RoadTrip America

Routes, Planning, & Inspiration for Your North American Road Trip

Shifting into 4WD, by Harry Lewellyn

Shifting Into 4WD
Harry "Silver Coyote" Lewellyn's new handbook Shifting into 4WD is chock full of ideas, suggestions and safety tips that will enrich and entertain anyone who has ever yearned to leave the pavement and follow a dirt road to the horizon. This handbook should be in the center console of every SUV in the country. Often referred to as "Professor Off-Road," Lewellyn has been leading 4-WD tours and teaching back-country driving skills in the southwest for over seventeen years. The guide is written in easy-to-understand English, and it's enhanced by well-conceived drawings and diagrams.

Over the course of my driving career, I have "jump-started" the batteries of scores of stranded motorists in some very challenging locations. On more than a few occasions I approached the final connection (negative cable lead to negative battery terminal on the "dead" battery) with a keen sense of trepidation. In one sentence, this handbook shares a technique that I wish I had known twenty years ago: connect the cable lead to a ground away from the battery, thereby keeping any errant sparks from causing an electrical fire. Another tip is to drive a flat tire up on a rock to make sure a jack will fit under the vehicle. These are only two of the dozens of common sense, immediately useful techniques outlined in Lewellyn's manual.

Shifting into 4WD - The SUV Owner's 4WD Handbook sets a new standard with its well-organized and comprehensive index. Since handbooks are by nature rarely read while seated comfortably in front of a fireplace, it's fantastic when a book is designed to provide the information you need when you're in a precarious spot. Lewellyn's user-friendly index will actually help you get home (or at least back to pavement) the next time you feel an odd vibration in your rear tires after hitting a rock during a stream crossing.

Anyone who has ever slipped an SUV into 4-WD will recognize his own experiences in the often humorous war stories the Silver Coyote shares in this book-you won't want to miss his "dust management" techniques and secrets for driving on washboard. I can't wait to get back in my rig and try some of the tips on power management and driving in tough conditions. The section on "How it Works" was one of the best explanations I have ever read about transmissions and limited-slip differentials. Llewellyn also provides expedition-tested lists of items to bring on off-highway adventures.

In addition to teaching techniques and procedures for traveling safely off-highway, Lewellyn presents an eloquent case for environmentally responsible behavior and trail etiquette for all users of back-country roads and trails. The only criticism I have of the book is that there may be too many references to advanced techniques to be found in the not-yet-published Volume 2. This complaint should be remedied by late fall, when Volume 2 should be available. I am really looking forward to reading it.

"Knowledge is power," and when you read this book, be sure to complete the lessons tailored to your particular SUV. If you do, you'll be ready to leave the pavement with confidence. With Shifting into 4WD riding shotgun, you'll know more than 90% of the folks you may meet out there.


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