4WD Self Recovery Techniques and Equipment

4WD Self Recovery Techniques and Equipment

What to do when your four-wheel-drive gets stuck?

Use the 4WD system of your car

Most modern 4WD’s have a huge array of driving aids like traction control, that can help you to get the traction that you need to get out of the situation that you’re in.

Also remember to lock in your hubs and transfer case! You’d be amazed how many times people have forgotten this simple step and been able to drive themselves out easily just by locking the front hubs.

Dig and build

The main ways that people get hung up and bogged off road is to either bottom out so that your chassis is in the dirt and your tyres can’t grip the tracks, or the track surface doesn’t have enough grip for your tyres.

The way to get out of this is simple, but a bit of hard work. If you’re hung up o a track, get out the shovel and start digging. You normally won’t need to dig out the whole track, but sometimes spending 5 minutes removing the top few centimetres of dirt form under your 4WD will let your vehicle down enough to get more traction.

You can also build the track surface up using rocks and sticks (nothing too sharp – you don’t want to go puncturing tyres). This puts more under your tyres and can really help to give you something to grip onto. Jacks can come in really handy here to lift your vehicle up enough to get under it, and also to live you up high enough to get more under the tyres.

Lower your tyre pressures

We all know that you should let your tyres down when you go off road, but how low should you go?

Normally we’d recommend around 24 to 28 psi for normal off road driving, but when you’re in trouble it’s fine to go down lower. We’ve gone down to 12 psi for some extreme situations just to get the tyres really ballooned out. Just remember at pressures this low you have to make sure that you don’t go too hard, or steer too much because it’s very easy to roll the tyre off the bead, and that’s just going to make things worse. As soon as you’re out, get the tyres back up to “normal” pressures and keep on driving.

What NOT to do!


The worst thing to do is go too hard too fast. Take the time to step back, look at the situation, and see what the actual problem is.

Sometimes just sitting back for 5 minutes and taking a look around will show you a different side to things then you thought of firstly.

Try too much and going too hard

How many times have you seen people on the beach that sit there spinning their wheels just digging themselves further down and making more work for themselves?

The secret is that when you can feel that you’re stuck, just stop! Remember that the worse you’re stuck, the more work it will take to get out.

4WD Recovery Gear

Traction boards

Traction boards of almost any kind, are one of the most useful tools that any good 4WD’er can have. You can use them to get out in just about any terrain and they are easy to store and use.


A good jack can lift your vehicle up and let you see what’s going on underneath. This also lets you get things under your wheels, and to dig out anything that your hung up on.

Just remember that hi-lift jacks can be dangerous and have caused some pretty horrific injuries in the past so always be very careful using them. We don’t want to see anyone get hurt out there.


A Good long-handled shovel is one of your best friends. You can dig yourself out of a lot of things, carry dirt to build up tracks and get things cleared out to get better access to your vehicle.


There’s two types of winches – vehicle-mounted and hand winches.

Vehicle mounted winches are a great thing to have and of you do a lot of solo travelling it’s something that you really should consider adding to your vehicle. When you do get a winch please take some time to learn how it works, and if possible get some training on proper winch use.

If a vehicle-mounted winch is out of the question, you can also get a hand winch. This does the same job, but can be moved to pull from almost anywhere which makes them really useful.

The biggest downside to a had winch is that they take a lot of work to move your vehicle. If you’re fit they are great. If you’re not (like most of us), expect to be there for a while!

Points to Remember

One of the biggest things to remember is that you shouldn’t leave your vehicle. This is especially true in remote and outback locations where help could be hours (or days) away. If someone is looking for you, or even if someone is just passing by, a car is a whole lot easier to spot then a person is. You’ll also have all of your gear and supplies in the car, so you’ll always last longer with that then without it!

Also remember to check your recovery gear before you head out. Worn gear is more likely to break right when you need it, and that doesn’t only mean a strap that’s now useless, it could also mean injury or death if something goes flying that’s not meant to.

Finally, just remember that no matter how bad things seem at the time, we’ve all been there before, and we’ve all needed help. After all, if you didn’t get stuck, did you really go 4WD’ing?


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