Car Advice

4WD Driving Techniques For Water Crossings

Water crossings are inevitable when you’re driving off-road so knowing your vehicle’s wading depth is vital. Here’s our advice on crossing water safely.

(SPONSORED) Water crossings can be one of the most exciting parts of an off-road driving experience, but they can also be dangerous and result in potential vehicle damage. Like most off-road driving, if in doubt about the water crossing then don’t drive it, but if you’ve deemed it’s safe to do so, maintaining a steady pace is the key to a successful crossing.

Before you drive in…

The first thing to do when confronted by an unfamiliar water crossing is to stop, get out of the vehicle and have a good look at what’s in front of you. If the water looks too deep to safely drive across or if it’s flowing too fast, you’re going to have to look for an alternative route.

If you think the crossing looks safe, you’ll want to determine the depth of the water, how fast it’s flowing and what lurks beneath the surface. Sometimes the only way to do this is to walk the crossing first. Of course, you wouldn’t want to do this in a crocodile infested creek, but walking the crossing will give you a good idea as to what the bottom is like – if it’s hard gravel, sand or thick mud – and if there are any submerged obstacles or deep holes that need to be avoided.

Ford Everest 4WD driving through a river

You’ll want to calculate your intended route before driving into the water and, importantly, determine your exit point.

Another advantage of stopping before a water crossing is it gives your vehicle a chance to cool down. Plunging hot metal into a river can result in water making its way past oil seals in diffs, the transmission and other components.

Make sure you know your vehicle’s wading depth before tackling water crossings. With the Ford Everest, it’s 800mm when travelling at a steady speed of up to 7 km/h; this is the depth the vehicle can safely drive through with without the engine ingesting water. It’s a good idea to know where your vehicle’s air intake is, as you don’t want water being sucked into it, but if you don’t exceed to the manufacturer’s wading depth limit you should be okay.

If you think you’ll be encountering a lot of water crossings in your travels, ask your Ford dealer about fitting a snorkel to your Everest.

Entering the water

Once you’ve determined the crossing is safe, and you’ve planned your route, roll up to the water’s edge after selecting low-range and then enter the water at a walking pace. Second gear low-range is usually the best gear, as you want just enough speed to get through without damaging the vehicle or the environment. In deep crossings, you want enough speed to create a bow wave in front of the vehicle.

Ford Everest 4WD driving through a river

If the bottom is rocky and the vehicle is bouncing around, you can brace your right foot between the accelerator pedal and the foot well to help maintain an even throttle position. Try to avoid gear changes while you’re driving in the water; in low-range a Ford Everest will crawl along nicely in the correct gear for the speed (7km/h in the Ford Everest 4WD) and hold onto that gear as needed.

Try not to lose momentum when crossing water, and never intentionally stop; your engine could ingest water or you could become stuck.

If the exit point out of the water is steep then make sure you carry enough momentum to climb up out of the water. If it’s an easy exit then stop at the bank to let the water drain out of your vehicle. This will ensure you don’t soak the track as you leave which can cause damage to it. You only need to pause for a moment or two to let the water drain out. Once you’re moving again give your brakes a squeeze or two to ensure they’ve dried out and are working as they should.


  • Callitasitis

    Thanks for another installment of tips to help the novice properly prepare for off-roading.

Practical Motoring

Practical Motoring