How to safely cross a river using your 4x4

Note these precautions
by Beeboy Bargas | Mar 4, 2018

Before going any further, I would like to emphasize that doing a water crossing should only be done if extremely necessary. First and foremost, this is due to environmental impact reasons. Any responsible 4WD enthusiast understands that a motorized vehicle will have an effect on the natural environment. Second, strong water currents can easily carry or turn over a vehicle and create a life-threatening situation during an otherwise benign drive.


But if you absolutely must cross a body of water, here's our advice:

1) Make sure before crossing that you understand the limitations of your driving skill and your vehicle. If you’re not sure of what you or your vehicle can do, then you have no business attempting a water crossing. Better to play it safe.

2) Before crossing, get out of your vehicle and walk your planned path. If you can’t walk through the water current at a normal walking pace, avoid the attempt unless truly necessary.

3) Do not attempt a water crossing if the bottom of the water is soft silt. If you can’t stand on the driving surface without sinking even by just a bit, then it’s too soft and you're most likely going to get stranded. Always cross on hard, rocky, or firmly planted surfaces.

4) The more calm the water's surface is, that means the deeper it is so it's not a good idea to proceed. And if you see whitewater, that's a sign of large rocks beneath the surface. 

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5) Because water crossing is a very unnatural driving condition, refrain from splashing around unnecessarily by the river bank. It endangers water-based life and softens an otherwise drivable surface for others to use safely. It’s also irresponsible and juvenile behavior.

6) Never attempt a water crossing alone. Always have a buddy vehicle with you for recovery just in case. 

7) Never change gears when crossing. The water's weight greatly impedes forward progress and it's a sure way of getting stranded.

8) Never cross water while exposing your vehicle's full cross section against the current. Cross at an angle where the water current offers the least resistance to your cross section.

9) When exiting an inclined riverbank, never over spin your tires. You will lose traction.

10) Always err on the safe side and be conscious of the environment, because a vehicle's lubricants and water don’t mix.

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PHOTO: Nikolaus Wogen
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