We all like a good river crossing on a 4×4 trip but it’s important to make sure that you can get to the other side alive and without drowning your wheels.
If there’s one golden rule then it’s to know what’s in the river before you drive into it. Even calm or shallow water can hide strong currents beneath the surface.
Walking across the river first will allow you to mark out the shallowest route and take note of the river bed’s firmness or any obstacles that might be in the way. If you can’t walk it then you can’t drive it!
Most off-road vehicles only have a wading depth of about 300-500mm unless they’ve been modified. Know where the air intake on your vehicle is as getting water in the engine will cause serious damage and leave you stranded. Having a snorkel installed is an easy solution that decreases the risk and allows for deeper river crossings.
Strapping a canvas tarp over the bonnet and around the bulbar will help keep the cooling fan and water out of the engine bay, as will driving at a steady 5-10kmh which should create a nice bow wave and air pocket in the engine bay.
Ensure you consider a recovery procedure in the event traction is lost. Your best bet is to pre-connect a snatch strap to the vehicle doing the crossing, ready to attach to the recovery vehicle if needed.
If it’s floodwaters that you’re thinking of crossing then it’s best to think again. More than half of flood-related deaths in Australia are due to vehicle crossings gone wrong. Floodwaters are unpredictable so it’s never a good idea to attempt a crossing. Even shallow running water has the force to sweep away a car, no matter what you’re driving, so don’t take the risk!
If your car does become submerged then there are three steps to follow immediately: remove your seatbelt, open a side window and exit through the window.
To prove our point, here are some videos of river crossings gone wrong:
He must have been terrified!
A man attempts to cross a fast flowing river. His back wheels start floating around halfway across. Thankfully, after a bit of back and forth he manages to drive out of the river. Sure he must have been feeling the pressure though.
FAIL! Land Rover Rolls Crossing the River
This Land Rover tries to make it across a deep and fast flowing river. The car tips, rolls and starts floating away. Fortunately for the passengers, the people on the bank act quickly to save everyone.
Horrifying Floodwaters Fail in Cape York
This driver obviously has no idea and tries to speed their way across a flooded bridge. It’s horrifying to watch as it’s obvious what is going to happen.
They get washed into the river before they’re even halfway across but thankfully everyone survives.
This is why it’s always better to turn around or take a different road when your current one is flooded.
Why you should always walk a river first!
This man enters the river slowly but he quickly realises the water is too deep and he promptly reverses his way out. Good thing he had a snorkel!
If he had walked this creek first, he would have avoided this potentially deadly situation!