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Rear hub unable to rotate

When the rear hub cannot be rotated due to mechanical failure or damage, remove the wheel and replace it with a timber skid:

Find a suitable length of timber – a thin tree trunk or a thick branch – preferably about 150mm in diameter and about 2metres long. The timber should be as green and straight as possible.

Jack up the vehicle and remove the wheel from the damaged hub. Place the skid pole under the vehicle, with the leading end resting on the underside of the chassis, forward of the spring shackle. Allow the skid to run along the chassis rail, under the axle housing and as close as possible to the damaged wheel hub.

Secure the leading end of the skid firmly to the chassis rail using either rope, chain or heavy wire and the skid itself to the housing or the forward half of the spring assembly. Lower the vehicle onto the skid. Check that the securing rope does not rub on the ground.

You will find that the vehicle can be driven and steered with the front wheel drive engaged, but you’ll need to travel very slowly. Try to stay on flat, smooth ground.


It is not very hard or complicated to do your own welding repairs, even in the remotest parts of the country. All you need are two heavy-duty batteries, the type that most four-wheel drive vehicles are fitted with; three 150amp jumper leads; a 2.5 mm multipurpose ‘touch welding’ electrode; and a welding filter lens (shade 8).


Cut an aperture the size of the lens in a sheet of cardboard and fix the lens in the hole with sticky tape. Disconnect the vehicle battery leads from the batteries and connect the two batteries in series to give 24 volts. Connect the positive terminal to the work piece and the negative terminal to the electrode. More heat is generated at the positive crater of the arc and this should be used to heat the work piece.

Two 12-volt batteries in series giving 24 volts are adequate to run 2.5 mm electrodes, but three batteries giving 36 volts allows easier striking of the arc.


Protect your face and eyes with the cardboard mask.

With the electrode almost at right angles to the work but sloping slightly in the direction of travel, strike the arc as if striking a match.

Once the arc is established, feed the electrode into the molten pool as it melts away and at the same time move it slowly along the joint to form a bead. As the flux on the electrode melts away at a lower rate than the core wire, it is possible to leave the flux in light contact with the work to maintain a short arc. The secret of success is to maintain a short arc.

CAUTION: Do not attempt any welding without the protection of a facemask and welding lens.

Remember that if you are doing any welding on your 4WD itself, always disconnect the leads going from the battery or batteries to the engine and the bodywork. If you don’t, you will most certainly damage the alternator. You will equally certainly cause damage to the electronic system, which can possibly cause a bigger problem than the one you had in the first place.

The high currents (up to 150 amps) drawn from the batteries limit the extent of repairs that can be carried out without recharging them. Remember it will be necessary to start the vehicle once the repairs are completed.


There can be several reasons for not doing the repair in the bush, including the weather – you don’t want to be crawling around fixing a broken 4WD in the freezing rain or in the dark by torchlight. Towing may be the answer. First, let’s look at towing in general.

• All drivers and passengers must use their seat belts when towing.
• If towing at night the towed vehicle must display tail lights.
• If both vehicles have two-way radios, use them.

Towing a 4WD with either a manual or automatic gearbox on the road

• Agree on the towing fee if there is to be one and where the vehicle is to be taken.
• Connect a 6m long, 20mm diameter polypropylene or nylon towrope between the vehicles. Never use a chain, wire rope or smaller rope.
• Put free-wheel hubs into the ‘free’ position.
• Put both the gearbox and transfer case into neutral. Not all auto-equipped 4WDs have a neutral position in the transfer box. If not the vehicle must be trailered or have the prop shafts removed.
• Disengage diff locks.
• Make sure the steering is not locked.
• Cover the brake peddle with your right foot.
• When slowing or stopping the driver of the towing vehicle should give the stop signal by raising his right hand. At this stage he should not touch the brakes.
• On the stopping signal the driver of the towed vehicle should apply the brakes to slow the tow vehicle and keep the towrope taught. Never allow a towrope to go slack. This is the prime cause of towrope breakage.
• The driver of the tow vehicle can lightly apply the brakes to come to a halt.
• The tow vehicle should ease away after a stop to take up any slack.

If you are faced with a long downhill grade the brakes on the towed vehicle will get very hot and could become totally ineffective. If this happens you will have to drive down the hill with the stricken 4WD in front of the mobile vehicle. Drive just over the brow of the hill so the stricken 4WD can make a rolling start. The tow vehicle (in this case at the back) should engage a low gear, low range if possible, to act as a good anchor on the downhill run.

If you have a fault with the braking system it is not practical to tow with a rope. Off road you can tow with an anchor vehicle at the back of the stricken 4WD but this is not an option on the road. A more sensible approach is to use an ‘A’ frame but in these days with plastic bumpers and air dams it makes fitting one difficult. You may have to unbolt the bumper and air dam and fit the ‘A’ frame tightly to the chassis with a couple of lengths of chain.

I once met a group of young guys who had blown a head gasket on their 4WD. They had walked out to get help and the father of one of them had driven them back in, complete with parts and tools. They towed the 4WD to a convenient spot off the track and started to look at the job in hand. However, they soon found that the sandflies were so bad that they were go into ing to be driven absolutely mad if they attempted to do the job there in the bush! They towed the vehicle out.
Towing a 4WD on a rope can be a harrowing experience for both drivers particularly if you have to go some distance.

First of all the power-assisted bits and pieces usually driven by the motor will not work as well. The steering will be heavy and the to a convenient spot off the track and started to brake pedal will be hard so the brakes will look at the job in hand. not be very responsive. The driver of the towing vehicle must take all of this account and he should make allowances when going around corners and when stopping. He won’t be happy if you run up the back of his pride and joy or snap the towrope. Do not have a small vehicle tow a big 4WD.

You should stop at least every half hour to let the driver of the towed vehicle have a rest: it is no fun riding six metres behind the back bumper of another vehicle. At 80kph you have only 0.54 seconds to stop. Can you react to an emergency in that time?

Towing a 4WD off road

Towing a 4WD out to the road can pose all sorts of difficulties and if you don’t do it right you could have both vehicles in trouble. With only one vehicle available for a recovery you will have to give the utmost thought to the tow and not take any risks. You may have to use towropes of several different lengths to complete the operation – a short one for use on a twisty track , a long one or even a very long one for river crossings and maybe a very short one to lift a vehicle up a bank. Take it easy: the towed vehicle could have wet brakes and with already poor brakes due to the power brake system not working it could have difficulty stopping.

Where you come across a difficult section of track with a bog hole in it you will have to get the tow vehicle completely through the bog and on to firm ground before the towed vehicle gets into it to have any success at all. Likewise, with any water crossing the towing 4WD must be back on firm ground before the towed 4WD enters the water. This may mean joining several towropes together. You will have to make sure there is a long enough run out, otherwise you may have to stop and take the ropes apart again to accomplish the tow.

As with on-the-road tows you should put the disabled 4WD on the front of the tow vehicle if you have to go down a long grade. You could have difficulty passing the disabled vehicle if the track is narrow so you may have no choice but to leave it on the back and use its brakes. If the motor or transmission is not damaged you can tow the vehicle downhill with it in gear and the ignition off using the engine compression as a brake. Pick a gear that is not too low, as it will make it a struggle for the tow vehicle. This method is only recommended for towing short distances down very steep grades.

With more than one tow vehicle available you have a number of combinations: you can use an additional tow vehicle in front and an anchor at the back.

It is usually not practical or advisable to use an ‘A’ frame on rough off-road tracks because it is too easy to get the whole combination stuck.


It is a relatively easy matter to get a tow truck to come for a crashed or broken-down vehicle on the road. It will be taken to the recovery company’s depot where it will stay to await your insurance company’s instructions. Remember that you should take all your personal possessions out of the vehicle as soon as practical. Most crash vehicles are not stored under cover and your possessions could suffer damage from the rain, necessitating a further insurance claim of which you may have to pay the first $100 or so.

Most recovery companies are either not prepared to or not capable of recovering a 4WD that has crashed or broken down off road. If the situation is beyond you, when you get out to civilisation or are able to make telephone contact, ring your insurance company for their advice. They may make contact with the local 4WD club – they usually have a core of recovery experts who may be able recover your vehicle on behalf of the insurance company.

Before you leave your 4WD you should make sure that it is secure and all of your gear and possessions are in a safe place. If the vehicle is under water you may just have to face the fact that you will lose it all. Don’t risk your life for the sake of a few material possessions.

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