4X4ing For Beginners | Start With The Basics

Looking into a 4wd vehicle is an exciting time, what vehicle to buy, how far off road will I go, what accessories to put on it, what suspension, lighting, what camping setup? The list is ongoing and everyone has an opinion on what’s the best accessory and what should be done first. For a new player in the 4wd world it’s a minefield of options that can be both daunting to the mind and wallet.

Most modern 4wd vehicles are relatively off-road capable direct the showroom floor and the number one contributing factor for any issues off-road is simply running out of talent. Don’t think it might be just your luck, we all cross the line from time to time!


As a 4wd trainer and retailer for over 15 years, I’ve seen many people come unstuck from ill prepared or ill-advised setup of 4wd vehicles. People unknowingly kitting out their new transport with every accessory in the catalogue only to find themselves hopelessly stuck with no safe knowledge of how to get out of or avoid the situation. I’ve seen a 140k plus fully kitted Landcruiser written off within the first 10 minutes of its first outing simply due to the operator not understanding the vehicles limitations and flooding all their hard work. The term ‘all the gear and no idea’ comes to mind in this instance and as the operator of the vehicle, being that person isn’t the best! So how do you avoid it?

My number one recommendation to any new 4wd vehicle owner is get out and get some training. Training by an accredited and experienced organisation will pay for itself time and time again as it allows the owner to understand what’s going on with the vehicle in an off-road situation, how to recover when things go bad, how to avoid things going bad and what accessories are needed to use the vehicle without damage. Courses also cover recovery techniques and recovery equipment. Recovery is by far the most dangerous part of any 4wd adventure and if done wrong can be life changing, or life ending if its not done properly.

Training courses vary greatly in the content they provide with 2 main variants.

Recreational courses are conducted by many organisations, they are a great way of picking up new skills and having a fun day out with like minded people. Courses usually cover the basic elements of off-road driving and allow some real world, hands on experience to be gained in a relatively controlled environment. These courses offer no formal qualification, meaning the instructor doesn’t necessarily need to hold any qualifications to facilitate the training. They can be conducted on private or public property and usually allow for 2 or more in the vehicle for the duration.   

Accredited training courses issue a national qualification certificate on satisfactory completion, they cover set competencies with specific outcomes and are conducted in partnership with a Registered Training Organisation on risk assessed and approved terrain. The qualification can assist with some employment options and reduce insurance costs from some insurance companies. Courses are usually a bit more expensive than a recreational course, and everyone must pass the competencies to receive the qualification. The instructors on these courses must be qualified and experienced workplace trainer assessors guaranteeing the course content is correct.

All courses are a great gift idea and I absolutely recommend that any new or experienced 4wd operator jump on one. Even the most experienced operator will pick up new techniques or learn new technology. Knowledge is power and power to you!

Chris Low.

Site Operations Manager. Opposite Lock Windsor Gardens.

Chris has spent over 15 years in 4wd automotive, covering retail management, workshop operations, emergency services rapid response and nationally accredited driver training. His current role is as the Site Operations Manager of Opposite Lock 4wd, Windsor Gardens SA. Chris drives a 94 Turbo Diesel 80 Series Landcruiser and a 2020 MR Triton dual cab ute.

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