How to Prepare your 4x4 for Water Crossings

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How to Prepare your 4x4 for Water Crossings

How to Prepare your 4x4 for Water Crossings





With La Niña in effect in Australia and more rainfall forecast, it is more important than ever to remember the essentials on your 4x4 for dealing with water.


Parts of your four-wheel drive need protection from the elements, and whilst we usually think of protection bars, underbody protection and better tyres, there are specific components that must be protected from water.


There are plenty of components that do not like water, these include fuse boxes, breathers, intakes, engine computers, the alternator, batteries, and lots more electrical items.


Here are a few ways you can protect your four-wheel drive from water and the elements.



Breathe air, not water




Just like us, humans, petrol and diesel engines breathe in air to run. Having water in this airflow can seriously mess things up.


Water entering your four-wheel drive’s air intake can cause damage to components, cause a hydro lock (as the water will not compress like air) and permanent damage that will require a rebuild of your motor. Not what you need when you are out in the middle of nowhere.


Small amounts of moisture in the air intake can also cause your engine to stall. The last thing you want happening when you are guards deep in a river.


To avoid the consumption of water by your engine’s air intake, fit a quality snorkel to your airbox, ensure one-way drain plugs are working correctly, and that your air inlet system is sealed correctly.


Not all snorkels are the same, be sure to find out how sealed your system is and stick with a quality brand.


Being on the outside of your four-wheel drive, snorkels are also exposed to Australia’s hot sun and cheaper plastic snorkels can easily crack and warp.



Fuel burns, water does not




Now that you have ensured water is not getting into your inlet, we need to also protect the fuel system.


Water in our fuel lines and tank can also find its way into our four-wheel drive’s engine, and cause damage, as well as corrosion.


This can lead to engine stalls, poor performance and permanent damage cutting your adventure short.


Fitting a water separator and secondary fuel filter system can help keep the fuel water-free.


Kits can be fitted on the majority of models, or a custom solution created. Our workshop can advise and install the best setup for your four-wheel drive, and also explain how to empty the water collector.



Water and oil should not mix.




Crossing a river or hitting a large puddle means the underside of your four-wheel drive is exposed to a lot of water, and in some cases, is fully submerged.


Four-wheel drive differentials have breathers mounted on them, which when submerged, can cause water to enter the diff, contaminating the oil and grease. A lot of the time this may also be mud with sand or dirt.


This can cause premature wear and even failure of your diff.


To avoid this happening, fit an extended diff breather kit which includes hoses to run from your original diff breather points to a filtered airbox that you can mount higher up in your vehicle to avoid water consumption.


You can also fit extended breather kits to your gearbox and transfer case breather points.



Wear a bra




When attempting to cross a river or creek that is deeper than your wheels, it can be a great idea to fit a wading bra or water crossing cover.


This will help avoid a wave of water filling your engine bay.


They simply fit across the front of your four-wheel drive and help create a bow wave that you can follow through the crossing.


Avoiding the big rush of water into your engine bay can also avoid costly damage to your radiator and engine fan.


Remember to only use the water crossing bra when you are crossing a waterway, as it may hinder your vehicle’s cooling system if left on otherwise.


Another point to remember is that a water crossing bra will only be effective while there is forward motion. As soon as you stop in the water or reverse, water will flood into your engine bay.



Be prepared.




Being ready is better than fixing the problem later.


Your four-wheel drive is not designed to be submerged and there are many entry points for water like your fuel cap and doors.


If you have a petrol engine, consider making sure your distributor cap and coil leads are sealing correctly. Some four-wheel drive enthusiasts with petrol engine vehicles use a small film of silicon around the cap and coils to seal things up and plumb any distributor breathers into the airbox.


Your electric winch on the front of your four-wheel drive will also cop the water, so be sure to also use a water dispersant spray on the terminals and check the breathers on the winch motor.



Ride the wave.




The speed you enter and exit the waterway, as well as drive through it can affect the way water enters your vehicle.


Creating a small bow wave at the front of your vehicle and following it can stop the water rushing over your bonnet or splashing hard into your engine bay.


Entering the water too fast can sometimes cause this wave to come over your bonnet and also endanger your air intake.


If you are in a manual, avoid changing gears whilst in the water as this can allow water and contaminants into your clutch.



Water Dispersant.




Carrying a can of water dispersant can be useful in protecting your 12v electricals.


Regularly clean your electrical components and give them a light spray. Having this spray can also be helpful if your engine stalls or has problems after the crossing.



Tyre pressures.




If you have been tackling some rough country already, your tyre pressures might be down, but if they are not, lower them.


This will help both in reducing buoyancy, and to increase grip on the riverbed or waterway floor


Use a quick tyre deflator with a gauge to ensure your tyres are all correctly aired down.


If you carry an air compressor with you, bring an air nozzle along to blow out water from your engine bay components.


Most importantly, check the riverbed or ground before entering the waterway. If soft sand or mud, you may want lower tyre pressures. If rocky and hard, slightly higher pressures might need to be used for grip.



Cooling down.




Spending time preparing your vehicle and checking the waterway you are about to cross will also give your vehicle time to cool down.


Components like brakes and the cooling fan can get damaged if suddenly entering a cold flood of water.


Four-wheel drives with viscous coupling fans can sometimes self-destruct when spinning fast and hitting a body of water. Consider anchoring this type of fan to something in the engine bay to stop it from spinning up whilst you cross the water. Just remember to release it straight after.



Safety first




Water crossings can be fun but should also be avoided where possible.


The last thing any four-wheel drive owner wants is to see their vehicle stuck in deep water, damaged or floating away.


If you are towing a van or camper trailer, the risks increase again with added weight and unpredictability.


Carrying an emergency seatbelt cutter can also come in handy if you do happen to get stuck in the water.


Whilst many people close their windows before crossing to stop splashes and possibly increase buoyancy, consider the consequences if you get stuck and not being able to open your window to escape the car, especially with power windows.


Make sure your four-wheel drive is set up for water crossings by talking to one of our team at All Four x 4.


We can help you with the supply and installation of all the above accessories, as well as identify problems that might arise on your model of four-wheel drive.


See you on the tracks, or in our workshop soon.



article by Adventure Unplanned

Comments: 1

Comments: 1

Dave Walter |
RE: How to Prepare your 4x4 for Water Crossings
As much as I love hitting the puddles on the track, larger water crossings still intimidate me! See you guys soon for more upgrades.
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