Dave Darmody from Australian Offroad Academy tells us the 5 bad driving habits he sees most as a professional driving trainer.
These tips have been provided by Australian Offroad Academy, the 4WD trainers trusted by Hema Maps.
1. Four-wheel drivers often fail to adapt to conditions and lower their tyre pressures in time to avoid a recovery. Terrain like soft sand requires an enhanced footprint to achieve traction, though momentum is often seen as a substitute for necessary tyre pressure adjustments. Avoid a recovery, potentially losing a vehicle to the ocean if you're on the beach, and save time by recognising when to lower your tyre pressures and doing it on the spot.
2. Recovery gear like a winch and snatch straps are there for extreme circumstances, but what’s often forgotten is that proper care is required for recovery tools to work when needed most. For example, leaving a snatch strap loose where chemicals like oil and fuel can deteriorate the fabric can critically jeopardise its performance. Following the fundamental principles of care and pack-up for every piece of recovery gear will minimise wear and tear and mean that when a recovery is needed, there will be fully functional recovery gear to do it with that isn’t going to cause more headaches.
3. Drivers incorrectly attempting water crossings are commonplace because the basic physics in action during a crossing aren’t understood or taken into account. When attempting water crossings, remember your torque should match your depth. After all, the deeper the crossing the more water your vehicle will need to displace, so choose a gear that is forgiving to take you the distance. Attempting to use momentum to charge through is a common misconception that affects entry to the crossing and getting to the other side, potentially leading to recoveries, a wet interior and a flooded engine (depending on the depth). “If you start with momentum, it’s all you’ve got,” says Dave.
4. Too many traditional four-wheel drivers are not adapting to new standards and features available in newer 4WDs. For starters, that we can no longer put massive lifts and tyres under our new vehicles is unfortunate in some ways, but this 'deficiency' opens all-new challenges and variety to our driving style and trip planning. For example, Modern Traction Control (if fitted, and not to be confused with Stability Control) is an amazing tool that can enhance your enjoyment and access while minimizing your environmental footprint and potential vehicle damage.
Additionally, many four-wheel drivers recoil when faced with new-age features (in the form of buttons) that perform what was considered to be a basic task for an older 4WD. Devices like Hill Descent Control have been disparaged for their lack of worth as a substitute for ‘good driving’; though knowing how to use the technology and keeping it for a situation that calls for it is the better attitude to have.
5. Taking notice of weather changes is an important but often ignored part of four-wheel driving. A challenging downhill drive can become completely impassable after a light shower in certain conditions, and to the unprepared these subtle changes can cause problems for their trip while potentially resulting in a dangerous situation. Ideally, you want to be aware of your current surroundings while keeping stock of what changes are coming, which is especially relevant when you have a decent distance to cover. Good off-roaders plan around their weather forecasts and remain aware of changing conditions as the day goes on, which is easier nowadays with mobile devices running apps like Hema Explorer, which has detailed weather forecasts and rain radar updates overlaid on a Hema map.