There I was standing in the Elvire River at the front of the stuck Toyota Landcruiser, Anders Larson was standing beside me. I had called him over from his family to tell him why his four wheel drive had gotten stuck in the river, a river crossing very few people had ever been stuck in before. I also suggested to him that I would tell him how to stop himself from repeating such an incident and that whatever I told him I would not repeat to his family.
I was of course telling the truth, what Anders chose to tell his family was his choice I didn’t have any intention of embarrassing him myself.
“What do you mean when you say you wont tell my family, Dean?” Anders said to me in his strangely alluring Norwegian accent.
“There is a simple reason why you got stuck in the river here.”
“The car wouldn’t drive out and the back wheels got stuck.” Anders replied.
“Yes but there is a reason for that, a reason that is quite obvious to me.”
Anders looked at me like he had no idea what I was talking about. “What reason, Dean?
“When you left Perth did they give you any lessons, or even pointers about driving a four wheel drive in the bush?”
“Not lessons, no. I remember them sitting in the drivers seat and pointing out the two sticks. There was something about locking the doors and lower air pressures on sand but that’s about all I remember.”
I wasn’t overly surprised, the company who rented the vehicles maintained their stuff reasonably well but they didn’t offer lesson in four wheel driving, they didn’t even recommend renters know anything about four wheel driving before they signed the hire contract.
I understood what Anders was saying with the two sticks, in a manual four wheel drive like the Toyota Landcruiser before us, there was the gear stick for selecting the driving gears and a second smaller gear stick for selecting the range of the gear box. There was four possible selections. 2H, two wheel drive high range, for driving on bitumen, 2L, for driving in a lower gear but still only driving with two wheels, 4H, engages the front differential to drive the front wheels to help in light terrain and and 4L the lowest of gearing using all four wheels for the full experience.
What I wasn’t sure about was the idea about locking the doors. I know some people feel more comfortable locking the doors of their cars, which must be a real pain in the arse in the event of an accident, and maybe some think the roughness of four wheel driving could see you fall out an unlocked door, but it just wasn’t advice I’d heard anyone offer before. Then it hit me what he was talking about.
“Is it possible when they told you to lock the doors you misheard the words and what was really said was locking the hubs?” I asked.
“I don’t think so, I’m sure he said doors but you Aussies do have strange accents so I guess he could said, what did you say? Hups?” He said it with a smile and I could help but giggle a little bit given his own strange accent.
“No not hups, hubs,” I said and pointed down to the front wheel we were standing beside. I could see the confusion on his face like I was describing something he’d never seen before. “See the switch like thing in the centre of the wheel?”
Anders nodded, “Yes I noticed them but didn’t want to play with them. I caught Racin playing with them on our first day and I told him to leave them alone.”
“Ah ok, well on the road that’s a good thing.” I started. “Those switches are to ‘lock’ the hubs.” Anders was still looking at me with a glazed look on his face but I could tell he was listening. “When you need four wheel drive you need to lock the hubs by turning that switch, what it does lock the hubs into the front differential. Until these hubs are locked you are turning the front diff but that drive isn’t going to the front wheels.”
It was a bit of a vague description but I hoped it was enough because I was fairly sure Anders family would be wondering why the two of us were just standing in the river talking rather than pulling their vehicle out of the water.
“So I wasn’t driving in four wheel drive and that’s why I got stuck?” Anders asked seemingly understanding what I’d been saying.
“That about sums it up, yes”
Anders thought about his words for a few seconds, “So all I have to do is turn the switch and drive out of here?”
“No not now, it’s a bit late for that. Because the front wheels weren’t helping to drive and they got stuck, the back wheels have dug themselves in and the chances are there just wont be enough drive in the front to pull it out now.”
I didn’t tell Anders that part of the reason for the back wheels being so far down was because he’d tried unsuccessfully too many times to drive the vehicle out, I figured there was no point in rubbing in the mistake. I also figured that now he knew about locking the hubs his chances of successful four wheel driving were much better if all he was looking at doing was paddling in rivers like the Elvire River.
“So what are we going to do?”
Like I’ve said my intention wasn’t to embarrass Anders in front of his family by revealing his little mistake, I was here to pull the four wheel drive out and that’s what I intended to do. If he wanted to admit the reason for being stuck was his lack of knowledge it was up to him and I told him so.
“I’m going to unspool the winch on my truck, hook it to the front tow hook,” I pointed at the hook. “then from the driver’s seat I’ll use the winch to pull your vehicle out while I gently keep the wheels turning to help the winch.”
“Is there anything I can do?”
“Yeah just keep your family clear and watch the winch cable in case it breaks.”
The chances of the cable breaking was very slim and I’d have a dampner on it but it was easier if Anders kept himself and his family well out of the way as I did the job that needed doing.
Previous Desert Rescue story here.