Off-roading essentials for beginners
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We live in a country that is perfect for off-roading, thanks to an extensive network of country roads and tracks. But what exactly do you need if you’re looking at taking up the hobby?
It helps for beginners to always be prepared, so here are some essentials that you should always carry in your 4WD.
If your vehicle doesn’t have an electric winch on the front bumper to extract you from sticky situations, don’t worry — you can still add a basic recovery kit. A couple of straps, some shackles and a jack can help you get out of most situations.
Boards and shovels
If you find yourself in a tough situation with no help in sight, you can buy specialised nylon boards from off-road retailers. They are designed to be placed under your tyres so you can drive out — whether in sand, mud or snow.
The boards are lightweight and easier to carry than planks of wood. They can also double as shovels to excavate your wheels.
Not only are tyres the most important component on your vehicle, they’re also the most frequently damaged; so it’s important to carry a spare.
When driving across rocks, dirt and sand, it’s important off-roading vehicles reduce their tyre pressure to improve traction. You’ll need to buy a quality 12V air pump.
These can either be hard-wired into the vehicle, or connected to the battery when required. The pump also comes in handy if you happen to develop a slow leak in your tyre.
Always make sure you re-inflate your tyres before going back onto public roads.
When driving after dark, always make sure you have a robust torch so you can see what you’re doing as you try to repair or recover your vehicle, or even just put some air in your tyres. We also recommend a set of compliant fog lights wired through a separate circuit as a backup.
The more extreme the track, the more likely it is you’ll damage parts of your vehicle, and if you venture deep into the bush, you won’t have access to AA Roadservice, so carrying a toolkit and safety equipment is essential.
Besides everyday tools, there are a few lifesavers worth carrying with you.
Items such as duct tape, oil, rope, cable ties, spare fuses and a spare serpentine belt could be the difference between getting home for dinner and being stuck in the bush overnight.
In the event of the latter, always make sure you carry warm clothing and a blanket in your vehicle. You never know what may happen while you are in an isolated situation so a safety kit, fire extinguisher, a first aid kit, water and a back-up phone are advisable.
We asked Auckland 4WD Club Secretary Andy Webb for his top tips for novice off-roaders:
Know your vehicle
A simple read of the manual and some preparation goes a long way to avoiding costly mistakes. For example — traditional 4WD systems should not be selected while driving on sealed roads, and be sure that any recovery points are properly rated.
Don’t follow any old track with wheel ruts. Knowing and respecting the difference between public access areas and private land is critical to ensure the recreation can continue.
Have a back-up
Make sure someone knows your trip schedule and can check on things if you don’t arrive on time. Think about multiple communication methods and don’t rely on mobile phone signal.
Proper training by an accredited provider or peers in a 4WD club can be the best ways to learn. Otherwise, a calm and considered approach to recovery will hopefully stop things getting worse.
Adventuring into New Zealand is a fun pastime for Kiwis and we’re truly blessed with many places to explore. But always be prepared.