Words Anton Willemse, Images Anton Willemse JNR
I have now had my Hilux for just over a year, and have completed a few trails of varying difficulty in what has become known as The Red Devil. But, with a major trip to Botswana on the horizon, I wanted some professional advice on 4×4 driving and recovery techniques.
This advice is offered by the Toyota Advanced Driving team, and all it took was an email to get booked onto the next available course. Then it was off to the Gerotek training facilities in Pretoria
West − where I met Jo Holtzhausen, our instructor for the day.
The course kicks off with a theoretical session, in which one learns the basics of traction and tyre pressures and of the 4×4 transmission (including what it means when you have your vehicle in 2H, 4H and 4L), how the differentials work, and when to engage diff lock.
The practical side of the course starts at a shed that is 40 metres long and filled with Kalahari sand a metre deep. My first task of the day was to get my Hilux stuck in the soft sand; and, after a minute or two of driving in 2H, I achieved my goal.
Jo quickly explained that getting out wouldn’t be a problem, and (shifting to 4L and engaging diff lock) I was able to climb out of the hole I had got myself into.
The correct technique was to take it very slow and to keep wheelspin to a minimum. This was a controlled environment, and my tires weren’t deflated; I was warned to keep in mind that (in the Kalahari) there is no roof, and that by mid-day the heat would expand the air in the sand and make it much looser. The best advice on how to get out under those circumstances is to relax, grab a cold drink, and wait for it to cool down – then simply drive out again.
Our next stop was at a couple of inclines, ranging from a very tame 40% (22 degrees) to one that was 70% (35 degrees). For those of you who are like me and who didn’t understand the percentages, they are a measure of the rate of climb. Metres ascent, divided by metres forward=percentage of the incline.