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GoSee gets a fun time reality check as we learn new tricks in Getabout 4WD training course

August 03, 2009
GoSee gets a fun time reality check as we learn new tricks in Getabout 4WD training course

The big takeaways for the GoSee team after completing the Getabout Training Services Drive and Recover a 4WD course is we all learned something new and we all had a good time doing it.

At the end of an intensive one-day training session we have something real to show for the interesting bush and forest 4WD driving experience near Queanbeyan.

First- a certificate of competency from a Registered Training Organisation (RTO) and;

Second real practical insight into how to get the most from our 4WDs safely. GoSee does not see any point in owning vehicles which are not used to their full potential and we found strong support among the rest of our training group for that view.

Getabout, based in Prospect, NSW, is a real deal too. The RTO supports the outdoor Recreational Industry Training Package (SRO03), Nationally Recognised 4WD Training. The competency Units covered are SRODRV001B Drive and Recover a 4WD vehicle and SROODR002A Plan Outdoor Recreational Activities.

Getabouts Senior Trainer John Eggenhuizen and his team of instructors lead from the front to keep all aspects of the training safely on 4WD track. The experience is a great way to spend productive time with interesting people outdoors.

This 4WD training is not a paper tiger. Eleven varied 4WDs faced real off-road situations. When John led us to the first downhill experience it was immediately apparent we were in the hands of experts.

As a lead up we had all been carefully coached through stall starting our manual 4WDs in forward and reverse gears and educated on a similar recovery skill for the many automatics among us.

Then John led us over the top on a steep left hand track in the Getabout Landrover Discovery 3.

It was just past a yellow sign which announced: No through track.

So we followed the first and second principles of Four Wheel Driving = If in doubt: Stop, get out and look. Then: Think assess and decide.

After more thorough briefing by our instructors we followed as slowly as possible in low range first well spaced for safety by our instructors.

GoSee used our two chalk and cheese Toyota Landcruiser Saharas for the course. The idea was to compare 1985 Retro Toyota HJ 60 manual Landcruiser truck technology with our TD auto diesel 4WD leather clad limo.

There is no doubt that Toyota has come a long way from 1985. But there is one area in which the manual diesels have it over the auto.

As slow as possible. Touch the brakes
As slow as possible. Touch the brakes

For both Saharas the excitement of heading down a track with a slope of more than 30 degrees is a given. The amazing thing for your correspondent was the ease with which the 1985 Retro Toyota restored manual diesel eased its way down. Low range first really made a snack of the slope.

So much so that unlike the autos there was no reason to touch the brakes all the way to the bottom of the descent. Some slippery granite rock had to be avoided but high engine compression combined with the locked in low range gearing brought the HJ60 to the steep right hand climb out of the gully.

This was the first hint of the difference in handling vehicles set-up for caravan towing work in real 4WD conditions.

The HJ60 has a custom turbo, manifold and exhaust system set-up to haul caravans with the torque as constant as possible from about 65kmh to 100kmh.

Getabout 4WD training turn left at the yellow sign
Getabout 4WD training turn left at the yellow sign

This isfine for normal road work with the GoSee Jayco Discovery pop-top caravan behind.

But in 4WD use in low range first, stepping on the throttle produces too much thrust and wheel spin can develop on loose going. Steadying the accelerator foot to produce an even throttle is difficult on rough bush surfaces and turbo boost thundered in at each throttle opening error.

As John Eggenhuizen said at the briefing as slow as possible, 4WD is not about speed.

So after the pride taken in the easy downhill work with the diesel manual your correspondents fall came soon after. It was a steep right, left climb out of a gully that did it.

GoSee co-pilot photographer Gordon and I came into the gully in low first on the downhill. It was the right approach and we did it easy.

Then came the steep climb out. Big mistake, the HJ60 should have been in second gear low range for the climb. As our excellent Getabout instructors told us: Second gear produces plenty of power but not the wheel spin overkill of first gear in low range.

Ease on the power for the climb out
Ease on the power for the climb out

So when the manual Toyota was asked the question the turbo boost thundered in and sent the red boost gauge readout needle towards 7psi. We shot up the slope, miscued on line, hit a ridge, bounced and stalled.

Now the reverse stall start training was for real. Half way up the steep slope our instructor appeared. We went over the reverse stall start drill.

Foot on brake. Turn off ignition. Handbrake on. Stay off the clutch. Leave transmission in gear. Check your wheels are where you want to go. Check behind to see the track is clear. Select reverse route. Engage traction controls if you have them.

Depress the clutch. Shift into reverse low range. If it will not go try other gears, then select reverse again. Release the clutch. Left foot under the footbrakepedal. Slowly release the handbrake with pressure on the footbrake. Slowly release the footbrake.

Diesel engine compression and low gear train will hold the HJ60. (Petrol engines may slip as their compression is lower.)

GoSee Sahara HJ60 manual in low range first goes over the top
GoSee Sahara HJ60 manual in low range first goes over the top

Check all clear behind. Start the engine. Engine fires. Short initial spurt back then gears grab and we crawl back in reverse using the trucks mirrors to avoid the trees to the bottom of the gully. Do not touch the clutch.

Avoid the accelerator unless traction is lost. If the descent is too fast use light pressure on the brake pedal to reduce the risk of skidding.

Our Getabout instructor is there for us again as we reach the bottom of the slope and we shift into second gear low range. This time at less throttle the HJ60 makes a steady, fairly dignified climb to the top of the steep hill.

John says automatic 4WDs have little or no low speed engine braking and using the brakes can bring on a skid and lost control. Extreme care is called for.

The method with automatics is - Check it is safe to go on and engage hill descent and traction controls if they are not auto or full-time. The TD GoSee Sahara is in this group. On a moderate slope the technique is to brake gently. Stop with the footbrake on. Move drive lever to low range 1st gear. Gently release the footbrake. Drive down the hill slowly.

Hold the line
Hold the line

Graham and Meenu in the GoSee TD 100 series limo 4WD sailed around the course with Meenu clicking instant impressions as the auto and its clever gearing shifted for the various 4WD challenges.

Meenu captured the shot of the day shooting from the co-pilots seat when she used the Saharas drivers window to frame one magic moment with the 100 series at about 25 degrees bow down on a steep hill descent.

Getabouts Senior Trainer John Eggenhuizen says he is an automatic transmission convert and there is no way he would go back to manual.

The course is competency based and requires written answers to safety and outdoor recreation activity elements of SRODRV001B, Drive and Recover a 4WD and Plan Outdoor Recreation Activities. SROODR002A before course participants roll up for the practical training. A current drivers licence is also essential on the day.

The bush near Canberra is dry and there are all the early signs of continuing drought in the waterways, birds, animals and plants.

But we found a wet spot which is usually flowing and went through the requirements for a successful water crossing with the general observation from John and his Getabout team that 4WDs manage well at wading depth. This is about half way up the wheels, (axle depth) but the exact depth can be found in the owners manual.

GoSee team photographer Meenu
GoSee team photographer Meenu

The most impressive member of our training group which included the farmers friend the diesel Toyota manual, a capable Mitsubishi Triton diesel, a Prado and two V8 Toyotas on ULP was generally agreed to be Dieter who completed the course in his VW 4WD van. He is an electrician and carried all his trade gear, including ladders.

Seated right over the front wheels the drivers view must have allowed Dieter to count every pebble on the track on the steep descents.

During water crossing training Dieter topped the tall tales and true of past daring do with his story of the VW floating when he over-cooked one memorable crossing attempt.

Sorry to say they is not much chance of floating more than a toy boat in the water available in the Kowan Forest Reserve.

Still we learned to plan by letting vehicles cool down before a water crossing attempt. Water is not good for hot bits of machinery. Loosen the fan belt. Fan blades can cut a beautiful neat hole in the radiator under water pressure. Cover the distributor if you happen to have one. If the water is more than a metre deep a snorkel or breather is needed for the engine.

Take it slow
Take it slow

Find a long stick and check the depth and current. Know what is under the water. Walk the crossing (crocs allowing) and consider the environment.

Vehicles carry many litres of water trapped in the vehicles body with them through a crossing so stop, says John, just as you are about to leave the crossing to drain access water back into the waterway and thus prevent washing out of the track and water-course bank.

Use a canvas tarp over the bonnet and as a blind over the front of the vehicle. Keep a steady pace, fast enough to create a gentle bow wave. Do not change gears mid-stream in a manual the clutch may become wet and unhappy. Once across dry out the brakes, drive a short distance with light brake pedal pressure on.

The most potentially dangerous part of the course came late in the day when we used a single snatch strap to recover the Prado from a pretend deep bog.

We used a double attachment bridle to the Prado. After thorough briefing a recovery supervisor was appointment from our group and careful preparations included Safe Working Load (SWL) assessment, bow shackles and load issues, shackles should never be used to join straps.

Hill ahead low range drive in GoSee Sahara automatic
Hill ahead low range drive in GoSee Sahara automatic

Dampers were fitted about 2m out on both ends of the snatch strap. Blankets, and towels work too provided they are taped in place.

Snatch strap eyelets can be joined in the same way that rubber bands can be looped together. But a rolled newspaper, magazine or towel should be slipped through their bite to alloweasier release after the retrieval pressures are released.

Once ready for the retrieval all onlookers retreated at right angles to the haul-out. For a single strap one and a half times the length of the set-up is the minimum distance for onlookers to be out of the line of potential failure.

We used a V8 Toyota as the recovery vehicle. The snatch-strap eyelet was joined to the vehicles Hayman Reese towbar using an 8 tonne rated towing tongue lock-pin.

Two metres of slack was allowed in the snatch-strap. The bogged Prado had it engine running in neutral so the driver had steering and brakes.

With everybody clear the recovery supervisor signalled go and the recovery vehicle moved off at a moderate pace and the stretching action of the Snatch strap hauled the Prado ahead.

Snatch strap damper about 2m along strap
Snatch strap damper about 2m along strap

Once snatch straps are attached to both vehicles never step over the strap. Sudden tension of the strap could lead to serious injury.

Getabouts Senior Trainer John Eggenhuizen says snatch strap recoveries are extremely dangerous. There have been injuries and deaths.

The Molonglo Gorge Recreation Area is on the Molonglo River at the western end of the gorge. It is accessed from Sutton Road, and is only about 15 minutes from Canberra's city centre and about 10 minutes from Queanbeyan.

The Basic 4WD one day course SRODRV001B for low range vehicles and All Wheel Drive vehicles costs $375 for one driver. It is $50 for a second trainee in the same vehicle and $650 for a private course for up to two trainees.

Getabout Training Services

1300 660 320


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Snatch strap takes up and  hauls Prado forward
Snatch strap takes up and hauls Prado forward
GoSee HJ 60 hits the training track
GoSee HJ 60 hits the training track
High level view Kowan Forest Reserve ACT
High level view Kowan Forest Reserve ACT