4WD vehicles are designed to drive places where the average conventional vehicle cannot. While driving in the Australian bush, it is not uncommon to come across bulldust - an ultra-fine powdery dust that kicks up into a spectacular cloud. It is a typical hazard on bush roads, formed when the road surface loses cohesion and breaks into small, individual dust particles. Usually occurring in dry areas, it can be found in depressions in the road and in rough areas where vehicles drive.
If you are travelling in a convoy, be sure to keep a good distance from the vehicle in front of you and keep in contact through your UHF radio. Vehicles may kick up some dust and rocks.
The best practice to stay safe is to slow down. The biggest difficulty while driving through bulldust ridden sections of road is determining how long, how rutted and how deep they are. By having a clear of the road ahead, you can easily see the beginning and end of the dust section. While in the bush, there is no rush to overtake another vehicle. Let the dust settle before driving through. Your visibility will be much better and your air filter will thank you. Remember to check your filter at regular intervals and remove dust particles by removing it and tapping it against a tree. Never clean an air filter by washing it with water because it will dry like concrete.
One of the safest ways to drive through bulldust roads is to switch your headlights onto low beam for better visibility and to lower your vehicle’s tyre pressure to 10-15%. Changing the pressure enlarges the tyres’ contact patches, improving the tyre flexibility and gives it a ‘spring’ effect. After changing the pressure, keep your top speed to no more than 80km/hr. Don’t forget to re-inflate the tyres to normal pressure when you are back on hard roads.
When you see a soft patch on the road head, reduce your speed at least 50 meters before the hole, selecting a 4WD high range and gear ratio that gives a strong engine response, with the engine operating in the rev band between its peak torque point and its maximum power. Choose an exit point that does not look too hard-edged. If you are stuck in a hole, don’t try to correct every change in direction but aim to reach the exit point. If you get stuck in a bulldust hole, immediate put on hazard lights and if traveling in a convoy, warn the vehicles around you.
It is common to come across a heavy vehicle on bulldust roads and they may kick up a huge cloud of dust. If a truck is coming towards you and you want to pass, try speaking to the driver through the radio but if the wind is blowing the dust across your overtaking pass, either forget passing the truck until the road or wind conditions change.
Although bulldust may look like sand, do not treat it like sand. Bulldust can be very dangerous if you are not prepared to handle it.