10 Tips for Desert Driving

Posted on: 19/11/2015

1. Learn about counter steering and the limits of your vehicle to recover from vehicle drift and avoid a roll over when you're driving in wet or loose surface conditions.

2. Maximise control over your 4WD by keeping your wheels on hard surfaces rather than soft ones, and placing your wheels astride of ruts and hollows in the road.

3. Watch out for shimmy. This is caused by ruts, potholes or corrugations in a corner that cause the vehicle to develop a harmonic motion, causing it to oversteer and head off the road. Remember to decelerate to gain control of the vehicle; braking actually makes the problem worse and signals a further loss of control.

Keep out of another vehicle’s dust plume. This will keep dust out of the air intake and importantly maximise your vision of the road ahead

4. Avoid powering through water on the road, in hollows or in floodways as it forces water up into the underside and engine compartment of the vehicle, including the air intake.

5. Keep out of another vehicle’s dust plume. This will keep dust out of the air intake and importantly maximise your vision of the road ahead so you’re never overtaking anybody blindly either.

6. Slow down for cattle grids to avoid any nasty surprises that may be lurking there, including ruts either side, sharp edges or a narrow pass.

7. When traversing dunes, always go straight up and down with no sideways trajectory. This gives your vehicle more stability through a lower centre of gravity, offers you as a driver more control, and reduces the danger of shifting sand.

8. Avoid harmonic bumps when crossing dunes, which are sand pushed into humps (often at the base of dunes) from reversing vehicles. Hitting harmonic bumps at speed can make your vehicle shake violently, compromising suspension and creating an all-round unpleasant experience.

When traversing dunes, always go straight up and down with no sideways trajectory.

9. Decelerate when you reach the crest of dunes. This allows your 4WD to carry its momentum over the crest, and safeguards you against not-so-nice things such as becoming airborne or powering into fragile vegetation as well as sinister hollows and humps beyond the crest. 

10. Adjust your tyre pressures according to the conditions, with pressures for gravel and dirt outback roads around 28-30 psi and 20-25 psi for dune and sand country often recommended by experts; with steep soft dunes requiring even lower pressures. Getting tyre pressure right makes your vehicle more stable, gives you more control as a driver, and leaves less of an impact on the terrain you are driving on.

Australian Desert Navigation & Maps

Hema HX-1 Navigator
Hema HX-1 Navigator
Hema Explorer App
Hema Explorer App
Great Desert Tracks Atlas & Guide
Great Desert Tracks Atlas & Guide
Hemas Great Desert Tracks Map Pack
Hema's Great Desert Tracks Map Pack