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4wd: Choosing The Right Vehicle

Your Vehicle's Equipment

When selecting a vehicle, be aware that the following are desirable items:

Integrated air conditioning

Power steering

Window tinting

Towing points or hooks (front and back)

Automatic or manually engaged free wheel/locking hubs for front wheels

Transmission cooler (for automatics)

High-capacity alternator (about 80 amperes) if an electric winch or a refrigerator is fitted.

Professionally manufactured and tested towbar/bumper with jacking points.

Strong front bumper with jacking points.

Long-range fuel tank(s).

Air cleaner and snorkel

Locking differential(s)

Outfitting Your Vehicle

There are many items that can be added to a four-wheel drive to make your journey safer and more enjoyable. However, be sure to fit essentials before non-essentials.

Fire Extinguishers: These are an absolute necessity. It may be wise to buy two. If a fire breaks out in the middle of the desert and burns out the car, you may be left with no radio, or other rescue equipment. We recommend you carry the personal extinguisher with you at all times. Fit the extinguishers in readily accessible places. If you have a fire on a gas cooking appliance, quickly turn off the supply at the cylinder.

Cargo Barriers: Cargo barriers are essential for containing luggage, and are critical to the safety of people in the vehicle. If you are going on an extended DriveWA adventure and are likely to be carrying more than the normal amount of material in the back, a good storage system aids safety; saving precious space and tie down points.

Quick Release Battery Connectors: If these are not factory fitted, fit them immediately. If electrical wiring chafes or a wiring short circuit develops, the wiring in the car body will overheat and possibly ignite flammable materials. By turning the screw on a quick-release connector, you instantly disconnect the battery; possibly saving both the wiring and the car.

Twin Independent Battery Systems: It is important to install these if you run supplement 12-volt appliances, such as a floodlight or refrigerator. The extra appliances run from an auxiliary battery, and remove the danger of being faced with a discharged battery when you crank the engine. With a two-battery system, you can arrange the system so that both batteries are charged while the engine runs; whilst not being connected when the engine is at rest.

Suggested Tools and Spares to Carry

The following list is a guide to tools and spare parts that may be appropriate. The team at DriveWA recommend that you conduct further research before commencing your journey. Remember that the list may vary according to your personal level of skill; your destination; and the vehicle you intend to take on your travels.

Large and small shifting spanners

A set of socket wrenches with extensions and ratchet handle; covering any special sizes or requirements for your make and model of vehicle (e.g. long-reach socket to remove injectors, extension bar with universal to reach upper clutch cylinder bolt)

A small pipe wrench and set of vice-grips

A pump, gearbox, and differential plug wrenches

Standard pliers, long-nose pliers, multi-grip pliers

A set of screwdrivers, fiat tip and Phillips head side-cutters


Bow saw, hacksaw and spare blades

Soldering iron (gas or 12-volt) and acid-core solder

Sharp knife (perhaps two; small and hunting size)

Hand drill and bits

Pop-rivet tool and assorted pop rivets

Wire brush

Strong shovel

Two or more star pickets and length of 25-millimetre rope

Tomahawk and/or axe


Grease gun and spare cartridge

Ball hammer, sledge hammer, mash hammer

Standard jack, plus a piece of strong timber at least 30 x 30 x 5 centimetres OR a flat steel plate to use as a secure base for your jack in sand or mud

High-lift jack

Tyre levers, rubber or neoprene tyre mallet

Tyre pump or compressor, tyre pressure gauge, tyre valve tool

Wheel brace

Equipment and Storage

There are many accessories available for your four wheel drive. You could spend a fortune and have a lot of fun doing it up! Some are useful to recover the vehicle if it is bogged, as long as you know how to use them, BUT they can be very dangerous if you do not know how to use them properly.

Webbing Strap (snatch strap): These are polypropylene or nylon webbing straps that are woven, with an eye at each end. In practice, the strap is attached between the towing and the bogged vehicle. The towing vehicle backs towards the stuck vehicle for about one-third the length of the strap, and then accelerates away. The webbing strap will stretch under tension, increasing the energy being applied to the towed vehicle.

Although the webbing strap is versatile and highly useful, it is without doubt one of the most high-risk items of recovery gear. The snatch strap can be fatal (they become projectiles) if used with a poor-quality towbar; or if connected to towing hooks, bull-bars, and towbars that are not secured with quality high-tensile bolts. It is most unwise to use one of these without first being properly trained on the use of this, and all other recovery gear.

Spare Parts

This is a list of recommended spare parts to take with you on your journey.

At least one spare wheel, slightly over inflated to allow for some air loss (if travelling in remote areas, consider carrying extra tyres and tubes)

Puncture-repair kit, liquid puncture repairer, tyre-wall patches, spare valve cores

Fan, air conditioner, alternator and power-steering belts, and any other essential belts

Fuel filters, oil filters, air filter

Fuses for vehicle, radios, and other related electrical appliances or equipment

Lengths of 4mm and 6mm electrical cable

Electrical connectors

Heavy duty battery jumper leads (preferably with a capacitor if to be used on a vehicle with a computerized fuel system)

Globes for all lights

High tension leadsv Ignition coil, plugs, condenser, points, rotor button, distributor cap

Water pump and fuel pump kits

Wheel bearing kit

Radiator and heater hoses and clips

Lubricants: automatic transmission and power-steering fluid, complete change of differential and gearbox oils - with any needed oil pump for topping up Several lengths of flexible tubing of different sizes and assorted hose clamps for emergency water or fuel lines.

Other Items (Optional)

Tow rope or snatch strap, D-Shackles ('approved' with a rating of 3.2 tonne or higher) to secure rope or chain to vehicle chassis/winch

Radiator sealant

Epoxy ribbon, Lux soap flakes, cork or other compound to repair punctured fuel tank

Snow-mud chains

Chain saw with fuel, oil and spare chain (this must be dismantled in some national parks)

Heavy-duty torch, spare batteries, spare globe

Empty can and paintbrush (for washing parts)

Strong wire for emergency repairs

Ball of twine

Assorted self-tapping screws, assorted nuts and bolts, flat and spring washers, split pins

Ducting tape, packaging tape

Electrical insulation tape

Can of dewatering fluid

Hand cleaner, cotton rags/T-towel

Workshop manual

Sheet of clear plastic suitable for temporary windscreen or window

Extra ignition key (stored outside vehicle)

Most importantly, know your vehicle. Read the manual and carry it with you, for safe keeping, at all times. A basic course in vehicle maintenance is essential for travel in remote areas.

4WD Tyres

Unless you are going to be driving on one kind of surface continually, any tyre fitted will be a compromise. Here are a few pointers to keep in mind:

Chunky or aggressive tread patterns are most useful in mud or snow, until they clog.

Over rocky or shaly and flinty terrain, lugged tyres catch on rocky spikes; this causes staking of the tyre case. So use smoother treads in these locations.

Wide tyres have a higher rolling resistance than standard tyres.

Wide tyres give better floatation on sandy or soft surfaces, but if they have aggressive tread, they will dig in and bog quickly.

Wide tyres plane on wet roads, especially when the tread is 50+ per cent worn, and provide less grip at higher speeds.

Wide tyres must be fitted only to wheels of the correct size. Oversized tyres on a wheel mean quicker, uneven, wear; and dangerous stresses on suspension, spring dampers and axles that are not designed to cope with the additional mass.

Changing wheel and tyre sizes will alter the accuracy of your speedometer, and the odometer will give incorrect distances.

Tyres sometimes 'weld' to wheels, making it difficult to break the bead. Even driving over the tyre does not always work, especially if you are on a sandy surface. For this reason, if you are going to a remote area carry an additional spare wheel and tyre.

Also, consider putting an anti-puncture liquid additive inside your tyres before setting off. Read the instructions and limitations for these additives to make sure you know what problems (such as effect on wheel balance, toxicity) they may bring.

Fancy tyres and wheels may be fine for freeway driving, but standard tyres and wheels are the easiest to replace away from cities. If you have to choose between split rims and single-piece rims, choose split rims as they are easier to work with.

Water Storage

Water is essential to travellers and not always available at places along your way. It's a good idea to have several robust containers: If one bursts you won't lose the lot. Water is heavy and always moves constantly - if you are heeling over, the water will move to the low side and make the situation worse.

Therefore, water containers should be placed at the front of the back axle; don't have the weight on one side. Storage units should also be kept low to improve the vehicle's centre of gravity. Protect storage units from chafing when travelling on bumpy roads. Some people fit a stainless steel tank with an external tap. Such tanks need internal baffles to prevent water surge. Do not carry water in plastic pipes or on the roof rack, as this may cause vehicle instability.

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