DTU Stage 1

14th June 2015

 Participants                                                                                                                                    Mark Furniss                                                                                                                                     Elizabeth Rudd                                                                                                                                     Richard Lock & Teresa Lock                                                                                                         Sophie Knox                                                                                                                                       Paul Cook                                                                                                                                           Sergiu Lisnic                                                                                                                                     Frank Adams                                                                                                                                 Wayne Prendergast

On a cold Sunday morning I set out to do my first ever 4WD course at Cooranbong Community Services Centre. The night before I had been sleeping in a tent at my son’s scout camp at Camp Kariong so it was with great trepidation I attended the course. I arrived early and was greeted by the presenters setting up for the theory part of the day.

On a table on the side they had some of the gear that might be needed for a drive out. I definitely learnt some very important lessons in the theory part, like the difference between a bow shackle and a D shackle. We went through some safety pointers. I’ve got a list of things I need to get myself sorted for my next trip like get a fire extinguisher, order some bow shackles with the right WLL (working limit), bolt on some recovery points on chassis not on the bull bar and get a good quality snap strap and a tree protector. In the break Troy showed me his set up and he showed me how to get recovery points put on which was all new to me having never done any real off road.

We then headed down in convoy with our UHF radios on, to an old quarry in the state forest to do some serious practice. Once we got there it was time to deflate the tyres to about 24 psi to get the better grip. My car hadn’t been in Low Range mode for that long it took a bit of grunt by one the instructors to get it into gear but then it worked well. It was a totally different feel to normal driving. Our first challenge of the day was a stall stop. I have to say that this was the strangest sensation I’ve experienced driving and if you haven’t ever done one it is worth the course to experience this one thing. The car somehow ‘grabs’ at the hill with no brakes needed though you have to get the sequence down pat to feel it and in my case with a manual it was a bit more challenging. We then descended backwards down a steep hill. I was told to let me car ‘walk’ down which it did. It’s almost like it’s got a mind of its own – I hardly needed to do anything but keep my hands on the wheel.

We were then challenged to pick our way up a steep hill to get around ‘Tappy’. I panicked midrise and stalled my car. No matter I just did a hill start and went on my way! We had some wooden bumps we had to try and line up with our left and right tyres – I’ve definitely got to work on that one!  We then did some driving down the creek with a downhill slope that veered towards a tree and because you were tilted up to begin with it was like driving blind for the first bit. I just trusted my car on that one. Steve was very encouraging of my Landy (80 series) and I’ve got to say us older model Toyotas performed pretty well with the other Troopy doing remarkably well – the extra inches it had  in suspension lift helped a lot.

We then did some driving through water and checking to see the best way to approach it. I did have one good take away from this day and that is don’t change gears whilst in mud or water and of course check before driving through iffy terrain, you never know what you might miss without getting out and taking a look first.

After we had the option of going down a gorge however I had, had enough and needed my coffee and rest. After the trip it was time to re-pump the tyres, most of the guys had air compressors for this purpose but some us headed for the nearest servo. Well, even for this short outing it was definitely an adrenaline rush – reminded me of the time in my younger years when I did downhill biking in the Blue Mountains but this was a safer and more sane option!

Thanks guys for all the tips and help. It was a very worthwhile day and I would recommend it to anyone even those who have been doing four wheel driving for a while. There’s bound to be a tip or something new that you’ll pick up or even just for a great day out.