Many people dream about driving through the Outback whenever they are planning a trip to Australia. Certainly, a visit to those iconic cities is part of the draw, but this country is just built for adventure. As you are getting all the equipment ready for a camping trip, you may be making a reservation to hire a four-wheel-drive vehicle. As this may be the first time that you drive something like this off road what do you need to know so that you can prepare yourself accordingly?
Dealing with the Unknown
If you come from an urban environment in a developed country, there's every chance that you've never driven a vehicle on an unpaved road. While you don't need to have many years of practice in order to enjoy yourself, you should be aware of specific techniques and skills, just in case.
Getting Used to the Vehicle
The type of vehicle that you rent will typically have a much higher clearance that you're used to. This means that the vehicle will have the ability to deal with the large potholes and rocks that you may encounter. It will also be able to go up and down steep gradients easily, due to the enhanced suspension travel. All of this allows the four wheels to connect to the surface much more efficiently than a typical, two-wheel-drive vehicle.
Sticking with 'Slow and Steady'
When you do encounter a rough road ahead, don't be tempted to drive aggressively. Go as slowly as possible, and select the lowest range in the transmission. When you do this, the suspension can reset itself when it goes from one obstacle to the next. Always go straight up and down a slope, rather than trying to attack the obstacle at an angle. This will give you much more control if the vehicle does start to slide.
Driving in Slippery Conditions
Most of the main roads in the Outback are very well maintained and should have a relatively level and somewhat smooth surface. However, in the event of rain they may be slippery, and you should be prepared in case your vehicle starts to slide. While this can be disconcerting, there is no need to panic. Just change down to a lower gear and try to use the engine to slow down the vehicle, rather than the brakes. Excessive use of the brakes can simply exacerbate the situation. You should try and steer into the direction of the slide and then only use the brakes when you feel that you have regained traction.
Dealing with Corners
You will need to anticipate what's coming next and be prepared to decelerate earlier than you would if you were driving on a sealed surface. Don't be tempted to use either the brake or the accelerator when you are going around a bend. Brake before you get there and accelerate after you are through it. This will help you avoid driving conditions such as understeer or oversteer, which could cause you to lose control.
With these few pieces of advice in mind, you should be able to truly enjoy your visit to one of the most interesting places on Earth. If you need any more guidance, have a word with your rental specialist.