If you can't walk it, don't drive it!
Updated: Feb 4
This is the age old maxim in the world of 4WD, and rings true in every off-road adventure. I remember quite distinctly when I first took up 4WDing and there was one Sunday morning, the family and I packed up the truck and scooted off to one of our favourite places up here in the beautiful Sunshine Coast of Queensland.
We were trying to find a particular section of track in Kenilworth that led to a nice creek crossing. We looped round and round for an hour and I remember saying to my wife repeatedly "it has to be here somewhere". Through hell or high water, I was determined to find it.
We found it eventually as this piece of track split into two like a fork or a rising on-ramp. We veered off the main track and to my amazement, found what I was looking for.
This newfound section of descending dirt was steep. Not just steep, but very steep. To add more fuel to this fire, it was rocky and slippery and rutted in a few sections. I began walking down this descent and was removing tree 3-4 inch branches that had decided to lay to rest on the track. I also found myself slipping and loosing my footing now and then. This thing was stupid steep and my first response to this challenge was "not a a chance" and "what could happen if things went wrong?". I remember getting to the very bottom and looking back up it thinking "don't be silly" but also thinking that I could drive it.
Like I read once, if you can't walk it, don't drive it. Bare in mind, I had no air compressor so my tyres were not aired down and no winch. I didn't even have one piece of recovery gear. We were also alone in an area that had no service. So what I was considering doing was pure insanity.
I told everyone that I was going to try it and my wife rightfully called me crazy. I also told everybody that I wanted everyone out of the car in case things went pear shaped. So after shifting into 1st gear low, and for the first time ever in my life, I steered the car towards the start of an 80m metre descent with absolutely zero experience not only in 4WD, but as well as in the technical aspects of manoeuvring a 4WD into what can become a catastrophic situation.
The first part of the track was a rocky step down and very dry slippery track. I pushed the vehicle to the tip and she slowly eased over the edge. I had this. Wheel placement and the line I was taking was acceptable. There was not much choice because one side of the track was a rock wall and other side fell away like a cliff.
The vehicle was going fine and there were parts where I could feel the tyres slipping a bit because of the vast amounts of loose stones on the track. In panic, I stepped on the brake a bit too hard and stalled the engine. Not good. It felt like I was looking down an elevator shaft. Thats how steep this track was (or felt).
I knew nothing of recovery starting an engine in these situations and it was at this point I was telling myself I was an idiot. Seriously, what made me think I could attempt this section of track. Not only was the car not equipped for it, I had absolutely no experience. None.
Anyway, to cut a long story short, I started the engine and safely guided the vehicle to the bottom. I felt a quiet moment of triumph and being so glad it was over. It was a very dangerous thing for me to attempt all in the name of ego and bravado.
That was about 300 hill climbs ago. I remember it, like it was yesterday. Of course today, I drive that bit of track often and is a breeze.
The lesson learned is this: If you can't walk it, don't drive it. Make sure your car is equipped for the challenge and ALWAYS air down. You must deflate for reasons I'll explain in another blog. If you are ever unsure, there's always the chicken track. Take that instead. It's safer.
See you out on the tracks,