COOPER OFF ROAD BACK TO BASICS
AN ESSENTIAL GUIDE TO OFF-ROAD GEAR...
Fifteen years ago the South African 4x4 industry was in its beginning stages. Back then, 4x4s were viewed as tools, and not toys. But as the industry grew, more products came onto the scene and soon there was the perception that off-road travel was expensive, and only possible with truckloads of kit.
Unfortunately, the line between what’s needed and what’s wanted can get a little hazy at times. Of course, there’s nothing wrong with wanting to make life easier off-road, however, in the spirit of fundamentals, here’s a barebones guide to off-roader gear…
COMPRESSOR AND PUNCTURE-REPAIR KIT
Every 4x4 owner who wishes to explore the back roads of nowhere must carry a 12V air compressor and puncture-repair kit. But before you head off to the hardware store to buy what looks like a fishpond pump, stop. What you need is a bona fide, heavy-duty air compressor that can deliver adequate air pressure and volume. If the unit looks like it’s made entirely of plastic, the chances are it’s a light-duty, Christmas-cracker compressor that won’t be up to the task. Remember, air compressors that come standard in luxury sedans are designed to top up the air in one or two low-profile tyres, not to re-inflate four massive off-road tyres from 1.0 to 2.2 bar.
Perpetual punctures, blown sidewalls and a lack of traction is a sure-fire way to ruin your off-road vacation. Bear in mind that tyre-sidewall damage often happens when you’re trekking over mountainous terrain, or over sharp rocks – not exactly the ideal place to jack up a vehicle and change a tyre.
You could argue that buying new tyres (when your 4x4 already has a set) is a waste of money, but it’s important to remember that tyres are the only components that make contact with the road. In other words: diff-locks, traction control, and / or suspension travel mean very little without adequate tyre traction.
In terms of choosing the right tyre for the job, that’s a matter of application and personal preference, which is why Cooper offers three unique off-road tyre products…
- Cooper Discoverer STT Pro: A dedicated 4x4 tyre designed for 80% off-road use, and 20% on-road. The STT Pro is ideal for all diehard off-road adventurers that demand the most from their 4x4.
- Cooper Discoverer ST MAXX: A true all-rounder with a 60/40 application split – 60% off-road and 40% on-road. The ST MAXX boasts a 3-ply sidewall rating for maximum durability and puncture resistance. It’s our very own Dakar champion and an obvious choice for most off-road enthusiasts.
- Cooper Discoverer AT3 (LT): An all-terrain tyre designed for 80% on-road use, and 20% off-road. This tyre is ideal for gravel roads and general cross-country travel. The tyre features a strong but flexible sidewall that ensures better fuel economy and on-road ride comfort.
Sure, an expensive 12 000 lb winch will haul you out of most situations; but in terms of bang for your buck, no recovery tool is as straight-talking as a spade. Almost any recovery situation requires three things: a plan, patience, and good old-fashioned hard work. The moment you attempt to skip one of these ingredients, you’re in for a long and arduous process that’s likely to get worse before it gets better.
Beads of sweat, blistered palms and a R300 shovel will see you through most off-road problems, but don’t cut corners. Be 100% sure that you’ve removed (i.e. dug out) all obstructions from your vehicle’s undercarriage. If you rush the process and drive too soon, there’s an excellent chance you’ll land up more stuck than you were before.
A good set of recovery tracks should be ridged, firm and able to support your vehicle’s mass. Flexible, fold-up, roll-up, or fill-up recovery tracks are seldom worth the trouble – they have a tendency to sink under the weight of a hefty 4x4. You need something that spreads your vehicle’s mass and acts as a platform for your 4x4 to climb up and onto. The moment your 4x4 is able to lift itself out of a boggy situation, half the recovery work is done.
However, the important thing to remember with recovery tracks is that prevention is better than cure. In other words, don’t wait to use them once the problem is there; if you see a potentially boggy situation, lay the tracks before you get stuck.
The High-Lift Jack has been around since the early 1900s. It is a tried-and-trusted tool with bullet-proof construction, but it’s also incredibly versatile. A High-Lift Jack can be used to lift a vehicle, change a tyre, shift a 4x4 sideways (tilt the jack over) or mechanically winch a 4x4 forwards or backwards − and that’s just the start of its functionality.
Unfortunately, High-Lift Jacks are frequently regarded as dangerous tools to operate; while this may be true at some level, the truth is, when things do go wrong it’s usually because the operator has rushed the recovery process and failed to consider all the necessary safety measures beforehand. So once again, remember to: Take your time, think things through, and roll your sleeves up.