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Crossing Water in a 4WD


The great thing about travelling in a 4WD is that you can cross water (within reason!) There are some things to consider but if you follow these few basic rules you won’t get caught and will have a lot of fun!  Most importantly, the water shouldn’t be above the centre of your wheels and we recommend you take particular care when attempting to cross. Crossings, where the water is washing over the bonnet, are the territory of experts only, who do this in specially prepared vehicles that the owners don’t mind trashing.

The 5 golden rules

1. Check out the water safely before you go in (depth, bottom and where you will exit)

2. Reduce tyre pressure for grip

3. Plan a path across the water

4. Go in slowly and cross slowly and steadily (less than walking pace)

5. If the water looks like it will be above the wheel hubs consider not crossing at all


In more detail

Before you go in

  • Think. Is it safe to cross? Is it too deep? Flowing too fast? If you are up north, are there crocodiles? Talk to people.
  • Check the depth of the water if possible and the bottom. Is this soft or rocky? Are there any holes that you could get stuck in?
  • Work out a path to follow. If possible, watch someone else go first!
  • Make sure you are in full 4WD.
  • Check and lower your tyre pressure if the far bank looks slippery and you might benefit from extra traction. You release pressure from your tyres by taking off the valve cap and depressing the valve spring that looks like a little stalk inside the valve. It’s important to not use anything that could cause damage. The head end of a bullet-head nail is a good tool for this.
  • Have your windows down so you can exit the 4WD if something does go wrong – though you shouldn't be in water anywhere near that deep!

Entering the water

  • Don’t go in too quickly. Just creep in at less than walking pace. Second gear in low range is the usual gear of choice (find out what low range and other 4WD terminology means in our blog about how to drive a 4WD).


  • Once you are in, accelerate gently and maintain a steady pace to create a bow wave.
  • Avoid changing gear if possible. This can let water into the clutch plates and increase slip.

Coming out of the water

  • This obviously depends on the bank or lack of it on the far side. If you have had a good look at this as per ‘before you go in’ this should be fine.
  • Keep it steady, avoid wheel spin and let the car climb out.

If there is a problem

  • Say you get stuck – this is very, very unlikely if you follow the rules above, but if you do – just keep the engine running. This stops water entering the engine from the exhaust end.
  • If you stall, restart the engine and move on. Sometimes that might mean backing up before going forward again or finding another way.
  • If you do get stuck, say in a hole you can’t get out of, stay with the vehicle and await help. If it’s too much for the vehicle, it’s certainly much too much for you. You will find other people will be generally happy to help out.

And of course, the Britz team are just a phone call away if you need​, and can answer all your questions when you pick up your 4WD camper from us at the start of your trip.

Oysters Family at the beach Salad

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