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Getting out of a soft spot: What to do when your caravan gets bogged

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Exploring Australia means turning off the well-paved roads and getting your tyres dirty.  Whether its dust or mud, soft unstable ground isn’t always apparent until your vehicle is in it and it’s easy to lose traction. If you react the wrong way when it happens, the wheels of the towing vehicle or caravan (or both) can spin until they sink to a point where it is impossible to gain any traction.

While it’s not un-common for adventurers to end up bogged, taking the right equipment and getting some prior experience through a caravan driving course should help you get back on the road in no time.

Taking the time to do an off road driving course or caravan driving course before you hit the road is an excellent way to become familiar with potential situations that may arise off road.

What to do if it happens?

  1. Resist the urge to panic as continued acceleration without traction will only dig you in deeper. One of the most important things to remember is that a calm headspace will help you find the best way out.
  2. Apply the handbrake, put the vehicle in park, turn the vehicle off and get out and gauge the situation.
  3. If you’ve lost traction in sand or loose soil, partially deflating your tyres will increase their surface area making it easier to grip the surface.
  4. At this point, it’s worth attempting to drive out once again with gentle acceleration in order to avoid wheel spin. Failing a successful attempt, proceed to step 5.
  5. Lower the jockey wheel, unhitch the caravan and see if you can drive the tow vehicle out to firm ground. If that works, you’ll be able to use it to pull the caravan out (see Step 8).
  6. If not, you’ll need to first get the tow vehicle out. Whether you’ve become stuck in sand or mud, it’s important to create a surface the tyres can grip. If you’re not too deep, begin by digging away the earth around the bogged tyre. Collect large sticks, rocks and other dense foliage that can help create a solid foundation under the tyre.
  7. Place a board under the lift jack and use it to raise the tyre. Then fill the space under the tyre with the solid foliage and rocks.
  8. Once the vehicle is clear, use a rated tow rope or snatch strap to slowly pull the caravan clear. If you have a winch fitted to your vehicle, it can be used the winch the caravan to safe ground.

Warning: Never secure recovery straps or ropes to a tow ball or non rated recovery point and always make sure onlookers are standing at a safe distance.

Essential recovery gear

  • A high lift jack is a must. Use a plate or stabiliser foot with it, as the increased contact area will literally give you a better leg to stand on.
  • Snatch straps are made from a heavy-duty nylon or polyester webbing. Being elastic, they’ll stretch then spring or ‘snatch’ the bogged vehicle out.
  • A portable compressor will be handy for inflating tyres when you reach solid ground.
  • A winch on your vehicle can be your best friend, especially if you’re traveling alone.
  • Sturdy shovel, axe and tool set.

With a calm approach, stabilised ground underneath your tyres and steady towing, you should manage to get yourself back on the road without too much trouble.

If you plan on going off-road in your travels it’s probably wise to have a four-wheel drive vehicle towing your caravan. That way at least you have a better chance of dealing with uncertain terrain.

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