Wednesday, May 10, 2006

A 101 to 4x4s.

Those of you who have been following this blog for a while would know that I share the (almost) beach-house with a couple housemates who are 4WD enthusiasts. And not just your regular "let's go run the sand-dunes for the weekend" or "let's do a cross-country road trip to some quiet town" weekend warriors either. This is a pair who are in the slow process of prepping a brand spanking new platform for an extended Australia Outback adventure. And I say extended in the sense of being at least 1500km from the nearest McDonalds. And extended in the sense of no GSM mobile signals. And extended in the sense that the biggest town nearby has population of 200.

As a city rat, I cannot for my life grok fathom why any sane soul would leave behind all the comforts of civilisation to go into the midst of isolation. Although the idea does have an idyllic sense of adventure - to go where if you dig six inches you can find soil untouched by humans since the beginning of time. However once you quickly get past the romantic sheen, the realistic version outback is more of "if you screw up, you die". The exaggerated idea of the Western Australian backyard being populated by giant human-chomping crocodiles, rabid monster kangaroos, and your regular assortment of deadly spiders and killer insects that would kill you with a look is not very far from the truth. I have not even gotten started on the unrelenting parched heat, the choking red dust, the scarcity of water and fuel - let alone food. Well, you get the idea..

However sharing a house with these folks naturally means overhearing bits of their conversations and flipping through the 4WD magazines around the house. Maybe it is just me being a big chicken but those magazines all seem to have an ominous undertone of "screw up and you die" and seem to delight in describing in great detail the multitudes of ways to mess up going offroad. So I am unintentionally getting an education in an activity I do not even understand - let alone have any intention of pursuing.


And in that spirit of "Those who can, do. Those who can't, write about those who can". And besides, this is a fun topic to write about. Especially since I know close to nothing on the subject!

You know you live in a 4WD household when you..
  • learn that there are real 4x4s, and there are sub-urban vehicles (SUVs)
  • know that "best offroader on the road" is not a compliment
  • only take seriously Patrols and Landcruisers as outback touring vehicles
  • see a XC90 next door and you just have bite your lip and smile
  • drive the company stock RAV4 and think "it will last all of 5 minutes off the road"
  • can explain why a factory-spec Patrol has non-functional right-side rear reverse lights
  • understand why spotlights are not just a fashion accessory
  • learn there is an actual functional difference between round and square spotties
  • figure out why side mirrors are pointed at the rear wheels by default
  • think that reverse spotlights are an excellent idea
  • feel that 100 litres of fuel sounds like a very limited range
  • you think diesel (not petrol / gasoline) whenever someone says fuel
  • find out you can travel 1000 kilometers without refuelling and it is not in a plane/ship
  • expect GPS coordinates to be part of all map directions
  • think the idea of burning jet fuel to para-drop diesel fuel is an acceptable solution
  • learn that a differential ("diff") is not just a mathematical equation
  • can explain the difference between limited diffs, slip diffs and locked diffs
  • find out that Air Lockers are not a storage system
  • learn the difference between leaf springs and coil springs
  • think of chassis enhancements in terms of raising, not lowering ground clearance
  • look for dents in sidesteps on the underside, not the topside
  • realise that sidesteps are not just for helping you climb into a vehicle
  • have the expectation that all 4x4 vehicles be taller than you are
  • are no longer amazed that a 12-volt powered winch can pull a 5000kg load
  • know a snatch block is not a criminal activity and is perfectly legal
  • feel that A$100 for a piece of rope ("recovery strap") seems like a good price
  • find out that a 12v battery can operate a 1000w microwave oven
  • know that the heavy piece of cloth across a winch line is not just for visibility
  • expect Roadside Assistance to be useless where the 4x4s play
  • expect every vehicle to have CB, UHF, GSM, CDMA and satellite communications
  • know what an EPIRB is, know how to use it and hope never to ever have to use one
  • know that the array of antennas sticking up the bonnet area is not just decorative
  • know a good 4x4 always has 6 tires, and not 4
  • can visually identify road tires versus all-terrain tires
  • do not get bored by a discussion of Cooper STC versus STT tires
  • know what an air compressor is and what is used for
  • have an air compressor by the door behind the television
  • find out that Kaymar is not a city in South East Asia
  • learn that bull bars have multiple mount points
  • can identify those mount points and know their purposes
  • can explain the trade-offs between steel, aluminium and alloy bars
  • can explain the trade-offs between roof racks, rails and baskets
  • can tell the difference between Ron Moon and Howling Moon
  • know Black Widow is not just a deadly spider
  • learn that ARB is verbalised A.R.B. and does not rhyme with "orb"
  • see a gap in side panels and start calculating water capacity for custom tanks
  • think carrying 2 to 3 times body weight in drinking water makes good sense
  • start to think of standard vehicle payloads starting at 500kg
  • feel that a vehicle fully laden at 4 tons is not really unreasonable
  • expect a 4x4 to "fill" a garage, and having to squeeze by the doors
  • watch out of height limits in underground carparks and overhead barriers
  • no longer snigger at the thought of a "water crossing bra"
  • do not own a snorkel, but know the reasons why the 4x4 has one
  • find out that 4x4s can go swimming (well, more like "wading")
  • understand why redundant dual battery systems are required
  • can describe the benefits of a deep-cycle SLA battery
  • see a deep-cycle SLA charging under the side table in the corner
  • you start looking for a third battery when you look at a 4x4 setup
  • find out the 4x4 has more fuses than the house
  • think of performance in terms of traction and clearance, not speed and acceleration
  • find out a 4x4 can climb rock structures that a human cannot clear easily
  • learn it is possible to do structural welding powered by 12v and a compressor
  • find out that HEMA is not some strange medical condition
  • learn that ignoring HEMA, you could die of a common medical condition - dehydration.



Blogger C said...

"can tell the difference between Ron Moon and Howling Moon"

HAHAHAHAHAHA nice one! I like the list!

May 10, 2006 9:05 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This is an excellent take on 4x4 in Australia. On the plus side it is from a completley different point of view, which is excellent.

I will not winge on the negatives, since the postive tone here is fantastic.

I do wonder though. Ron Moon and Howling Moon?

May 13, 2006 2:08 AM  
Blogger Calamity Man said...

couldnt stay away that long, could you?

well, im glad to see you back.

i sent you a text msg the other day. don't know if you've received it.

May 23, 2006 6:23 PM  

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