Loading Vehicle

4WD Loading Vehicle

Have you ever noticed how the tyres look a little flat after you have loaded your vehicle for that planned holiday?

Many 4WD vehicles that are used for an annual holiday outing once or twice a year are subjected to horrendous over -loading. This may be due to uneven loading between the axles or just too much gear overall.

Even if the total load does not exceed the carrying capacity of your vehicle the position of the load itself may be the problem.  If you position the load on the very rear of the load area the effect can be so great as to lift the front axle.  Check the level of the vehicle – if the back of the vehicle is lower than the front then you can assume there is a significant load shift off the front axle.

This counter balance effect can reduce the contact pressure your steering axle has on the ground, and drastically reduce the ability of the vehicle to respond when cornering.  It also has the effect of putting your headlights up in the trees and into oncoming and ongoing vehicles.

Consider this: If you are involved in an accident and your vehicle is proven to be overloaded, you could have difficulty with the insurance claim as the vehicle is being operated outside the manufacturer specification.

Have you ever noticed a 4WD coming toward you that has the look of being over loaded?  Usually the first visual sign we notice is the roof rack with 4-6 containers plus a few more items such as a gas bottle and/or spare wheel.  If a vehicle owner has overloaded the roof rack it is highly likely that the rest of the vehicle will be loaded along the same lines.

As an owner of a 4WD, do you know what the designed maximum weight capacity of your vehicle or GVM (which stands for Gross Vehicle Mass) is?  This can usually be found in the owner’s manual  (this will also be displayed on the ADR compliance plate under the bonnet).

The Tare mass of your vehicle may also be listed.  Take the Tare from your GVM and that is the total load that you can carry (occupants are included as part of this load).  Take the time to weigh your vehicle before setting out on your trip and if you are over the manufacturers recommended limit – go home and repack!

Remember, for the safety of your occupants and assured success of your trip, wait, weight and if necessary repack.

Dangerous Goods
The gas bottle and the reserve fuel containers are the sort of items, which need to be carried as far away from you and your passengers as possible.  In the event of a leak they can become dangerous containers and the best place to transport them is outside the vehicle.  This is often one of the reasons for considering the use of a trailer.  Although the roof rack is a place for the lighter items such as bedding and clothing, the rack is sometimes the only place that we can put such items

If you are carrying a gas bottle and jerry can, do some quick calculations and ensure that you are under the recommended weight for the rack.  We have found on our trips, roof racks loaded with up to 10 jerry cans and even a 25kg gas bottle as well!!  We know many don’t make it back with the roof rack in the same state as when they left home, when they are as heavily loaded as this.  If you have heavy items inside and at the rear, the best place for the other heavy items would be the front of the rack, in the centre making sure they are securely strapped down.

Don’t forget to make a habit of checking the tiedown straps frequently in the early stages of your journey to ensure that you have the right tension on the containers. Loose straps flap and wear against edges.  Protect these areas with padding and keep straps tight.

Cargo Barriers
When planning a trip away, no matter the length, the luggage problem is shared by station wagon and four wheel drive owners alike.    What will hold back those bags and other essential trip gear?  Those who have been driving off road with a stacked luggage area will agree that there is nothing as off-putting (to say the least!) as the bags casually migrating from the rear to the front without an invitation.

Solid cargo barriers are the immediate solution.  They are clever in design, and coupled with correct installation can be multi-functional.  They can be fitted to dual positions in a wagon, either with the seats up or with the seats down.  Their main task is to keep items in place (an anti-projectile barrier) when descending steep slopes, braking suddenly, or in the event of an accident.  In the case of a rollover, the cargo barrier is designed to reinforce the internal structure similar to a roll cage, and also moonlights as a divider.  The cargo barrier allows for the vertical storage and higher packing of your equipment.

Keep in mind that, as with 4WD recovery equipment, you should be prepared for the worst.  With the right attitude and technique you will be less likely to find out the full potential of this device.

Minimum Equipment
“Practice makes perfect…”, well almost.  The more you pack and repack your vehicle the more efficient and wise you will become.  Before heading off on a journey spend some time planning, not just the track, and the food, etc but the equipment as well.

After food, water and medication, the following is considered minimum equipment:

  1. First-aid kit
  2. Map of the area
  3. Compass (GPS preferably)
  4. Drinking water (5 litres /person/day)
  5. Cooking equipment
  6. Gas bottle
  7. Retrieval Equipment
  8. Vehicle in good condition
  9. Driver and passengers dressed for the bush!

and a communication system between your vehicle and your travel companion in another vehicle similarly equipped.

But when it comes to retrieval equipment you don’t need everything, just the components and tools that will make your trip safer and more enjoyable like the following:

  1. Gloves
  2. Shovel
  3. Secure Anchorage points on the vehicle
  4. Good quality rope (20mts)
  5. Tool kit (for your vehicle)
  6. Penetrating oil
  7. Snatch Strap and extension strap
  8. 2 X Bow shackles
  9. Jumper Leads
  10. Tyre Pump and tyre repair kit
  11. Axe/Bow saw (cutting implement)
  12. Exhaust or manual lift jack
  13. Handwinch etc
  14. Two spare tyres

With all of this you are on your way, but now you’ve got to pack it!!!

Secure the heavier items as close to the floor as possible and the lighter items on top.  The investment in a cargo barrier will assist in preventing these items coming forward in the case of harsh braking or an accident.  Ensure that the items in the vehicle are evenly spaced i.e. don’t have all the heavy items on one side.

Ensure that your recovery gear is easy enough to access, and in general the items that you will need to get regularly are easiest to access.  All in all, the more time you spend packing the easier you will find the whole trip.

So, keep the weight legal, the load evenly positioned and the roof racks lightly loaded, and make a habit of checking the straps frequently in the early stages of your journey. You are now on the way to making your trip safer and more enjoyable.

And remember Enjoy Don’t Destroy