Guides to happy 4x4 driving inAustralia
- Carry a spare set of fan belts and a top and bottom radiator hose.
- Carry a simple set of tools and a first-aid kit.
- Carry additional drinking water, food and fuel.
- Check each morning the condition of your under-bonnet items, in particular all fluid levels, and air filter and inspect the tyres and pressures.
- Some of the tracks are best suited to high-clearance, dual-range transmission vehicles, so check with locals on the suitability of your vehicle and know both you and your vehicle's capabilities in the bush - do a 4WD course!
- Take only the essentials and try and leave unnecessary items behind - they'll add more weight and stress to the vehicle and cost more in fuel.
- Avoid the use of roof racks and if they are a necessity, pack only light items upstairs to avoid the risk of rollover. - If towing a trailer, makes sure your tyres are up to the job and check the condition of the wheel bearings and suspension before you leave.
- Leave advice with friends or relevant authorities on your destination and itinerary, so if you overstay your journey the alarm can be raised for search and rescue.
- Give some thought to communications; a UHF CB radio gives reasonable coverage with other road users and pastoralists, whilst an emergency positioning beacon (EPIRB) is an inexpensive failsafe for desperate situations.
- In really remote country someone in your party should have HF radio or a satellite phone, both can be hired inexpensively.
- If rain threatens, be prepared to stay put for a couple of days to avoid damaging the roads (penalties apply for road users driving on closed outback roads) and if you're driving in a dry creek bed get out of there quick-smart, for there's a good chance a flash flood might roar down the watercourse, claiming vehicle and possessions.
- Some common courtesy and patience goes a long way, so too leaving gates as you find them and staying on designated tracks and trails.
- Avoid windscreen damage and dust when approaching on-coming cars, slow down and move over to the left of the road lane. If the approaching vehicle is a road-train, give it plenty of room and get off the road and don't even think about overtaking a road-train kicking up a heavy cloud of dust. Stop and have a cuppa and a stretch. A 15-minute break will put plenty of separation between you.
- If you do get stuck, do not leave the vehicle! Driving on Outback roads can be tricky. Road surfaces vary dramatically in quality especially after seasonal extremes, when rain can make them impassable for days. Watch you speed too, for high-crowned dirt roads are treacherous when trying to slow in a hurry to avoid an animal, rock or entering a floodway quicker than need be.
- Information courtesy of Flinders Ranges Outback SA Tourism and Vic Widman of Great Divide Tours
Editors note: Vic Widman is the owner/operator of one of Australias leading 4WD tag-along and Driver Training companies, Great Divide Tours, check out his website at www.4wd.net.au.