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Browsing: Regulars

All over South Africa, and especially in Namibia, sand is a vital part of any 4×4 adventure. Once the skills to conquer it have been mastered, sand driving is possibly the most fun you can have in a 4×4. In this chapter, we delve into some of the tips and tricks to keep you on top. Drop the pressure Arguably the most important aspect of sand driving is tyre pressure. If you try driving on sand with hard tyres, you’ll soon find yourself struggling. When you reduce pressure by as much as 50% below standard, the footprint of your tyres…

Whether or not you have obvious damage like a puncture, it is always important to inspect your tyre after every 4×4 trip to check for cuts, chipping and sidewall damage. Heat damage: Driving for extended periods at low pressures, such as on a long dune trip through Namibia, will cause a surprising level of heat build-up along the sidewalls of the tyre. Heat is created because the rubber, canvas and wire elements in the tyre flex and potentially delaminate. The risk here is that severe tyre damage may not be visible, as strands of tyre break within the tyre. Look…

This month, I would like to start a series of articles focusing on animals that are frequently overlooked because they are so often seen. Oxymoron? Indeed. True? In my opinion, definitely. Let me explain… With their shiny rust-coloured coats and long slender legs, Impala (Aepyceros melampus) are amongst the most graceful and beautiful of antelope − yet they are rarely given a second glance. The reason? Because they are ‘common’. Despite their obvious abundance, they are unique enough to be classified in a tribe of their own, the Aepycerotini; and are the only extant representative of the genus Aepyceros −…

Fire-lighting is one of the most essential skills in any camping, wilderness, or survival situation. And, depending on the type of tinder you use, there are many ways in which a fire can be lit. But first let’s get one thing straight; you CAN get a fire going by rubbing two sticks together (fire by friction), but it takes a LOT of practice and elbow grease, and it is time consuming. So, let’s look at the various options available to you if your lighter has run out of fuel and the matches are wet. LighterJust because the lighter has run…

Rotation will prolong tyre life and help maintain balanced handling and braking. This is particularly important when using all-terrain or mud-terrain tyres whose bigger-block pattern is subject to added heel and toe wear when used on tar. What is the correct tyre rotation pattern for a 4WD vehicle? I often find my customers only do their rotations when servicing their vehicles. This is not enough. On a four-wheel drive subject to many additional stresses, and varying loads, more frequent rotation is better – not every 10 000 to 15 000km, rather every 5000-6000km. Every tyre carries a different weight and front tyres…

Isn’t it strange that most South African male drivers (yes, that’s us) believe that as soon as they hit a dirt road, their skill level is suddenly on par with a driving genius combination of Sarel van der Merwe and Sebastién Loeb? The hammer goes down, the red mist descends − and before you know it, your vehicle is fishtailing all over the place while the family goes all wide-eyed and grips tightly on any handholds. Seriously, guys; what’s the rush? You are on holiday. Another 35 minutes on the road will still leave enough time to set up camp…

Such a small word, and yet one which has had significant impact on scientific discoveries through the ages. Indeed, just such a question led to the discovery of the planet Neptune, before it was ever observed!  As bizarre as this may sound, it was unexpected changes in the orbit of Uranus that led astronomer Alexis Bouvard to ask why these fluctuations were occurring.  He hypothesised that they were due to the gravitational effects of an “as yet unknown planet”. In 1846, Urbain Le Verrier, (another astronomer) used mathematics rather than empirical observation to prove that the perturbations in Uranus’ orbit…

Since humans as we know them first roamed the earth, fire has been made by rubbing two sticks together in one of a number of ways. What is interesting is that where these methods (with a few minor differences) are found to be used throughout the world by indigenous people, the techniques are the same. The three techniques I will discuss here are the hand drill, the fire bow, and the fire plough. Just before we start, a brief note on the type of wood to use. Choosing the right wood is the key to fire by friction. The hearth…

This month, I would like to take you on a journey ranging from several hundred million years ago to the present day. Although this may seem like a strangely ambitious and long safari, I promise it is one worth taking. Our safari begins in what is now the Karoo, but 265 million years ago when rivers were depositing sediment into a shrinking inland sea. As these rivers filled the basin with sediment, eventually giving rise to a group of rocks known as the Beaufort Group, they entombed the remains of the animals that lived around them. It is in within…

Although not always ideal if you want to avoid vehicle damage, rock crawling is sometimes a necessity. South Africa, in particular, is a very rocky place − and if you’re going to drive off-road, you’ll come across rocky terrain sooner rather than later. The word ‘crawling’ in ‘rock crawling’ explains everything, and means that you’ll be going extremely slowly in first-gear low-range and climbing over large, often loose boulders which may be a challenge… especially in a standard 4×4. Preparing your vehicle Depending on the terrain, it’s often necessary to deflate your tyres. In rock, whether it is loose or…

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