For the first time, I was able to drive through the Peron National Park, which is found in Sharks Bay. Because the road to the homestead is good enough for a 2 wheel drive, I had always thought that one could drive through the park with a 2 wheel drive car. After my recent 4 x 4 experience with our Great Wall Ute, I soon realized that this type of trip really calls for a 4 wheel drive car. Anything less will see people in some very sticky situations.
So, with that being said, here is a few tips I would give a beginner 4 x 4 driver~ mostly from lessons learnt in my recent experience.
- NEVER EVER travel alone. If you have never driven through soft deep sand before, I would strongly recommend you take someone, who is experience, to go with you. The reasons are two fold: Firstly – you will learn a lot from what they do and tell you to do. Secondly – if any of the two cars breaks down for any reason, you will have a back-up for help! Safety First!
- Tools. make sure you have the right tools. Purchase a mobile compressor kit and a tire pressure meter. One is to pump the tires up and the other is to see how much air you have in your tire.
- Deflate your tires. I learnt that starting with a 20 PSI was a good place to begin. One can always remove more air as you go along.
- Keep your distance. Do not travel on someone’s bumper while 4 wheel driving. If they stop, you will slide and hit them.
- Keep momentum. The best way to get through thick soft sand is to keep moving. Trouble strikes when you gear down and slow down causing the back wheels begin to spin with the result ~ getting stuck. (your learn quickly what not to do when this happens to you for the first time)
- Don’t Panic. If you get stuck – don’t panic and put your foot on the accelerator. Your travelling companions will quickly know what you need to do to help you out of a sticky situation.
- Do not turn the car quickly. Because you deflated the tires, turning quickly may cause the tire to roll of the rim. This will give you a whole heap of problems which you will most likely- not be prepare for.
- Follow the tracks. As a new 4 wheel driver, it is best to follow in the tracks of your travelling companions. They would have made the sand just a little harder for you, which makes it easier for you to travel through.
- Back the truck up. If you come to a stop, reverse the car a bit. Stopping will result in the back wheels digging into the sand. When you want to move forward, you will find the back wheels spinning which means people may have to help push you out of trouble. Best thing is to reverse a little as you stop so that you can get traction to pick up more momentum when you start to move again.
- Avoid the rocks. Because your wheels are soft, hitting a rock will increase your chances of a puncture. Unless you have a puncture repair kit (and in some cases, even this won’t help), having a puncture in the middle of nowhere can be a little stressful.
- Let people know. Always let people know where you going. In the event that both cars get into trouble, there are people that know where you are and can call for help.
- Mobile Phone. Know what the cellular towers are in the area. Sharks Bay has telstra and optus reception. Although we had one phone with optus, there were times we could not pick up any reception. Therefore Tip No. 11 is very important.
- Water. Take more water than you need. We budgeted for 4 liters per person and then add 2 liters per person – just in case. At the end of the day we only had 5 liters left. We had a 10 person travel team.
- Weather. Know the weather you are going to be travelling in. We traveled in over 45 degree Celsius weather, therefore water was important. I also took a long sleeve shirt in case of cooler weather. And, a change of clothing in the event we were forced to stay just a little longer than usual. Swimming gear, towels, sunscreen and a cooler box for food was other essentials we added to the list.
As for the type of 4 wheel drive you need. You don’t need the latest and greatest or the most expensive. We took our Great Wall Ute which had a few years on it. It had ample room in the back for the kids AND capacity to carry some gear in the cargo tray.
However, it is a good idea to make sure your car is ready for a 4 wheel drive experience. If you have an older car, make sure you have someone who is familiar with 4 wheel drive, take a look at it and check points which most mechanics won’t! We learnt this the hard way when one of the hoses rattled lose. Luckily for us, it was after our 4 wheel drive adventure AND we were able to get it fixed!
And lastly, don’t forget the camera. Sometimes there are moments you just want to capture forever! Good luck and I hope this has helped you with your future 4 wheel drive adventure! 😉
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