Going off-road is a challenging but very rewarding recreational activity for Aussies. That’s because beyond the rough terrains is where you can find some of the most amazing landscapes and sceneries.
If you’re ready to take on the sand dunes, green lanes, rocks, gravel, snow, and mud, then here’s a useful guide on off-roading for beginners to help you.
The first and probably the most important thing you need to know is off-roading vehicles. Not any vehicle you see in the market is fit for an off-road adventure. Even the SUVs that look capable aren’t really built to handle dangerous tracks. What you need to purchase is a fully capable off-roader that can tackle all types of terrains.
The vehicle should have solid ground clearance so that the underside will not be damaged or worse, “belly out”, which means that the tyres will lose traction on the road. It should also be Four Wheel Drive (4WD) so that all wheels will work when you’re getting out of a tight spot. Although, an All Wheel Drive will also do if the vehicle is not too heavy.
In terms of fuel, you would want the vehicle to be diesel-powered. That’s because a diesel engine vehicle can deliver power at lower RPM, which is more ideal for rough roads where you need to move slowly rather than speeding up. In conjunction with this, the off-road vehicle should also have a lower-range gearbox so it will still have power even when driving slowly.
Read more on The future of Diesel in Australia.
Road clearance and angles
After acquiring an off-road vehicle, whether a 4X4 or an AWD, the next things you should understand its its capabilities, particularly the road clearance and angles. The road clearance, also called ground clearance and road height, is the minimum distance between the ground and the lowest part of the vehicle (chassis). It’s important to know this measurement because the road clearance will define the obstacles your off-roader can clear without bellying out.
The approach, departure, and break-over angles are also crucial to know when heading off-road where you need to climb steep slopes and large boulders. The approach angle is the maximum slope angle the off-road vehicle can climb without scraping or catching the front end. On the other hand, the departure angle is the maximum angle of slope your vehicle can depart from towards a horizontal plane without scraping the rear end.
The break-over angle, meanwhile, is the max angle your 4X4 can climb over an obstacle without touching the chassis. Knowing all these will help you avoid damaging your vehicle and getting stuck in the middle of nowhere when off-roading.
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While at the topic of getting stuck, it’s something you should prepare for when heading off-road. It is common among first-time off-roaders and even those with experience sometimes still get their vehicles bogged. You need to know how to get out of this situation and the first step is by knowing the recovery points of the vehicle.
These points are located at the front and back end of the off-road vehicle and are designed exactly for recovery. If you try to recover your vehicle using different parts other than the designated points, you may endanger your safety and seriously damage the vehicle. That’s why you should be aware of the recovery points for a quick and successful recovery.
If you’re going off-road for the first time ever, remember to pack your off-road kit, which includes the essential equipment for your vehicle. The kit should include a navigation device that will help you get to and around your chosen track. For good measure, bring along a printed map and download a navigation app like 4WD Maps app that you can use offline.
Make sure to bring an ultra-high frequency (UHF) radio so you’ll have means of communication in case of an emergency. Don’t rely on your mobile phone’s 3G coverage because it will get poorer as you get further away from the city. You should also bring extra fuel, water, coolant, and engine oil in case of a long journey, as well as a tyre gauge and air compressor. Pack a trolley jack, wooden board, and a spare tyre to help you change tyres, too.
A sturdy shovel and long tyre iron will come in handy when the vehicle becomes stuck somewhere. To help you with the recovery, bring along a pair of plastic recovery tracks to give the wheels extra traction. A rated-D shackle, a winch accessory kit, and a snatch strap are also important for the recovery efforts. Lastly, you should pack any portable shelter like a tent or gazebo where you can take refuge in case you get stranded in the middle of the day.
Now you know about the different off-road vehicles and equipment, you should be able to recognise the different off-road tracks. This will allow you to adjust your driving accordingly. However, it’s best to always research the type of track you will deal with before hitting any off-road terrain.
Dirt Road – This is the easiest off-road track to navigate and best for beginners. It’s mostly composed of soil and small rocks that’s easy enough to tackle.
Mud Tracks – The off-road track where there’s a higher chance of getting bogged. The surface of the track can change quickly so you need to drive fast.
Rocky Terrain – A track advisable only for more experienced off-roaders. Rock crawling is done with deflated tyres to cope with the highly-uneven track.
Sand and Snow – Though not as dangerous as a mud track, tackling a sand or snow trail can also be a dangerous off-road adventure because of the difficulty to maintain traction. Special tyres are usually fitted to 4X4s to handle these types of off-road tracks.
Tips & Tricks
Just like with anything else, experience is the best teacher when it comes to off-roading. However, there are tips and tricks that you can learn beforehand that can help you when heading off-road for the first time.
1. Some off-road vehicle manufacturers run workshops and activity days that allow new drivers to practice in a safe environment. Take advantage of these workshops so you can get a good grasp of your vehicle before heading out on a real adventure.
2. No matter how ready you think you are, there can be unforeseen challenges that you’ll encounter when off-roading. So, make sure to head out alone but tag along an experienced off-roader with you. This will help you learn and master different tracks easily.
3. Ready your complete off-road kit and equipment before heading out for the first time and make this a habit.
4. Before heading out, make sure to plan your trip well and get as much information as you can on the track you are going to. Check the weather forecast for the day and adjust your plan accordingly.
5. If you bought a used off-road vehicle, get it serviced first and checked for safety. Carry out a full inspection on the vehicle including the tyres, battery, suspension, fuel, fluids, and filters.
6. Join an off-roading club or online groups to get advice from experienced off-roaders. You can also sign-up to 4wdtrip.com to learn the basics for beginners.
7. Tell a friend or family member of your off-road plans and get the contact number for off-road rescue and recovery near your destination.
8. Choose an easy off-road track for your first adventure. Tackle the more challenging ones as you gain more off-roading experience.
Though off-roading is a fun and exciting adventure, it can also be dangerous and life-threatening. So, for your safety, make sure that you have these things ready for use during the worst-case scenarios:
- First-aid kit – This should include the things that will help you clean and patch up wounds before help arrives.
- Fire Extinguisher – Engines can overheat and catch fire when off-roading in the summer. A fire extinguisher can help you save yourself and your vehicle when it happens.
- Warm Clothes – If your engine becomes faulty and you are stranded in the middle of a trail, you should be ready for whatever nature gives you. Bring thick clothes and blankets to keep you warm, as well as adequate protection against rain and sandstorm.
- Food and water – Last but not least, bring a good supply of food and water in case you get stuck somewhere for a long time.
Off-Road Vehicle Financing
Fixed Rate Personal Car Loans
Your car loan will have a fixed interest rate, which means the interest is calculated daily on the balance owing.
Budgeting is made easy with flexible loan repayment options that are tailored to suit your needs and your fixed interest rate for the loan term will give you peace of mind.
Balloon payments or residual options are available. By setting a balloon payment for the end of the term you can reduce your monthly payments, to satisfy your budget. At the end of the term, you can either pay out the full amount, upgrade your car or re-finance the balloon amount and continue paying off the car over a new loan period (subject to approval conditions at that time).
A novated lease is a financial arrangement that is used with salary packaging.
In this arrangement, the employer pays for the car finance and running costs directly from the employee’s taxable salary. This is a tax-effective way to get into the Holden that you have your heart set on.
We are currently not taking any new applications as result of COVID-19. We will be keeping a close watch on the situation and will be re-assessing soon.