5 Reasons to complete a 4WD training course

4WD Training - Driving on rocky track

Driving a 4WD vehicle is very different from driving a standard car in the city. There are many challenges that you encounter while driving off-road that you would not worry about in your hometown.

Things like crossing a river, driving on deep sand, tackling a steep track or conquering sand dunes are activities that you have to be prepared for. Without proper 4WD knowledge, you may get unpleasant surprises, damage your fourbie or get stuck in the middle of nowhere.

Those who have never driven a 4WD car would be surprised by how different it can be. In our opinion, completing 4WD training before you hit the road for your outback adventure is crucial.

We also took a one-day 4WD course before our trip around Australia, to learn all the essentials. This way we felt more comfortable and we did not hesitate to tackle different tracks, and water crossings during the 30000-kilometres adventure.

There are three main reasons why you should complete a 4WD training course.

#1 Learn about your 4WD vehicle

4WD vehicles are much more complex than standard cars. Usually, they are equipped with many devices and enhancements to make your off-road life easier.

Some of the systems could be:

  • differential locks (front and rear) – locking the front or rear differentials helps with traction on steep tracks
  • electronic traction control – a system that uses sensors to apply individual braking when losing traction
  • electronic stability control – helps in stabilizing the vehicle when detecting a momentary loss of control
  • hill start assist – stopping your vehicle from rolling back
  • hill descent assist – automatic assistance when going down a steep hill on a rough terrain
  • emergency brake control – pushing the brake pedal all the way in case of emergency
  • adjustable suspension – allows setting a different ride height or ground clearance
  • multi-terrain selection – regulates wheelspin by automatically adjusting the engine throttle and traction control

During a good 4WD training, some systems will be mentioned or even used in practice. For example, differential locks may be used during your ascent exercises.

These days new 4WD systems are being invented. When purchasing a new 4WD it is a good idea to go through all the systems with your dealer when you pick up the car.

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Before booking your 4WD training check what activities and terrains are included in the price.

#2 Understand different terrains

Understanding different terrains is the second most important thing before going off-road. After all, this is the reason we all have a 4WD car, so we can go anywhere we want.

Depending on where you live, and your 4WD training course you can learn the following things:

  • ascent of a steep hill
  • descent of a steep hill
  • river drive
  • water crossing
  • driving on forest tracks
  • driving on mud tracks
  • driving on water ruts
  • driving rocky tracks
  • beach driving including deep sand
  • negotiate corners and find a right path

Learn about tyre pressure and how to monitor it

Tyre pressure is a separate topic but it is strictly related to the surface you drive on. Different surfaces required different pressure to be applied.

At the beginning of the course, your instructor should explain what tyre pressure is the best during your training.

Read why you should always adjust tyre pressure when driving off-road.

Another important thing to know is that you can constantly monitor tyre pressure in your vehicle while driving by using TPMS (Tyre Pressure Monitoring System)

Lowering tire pressure to head to Gregory NP
Lowering tire pressure to head to Gregory NP

Read why you should monitor tyre pressure and what system to use.

#3 Understand gear configurations

Usually, there are three gear options you have in a standard 4WD vehicle:

  • 2H – two wheels normal drive on bitumen
  • 4H – four-wheel off-road drive on rough, sandy or rocky surfaces (maximum speed80 km/h)
  • 4L – low-range four-wheel off-road drive on deep sand, mud, uphill, downhill (maximum speed 50 km/h)
Nissan Patrol - sample gear configuration
Nissan Patrol – sample gear configuration
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Typically during a 4WD course, you will be required to use 4L low-range gear most of the time.

#4 Learn about recovery

Getting stuck during 4WD adventures is nothing unusual so knowing about doing safe recovery is essential as well.

Recovery itself is a separate topic and usually, the 4×4 centres offer dedicated recovery courses.

However, a standard beginner course should have some recovery theory and practice included.

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Before booking a 4WD course, check if recovery is included

In our case, we drove through a muddy river and our car got stuck right at the exit. It was an interesting experience!

I got stuck in the river
I got stuck in river

#5 Learn your 4WD capabilities

By completing a 4WD training you learn your vehicle as well as the different driving techniques that you did not know before.

Some activities may be easy for you and you are confident you do them right. On the contrary, with other, more difficult challenges you may say – ‘No, that’s not for me’

There is nothing wrong with avoiding situations that you are not comfortable with.

For example, you may be confident doing ascend/descends on a rocky surface, but not sure about the slippery mud that can be really tricky.

After all, safety is the most important – for you and your vehicle.

What did we learn during our 4WD course?

Our 4WD course was very practical and we covered many different surfaces during the whole day of activities.

Ascend the hill

Ascending the hill was only the first part. The more challenging part was to reverse from the stop position using only the 4L low-range gear.

Ascending the hill
Ascending the hill

Descend the hill

Even on a very steep hill, the 4WD is able to slowly descend with a minimal brake push.

4WD Training - Descending the hill
4WD Training – Descending the hill

Driving on mud ruts

When we left the training and entered the bitumen road, my steering wheel was shaking. I did not know what was that. It felt like wheel balance was completely off.

What happened was, that a lot of mud got stuck behind the wheel rims. I had to remove it by hand. It was like 5 kg of mud!

5 kg of mud got stuck behind the wheel rims
5 kg of mud got stuck behind the wheel rims
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After driving in mud check if there is nothing stuck behind your rims.

Driving through a mud bath tab
Driving through a mud bath tab

Driving on forest ruts

Some ruts are very deep and a good clearance is required to not scrub on the vehicle’s bottom. Note that every 4WD model has a different clearance.

While crawling in ruts your partner can assist you with UHF radio on what path to take safely.

Driving in deep forest ruts
Driving in deep forest ruts

Driving on a rocky track

We learnt that driving on a very rocky track can be best done with tyre pressure lowered to 25 psi or even less.

4WD Training - Driving on rocky track
4WD Training – Driving on a rocky track

Driving in the river

The rule of thumb is to walk the river first and then attempt driving. However, if you are in the northern part of Australia be cautious about saltwater crocodiles.

If you are not sure about the crossing call a cuppa and wait until some other drivers do it. This way you have a break while learning if it is safe to cross.

Driving in the river
Driving in the river

Should you complete a 4WD training course?

Yes, we really recommend it. Especially if you have never driven a 4WD vehicle taking 4WD training will be very helpful in your future off-road driving.

When looking for a 4WD course make sure the provider is an RTO registered. RTO is a Registered Training Organisation that delivered training in the VET sector. Usually, they specialise in certain types of training assuring that you get the best service possible.

Have you done your 4WD training after getting your first 4WD car? Please share below your story.


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4WD Equipment Checklist

GPS Navigator or compass

Maxtrax – if you get bogged, you can use it for additional traction

Tire Deflator – deflate tires quickly when going on dirt or 4WD

Air Compressor – inflate tires quickly after going back on bitumen (we use MM)

Tire Repair Kit – to fix the tire by yourself when you don’t have access to the tire shop (we use Oztrail)

UHF Radio – for communication with your mates and in emergency

Full Recovery Kit (with Dampener Blanket) – must-have if you are going on real off-road

High Lift Jack – useful if you do serious 4WD tracks

Shovel – useful if you get bogged, also good for campfire cooking

Fuel funnel with water filter – additional protection when fueling up in dodgy places

Additional fuel canisters

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