KNOW YOUR RIG’S LIMITATIONS
The first rule for staying out of trouble with your 4WD and camper trailer is to keep a constant look-out for changing road conditions that may catch you out. This is known as terrain assessment.
A camper trailer is typically 700-1000kg or more of dead weight on your tow vehicle’s towbar. This saps power and traction and, in many situations, makes reversing or turning around very difficult.
ADJUST YOUR TYRES
Appropriate tyre pressures can prevent your vehicle from becoming stuck in the first place, and help you get out of strife if you do become beached. Always reduce tyre pressures when venturing off-bitumen: 25psi is a good gravel-road figure for a 4WD wearing 70 or taller series, all terrain (AT) tyres. On beach or desert sand, much lower pressures — for example, 15psi — will help the tyre balloon and increase floatation and grip.
TRY THE SHOVEL FIRST
The good ol’ shovel is a terrific recovery accessory and anyone travelling offroad should carry one. In many cases, a stuck vehicle can be driven out of its predicament with a check and a change of tyre pressures and a few minutes of digging. In soft ground and sand, digging a ramp in front of the tyres may enable the stricken vehicle to be driven out of trouble.
EFFECTIVE USE OF RECOVERY BOARDS
Recovery boards are an asset for vehicle de-bogging, too. Their aggressive grip allow the vehicle’s tyres to find and maintain hold long enough to be driven out of trouble. When driving forward, use two boards if you can, one under each front wheel; after the fronts have found grip, the rear wheels will follow suit and help build momentum. Jam the boards in hard at around a 30° angle to allow the tyres the best chance to find and maintain grip.
LEARN THE ROPES BEFORE YOU try to SNATCH
If other methods don’t work, towing, winching and snatching are effective means for helping extract a vehicle. Snatching involves the use of an appropriately constructed and rated elastic snatch strap that concentrates the effort of the tug/tow vehicle to help extract the bogged vehicle. Snatching is also highly dangerous and potentially fatal and should only be performed by people who have received appropriate quality training and instruction.
SHACKLE RATINGS AND USE
Bow shackles will more than likely be required to attach the snatch strap to the vehicle – front or rear. Like the strap, these bow shackles must be rated to the situation. A working load limit (WLL) of 3.5t is appropriate for many 4WDs. They should be set-up with pin to the vehicle, bow to the strap. Sometimes, a winch extension strap may be required to cover a distance of several vehicle lengths. Never use a bow shackle or any other metal object to join a strap with a winch extension strap.
USE A DAMPEnER AND START WITH the SLACK
A dampener must be securely fixed on the strap during a recovery. If something breaks, this will act as an airbrake to reduce the whip of the strap – a breaking strap end exceeds the speed of sound – and its weight will help pull the strap to the ground.
Check out the full feature in issue #84 January 2015 of Camper Trailer Australia magazine.