Unfortunately, many people we encounter off-road don’t pay enough attention to the dangers of driving on gravel roads. It has always been a strong recommendation from us at Eureka 4WD Training that once driving on unsealed roads to engage H4 in a part-time 4WD or engage the centre differential lock of a Full-Time 4WD, for those with terrain response management systems engage the gravel mode.
In doing so guarantees both drive to the front and rear wheels which is a much safer driving mode. Put simply you have a 4WD, why would you not use the features available? In every single gravel road vehicle incident, we have either been first at the scene to or through our commercial clients helping with worksite incidents they all have been preventable. 4WDs obviously handle very different from passenger cars and with longer travel suspension and a high centre of gravity they can roll over very easily.
4WD Driving Recommendation
By being in 4WD you have much better control over the vehicle to firstly prevent an accident but also have a much better chance of regaining control, especially with a part-time 4WD. Another strong recommendation from ourselves is to not use cruise control on gravel road surfaces as you want to be in full control of the vehicle at all times, gravel road conditions change dramatically and if your vehicle has hit a patch of bulldust or rougher section of road by the time you have reacted and applied footbrake or accelerator it can be too late. Stay in control and leave the cruise control to the highways.
Other factors are dust which doesn’t ever drive in the dust cloud of the vehicle in front of you, hang back so you have plenty of vision and plenty of time to respond to any oncoming hazard. If passing by another vehicle in the dust be very cautious of stopping on the side of the road as people have been killed by others travelling through the dust and contacting them. Of course, slow down, have your headlights on and keep an eye on the edge of the road to avoid you drifting towards the middle of the road.
Corrugations are another common hazard found on gravel roads with the best method we recommend is reducing your tyre pressures to about 26psi for a standard Weight 4WD vehicle as it can act as a fifth shock absorber making for not only a more comfortable ride but reduces strains on your vehicle and looks after the tracks. Lower pressures equal lower speed so don’t drive above 80kmh or for long periods taking note of tyre overheating issues due to sidewall flex, a good tyre pressure monitor is something we all use at Eureka.
Don’t get sucked into going too fast over corrugations as although it may be a smoother drive you are not in contact with the road enough and is a very dangerous practice. Other methods are to drive on the other side of the road which may be a smoother but of course only if you can guarantee there is no possibility of any vehicles or hazards around you.
On that note road we will use any part of the road we felt is smoother but only if there is Zero chance of any oncoming traffic or there is no-one behind us, always stay as far left as practical on corners and crests. Work on the basis that there is always someone coming around the corner and always someone coming over a crest.
Having a UHF on scan can be useful or channel 40 when approaching trucks and road work crews, positive communications are necessary when attempting to pass on gravel roads, please only where necessary and if have made sure that the vehicle you are to overtake knows you are there. If you do come across signs put in place by roadworks please obey them and if a UHF channel is on the sign change to that channel and ask permission to enter their work area and it is safe to pass. They do this for a job so please obey their instructions.
We witness way to many incidents on gravel roads throughout Australia and there is no need for them to happen, slow down and enjoy the journey as your family and friends count on you.
Please keep safe out there everyone road carnage is real and can happen to anyone.