BorGY’s BUsH ME­CHAn­ICs tackling low-range ob­sta­cles

TOW LIKE A PRO WITH OUR GUIDE TO OVER­COM­ING THOSE COM­MON, BUT CHAL­LENG­ING, LOW-RANGE OB­STA­CLES.

Camper Trailer Australia - - CONTENTS - WORDS MICHAEL BORG PICS TONY RABBITTE & CAMPER TRAILER AUS­TRALIA

Chances are, if you like to ex­plore the great out­doors with your camper trailer in tow, you’ll run into some tough ter­rain to con­quer at some point or an­other. The prob­lem is, some offroad ob­sta­cles can be pretty daunt­ing if you’re not very ex­pe­ri­enced in this par­tic­u­lar de­part­ment, and who knows what will hap­pen if you get it all wrong? The good news is you’re in luck! Freez­ing in fear will be a thing of the past with our guide to hit­ting the tough stuff with your camper in tow and com­ing out on top. Now, that doesn’t mean it’s time to put on your favourite Su­per­man cape and go look­ing for trou­ble; the whole idea of this lit­tle yarn is to give you the skills you’ll need to tackle the tracks with con­fi­dence and ide­ally make your camper trailer slightly less of a hin­drance while you’re there.

So let’s check out some of the com­mon ob­sta­cles you’re likely to come across and a few of the driv­ing tech­niques and tricks of the trade that will help get you through them in one piece.

UP­HILL BAT­TLES

The weight of a camper trailer can re­ally add a lot of stress to your ve­hi­cle on an in­cline, es­pe­cially if the track sur­face has lim­ited trac­tion. But a bit of smart driv­ing can re­ally help out in the long run and it all starts with pick­ing the right line and com­mit­ting to it from the be­gin­ning. The idea is to look for line that will keep you en­tire setup as straight as pos­si­ble to avoid any chance of a roll over if things go wrong. Then en­sure it will keep all four wheels on the ground, which main­tains trac­tion. If there are ruts the whole way up, it’s im­por­tant to un­der­stand that they can work for you, as well as against you. In other words, if they lead you straight up the hill and aren’t too deep, they can act as a great guide, es­pe­cially for the trailer if you need to re­verse back down again. On the other hand, they can lock you in and make it dif­fi­cult to get out, which is less than ideal if they are deeper or tougher than you first thought.

On in­clines, your front sus­pen­sion will of­ten un­load or trans­fer weight to the rear axle, which means there is less weight ap­plied to your front tyres to keep them on the ground. The end re­sult is your steer­ing and brakes could be af­fected. As you can imag­ine, this is ex­ag­ger­ated with a camper trailer hitched on the back, so keep that in mind!

The next thing is to pick the right gear and stick to it. Ob­vi­ously you’ll be in low range but try and avoid choos­ing a gear that’s likely to run out of steam half­way up, and still of­fers enough mo­men­tum to keep you in the game.

THE DOWN SIDE

It’s im­por­tant to re­mem­ber the weight of your camper works against you on the way down a steep hill. In fact, if there’s bugger-all trac­tion, you’ll find hit­ting the brakes can be a dicey move. The rea­son be­ing it al­lows the camper’s weight to push di­rectly against your ve­hi­cle, which could ei­ther cause the camper to jack knife or your 4WD’s wheels to lock up and en­ter a slide. And once you start slid­ing, you’ve got no brakes, no steer­ing and no con­trol! So what do you do? Well, if the brakes lock up it’s best to re­lease them un­til the wheels start spin­ning, the en­gine brak­ing kicks in and you re­gain some type of con­trol. At the same time, ap­ply­ing the trailer’s brakes in­de­pen­dently to your 4WD can re­ally help pull the camper back into line and gen­er­ally slow things up a bit. In fact, us­ing this tech­nique can help avoid this sit­u­a­tion al­to­gether. Oh, and a bit of rear diff lock can help keep your 4WD a lit­tle more set­tled as well.

TACKLING RUTS

As the say­ing goes, there’s more than one way to skin a cat, and this is par­tic­u­larly true when it comes to tackling ruts. De­cid­ing on the driv­ing tech­nique to use re­ally does de­pend on the type of rut you’re at­tempt­ing. If you’re think­ing about div­ing straight into the guts of it, there are a few things to con­sider. The first is: how deep are they? Will your sus­pen­sion get hung up? Will your setup be on a dodgy an­gle at any point? These are the sort of things that can re­ally leave you up you-know-what creek with­out a pad­dle! The next con­sid­er­a­tion is where the exit point is. It’s def­i­nitely a case of look be­fore you leap here!

The other op­tion is to strad­dle the rut.

Now this is of­ten the safest op­tion, but it’s im­por­tant to re­mem­ber what hap­pens if you ac­ci­den­tally drop a wheel in! It can cause all sorts of prob­lems if it’s deep enough. In re­gards to your camper, try and ap­proach the rut nice and straight so your camper’s wheel track fol­low di­rectly be­hind in­stead of cut­ting cor­ners and muck­ing things up. It’s also im­por­tant to con­sider how sturdy the sides of the rut are; the last thing you want is for the ruts side­walls to give away un­ex­pect­edly!

CLEAR­ANCE IS­SUES

There’s a few ways to in­crease your camper trailer’s clear­ance. The sim­plest, and least stren­u­ous, is to care­fully pick a line that keeps your camper up nice and high in or­der to clear an ob­sta­cle.

For ex­am­ple, if there’s a boul­der in the mid­dle of the track it might be a safer op­tion to drive over it with your wheels in­stead of di­rectly over the top (wheel each side), which could risk it hit­ting your un­der­car­riage com­po­nents.

Us­ing rocks to build up the track can re­ally make a big dif­fer­ence, but you’ll need to know where to place the rocks in or­der for it to be ef­fi­cient. For ex­am­ple, if your draw­bar/hitch is bot­tom­ing out big time, usu­ally a few rocks or log un­der your 4WDs rear tyres will do the trick. If it’s more the A-frame, chas­sis or rear of the camper, then put those rocks un­der the camper’s tyres to prop it up a bit. If all else fails, the last re­sort is to wedge some­thing be­tween your camper and the ob­sta­cle that will help pre­vent any dam­age as it scrapes over the top. A trac­tion aid or two will usu­ally do the trick. In fact, you can stack two or three of these to­gether for added sup­port and use them as a step/ramp as well.

SAND DRIV­ING TECH­NIQUES

There are plenty of tips and tricks to help you con­quer the sand with a camper trailer in tow, but one tri­umphs above them all! Yep you guessed it, tyre pres­sures! Get them all nice and low, be­tween 16-20psi should do the trick de­pend­ing on your weight and the type of tyre you run, and re­mem­ber you might have to drop the camper’s tyre pres­sures lower than your ve­hi­cles to make up for the dif­fer­ence in weight. Then it’s a mat­ter choos­ing a gear that gives you plenty of torque and mo­men­tum through the softer stuff.

The sand cre­ates plenty of re­sis­tance, so if you’re not on the loud pedal, you’re slow­ing down. That means the less gear changes the bet­ter, ad­just your camper’s brakes off (trust us, you won’t need them here), and stick to the ruts where the sand is al­ready nice and com­pact. If you start to get bogged, re­mem­ber the mo­ment you stop mov­ing for­ward is the point you start dig­ging your­self into a hole. So quit be­fore

this hap­pens and opt for a re­cov­ery.

In a re­cov­ery, make sure you clear the sand out in front of all the tyres to help re­duce the re­sis­tance be­fore you get started. Never re­cover your ve­hi­cle back­wards from the rear of your camper as most hitches sim­ply aren’t rated or de­signed to pull your fully loaded 4WD out of trou­ble and re­mem­ber to keep your wheels point­ing straight in­stead of drag­ging them side­ways through the sand. Oh, and try not to park on an in­cline – it can be an ab­so­lute mis­sion try­ing to get go­ing again!

YOUR TURN NOW!

Well, there you go. The next time you find your­self in a bit of a low-range predica­ment it doesn’t have to be all doom and gloom. While there’s no need to go all kamikaze on the tracks, let’s just say we wouldn’t blame you if you pushed that lit­tle bit harder with your new found offroad tow­ing skills.

Heck, any­thing that gets you closer to those dream des­ti­na­tions is a win, right?

ABOVE: A few care­fully placed rocks near an ob­sta­cle can form a ramp to ease ac­cess.

TOP: Pick a line when you’re trav­el­ling up a hill, and aim to keep your rig as straight as fea­si­ble. ABOVE: Trac­tion can im­pact brak­ing per­for­mance down­hill, ap­ply­ing the trailer brakes in­de­pen­dently can help main­tain speed and con­trol.

TOP: Ruts can work for and against you de­pend­ing on how deep they are. ABOVE: Be­fore you tackle a rut, iden­tify the risks and con­sider your exit point.

CLOCK­WISE FROM TOP LEFT: If the hitch makes con­tact, plac­ing a few rocks un­der your ve­hi­cle’s rear tyres can help get you out of trou­ble; When clear­ance is tight a trac­tion aid can min­imise dam­age to your trailer’s un­der­car­riage; The sand ap­plies con­stant re­sis­tance so keep your foot on the ac­cel­er­a­tor.

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