Book your Campervan
Pick Up Date
Pick Up Date is required*
Drop Off Date
Drop Off Date is required*
Pick Up Location
Pick Up Location is required*
Drop Off Location
Drop Off Location is required*
Passengers
Drivers Licence
Drivers Licence is required*
Bush road in Australia at dusk

How to Drive a 4WD

Share


Not an experienced 4WD driver? Don’t worry. You’ve come to the right place. Here are some simple 4WD driving tips that will ensure you make some incredible memories along the way.

Oysters Family at the beach Salad

Join thousands of fellow campervan travellers


Sign up for our Britz newsletter to receive inspirational travel content and awesome deals, and we'll send you a copy of our Ultimate RV guide!

Britz is committed to protecting your privacy and information security. Your information will be used in accordance with any application privacy law, our internal policies, and our Privacy Policy, and will be held securely.

Thanks

Please confirm subscription in your email.

Getting there

While they are more than capable on the bitumen (sealed roads), most 4WDs may not have the overtaking ability of your normal car. So if you are overtaking on dirt or bitumen don’t be too ambitious. Avoid pulling in too sharply after an overtake on dirt. Take it easy and keep it smooth. The Britz Outback 4WD​ is perfect for long roadtrips.

To find out what to prepare before you leave, have a read of our blog 10 things you need to know before a 4WD holiday.

Don’t rush in the bush

Give yourself time to react to a major pothole or other obstacles. This could be anything from a fallen branch to another vehicle. If you take it easier, you’ll see more and enjoy it more.

Engaging 4WD

If the vehicle is not constant 4WD (meaning permanently in 4WD with no 2WD option) you will need to put this into 4WD High or Low Range. This is best done when you are stationary. High range is for faster speeds. Low range is for lower and steep climbs.

For those of you learning the ropes of 4WD travel, here are some key terms you’ll see pop up: 

H2 = 2WD
H4 = 4WD
L4 = Low-range 4WD – perfect for slow cruising

With our Britz Outback Hilux 4WDs you can shift into 4WD while travelling along up to 100km/h between H2 to H4. The driver must not be accelerating when making the shift. This automatically locks the front wheel hubs so you get these working. When you go back on the highway the reverse applies. Unless the vehicle is constant 4WD you should never drive it in full 4WD on sealed roads. To shift from H4 to L4 the vehicle must be stationary. The same applies for the reverse, from L4 to H4. The best scenario is to come to a full stop, select neutral and engage to L4.

With our Britz Safari Landcruiser 4WD the process is more traditional. There is no mechanism like in the Outback that manages the ‘locking’ of the front wheel hubs when moving between H2 to H4 or L4. Therefore, the front hubs must be operated by the driver into the ‘lock’ or ‘free’ position when using or getting out of 4WD. For H2 to H4, lock the front hubs at any time and engage H4 through the shift lever with clutch, without accelerating. This can be undertaken at speed. Similarly to get from H4 to H2, lift off and use the lever back to H2. For H4 to L4, the vehicle must be stationary for the shift to occur with clutch use. Same for when going from L4 to H4 or back to H2.

Reduce your tyre pressures on rough tracks

Your tyres will come with standard road pressures checked by us according to the specification of that tyre. This might be around 270 kPa (36 psi).

Taking this down to even 170kPa (25psi) will improve your ride and give you more traction. This pressure will still enable you to drive safely on sealed roads until you reach the next service station as long as you keep your speed down and cornering not too extreme. Otherwise carry a little 12v compressor to top your tyres up when you are back on bitumen.

Keep to the left!

This is another one that sounds like a no brainer, but it is easy to slip up on.

Driving on dirt roads is great fun, but many have blind corners, or corners that are tighter than they first seem, and there isn’t always a sign to warn you.

Once you start cutting corners, driving in the middle of the road and thinking that you could easily be in the world rally championship, you need to watch out because there is nearly always someone coming the other way. You won’t get much warning and unless they are hard over to their side of the road you are going to have a collision. Take it easy.

Keep your thumbs outside the steering wheel on rough sections

Sometimes if you are in ruts, or hit a sudden pothole, the steering wheel can rotate suddenly and strongly without warning. If you have your thumbs hooked over the inside of the steering wheel this can strain your thumbs and give you a painful injury that takes a while to get over. Driving with them outside the hub of the wheel is still safe and soon becomes a habit whenever you are in places where this could happen.

You don’t always have to use the brakes when going down hill

No, we’re serious. In a manual diesel you just select the right gear and let the car go down the hill, and the right accelerator application and the engine will slow you. It’s called engine braking and works best in a manual diesel vehicle. You can engine brake to some degree in an automatic diesel simply by selecting a lower gear when you are stationary before you start a descent; however, the effect is not as marked as with a manual and you should give the auto transmission a rest by going back to the brakes periodically.

Use 4WD to track better on dirt

You don’t only use 4WD for hills and slippery conditions. Even if you are on the flat, especially on a sandy track or corrugations, you’ll find the car points better and slides less, even at lower speeds. This will also help you hold your line and keep to the correct side of the road in corners, which is a big safety plus when there could be someone you don’t expect coming the other way.

Be very careful of water

When it comes to crossing creeks and rivers, don’t believe all the things you see online with water washing over the bonnet. If it is much deeper than halfway up the wheels, you need to be very careful.

If possible get out and check the depth of any body of water before trying to cross it. It mightn’t be the same depth all the way; crossings can have holes and if it looks like it’s flowing any faster than walking pace, it’s flowing too fast. If it gets too deep the car will float and lose traction and you will go wherever the water is going. 

When you do cross, enter the water slowly then maintain a consistent speed at around walking pace (depending on the bottom). Don’t hit the water any faster than this as this is dangerous and can damage the vehicle. As a general rule, if the water is more than halfway up the wheels and flowing, it is wise to avoid it. Avoid the costs and embarrassment of a recovery.

To learn more, check out our blog about how to cross water in a 4WD.

If you have any other questions or you’d like more tips before you hit the road, remember to ask the Britz experts pre travel or on pick-up!