6 Must-Have Mods for River Crossings

Michael Borg — 26 June 2017


Your vehicle’s main drivetrain components (gearbox, differential and so on) have a breather tube fitted, which helps prevent any pressure from building up inside the housing. It’s usually quite short in length and provides the perfect entry point for water to enter and mix with the lubricating fluids and cause all sorts of costly problems. Hence, using an extended breather hose kit to raise the height of these breathers is a basic, yet extremely important upgrade to make. 


If you haven’t got a snorkel, get one! This will raise your engine’s air intake point to the top of the vehicle, which minimises the chance of the engine inhaling a mouthful of water and having a catastrophic melt-down, or more specifically, a hydraulic lock.


Water and wheel bearings just don’t mix. Even a brand new set of bearings won’t last long if water gets tangled with the grease. So it makes sense to do what you can to avoid the two getting together. One of the simplest and cheapest upgrades you can do is fit marine grade wheel bearing/hub seals. Unlike your average hub seal, these are designed to handle the pressure of being submerged in water, for a bit longer than a typical seal anyway. This helps seal up the rear of the hub assembly a bit better, but the front bearing cap is still very much the weak link. That’s where aftermarket upgrades like “Bearing Buddies” can help keep your hub assembly water tight. They do this by slightly pressuring the hub (around 3psi).  

If you’ve done any water crossings while you’ve been out gallivanting around the countryside, it’s definitely worth at least checking the bearing grease for signs of water penetration. The warning signs can range from little white dots to a hub caked up with sludge!


No, you don’t pick these ones up from Victoria's Secret! These are specifically designed to push water away, create a bow wave in front of your vehicle, and lower the water level within the engine bay. Most good ones are thick and durable, so they double up as a ground sheet, too. In fact, even a good quality tarp can make an effective makeshift water bra; just make sure it stretches right across the front of the vehicle and hangs down enough to tuck under the engine bay as you cross. And ensure it’s nice and secure – the last thing you want is a tarp getting too loose and getting tangled under there!


For peace of mind in an emergency, carry a glass breaker in your kit. Water crossings can be tricky bloody things. Little holes can turn out to be much deeper than you first thought, and the obstacles are forever changing. Chuck in a bit of murky water where you literally can’t tell what dangers lurk beneath and it’s easy to see why so many 4WDers get into trouble! So it really does pay to be prepared and carry extra safety gear.  


One question that often gets thrown around the traps is whether you should leave your seatbelt on or off during a water crossing. For most, it’s a personal choice, but one thing’s for sure – the last thing you want is to be trapped or restricted in the seat if things end up going pear-shaped. If the mud hits the fan and you wind up floating downstream, there’s a good chance your vehicle will be rocking around on all sorts of angles, which is exactly when seatbelts are pretty well designed to keep you locked-in your seat.

The other big question is whether or not to leave the window up or down. Think of it like this, it is practically impossible to open a car door while it’s fully submerged. The resistance is through the roof! While winding down the window could be an option, all it takes is for the battery to earth out in the water and it’s game over.  

Remember, you always want a quick, easy and reliable escape route!


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