[Off Road Driving] River Crossings
Walk across all River Crossings - Use a ‘wading stick’ to check depth.
If a river is flowing strongly enough to make you lose your footing, it will be dangerous for your vehicle. Do not drive across anything that cannot be walked easily!
• Do not cross at stream deltas (where they empty into a lake) as they are often clogged deep with mud, and it’s a wider area to cross. In cases other than deltas, wider is often better because it indicates a shallower section, but deltas are to be avoided!
• Let the vehicle cool down if possible before crossing water. Cold water can warp hot disc brake rotors or destroy the catalytic converter if it gets sucked into the exhaust pipe.
* If necessary, remove underwater boulders that are in your path. Use markers if need be. If sticks cannot be driven into the river bottom, anchor some drink cans, plastic bottles or blown up plastic bags with rocks. Use string to mark out the line.
• Check entry and exit points. Is it too steep, will the bank support the weight of the vehicle? Check the angle into the water; if too steep, the engine could flood.
• Attach rope to recovery points and secure the ends on the bullbar as high up as possible. Secure the ends of winch cables like wise. If you get stalled in high water, it’s difficult trying to secure these to recovery points that are under water.
Fit wading plugs. This includes wading plugs for the timing cover (if it’s belt driven rather than chain), and the bell housing. These are screw in plugs fitted to some (but not all) Land Rovers.
• If you have to get across deep water in an emergency (which is about the only time such a crossing should be attempted), you may increase your chances if you drive across backwards (fit an extension hose over the exhaust pipe). The wake created tends to keep water out of the engine compartment. Drive as fast as possible and do not lift your foot off the gas, or water could flood the exhaust pipe and stall the engine. Make sure that the departure angle will let you get up the bank.
BASED ON STANDARD LAND ROVER HEIGHT
440mm (18 inches) Beginning of door sill.
600mm (24 inches) Fit radiator ‘blind’ from this point on, remove fan belt.
700mm (28 inches) Top of your tyres.
1000mm (40 inches) Top of bonnet/hood. Snorkel advisable.
IF THE WATER IS VERY DEEP
• Spray spark plug leads, distributor leads, coil etc, with WD40. Plastic gloves inverted over the distributor will help keep it dry.
• Waterproof the air filter by covering it with pantyhose.
• Remove the fan belt. The alternator and starter motor are generally not affected by water.
• Fit exhaust pipe extension. A length of well fitting hose will do.
• Prepare recovery gear (as mentioned) before crossing.
• Fit a tarpaulin blind and attach with bungee straps or string etc.
* Fit wading plugs.
• Roll down the windows.
• Tape up all doors, holes in floor, air vents, holes in firewall etc. Climb inside the vehicle through the open window.
• Be aware that in deep water the vehicle will partially float. This greatly decreases the traction and may make it difficult or impossible to climb up a muddy or rocky bank on the far side. You may need to open the door and let water into the vehicle to decrease the buoyancy.
Do not fasten your seat belt as you may need to exit the vehicle rapidly.
• Select low range, 3rd or 4th gear, diff lock and locker engaged.
• Do not change gears once in the water (Manual transmissions). Water will get into the clutch, and although still in gear, the vehicle will not move, however, if the selected gear is too high and stalling is inevitable, then a gear change must be attempted.
• Maintain a steady forward pace, enough to create a nice bow wave. If it appears that a bow wave cannot be maintained due to lost forward motion, immediately switch off the engine if possible before the engine stops.
• If the vehicle stalls, do not get out on the current side, the current could drag you under the vehicle. Do not attempt to restart the motor. Recover to the opposite shore. If you are on your own, remove all the spark plugs, coil lead or multi-pack coils, and drive on, using the starter motor.
• If you are on your own and the current is really strong, and the vehicle is in danger of being swept away, set up a wire cable/rope across the river attached to trees or other anchors at each end (Doesn’t work if your rope/cable is too short).
Attach the front and rear of the vehicle to the cable by means of 2 short
cables with eyes at both ends and ‘D’ shackles. With the vehicle on the
down stream side of the main cable…drive across.
If there is another vehicle in your party, set up a cable through a snatch block attached to a tree on the far bank and another vehicle which can back up and tow you across the river. The second vehicle can then be just pulled across.
DEEP and ROCKY
• If the riverbed is deep and rocky, select low range 1st or 2nd gear, diff locks and lockers (if fitted) engaged.
• A ‘BLIND’ is of no use, as your forward travel will be too slow to create a bow wave.
SIGNS TO LOOK FOR:-
• Moving water (slow) with an unbroken surface may be deep and more likely to have a silt bottom. Lower tyre pressures if need be.
• Moving water (fast) with a rippling or broken surface usually indicates a stony bottom. Usually shallow, clear of silt and easier to cross.
• Rivers fed by melting snow will be at their lowest and slowest level at daybreak.
• In general it is best to cross where the river is wide and has adequate current. Adequate current means that the bottom is not as deep as where there is less current, and it also means that the bottom is more solid. (If the river or creek is a consistent distance across, and one section has a faster current than another section, then that area with the faster current is shallower).
The current carries with it mud and sand that it puts down where the current drops and that makes the bottom soft and dangerous.
Never cross in a place that you cannot wade. If the place is unknown, wade into the water. If the flow is fast, tie a rope around yourself and have someone hold the other end or to a tree or vehicle if alone.
Once in the water drive diagonally across if possible, that way the current will help push the vehicle and no bow wave will be generated.
If driving straight across a fast flowing river, the rear end of the vehicle will be pushed faster. Be prepared to turn the front wheels in the direction of the “slide”. If this does not solve the problem, accelerate slightly. If the vehicle continues to turn, facing up stream, put it into reverse and try to reverse up to either bank. Going forward is not an option in such circumstances.
WHEN YOU GET ACROSS
If you stall during the river crossing (DO NOT RESTART YOUR ENGINE). Water in the engines combustion chamber does not compress, bent rods are usually a certainty. Play it safe. It will cost you thousands $$$ if you get it wrong. Recover to dry land by winching, being towed or after removing the spark plugs and coil lead/s by driving out using the starter motor.
* Remove all the spark plugs, even if you think water ingress into the engine didn’t occur. Check carefully the air intake for any more signs of water before you try to start your engine.
Crank the starter to push any water out of the cylinders. Spray each cylinder with WD40 or similar water displacement spray. Crank the engine some more. If the engine doesn’t turn, or has an awful sound, look forward to an expensive repair bill.
* If water gets into the computer (ECU), or other electrical components, strip it down as much as possible, spray with WD40 or similar water displacement spray or use compressed air. Use compressed air with caution when blowing out water from electrical components as the air pressure could force water deeper into the component to be dried and may compound the problem.
* Wading plugs (if fitted) must be removed soon after any river crossing has occurred.
* Check the dipstick for water in the oil. If the oil level is reading too high, there’s water in the sump. If the vehicle is left standing for awhile, the water may have separated from the oil, when after pulling out the dipstick there are a few water droplets clinging to it, there may be a problem. If so, remove the sump plug and drain off the water. If the dipstick shows a ‘sauce’, then the water has been ‘whipped’ into the oil and needs changing around 5 times, running the engine between changes. One change will usually get you home if you drive slowly.
* Check the power steering reservoir. If it’s a ‘pinky’ frothy colour, it needs changing. Stiff and jerky steering is the symptom. Damage too the power steering box will occur if the oil is not changed. To clear out the system, remove the low-pressure hose (usually the one without crimped fittings at the reservoir bowl) and drain the contaminated fluid. Reconnect the hose and fill the reservoir with new power steering fluid. If no power steering fluid is carried, vegetable oil or transmission oil can be used; this will at least get you home.
* Check the axles, swivel joints and gearbox oils for signs of water ingress. Lube all U joints and ball joints as soon as possible.
* Petrol in the fuel tank will separate from the water and float on top of it. Use a siphon to remove the water from the bottom of the tank and then add to the petrol, ½ cup of methylated spirits. Check also, the fuel filter and fuel lines for possible water.
No hand signals, driver playing with his transfer Knob.