A mum of three, engineer, scientist, educator, and all around dabbler, I'm far better at finding interesting things to do than I am at doing housework.
Published November 1st 2016
So you bought a 4wd. Maybe to tow a caravan, or a boat. Maybe for work. Perhaps you just liked the look of it. But now you have one, have you ever wondered what it can really do? And how you can find out without damaging yourself or your very expensive new machine?
Sure, you could just go and find a dirt track and try for yourself, but a quick google of "4wd disaster" shows why that could be a bad idea. However there is a way to learn the tricks and techniques you need to keep safe without having to learn the hard way. Read on.
As new owners of a second (actually third) hand Landrover, we discovered that joining the 4wd club for your vehicle of choice gives access to very budget friendly 4wd driver training. So with very little ado, we joined the friendly folk at the Land Rover Owners Club of Victoria and signed up for their driver proficiency course. Clubs exist for all makes of 4wd, as well as some that welcome all makes and models, and all offer training sessions at discounted rates for members.
Lined up ready for the start. 4WDs ready for a day's action.
Training began with an evening of theory. The friendly training team introduced themselves and, after a quick comparison of our vehicles and plans for them, we got stuck in. Several hours later, our heads were buzzing with the details of left foot braking, recovery gear ratings, and tyre pressure recommendations. Fortunately, we were each supplied with a book containing all the information for future reference.
The following Saturday, we reported to the Werribee 4X4 proving ground ready to put our book learning into practice. It was an early start, as when they say "full day" they mean it! On the drive in, we saw a number of ridiculously steep tracks and rocky mounds, and I made the comment "they must be for the advanced courses!" How wrong I was!
After a brief refresher of the theory session, and a safety inspection, we were into our cars and ready to go. Steep hill climbs, descents, sand driving, mud pits, rocky paths and river crossings were all covered over the next 10 hours. Each obstacle was attempted at least twice, with an instructor in the vehicle with you for at least the first attempt. The course is set up so that those waiting for their turn can watch the other vehicles attempt the obstacle, and hopefully learn from their mistakes.
The session ended with a tour around the proving grounds, testing all of our new knowledge on a series of mixed obstacles. The "yumps" were the equivalent of any fairground ride, and a fantastic demonstration of how far our skills had progressed over the day. The session ended with broad grins on all faces and no vehicle damage. Hooray!
Proficiency training not only gives you the basic skills to drive your new 4WD with confidence, it also opens the door to club trips to practice and improve your skills. So why not learn what you and your vehicle are capable of!