The Outback is not the place to learn how to handle a 4WD and yet this is exactly where many tourists try to do so. Take essential spares – spark plugs, fuses, fuel filters, radiator hoses and a fan belt – plus a shovel, hi-lift jack and gloves, and one of the “how to” manuals easily found in bookshops. The following basic hints should help.

  • Know how to operate everything – including free-wheeling hubs (where present) and how to change a wheel – before you need it.
  • Always cross deep water and very muddy sections on foot first.
  • Don’t persevere if you’re stuck – wheel spin will only dig you further in – and reverse out. Momentum is key on slippery surfaces such as mud or sand – as long as you’re moving forward, however slowly, resist the temptation to change gear, and so lose traction.
  • Reducing tyre pressures down to 1 bar (15lb psi) dramatically increases traction in mud and sand, but causes tyre overheating, so keep speeds down. Carry a compressor or reinflate as soon as possible.
  • If stuck, clear all the wheels, create a shallow ramp (for all wheels), engage four-wheel drive, lower pressures if necessary, and drive or reverse out in low-range second.
  • Keep to tracks – avoid unnecessary damage to the environment.
  • On beaches observe other vehicles’ tracks and be aware of tidal patterns.
  • Consider a rented satellite phone for remote travel.

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