Air Compressors – Must-Have 4WD Accessory?

Reviews      February 5, 2015      David Wilson

I reckon the single most-important accessory (apart from a reliable tyre pressure gauge) is an air compressor. Having the ability to raise and lower tyre pressures at will is incredibly important for a 4WD. You see a tyre’s life revolves around 3 simple premises, and they are the relationship between PRESSURE>LOAD>SPEED.

If you change one, you’ll need to change another to maintain an effective equilibrium and achieve the perfect 4WD result of either maintaining momentum, reducing the likelihood of getting bogged, reducing the potential for punctures, carrying varying loads, maintaining steering control, and ensuring that suspension of yours keeps wheels planted on the ground.

Over the years we’ve had a succession of air compressors, some better than others at getting the job done. But what I can tell you is that none of them held a candle to the recently introduced ARB Twin Compressor… this thing is incredibly powerful and FAST!!!

arb pump 2

 

Because of its construction (there’s two of everything in the kit) it has a large footprint. Finding a location to house it under a modern bonnet won’t bring you much joy. There’s simply too much clutter with an airbox, plumbing, ABS accumulator, fuel pump and lines, so depending on your vehicle you might be looking elsewhere. Perhaps under or behind a seat in a wagon or stowed away in the tub of a ute. That’s what we ended up doing in our DMAX, crafted a backing plate out of alloy chequerplate to mount the whole shebang on the LHS of the tub above the wheel-arch.

P1490220

 

The unit looks mighty smart too with its trademark ARB anodised blue body. Bolted up on our backing plate along with its manifold storage tank and relay it looks the business and once the air line is hooked up its got a nice contrast in orange… just like the Adventure 4WD tangerine colour!

The unit has been designed for the rough and tumble, sealed for moisture and dust resistance and the wiring loom uses IP55 weatherproofing, wiring connections to exclude as much bad weather and slop you can throw at it (such is the life of a hard-working 4WD used in the bush). On top of that it’s been designed with heat in mind, because hot-running is the bane of any compressor. The mounting plate dissipates heat, the hard anodised cylinder bores make for reduced friction, the motors are internally thermal protected against extreme heat damage, the Teflon impregnated carbon fibre piston seals are designed for a trouble free life. This unit is over-engineered to buggery.

arb pump 1

 

We’ve wired the unit with a mega power cable directly to the battery, the loom that came with it was good but for our purposes too short (going into the ute tub) so we’ve soldered in an extension to get the controls around to the RHS of the dash, the plan is to remove the driver’s cup-holder and replace it with a mounting bracket for the switchgear, three of them – compressor, air-locker and driving lights. The pump is fuse protected with a “maxi” blade in a holder, because under full noise it’s pulling 28A! Speaking of numbers it’ll punch out an impressive near 175 litres/minute under no load and only slightly less with 132 litres pouring through that hose when faced with a 200kPa/29psi backpressure to fight against.

Our air-locker goes in soon, but in the meantime we had to put those numbers to the test, just how long would it take to reinflate a tyre???

We grabbed the spare from the MAX, a 16″ Raptor wheel from our friends at CSA Alloys fitted with an LT265/75R16 D697. We pulled the valve core so it was dead-flat, replaced the core and fired up the compressor and hooked it on. First observation, it’s not that noisy but man it is fast! How about going from flat to a typical on-road pressure of near 35psi/240kPa in just 90 seconds!!!

P1490233

 

To put that into some perspective we compared it to one of our old-faithful Bushranger MAX-Air compressors, which when new were one of the fastest in the business. We’ve loved the performance of these with re-inflation duties in mind for our clients post-course. But hooked up to the valve the Bushranger took around 4 minutes to get to the same 35psi/240kPa value. In both instances we had the vehicle running, something you should do to give the compressor every bit of help in the power stakes.

So it’s fast, stylish and looks to be plenty durable, comes with full installation instructions and if you want to option it up for other duties there’s the aforementioned air-locker capability requiring manifold and relay with switch or a 4 litre alloy tank to get you some air in reserve if you’re running air tools and the like. Whilst we’ve opted for a permanent mount you can also get them in a box for portability between vehicles. Seems there’s a twin for every occasion!

Contact your local ARB store for pricing details or visit the web for fuller detail.

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Are Skinny Tyres About To Become The Industry Standard Again?

4WD Tips      December 11, 2014      David Wilson

Back in the late 90’s when we did our landmark TV series “Beyond The Bitumen” (the world’s first dedicated 4WD TV show – seen on TEN and Foxtel) we ran Isuzu 4WDs (with Holden Badges) in the form of a Rodeo ute and a Jackaroo wagon. Both vehicles featured 16” wheels and the stock standard tyres choices were typically 245/70R16. Not too tall and not too wide, really an average size to do both the on and off-road tasks some justice.

Well we swapped the steel rims for alloys (from our good friends at CSA/Mullins Wheels) and went wider, running 16 x 7” instead of 16 x 6”. That extra inch of width opened up a bit more scope for tyre selection and based on our past experience in the 4WD world we opted for what I still believe to be one of the best size/profiles for many 4WDs, even today… the LT235/85R16.

Now the “235” as we still refer to them offers some really desirable benefits on and off-road:

  1. An increased amount of ground clearance thanks to the tall sidewall height (810mm diameter) and
  2. With each 1% increase in diameter comes a 1% decrease in rolling resistance = less fuel used
  3. A narrow profile for less wind resistance (again enhancing fuel efficiency) and less puncture susceptibility (less rubber on the road reduces the likelihood of copping a penetration)
  4. A narrow profile works off-road too with the same lesser rolling resistance benefit this time in sand and mud, thus preserving momentum
  5. With reduced pressures the contact patch is longer meaning better flotation on those same imperfect surfaces and greater flexibility in the tyre sidewall means a more comfortable ride as the tyre becomes a de-facto suspension component
  6. “235”s also come with a 120 load index = 1,400kgs carrying capacity and on average around a 25% stronger tyre carcase (less punctures/better durability and longevity) when compared to standard issue 4WD tyres

Now unfortunately this wheel/tyre combination won’t suit all 4WDs today because in the quest for greater safety, brake diameter has been steadily increasing. The combined rotor/caliper dimensions of late have been dictating bigger wheels and that’s why we’re seeing 17”, 18”, 19” and even 20” wheels on some vehicles. Fashion based on the racetrack has in turn dictated that tyre widths go wider, so now we’re stuck with large luxury 4WD wagons having utterly useless wheel/tyre combos for the bush. In fact they’re not even much good around town because with a lower profile or sidewall (the tyre height measured from bead to tread) comes a stiff and inflexible tyre carcase that transmits a lot more road imperfections straight into the cabin and through the steering wheel which isn’t too pleasant!

Add to that the inevitable over-inflation (people you really need to be more vigilant with your pressures because 80% of the vehicles we see here at Adventure 4WD are over-inflated and some more than double the prescribed amount seen on the tyre placard) and the resultant ride can be also very dangerous with a vehicle reacting to potholes and bitumen ripples by weaving all over the road requiring constant steering attention and contributing to driver fatigue.

There’s a priceless piece of video we’ve posted a couple of times now on our Facebook page of a 1920s era Dodge car negotiating the oil fields of central USA and it appears unstoppable in all weathers because of its skinny tyres on massively tall wheels (that’s that long footprint effect I mentioned earlier). Have a look here: http://www.youtube.com/embed/nq2jY1trxqg?rel=0

The modern spin on tyre evolution in the quest for greater efficiencies is skinnies once more and this article seen in Drive.com.au shows the development of the modern tyre might mean we’ll be getting used to a tyre shape that looks nothing like what is the accepted norm today. Have a read here: http://goo.gl/iov0sw

I’ve got an open mind on it, because I remember fondly the excellent results we got with “Roger” the Rodeo and the “Jack”, two vehicles that regularly used to surprise the traditionalists. They wagered that our pretender vehicles would go nowhere off-road How wrong they were! A combination of good clearance, clever use of the gearbox and range selection by the driver meant anywhere you can go I can go better!

 

 

m55_1_l

Picture: Here’s a tall skinny 235 that works a treat, Toyo’s M55, a good multi-use tread pattern that lasts!

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Electronic 4WD Activation

4WD Tips      October 17, 2014      David Wilson

Over the 20 years we’ve been in business it’s been fascinating to see the evolution of the modern 4WD, some of it’s good, some on the face of it not so. Despite what the hard-core fraternity might think, the loss of live axles on a fourbie isn’t the end of the world. On a ute for example, the combination of independent coil-over suspension in the front and a live axle with leaf springs in the rear, might not have the stretch you want, but electronics will give you the traction you’re lacking.

To address that loss of grip with even more finesse, many a 4WD maker have returned to the old ways with the addition of a rear-axle diff-lock operated by… you guessed it, electronics.

And so it is now with 4WD engagement. Plenty (read most) use electronics to move the power around the driveline and it can be a reliable system, provided you are patient. For example HIGH range 4WD can be engaged on the move at speeds up to 100kph (our preferred maximum dirt road speed however is 80kph) and with the right technique, hooks up seamlessly (see pics #2, #3 & #4). LOW range though has a procedure that requires a bit of attention on your part.

As plenty of 4WDs now run an automatic transmission you’ll need to get this right, so follow these simple steps:

  1. Bring the vehicle to a halt (we’re assuming you’re already on a loose surface).
  2. Analyse the track surface and determine that LOW range will be beneficial (usually if there’s steep or boggy conditions, LOW range will be hugely useful).
  3. Keeping your foot on the footbrake, shift the transmission lever into N (neutral)
  4. Grab your range selector dial and rotate it into the 4L position and then watch the dash display (see pics #1 & #5).
  5. You’ll observe a couple of things, firstly the display will change reflecting the movement from HIGH range to LOW and most will indicate “4L”. That confirms the selection has been successful (keep an ear out for an audible clunk too as the gears engage).
  6. With the confidence of LOW now ready to go , grab the gear selector and shift to D (drive), foot off the brake and onto the accelerator and you’re once more in motion! (see pic #6)
  7. If for some reason the display is flashing, something’s amiss! It might be that you’ve grabbed your D (drive) gear too early before the sequence was complete? Perhaps the vehicle was parked awkwardly and the wheels are mid-way through a change in direction? Ideally you should have everything lined up nice and straight, and with the engine running, 99.9% of the time changing into LOW should be a snap!
  8. You know how it is… if all else fails get the owners-manual out and have a read!!!

One other little note and that is it doesn’t matter whether your 4WD is a part-timer or a full-timer, if you’ve done with the rough and tumble and the bitumen is in sight, you need to get your vehicle back into either 2WD or its constant 4WD mode necessary for hard surfaces. If you don’t… ouch! You run the risk of some serious transmission damage = $$$

1.Isuzu Range Selector
1.Isuzu Range Selector
2.Display 2WD
2.Display 2WD
3.Display HIGH Range Selected
3.Display HIGH Range Selected
4.Display HIGH Range Engaged
4.Display HIGH Range Engaged
5.Display LOW Range Selected in Neutral
5.Display LOW Range Selected in Neutral
6. Display LOW Range Engaged
6. Display LOW Range Engaged

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Summer 4WD Safety

4WD Tips, News      September 29, 2014      David Wilson

temperature hot

 

Government and industry business usually doesn’t take much of a holiday over summer, so whilst the rest of the world is kicking back and relaxing, plenty of dedicated souls are attending to the management of public lands and infrastructure. Earlier in the year we analysed what challenges the Outback posed in winter. Six months later some of the risks are the same but the daytime temperatures are likely 2-3 times greater, so the margin for error is a whole lot less.

There’s likely to be another challenge thrown in for good measure this summer and that’s an increased risk of monsoonal weather patterns dumping huge amounts of rain across the interior. There’s always a risk of this from November to April, but in the summer of 2014-2015 I reckon the north is in for a drenching after last year’s absent weather patterns.

Lots of Outback tracks cop a lot of traffic during winter so care needs to be exercised and especially at floodways. If a watercourse has run a banker and scoured out the base of the crossing the surface will be battered, so a reduction in speed is warranted.

As we’d said before it goes without saying that the best grip on dirt is found using HIGH range and accompanying that is a need for tyre pressure reduction accompanied by a reduction in speed. The benefits with this combination are three-fold, firstly greater control, secondly greater grip and braking performance and lastly reduced puncture susceptibility.

We won’t go over too much old ground here because the rules for driving over muddy ground in summer are the same as driving in winter. But what I would like to canvass is heat and its affect on person and vehicle.

Your 4WD’s cooling system is its lifeblood and if it’s not in good condition it’ll fail in near 50C degree heat on a typical summer’s day. The under bonnet temperatures of a modern 4WD are incredible, those diesels (read all of them) that run a turbocharger, a device that hangs off the exhaust side of the engine, forces air into the induction side to boost performance. It all works well, but is affected by temperature.

The hotter the air going into the motor, the poorer the performance, so an intercooler is fitted to counter that negative effect and restore driveability. But the heat exchanged has to go somewhere and an inefficient radiator and coolant/catchment system will create trouble.

There’s a reasonable expectation that on a near new 4WD the cooling system will be in pretty good nick, but I’ve seen problems occur that could have been avoided.

One of the first issues is servicing and frequency. A lot of vehicle dealerships have no concept of the work remote area employees undertake and where their vehicles go. Their concept of servicing is following the service recommendations offered by the vehicle maker, written for a modest usage with a heavy emphasis around town.

If the vehicle is being used as a genuine 4WD then that clearly won’t be good enough.

At the start of summer there’ll need to be some money spent on consumables, a fresh air filter (with a spare up your sleeve) is a great start, a new dose of coolant with the appropriate glycol mix and possibly a new set of hoses (top and bottom radiator, heater hoses) might be required dependent on kilometres travelled. Whilst you’re looking at the hoses check the clamps. The typical prise-on, prise-off clamps are OK if they’re OK, but I’ve seen them break. I prefer the worm drive stainless variety, much more positive.

A kit like this could make your cooling system reliable again
A kit like this could make your cooling system reliable again

What’s the benefit of the new air filter I hear you say? Simply, if the car can’t get fresh air without impediment it’ll try and scavenge air from wherever it can find it. Another problem is that the engine may then over-fuel (most modern ECUs will compensate) which can add more heat to the combustion process. Engine performance will suffer, more fuel will be used, perhaps even engine failure in a worst case?

Whilst the 4WD is in the shop get them to pull the grille off the front of the car and check the clearance of the radiator and also if there’s a transmission cooler and an air conditioner condenser, check those too. It doesn’t take too many bugs to restrict air flow to critical levels.

We’ve got the car covered but what about you?

Trip planning and preparation is essential, so too effective communications. How about your health? If you’re carrying a bit of baggage around the waist these days that’ll put you under a bit of stress if you need to get out and fix something. The physical exertion of fixing a flat tyre on a 47C degree day is right up there. So if fix you must, then fix it smartly!

Wear a hat, drive the car under some shade (if it exists) and do the exercise in bite-sized chunks. Little segmented elements interspersed with a cool drink will keep you functioning. Getting hot and bothered is a quick trip to major trouble on a remote bush track in summer.

Denied enough moisture your brain won’t function. Add physical exertion after being in an air-conditioned 4WD and you’ll be lulled into a false sense of security. I’ve seen perfectly rational people simply walk off into the sand dunes unaware they’ve drunk nowhere near enough water. It’s not pretty after the event either, feeling like you want to vomit, and can’t keep anything down. That makes re-hydration a little tricky.

Check your agency’s driving policy and the personal hot weather policy with your HR department. It should offer some guidelines to assist you with making decisions on the trip you may need to make.

Drive safely and think smartly, summer’s no time to run into trouble!

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Hello Smart Design… The ATV Lifeguard, intelligent ROPS For ATVs

Uncategorized      September 24, 2014      David Wilson

In June of 2013 we published in this BLOG our views on what should be done to enhance rider safety with ATVs with a 10 point message. It’s good reading and smart practice based on years of personal experience with the machines, on the farm and in the workplace and analysing the accident reports we see. If you scroll back through our posts you’ll find it. At that same time we also stated that we were against ROPS (Rollover Protection Systems). That opinion still stands for fixed or rigid applications, because if the bike goes over, that steel tube landing on you will likely do more damage than if it wasn’t there.

A much better way to approach the thorny issue of rollover protection is this brilliant Kiwi idea called the “ATV Lifeguard”, marketed in Australia by ATV goods supplier Topaz Global in WA. The Lifeguard is unique in that its safety “halo” is a segmented plastic vertebrae with a central tensioning rope (or its spinal core) that allows the Lifeguard flexibility if it were to land on you. Whereas a rigid tube will hurt, the Lifeguard will deform around your shape. Bruised you might be, crushed you wont!

It’s brilliant and fitted currently to one of our Yamaha 450 Grizzlys with an easy installation, it’s demonstrating to our many course attendees who ride the bike how safe things can be if only a bit of thought is put to the problem.

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Craig from Topaz Global delivering our ATV Lifeguard

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Lifeguard fitted to Grizzly, a smart package indeed!

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