Written by Dick Sharpe, Another Landrover Fan!
4x4 Driving Tips:
Thick sand driving:
Most of the bush roads have 4x4 sections. An example of very thick, deep sandy conditions is the access road to Nambwa Community Campsite and the ‘Horseshoe’ located in the Caprivi Game. This section of road is approximately 8-10 km long. In the dry season (May - November) the area is inundated with elephants so you have to make sure to get through the sandy area without stalling or becoming stuck. The best time of day to drive this stretch is early morning while the sand is cool and compact. The hotter the sand the softer it becomes (and more difficult to drive through). The most important rules in thick sand driving conditions are tire pressure the correct momentum. Lower the tire pressure to +/- 1.2 bar. This will ensure better traction. Be sure to carry a good quality hand pump (or 12v compressor) to re-inflate the tires to correct pressure for the tar roads. After deflating the vehicle’s tires, assess a sandy patch before proceeding. If thick sand, engage in either 4x4 high or low range (if applicable, ensure to lock front wheels), then in second gear proceed at medium speed making sure the wheels do not spin excessively or dig down into the sand. DO NOT change gear in thick sand as this will cause you to loose speed and dig in. If you do ‘dig in’, stall or find your wheels spinning, stop immediately without breaking. This will prevent the vehicle from sinking down onto the chassis, remove sand build-up away from the tires, engage reverse gear and go back a couple of meters, then try again. If you were in 4 x 4 high, engage into 4x4 low range. Good momentum is the best policy in sandy conditions. If you have to stop, try to stop on either a down slope or hard patch.
(Rainy season: November-April)
The river crossing, or causeway driving technique, is completely different to sand driving. Firstly, stop before crossing to assess the depth and condition of surface below the water. This is done by walking through the water on foot. Caution is advised. If you have a petrol vehicle there is always a chance of getting the engine’s ignition system wet if the water is too deep, which will cause your engine to stall. Some diesel vehicles (fitted with computer boxes) are also vulnerable in water. If the water is deeper than wheel height, re-consider before attempting to cross. Most diesel vehicles are much better suited under these circumstances.
If the surface below the water is sandy there should be no problem crossing. Engage 4x4 low-range and proceed slowly without changing gear. You do not want to stall in water, so remember to keep the vehicle’s revs slightly higher than idle. Also remember many electric winches do not work in water. If the surface below the water is soft sticky mud, there is a good chance of getting stuck. Should you decide to cross, engage 4x4 low-range and proceed slowly. If your tyres start spinning or sticking, accelerate without excessive tyre spin and endeavor to get out of the situation as quickly as possible.
One “Golden Rule” in wet slippery conditions is to NEVER leave the main track - the ground next to the track may look more stable, but you can be assured it is not. The Mopane forests and floodplains east of Katima Mulilo are dangerous during the rainy season. YOU WILL get stuck if you try and drive through these forests and flood plains. The ground is clay based and becomes very soft and sticky. If you find yourself in soft clay, engage into 4x4 low-range and reverse very slowly to avoid your tyres spinning. If the vehicle does not move, DO NOT spin the wheels, as you will dig down onto your chassis. Jack the vehicle up and place branches under the wheels and then attempt to drive out.
Should you consider a self drive 4x4 trip through the Caprivi it is advisable to travel with more than one vehicle. At a crossing, ensure the first vehicle clears the obstacle before the second vehicle follows. Be sure to carry a spade, two spare tyres, a long tow rope, hand pump, hi-lift jack and wooden blocks.
Good luck with the 4x4 adventure.
Dick Sharpe (another Landrover fan!)
T/A Sharpe Engineering Established 1993
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