive the tyre, the harder the car works to get up big dunes or drive through soft sand. AT (all-terrains) are generally good for sand, as they tend to sit more on the sand rather than digging it up. But the key here is, regardless of what tyre type you have, the lower the pressure the easier it will be for the car to go through soft sand. You can go as low as 10psi if you are having difficulty.
Unsealed roads are often the route of many problems
Gravel, corrugations and dirt roads
Lowering tyre pressure on these types of surfaces gives you more traction and also gives you a smoother ride. It also helps prevent tyre punctures that you could get when running with high tyre pressure over sharp rocks, branches and other objects that are on the roads.
In all instances when driving off-road, tyre pressures are the single most important factor to consider. It can be the difference between having a puncture, getting bogged, or not being able to climb a tricky hill.
Going too low
When lowering tyre pressure, it’s important to drive to the conditions, and remember that the lower the tyre pressure, the easier the tyre can “pop” off the bead of the rim. So generally, it's best to slow down.
This is one of the risks of running your tyre pressures too low. If there is no damage to the tyre, it might just be a quick pit stop to get it inflated again with a few extra PSI to help prevent it from happening.
Nothing beats experience for this. We all learn from our mistakes, so don’t be afraid to make them. Just be sensible and drive to the conditions and you will generally find little goes wrong.
Thanks to Ned, Ronny, Rick, Jed, Michael, Hugh for their contributions.