Drop Your Tyre Pressures and Get Out There

Graham Cahill. — March 21, 2014

A bit of feedback from my last post requested I write this time around about the 10 most common mistakes made by amateur 4WDers. Struth, 10 mistakes? I have to say that’s a bit harsh, I don’t think I’ve ever met anyone with quite that degree of inexperience! However for sure I do see a few common errors made on a regular basis that with some fine tuning, are almost always rectified.

Without a doubt, the most common issue across the board is that of tyre pressures. Yeah I know, I sound like a broken record but it’s true, tyre pressures are the key to unlocking forward progress in most cases. Now there is the brigade that bought their fourby to pick up the kids from school, then decide once a year to drive onto Pebbly Beach after having pushed the “sand” button on the dash and instantly sink to the chassis. They are beyond help. Most new 4WD owners, who have purchased their vehicle with intent to head off-road, know to let their tyres down once they engage 4WD – the common problem is they almost never go low enough.

I have extracted numerous crew off beaches around the country who were bogged, with their tyres at 18-25 PSI. I have dropped the tyres down to 15, 12 or in one case 8 PSI and simply drove out. There is no fixed hard and fast rule when it comes to tyre pressures. Heck if it means being stuck or driving, empty all the air out of your tyres! Of course, in doing so, it is vital to get a safe volume of air back in the tyres ASAP and while they are low, be sensible; keep speeds as slow as possible and avoid sharp cornering. It’s just common sense.

The next most common mistake I see is that way too much momentum through obstacles. Water crossing and steep, gnarly climbs are classic scenarios. I guess it’s a bit to do with uncertainty and thinking that speed will both see you though easier and that you will be over the gnarly stuff and safely out the other side quicker. It’s this mentality that causes accidents and damage to vehicles. Learning to trust in your vehicle is the key. A 4WD was made to tackle steep climbs, it can handle a water crossing; trust in gearing ratios and the build quality of your truck and take your time, let the vehicle work in the manner it was designed. There really is no need to hit every obstacle like a bull at a gate.

Next up, using brakes on steep descents. Yep, this goes against everything your head is telling you but by keeping your feet off the brake and letting your first gear low range engine braking slow you down, you are avoiding skidding and as such, loosing steering. Once again, trust in your vehicle and let the engine do the work.

I would have to say that right up the top of the list of common mistakes I see regularly is that of people buying the wrong accessories for their 4WD. How many people carry a high-lift jack yet have no place to actually jack a 4WD from (especially modern “plastic” cars). Big lifts and huge tyres look great but they cost money, use more fuel and are expensive to replace; do you really need them to head down the beach fishing? The list is endless but the real key I think is to simply use what you have as much as you can and then decide just what’s right for you. With some honesty and experience you might just be surprised how little you need to see a huge chunk ofAustralia.

On the back of this, I also think newcomers can often be a little too enthusiastic. This is a tough one to criticize as I am all for being keen but I have spoken to so many folks who have just got into a new ModelX 4WD and are planning on hitting the Simmo in the June holidays. Of course, because they have read about it they also “need” $10,000 worth of gear to take with them. Nothing wrong with that, if you can afford it but don’t forget, there are a billion tracks, destinations and enjoyment to be had close to home. 

Lastly, I think the single biggest mistake ALL 4WDers are guilty of, myself included at times; is not using our 4WDs often enough! We spend our hard earned on decking trucks out, then they either live in a garage or drive to work and back. I try to camp at least once a week now, if I can’t spend the night, at least two days a week are spent in 4WD. This might sound like a fair bit but to me, it’s almost not enough!

Drop your tyre pressures and get out there; you don’t need to go far, just a little further than the other bloke and now, a whole world is opening up.

Catch you out there hey!