Water Crossings in your 4wd

Water crossings are different to all other 4wd terrains and require planning, stability & control. While water crossings are fun the danger of damage to your 4wd is increased dramatically.This article has been written to minimise those dangers and make your next water crossing a fun experience & not a tragic one.


Initial Planning

At a minimum you should ‘walk’ the crossing before driving through to check the depth and feel for dips and holes while establishing how much traction is on offer. This time also gives components like the differentials, gearbox and transfer case an opportunity to cool down before hitting the water. driving straight away into the water can cause rapid cooling of the metal which produces lower air pressure inside the diff and axles which encourages water to be drawn inside these components.


Parts on your 4wd To watch for

An inspection of the radiator fan should be made with the engine turned off. If the fan ‘freewheels’ when turning it by hand then it is a viscous clutch unit and its generally ok to proceed. If the fan is a fixed unit meaning it turns full-time corresponding to engine revolutions the fan belt should be disconnected before crossing. It has the potential to bend and propel itself into the radiator. This is a good time to spray under bonnet electrics with a liberal dose of CRC or similar water repellent especially in 4WD’s with petrol engines. Diesel engine vehicles aren’t installed with the more vulnerable electrical ignition systems that petrol comes supplied with. Generally people with petrol engines normally use a "water bra" which is a tarpolin which hooks to the front of the car and minimises the amount of water that gets into the engine bay.

If you do not have a snorkel its very important to know where your air intake is and not cross any water crossing that is higher than this because if you suck water into your engine it can cause terminal damage to your 4wd and cost you plenty of money in repairs


Driving your route

Its important to Maintain a steady rhythm while keeping control over the vehicle. its common to be in either low 1 or low 2 in your 4wd. Big increases in acceleration only serve to shower the engine bay with water. Slow and steady is the key! Much like Driving on Rocks this type of blind driving is about feeling what is beneath the wheels and how they are responding. If the vehicle stalls disengage gears without using the clutch and try and start the engine. If it restarts then you have no real choice but use the clutch and try and drive out. If the engine won’t start and regular recovery isn’t possible, then as a last resort, the vehicle may be able to be cranked out on the starter motor. Engage the gearbox with the clutch fully out and turn the ignition key. With enough battery power and a robust starter motor it is possible to move the car along in this manner. Not recommended but possible. A good practise when exiting a river or creek is pull up on a slope and drain the water away. It’s also a good time to evaluate your braking capability after the drenching. Post river crossing inspections should include a check on differential, gearbox and transfer case oils for water contamination. When making any type of water crossing to is prudent to remember that rainfall can make yesterdays knee-deep creek into today’s raging river.

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