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9 Things You Should Know About Water Crossings

Ingeegoodbee River crossing track Hema Maps Hema's Top 5 Victorian High Country 4X4 drives(Image:  Hema's Top 5 Victorian High Country 4x4 drives - Ingeegoodbee River crossing track.)

HOW DEEP CAN YOU GO?

Before you leave your driveway it’s important to know what your vehicle's wading depth is, which can be found in your manual. Check out your breathers to see how high they sit. Check your air intake, exhaust manifold height, how low your alternator sits and are there any critical electrical components in bad positions. This way you’ll know what needs to be considered when tackling a water crossing.

Flooded rivers should never be crossed (Image: Flooded rivers should never be crossed.) 

IF IT’S FLOODED, FORGET IT

What’s the first rule for water crossings? If it’s flooded, forget it. Yep, a very simple rule that many fools choose to ignore. So why forget it? The strength of the flow could sweep your vehicle away, sections of the road may be missing that you can’t see, floating debris could hit your vehicle. Seriously, attempting to cross flooded water can be fatal, so please, follow the first rule of water crossings and live to enjoy another adventure. 

 

TAKE A WALK

A good way to measure the depth, check the flow and check for any obstructions or deep holes is by walking the crossing first. Wear a pair of runners or sandals, not thongs, as they can get stuck in mud or fall off your foot easily. The only time you should never walk a water crossing that is in croc country, always beware the estuarine crocodile. A pair of polarised sunnies will help in removing the glare and giving better vision into the water. 

The Myroodah Crossing on the Fitzroy River
(Image: The Myroodah Crossing on the Fitzroy River.) 
 

SORT OUT YOUR GEAR

Picking the right gear before you attempt a water crossing is important, especially if you drive a manual. Depressing the clutch mid crossing may cause water to enter the clutch and cause it to seize. It is also important to be in low range and engage traction controls to help to maintain a controlled speed during the crossing.  

 

COOL DOWN

You’ve just finished a long, steep descent and arrived at a river crossing. Your brakes, hubs and diffs are hot and then you enter the crossing, and the cold water causes all the hot parts to contract so water is sucked into your diffs and your brake pads explode. Sure, this is a worst-case scenario, but it is better to stop and have a cuppa while all the hot bits cool down before you enter the water. 

 

GO SNORKELLING

A snorkel is great for your 4WD for two reasons, the first is it feeds clean air into your engine, especially in dusty conditions and raises the height of your air intake for water crossings. However, it’s important to know if your snorkel is properly sealed as some factory snorkels aren’t (Toyota 70 series). 

 

WEAR A BRA

If you don’t have a snorkel installed or even if you do, it’s a good idea to secure a tarp or water bra to the front of your vehicle to restrict the amount of water entering your engine bay, damaging electrical components or flooding your airbox, sending water into the engine itself. A water bra will also assist in creating the perfect bow wave that also reduces the chance of water flooding your engine bay. A water bra will protect your winch, spotties and number plate too. 

Crossing the Wonnangatta River @ Eaglevale.jpg
(Image: Crossing the Wonnangatta River at Eaglevale.) 

BE PREPARED

If the water crossing looks a bit sinister, it’s always best to have your recovery gear hooked up and ready to go if things turn ugly. Have snatch straps attached to your front and rear of your 4WD. If a snatch recovery isn’t going to be possible, have your winch rope unspooled and wrapped around your bullbar for easy release and your winch controller plugged in and tested before you enter the water. It’s also best if you keep the engine running because if it stalls mid-stream, never try and restart it or you will suck water up the exhaust and into your engine. 

 

I REACHED THE OTHER SIDE, NOW WHAT?

The first tip, where possible, is to stop just out of the crossing to let any water flow back into the river or creek, this also reduces track damage by making it less slippery. Keep the engine running to let everything dry out, remove the water bra if one was used and check the engine bay to check for any water damage. Finally, you’ll need to dry your brakes, and this can be done by accelerating then braking heavily a few times or lightly drag the brakes as you move slowly forward. 

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