All of us were newbies at one point in our lives, be it in school, work, and, most notably, in off-roading. So, it is inevitable that we commit mistakes, and it is necessary to correct them.
Why do 4×4 enthusiasts make the wrong decisions? Most of us tend to take shortcuts because we want to get what we want as soon as possible. But these shortcuts can be passed on to newbies and can make their experience more difficult in the long term.
So, we have compiled almost all of the most common mistakes that are typically made by off-road enthusiasts when repairing their 4WD vehicle, driving through tracks, and choosing what modifications to get. Read more to find out!
Common Mistakes When Repairing a 4WD Vehicle
You Lug Nut
Do you remember the last time you secured your lug nuts in a star pattern or used a torque wrench for seating them correctly? Most of us simply take out the impact gun, nail down some lug nuts till the wheel is in its place, and then go to town with the rest. More often than not, you’ll never have an issue. It will be that one time when the wheelsets itself free on the highway when you’re driving at 60 mph that you’ll have enough motivation to do it right next time. Lug nuts should be tightened slowly in a crisscross star pattern and torqued to the specification set by the manufacturer, and the right torque will depend on your vehicle. In most cases, the required torque will be based on these wheel stud sizes:
Lug Size = Lb-Ft Torgue
7/16 = 55-65
1/2 = 75-85
9/16 = 95-115
5/8 = 135-145
12mm = 72-80
14mm = 85-95
So you installed your fresh new driveshaft and U-joints into the transfer case and axle yokes of your 4×4 and then proceeded to shove the wrench and unknowingly smash the U-joint caps by overtightening the retaining U-bolts. It will lead to shorter U-joint life, but it doesn’t matter if you let your driveshaft bind at full droop. It’ll eventually break anyway. Since it’s hard, if not impossible, to put a torque wrench inside most driveshaft U-joint hardware, you rely on your feeling. Use the smallest wrench that can fit and choke up on the handle. You won’t need a lot of leverage to rotate the hardware in place. It should a bit snug, but not too tight or kicked with your size 12 boot.
Every 4WD vehicle has lubrication requirements for each part. If it has a dipstick, you should probably have to check it at least once annually. On the other hand, if it has an inspection plug, you’ll need to inspect it once or twice every few years. But when was the last time since you went under your car and used a grease gun on all grease fittings? Or use the right grease for the specific application? A lot of experts agree that using any grease is better than nothing at all. But did you know that CV joints usually require a molly grease instead of ordinary lithium-based grease? It would include the centre joint of a CV driveshaft and CV-style axle shafts. It can be challenging to have two grease guns, but if you want to do it the right way, you need to follow the correct procedure.
When your 4WD vehicle refuses to start on the track, and you know the battery is fully charged, and you’re having a hunch that there are loose connections in the battery, what’s the first thing that you should do?
If you had “pick up a rock and start banging on it” in mind, you get an A for making diagnostics and an F for your choice of tools. An automotive battery is a fragile component, so beating on the terminals can damage the internal lead plates of a wet-cell battery. It can also create an acid leak at the terminal. What does that acid do? Well, once it escapes from the battery, it corrodes the metals that it comes in contact with it.
So, if you see a suspicious-looking “white fungus” on the battery terminals and cables of your vehicle, that’s corrosion. It creates a poor connection that can cause you to beat on your battery by using a rock. Use the correct tools to repair your battery. It doesn’t include any hammering tool. Regularly clean the terminals and coat them with a dialectic grease to protect it from corrosion and ensure a good connection.
Steering Joint Murderer
Aftermarket front axle shaft and U-joint manufacturers love a driver that turns hard into an off-road obstacle or undercut ledge and stab the throttle. These companies also like anyone who makes use of a front selectable locker when it’s not required, especially when turning on flat, hard surfaces. One of the parts that are very prone to failure on a 4WD vehicle is the front axle steering joint. Usually, you should be careful in using them.
Aside from that, you should always keep in mind that they are significantly weaker when you turn the steering wheel. If you have to go through an obstacle by using the throttle, try to line yourself up so the steering wheel will become straight. Also, use the front locker only when you need it. Chirping the front tyres and jay-hopping around somewhat paved corners is hard on many different components. Let the differential do its job. So, it’s easy to see why a spool is a terrible idea for a trail 4×4 that needs to steer around corners.
So you and your friends spent the whole weekend installing your new lift kit. You likely gunned the suspension hardware in its place with the vehicle lifted in the air, and now you’re wondering why your 4WD car rides like hell. Well, when it comes to pivoting most rubber and urethane, suspension bushings similar those found on leaf springs, A-arms, shocks, shackles, and link arms. So, you shouldn’t hit them with the final torque setting until the vehicle is on the ground and supporting its full weight. Final torquing of the pivot hardware with the suspension hanging down can cause your car to ride and flex very poorly. Aside from that, it can also cause the bushings to wear out more quickly.
It’s estimated that 5 million gallons of fuel per day are wasted due to low tire pressure. We’re wondering why we don’t see these people off-road. The majority of 4x4s that we do see hitting the dirt have too much air pressure in their tires. With higher tire pressures off-road, these drivers sacrifice traction and comfort. How much you can air down for better off-road performance depends on the tires you’re using and the weight of your 4×4.
Usually, a smaller 4WD vehicle like a Jeep on radial tires can drive smoothly 10-15 psi. With bias-ply tires, that same Jeep can quickly run pressures down into the single digits. Those with significantly more massive full-size trucks may need to experiment with different pressures until a good bulge in the sidewall is achieved.
Only 15 per cent of new car buyers in the U.S. want to purchase one with manual transmission. But even fewer people should buy it. A lot of people cause transmission and transfer case damage and excessive wear by shoving the shifters into gear.
Manual transfer case shifters are infamous for being very finicky. Also, banging on the T-case shifter by using all your weight could break the shift forks or shift linkage, leaving you stuck in the middle of nowhere. In most cases, you can more easily turn a fussy transfer case if you pull the vehicle forward slowly or back just a bit while lightly leaning on the shifter.
It’s hard to believe that a lot of people aren’t using the typical plastic engine oil container properly. It’s understandable as engine compartments nowadays are very cramped, and there isn’t a lot of room to position one over the oil filler. But the container is less likely to spill oil and glug if you put into holding the bottle. The same is true of antifreeze containers.
Have you ever adjusted the drum brakes of your vehicle? In theory, you don’t need to change them as they are designed to be self-adjusting. But the mechanisms inside the component can be corroded or covered with mud.
So, you need to pull the drums to rinse them. It’s also not unusual for someone to have reassembled them in the wrong way when doing a brake job, which can cause the self-adjusting feature not to function correctly. Once you’ve safely lifted the vehicle and made sure your drums are clean and correctly assembled, you should reinstall the wheels. Aside from that, you should adjust the brakes by using a brake spoon. You should feel a bit of a drag as you rotate each wheel.
Common Mistakes Made While Driving
Not Lowering Your Tyre Pressure
Lowering your tyre pressure is your best bet to improve your off-road vehicle’s capability.
It’s among your most valuable assets on the tracks, and the most straightforward mod you can make to add to your off-roading skills tenfold: Air pressure. Driving dangerous off-road trails with air pressures that are meant for highway driving is downright silly. Once you do down the right amount, it’s unbelievable what a difference doing this procedure makes. It doesn’t matter if you’re driving through a desert, forest, grass, beach, grass or rocks, lowering your tyre pressure is the best.
When airing down, you shouldn’t be scared to go lower than 32 psi and call it a day. However, recommending an all-encompassing tyre pressure for all people is complicated as there are a lot of factors to consider, such as the modifications, kind of tyres, your driving style, and your 4WD vehicle. But all you need to know that you only have to remove a significant chunk of pressure to make a noticeable difference. So, you need to engage in trial and error to find the level that you’re comfortable with.
There’s a massive difference in weights between newer and more classic 4WDs.
Weight is the often enemy – there’s no doubt about it. Modern 4WDs are slowly becoming heavier and heavier, but more power and features hide the fact 90% of the time. However, the truth is still there: they are getting more substantial. Today, a top-spec Toyota LandCruiser Prado weighs around 2,450 kilograms right when you drive off the dealership. Back in 1996, the more or less similar 90 Series Prado weighed 1,848 kilograms or a total of 600kg less. Yes, that difference in weight is almost the same as a Suzuki Sierra.
Payloads on these newer 4X4 vehicles are more often than not less than their older models too. Also, the Prado had 862 kilograms of payload back in 1996 is now reduced to around 545 kilograms.
A lot of people load a lot of things in their 4WD vehicles – whether it’s accessories, gear or people – and don’t have a solid grasp on what it all weighs.
Not Preparing Before The Trip
Before you go off-road driving, always have a ‘minimum kit’ ready to go and packed in your 4X4.
Being under-prepared can be a life-threatening mistake. When some people pack every but the kitchen, regardless of its use, others go with the bare minimum. If you add the remoteness of your destination in the equation, you’re starting to play with fire seriously. Consider a first aid kit, essential recovery gear and tools as a bare minimum; and carry extra food and water beyond what you’d usually need, just in case. There’s a balance between the latter two points here, and it’s something that comes with time and experience.
Being rude is the worst thing that you can do as a 4WD enthusiast. Please, for the good of other enthusiasts, don’t be a dick. Driving like Marcus Grönholm as well as public 4WD tracks, chucking doughnuts on claypans, spinning your wheels mercilessly on hill climbs, all of this is typical dickhead behaviour. You’ll be rightly labelled as such if you do so.
The main issue is that, when someone tears apart the tracks, all enthusiasts will always be painted with the same brush. This situation will inevitably be used as ammo against off-road driving as a whole.
Instead, you should view your 4WD vehicle as a tool to visit beautiful, quiet and remote parts of this vast, sprawling continent. Don’t treat it as some kind of toy to quench your testosterone thrill. The off-roading community comes under much scrutiny already without screwing it up by ourselves. If you’re keen to have fun, it’s okay, but do it somewhere that allows it such as private parks. Don’t do it on the tracks or places that are open to the public because they are maintained that way.
Get out to the bush in your 4WD vehicle, go through some obstacles and get to places other cars can’t go. You can always test your limits, but you should do it in the right way. Since the bush isn’t yours, it is your responsibility to take care of it.
Buying Crappy Gear
There’s a saying about the poor man purchase buys the same thing many times. Typically, you can spend a bit more on a high-quality item, and you’ll get more value for your money compared to the countless cheaper options.
But there are times when an item’s price doesn’t mean that it has a higher quality, some products are just overpriced! Also, a lot of brands will add an extra cost to make some people think that their product can last longer. So, you need to know the difference between a crappy product and something worth the added cost.
But it’s not an easy thing to do since you’re constantly bombarded with marketing hype. The best way to know that it’s not worth it is if it’s too good to be true, then it probably is. So, set a maximum budget, and get the best product within that price range.
Going Too Hard
Brute force isn’t always the answer. Use your common sense, and think.
Honestly, going harder isn’t the only way to get through obstacles. Sometimes, it’s one of the solutions, but a lot of people forget that the brain is often better at thinking than the right foot.
So, pick your line carefully and step on the track for a few minutes. Consider your tyre pressures, and which gear you’re on. It’s often too easy to lose yourself in the moment, so just try and gun your way out of trouble.
Not Doing A Course
Driving in a quality 4X4 course is among the best things you can do to treat yourself and test your vehicle’s capability.
If you think there’s nothing left that you can learn, you’re wrong. Whether you’re very new to the field or have been running the tracks for several years, chances are there’s a lot that you can get out of a good quality driving or recovery course. It is also true if you find yourself driving a modern 4WD vehicle, with a lot more buttons than levers. 4WD vehicles nowadays need specific techniques and specialised knowledge to lead them to their best potential.
It’s very easy to get lost, and each year there are new stories of people being rescued. But sometimes the rescue team comes too late.
One mountain trail looks a lot like another, and the same thing goes for a dune track. A lot of these trails were old logging tracks or oil exploration seismic lines that lead nowhere, even though they seem very clear.
You should follow this golden rule: never travel on places we can’t locate on a GPS or paper map. Aside from that, you should never go with only one GPS unit and carry back-up compasses too.
If you want to travel by yourself in a 4WD vehicle, you must carry a satellite phone or HF radio, so you can call for help if you do encounter problems in the bush. To do that, you’ll need to know your position in latitude and longitude.
Believing in TV Ads
We know that a lot of 4WD enthusiasts who drove through beaches and salty shallows, just like what they see on TV ads. But almost all of them were also denied warranty when under bonnet components showed signs of rust and corrosion. Also, the official c
ause for the cancellation of the warranty is “driver abuse”.
Almost every second of 4WD TV ad footage from every brand shows the bad driving technique, so don’t mind them.
No Convoy Procedure
You see almost every time you go on a trip on the bush; a convoy of 4WDs parked up on the side of the road, waiting for some missing vehicles. But how does this happen so often? The main reason for this kind of situation to happen is because of novices who don’t know the “convoy procedure.”
In convoys, you are responsible for the vehicle following behind you, not the one in front, since you can’t do anything about it. If you can’t see the car behind and can’t alert the crew by using the CB radio, you should stop. By doing so, the convoy won’t get stretched out over several kilometres before knowing that someone is in trouble.
When you reach intersections, you must reduce your speed or stop until you can hear or see that the vehicle behind noticed where you’re going.
Ideally, the leader and the tail-end have powerful CBs that gives them the ability to contact each member at all times.
If you follow the convoy procedure throughout a vehicle convoy, no vehicle will get separated, and people aren’t frightened they’ll get left behind.
Common Mistakes When Modifying a 4WD Vehicle
Overdoing The Modifications
Most 4WD enthusiasts who are out there using their vehicles more often, don’t have a massive list of modifications and accessories that they want to add. You don’t need lockers, lift kits, power upgrades, massive tyres and every electrical fitting under the sun to get to the outdoors and enjoy your off-roading.
You should also have a good reason to modify your 4WD, so don’t add accessories only because everyone else has them. If you do so, it’s an utter waste of money, so make sure that it meets your needs. You can spend a fortune over making changes on your vehicle when that amount could be put towards a fantastic 4WD trip. Instead, look for more practical improvements in capability, comfort, functionality, and reliability.
Modifying without a plan
When you’ve owned a 4WD vehicle for a while, it’s very easy to get carried away with doing modifications. Most enthusiasts are guilty of it, and at the same time, we underestimate what’s necessary to make the mods work. By consulting Majestic 4×4 before buying a wheel and tyre packages or a brand new suspension system, you’ll have an easier time setting realistic goals and staying within budget. Instead, you should have a proper plan in mind to modify your vehicle.
Neglecting the weight factor
Every time you add an accessory to your vehicle, the weight increases. Although a combination of small accessories will not make a considerable impact, bulky modifications undoubtedly affect the performance of the car. Aside from that, excessive weight can make your vehicle to have various mechanical errors too, and under some conditions, overweight vehicles can be illegal in some states.
Buying in the wrong order
There is a specific order that you should modify your 4WD. Some things don’t matter, but several items should be added before others. The most obvious one is your suspension. Please, don’t get a beautiful brand new suspension system before you consider the current weight of your vehicle, and in the future. A lot of people do this, and after they install a bull bar, winch, rear bar, drawer system, long-range fuel tank, second spare tyre etc. find their springs have already sagged. Suspension should only be added when you know how much weight your vehicle is going to carry, as both of them needs to be matched. If you get it wrong, either your springs will sag, or you will have a terrible ride. Nothing is more off-putting than a 4WD with a miserable ride. Likewise, spending a lot of money on modifying your engine before you’ve upgraded your exhaust is a terrible idea. Take the time to install your accessories and changes in the right order, and you will save loads of money, time, and ease of mind.
What Happens If You Leave 4WD On?
On the road, if your vehicle is in 4WD mode, turning corners can be dangerous and cause tyres to slip or spin. Fuel consumption and your fuel bill are likely to sky-rocket, and you will wear out your bearings.
Is Driving In 4WD Dangerous?
If you drive faster than what the conditions allow, you’re far more likely to flip and roll due to your higher centre of gravity. 4WD doesn’t help you brake better or give you more stability in turns while braking. So slow down when you’re turning and brake sooner. 4WD contributes to overconfidence.