So you’re about to head off into the wild blue yonder for the first time with your D-MAX or MU-X?
Before you go, though, have a read of these typical mistakes, because everyone at some time will set themselves up for a minor (or major!) fail — and that has included me! Learn from the error of my ways in this list of off-road whoopsies.
PACKING THE KITCHEN SINK
Taking too much stuff is a regular part of preparation for a 4WD trip, especially if the journey is an extended one. Yes, I’ll grant having a particular gadget to do a particular task is handy, but maybe there’s something else that can multi-task? The big issue here is space and weight. As The Great Australian Doorstep’s former AFL-star host, Spida Everitt, says: “On our first trip, we started off with probably 20 boxes. Now we won’t even take two!”
THE SIXTH WHEEL
Many people argue the benefit of having a sixth wheel, but I don’t buy it. Selecting a set of light-truck tyres with a minimum 120 load index (like Toyo’s fabulous OPAT2) for your Isuzu will prevent 90 per cent of tyre failure issues in the field and save you the burden of stowing that extra wheel.
Over-inflation of tyres can create heaps of problems on remote highways and bush tracks. You need to consult your tyre placard to establish the exact pressures for your Isuzu for the highway, then let air out as the track space changes. Inflating above the recommended pressure will ensure premature wear, more punctures, extended braking distances and a really rough ride.
KNOWING JACK ALL
Have a practice with your jack and accessories in the comfort of your home driveway before you head off. Safely changing a wheel is not difficult but it needs method. If you’ve got no idea what a wheel-brace is, or how to assemble the pieces that make up the extension arm, or how the jack locates and winds up, you’ll be sorely tested on a rough track. And pack a base-plate for the jack in case you’re on sand or dirt.
BE CAREFUL ON DIRT
Don’t be lulled into a false sense of security on a dirt road. Your Isuzu is a supremely comfortable vehicle to clock up big distances in the Outback, but plenty of folk go too fast down the dirt. Once you go above 80km/h things get sketchy on loose surfaces and if a camel steps out in front of you you’ll need every bit of road space to negotiate the challenge. At 100km/h or greater you’ve got no chance.
If you do need to duck and weave around Mr Camel, you’ll want to resist the temptation to over-steer. If a collision is imminent, and a change in direction is desirable, a subtle steering input left or right is much better than reefing on the steering wheel and inducing a potential rollover. And don’t be scared to really step on the brakes. That’s what your ABS is for — and it works.
GET A SENSE OF SCALES
Your Isuzu is designed to lug a certain amount of weight in addition to the vehicle’s own—that’s called GVM (Gross Vehicle Mass). But there also another, GCM (Gross Combination Mass), which is important to consider when towing. Neither should be exceeded so once you’ve got your touring inventory packed, take a trip to the local weighbridge and be prepared to shed some mass. I guarantee you first time you’ll be overloaded.
WEATHER OR NOT
Always, always check the weather before you go. I remember one memorable Australia Day weekend years ago taking the family to the Coorong. Idiot me didn’t see that a 40-degree heatwave was arriving midway through the visit, or that a bushfire had started on the day of departure, or that the fishing would be rubbish because there were a couple of days of dodgy tides, or NPWS warnings about bees chasing any source of fresh water. After three pretty uncomfortable days with a very pregnant wife we pulled the pin.
DON’T BE PUT OFF
… by a bad trip. That same trip rewarded me with massive sunburn (forgot the 50+), a smashed thumb squashed by an unserviceable tow hitch (a trip to Kingston Hospital required) and a camper overrun by those bees (because I hadn’t blocked up the sink’s drain or the overflow pipe from the water tank). Learn from your mistakes and get better. The whole of Australia is yours to explore!