FOUR-WHEEL-DRIVE vehicles are highly prized by by caravanners looking for safe and versatile tugs, but does the average owner really know how to get the most from them? And if you’re looking to buy your first 4×4, will an ‘off-roader’ or a ‘soft roader’ be the best for your needs?

You’ll find the answers to all the above in the excellent Four-by-four driving, now in its second edition. Author Tom Sheppard isn’t a caravanner, but he has off-roaded on expeditions all over the world and that experience has resulted in some valuable insights about towing – you’ll find a dedicated section on the subject in the middle of the book.

Drivelines and differentials

Four-by-four driving starts off with the theory behind four-wheel drive vehicles, including the pros and cons, before taking an in-depth look at four-wheel drive systems. There’s much discussion of drivelines and differentials, and how they’re deployed.

Of particular interest to caravanners is an analysis of the three generic types of four-wheel-drive system – selectable 4×4, auto-engaged 4×4 and permanent 4×4 – and which vehicles, ‘soft-roader’ or ‘off-roader’, carry them.

For typical caravanning applications, assuming MTPLMs aren’t high, a soft-roader (the likes of a Toyota RAV4, Skoda Yeti or VW Tiguan) will do the job effectively. But, to paraphrase the author, if you want to climb Mount Kilimanjaro in third gear, you’ll be looking at a leather-clad leviathan like a Range Rover, the king of off-roaders. If you want to find out how each major manufacturer interprets the technology, and how effectively, Four-by-four driving has all the clarification you’ll ever need. The author also discusses the role of traction control and stability programme systems.

Know your trailer dynamics

Subsequent chapters look at practical applications of four-wheel drive, and techniques to cover a variety of situations. These are mainly about off-roading without a trailer hitched up, but caravanners who want to gen up on areas like trailer dynamics and cornering have eight pages all to themselves.

Designed to be read as a series of self-contained sections, rather than from front to back, Four-by-four driving is an entertaining read. Once you get to grips with the design and layout – explained in full in the introduction – you can fully engage with Tom Sheppard’s witty but incisive no-nonsense analysis. He demonstrates subject knowledge and passion at every turn, delivered with a choice turn of phrase at all times. Highly recommended.

Four-by-four driving (2nd edition) is available from Desert Winds Publishing for £22 (postage free to UK) or from bookshops. ISBN: 978-0-9532324-8-2