After 10 years in the saddle of old 4WDs and driving in remote places right around this great country of ours, I’ve put together a list of essentials that I don’t leave home without. Many of these hard-learnt tricks and tips have saved my bacon and got me out of sticky situations more times than I care to remember! So here’s 7 off-road hacks to help you on your travels.
Shaun Whale doing what he does best
1. Ratchet Straps
While we often associate these with tying down loads, they are also super handy when it comes to dealing with a major breakage. From holding a broken steering arm together on a remote track in Cape York to tensioning my alternator after a bolt snapped on the West Coast of Tassie, the humble ratchet strap always has a place in my 4WD. Two or three small ratchet straps take up hardly any space and can get you back to a main road in an emergency.
2. Anderson plugs
Still, so many people use the standard cig sockets on their 12V accessories like fridges and I can’t believe the number of times I’ve seen these standard plugs wiggle out and the fridge stops getting power. Of course, it’s usually too late before the person realises that the fridge has turned off and most of the perishables like chicken, meats and dairy must be chucked out. Heck, even if you got to camp and your only problem was a couple of warm beers, I would be looking for a solution! In my opinion, Anderson plugs give the best connection off-road and are also rated to handle big amperage.
How good is this place? Shaun with a REDARC solar blanket
3. Waterproof circuit breakers and Midi fuses
On all of the 12V setups that carry big amps, I opt for resettable waterproof circuit breakers and Midi fuses over traditional blade fuses. I’m talking about the wiring from your start battery to your battery charger, the heavy-duty wires running from your auxiliary batteries and anything else that carries a big load. Blade fuses are fine for small draw items like camp lights and even your fridge, but anything bigger needs a more bush proof solution. The problem with standard blade fuses is the connection the fuse has in the holder. They often move around, and heat is created when big amperage is running through them and this heat often melts the fuse and holder. Do it right the first time when setting up your 12V and it will be a thing you never need to worry about.
4. Battery Tools
This, in my opinion, has been a game changer out in the bush when something goes wrong. 18V power tools and lithium batteries are perfect to carry in your 4WD and are perfect when something goes wrong. I carry an impact wrench, a drill, a portable light and grinder in my kit as well as 2x 4amp/hr batteries. It seems excessive, but I’m prepared for most breakages. The drill is good for broken bolts with easy-outs and the grinder is great for broken IFS CVs (cut the axle to remove instead of taking front end apart) and I recently used the grinder to cut a bent piece of exhaust that was fouling on my tyre. You’ll be surprised when and how often a power tool out in the bush becomes very helpful. And the good news about these tools is that I can recharge their batteries with my 1000W Pure Sine Wave Inverter from REDARC and always have them ready to go.
One of Shaun's favourite campsites made possible with a REDARC 1000W Pure Sine Wave Inverter
5. Nuts and Bolts
We always end up having loose nuts and bolts laying around in the shed and my suggestion is to keep all of these and throw them in the bottom of your 4WDs tool bag. I would even go one step further if you’re going on a big remote 4WD trip and go to the wreckers and pillage some nuts and bolts off your model 4WD to keep. Things rattle loose and break when off road, and having some spare nuts and bolts just might keep you from being on the back of a tow truck. One time in the Top End I was actually able to put a wheel back on with an assortment of Chemiwelded nuts and bolts after snapping all my wheel studs.
A Pure Sine Wave Inverter ensures all of Shaun's gadgets are always properly charged
6. Fencing Wire
I always carry a roll of fencing wire in my tool bag as it is a very versatile and will get you out of many sticky situations. Like the ratchet straps, fencing wire can be used to hold together many broken parts on a 4WD from suspension to busted exhaust mounts. One time on the Savanah Way we used some fencing wire and a cut down a log to fix a broken leaf pack in a boat trailer. The fencing wire was used to lash the log to the trailer and to hold the axle of the trailer. It wasn’t a pretty fix, but the bloke was able to limp back into Borroloola where he could do a more permanent repair.
7. Dunny roll in the glovebox
All my vehicles have a toilet roll in the glovebox and there’s usually another in the centre console as well. I don’t take any chances and protect this precious cargo by storing it in a zip lock bag. This could prove to be one of the most important tips I leave you with, and in an emergency situation, you’ll certainly be thanking me. Camp cooking can often have an overdose of chilli and curry powder and let’s just say you don’t want to be turning your 4WD upside down looking for the poo tickets.