Outback driving and tyre tips for your springtime Queensland adventure

Your black circles are as crucial as your driving skills on outback tracks

As we head rapidly toward spring, you are likely to be thinking about getting away for a few days. Instead of the beach, how about exploring the outback? Queensland is ideal for 4WD adventures and going bush, with something that suits all tastes and driving experience.

You could take the kids on a dinosaur adventure, cruise the deserts along the Matilda Highway, visit country and coast, or discover Queensland’s ancient inland sea beds.

In this article, we’ll introduce you to a great outback road trip for all drivers, and give you a few tyre tips that will help you negotiate all the terrain you’re likely to come across.

Brisbane to Birdsville – the complete 4WD adventure

One of the most popular outback road trips is the 4WD adventure drive from Brisbane to Birdsville. On this trip, you will cover 1,800 kilometres of the most beautiful and diverse Queensland countryside. You’ll be gently transported from city to outback, and have plenty of opportunities to get your teeth into some real 4WD experiences.

The kids will have fun Koala spotting. Gardening enthusiasts will marvel at the springtime blooms in Warwick. Along the route, there are large sheep, cotton, and cattle stations. There are river walks, art galleries, mud baths, date farms, and the winery at Eulo. Discover more about Australia’s history as you view the Aboriginal rock carvings at Cullyamurra Waterhole and visit the Australian Inland Mission Hostel. Spot rare birds, spend time fishing for yellowbelly, and watch the sunset on Big Red, the 40-metre sand dune on the edge of the Simpson Desert.

It is an amazing road trip, and for 4WD enthusiasts offers plenty of opportunities to go off-road and experience all types of tracks and surfaces.

Stay safe on a road trip by preparing well

Before setting out, make sure you prepare well for your road trip:

  • Let people know where you’re going, and how long you intend to be away.
  • Pack plenty of food and water. If you get stranded, you could be ‘on your own’ for a few days.
  • Phone loved ones to let them know of your progress each day – if you do get stranded, this will give them a better idea of where you are.
  • Check your spare tyre, and have all your tyres checked before you leave – it’s a good idea to pack a second spare tyre, too.
  • Finally, immediately before you set off and each day during your trip, check the RACQ’s road conditions for your next leg and any planned side trips.

How to use your tyres to negotiate different terrains

You are likely to encounter several terrains on your 4WD adventure. Here are a few tips on driving style, and how your tyres can help you get through all outback conditions:

·      Mud

Bogholes, wheel rutting, and pits of mud that are as deep as your axle. It is some of the muddy terrains you’ll encounter in the outback. Try to keep your 4WD tyres on the higher ground. If you do slip, keep your foot on the accelerator and steer side to side: you’ll get a better grip on the ruts. Drive in a high range and with full throttle.

As you come through one mud patch, stop and check your wheel arches. Clean out any mud that has built up around the mud guards. It will help your tyre tread achieve maximum traction.

·      Water

Water crossings can be dangerous, especially if you go in without preparation. Get stuck in water, and you could be in all sorts of trouble. Here are the steps to ensure your vehicle doesn’t drown:

  • Walk the crossing first
  • Note where obstacles are
  • Check that your air intake is high enough to avoid water intake
  • Set off
  • Drive in a low gear
  • Don’t change gear midway through, and maintain a steady speed

Your tyres play a big part in a successful water crossing. Don’t reduce air pressure. You don’t know what’s under the water, so when you reach the other side, get out of your vehicle and check your tyres and sidewalls for cuts and slashes, and wedged stones and other debris that could damage or puncture your tyres.

·      Bulldust

Bulldust is common on bush roads. I’ve heard of vehicles disappearing into bulldust holes, so always take great care when you come across this surface.

Bulldust is a soft, powdery dust. You’ll notice the road ahead looks very different. Tyre tracks lose definition in the soft folds created by a few inches of bulldust. V-shaped ruts are noticeable. Novice outback drivers could be tempted to treat bulldust like sand and deflate tyres. Don’t do it!

Beneath the bulldust, you’ll find a rock-hard base. It could split the sidewall of a partially deflated tyre. Drive on fully inflated tyres, and keep a constant speed of between 60 km/h and 80 km/h. If the vehicle veers to the side, correct by steering into it and gently increasing pressure on the throttle. Ignore the dust around you – once you’re through, this dust will be behind you.

·      Rocks

There’s skill in tackling rocks, but it can be learned quickly:

  • Keep the vehicle’s tyres on high ground
  • Drive in first or second gear, low range
  • Avoid ‘opening’ the throttle – too much throttle creates tyre slip
  • Keep tyres inflated at normal for road driving, except if you get stuck – then partially deflate to give better grip, and re-inflate as soon as you’re out of trouble

·      Desert

If you have driven on the beach before, you are most of the way to know how to drive in the desert. However, most deserts in Australia are a combination of sand ridges and rock. It means you shouldn’t deflate tyres as you might on the beach.

Maintain momentum, don’t fight with the steering wheel, and let your 4WD vehicle ‘find its course’. Take care on crests, and if the vehicle feels as if it’s going to slide down a slope, steer into the slide and accelerate to increase tyre traction.

Check your tyres and vehicle before your spring road trip

Make sure that your vehicle is as well prepared as you when travelling into the outback and taking any road trip. Come into our West Brisbane tyre shop, and we’ll make sure your tyres are in tip top condition – including your spares. Contact Darra Tyres today, and let us help you have the 4WD adventure of a lifetime.

Keeping your family and fleet safely on the road,

Kevin Wood

About the Author

Kevin has been at the forefront of the tyre industry for over 20 years. Kevin's speciality is in industrial and commercial tyres including the management and upkeep of fleets. Kevin has worked with vehicles his whole career from painting, mechanical, suspension and panel beating he has also spent time in the Australia Army as a driver. He has driven all size of vehicles throughout his career so understands the demands placed on drivers.