Like a sudden slap to the back of the head, even the most champagne day out in the bush can turn in an instant and bite you square on the rear bar. Sometimes it only takes one wrong flick of the wheel, a line one inch too far to the left or simply being distracted while duck-chugging a meat pie, cruising up your favourite beach to land you and your 4WD in a sticky (and pie-covered) mess – we’re talking about getting stuck, really stuck.
Don’t let a fear of getting bogged to the axles stop you from getting out there, heck, it’s just a part of owning a 4WD. But what can make or break any recovery situation is knowing how to react when things head downhill faster than Brenno on a billy cart, and take on that all too familiar, ‘pear shape’ (also similar to Brenno). What we’re putting on paper here folks are those ‘next level’ recovery tricks, ones that might sound obvious but get easily forgotten in the heat of the moment and of course a few that we’ve learned in trial and error over a few combined lifetimes of locking hubs.
STOP, BREATHE AND ASSESS THE SITUATION
“Sometimes when things go really wrong off road your first instinct can be to quickly reach for the safety gear and act as fast as possible. This might be for good reason too, you might be moments from tipping over or water is flooding into your pride and joy. Making a rush recovery decision when you’re in a panic is the biggest mistake you can make off road.
It’s much better to analyse the situation and take the time to get your decision for best recovery practice right, than to rush it and cause more damage or injury. When I rolled the Dirty 30, we went through every recovery scenario and idea for half an hour before we did any winching. The results was one of the best roll-over recoveries a bloke could ask for that went exactly to plan, minimising any further damage.”
SOLO SOFT SAND RECOVERIES
“Sand is perhaps one of the easiest situations to get stuck in and I doubt there are many of you out there that haven’t been chassis deep at some stage. The beauty of sand of course though is that it can be moved relatively easily. A shovel and some grunt work can move any amount of sand but while that’s an option, I’m a fan of leaving that as a last resort. First and foremost, let your tyres down.
I don’t mean knock a few PSI out I mean let those suckers down to as low as 5-10psi if need be. The difference this will make is enormous. Also, don’t put your right boot through the floor and hold it there, this isn’t a burn out comp! As soon as you feel wheel spin, stop and revaluate because you are only digging yourself in deeper. Gentle back and forward motions with greatly reduced tyre pressures will get you out of just about all sand bogs; failing that, it’s time to jump on the shovel and start sweating.”
USE A PULLEY BLOCK TO STRAIGHTEN YOUR WINCH PULL
“Steep country brings with it risks, not just when driving but also when the inevitable happens and you need to crank out the winch. It’s vital that you recover directly up a steep slope and don’t risk pulling the 4WD across the slope where it could potentially roll. Course finding suitable anchors for a straight line pull is not always possible.
That’s where some creative thinking and a pulley block will save the day. Running a strap out from the side of the track into the middle with a pulley block guiding the winch rope can bring the line of pull directly back into the middle of the track. It’s an invaluable technique to have in your arsenal.”
RIGHTING A ROLLED OVER 4WD
“If you’re unlucky enough to roll your 4WD the first thing you will want to do, after wiping the tears from your eyes, is get that vehicle back on all four wheels! Like I’ve mentioned previously, take the time to properly analyse the situation so you can implement the right recovery techniques.
The first thing you’ll want to do, which will also make you feel a lot better, is to secure the 4WD so it can’t slip further down a hill or roll again. During the recovery of my roll over we had at least three winches working to make sure the recovery was as slow and controlled as possible. One of the winches was pulling me over, while another winch was letting winch rope out so when it finally did want to right back onto its wheels it didn’t go over again.”
WINCHING UP AND OUT
“Often when winching the angle of the recovery is far more important than pulling power. There have been numerous times where I’ve found that by simply altering the angle or direction of the anchor point to change the bearing of the stuck 4WD, the recovery has been simplified greatly. One particular occurrence saw us winching out of a swampy track in the deep south of WA. Due to the restrictive nature of the track and lack of anchor options, we were stuck with a single recovery angle, which just wasn’t working.
The anchor point was lower than the bogged 4WD and as a result, was just pulling the vehicle down into the mud. Thinking outside the square I ran the winch rope out of the winch and up and over a spare tyre, thus essentially altering the angle of the pull to now be much higher. The result was the vehicle lifted up instead of down and was free within minutes.”
WINCH YOURSELF SIDEWAYS
“Usually recoveries are forwards or backward, but what if you can’t do either without significant damage? That’s where you’ve really got to think outside the square and look for an option sideways, which let’s face it, is easier said than done. This usually happens when you’ve fallen out of a rut or get way too close to a tree or rock that is going to bend panels if you continue to drive. If you’ve got a front winch and two pulley blocks you can opt to slowly winch your own 4WD sidewards.
Winching your vehicle sidewards will put a lot of stress on your vehicle (and winch) because you’ll be dragging your vehicle as a static weight and not a rolling weight. The key is to do it little by little alternating the tow point from the front and rear of your vehicle to pull it sideways in small increments. Keep and eye on your tyre’s sidewalls throughout the whole process, too.”