January 2, 2015

The latest 4WD Handbook: more is more

4WD Handbook, second edition
The Complete Guide to how 4WDs work and how to drive them
Robert Pepper
Boiling Billy Publications, 2014, 522 pages
ISBN 9781922131584 $AU59.99

Four years ago, Robert Pepper wrote the original 4WD Handbook volume, which established itself as one of the best publications of its type. Since then, it's gone through a revised edition and, recently, a second edition. This second edition is more than just a once over lightly; despite being of similar size and format, the new volume has a heap of new and updated information, from whole chapters (like a notable one on off road towing) to a paragraph here and a sentence there among carried-over articles. New content also includes advice on rut driving, added detail on tyres and accessories, the latest vehicles and driving techniques, choosing a 4WD and – here's a good one – driving unfamiliar 4WDs.

Oddly, one of the most useful chapters in the original volume, on how to fix a flat tyre on the trail, is missing from the new book. The reason turns out to be balancing what an author wants to cover and what the publisher gives in page numbers. "I squeezed a few more pages out of the publisher, but I wanted to expand the electronics chapter and add things like off road towing, so something had to give," he told 4wdNewz. "As the Glovebox Guide (see review here) covered navigation and tyre repair I decided to delete those chapters, so the two books become more complementary. The way I look at it is that the Handbook is the offline read by the campfire, the Glovebox is for when you're actually doing it. I will face the same problem next time as Land Rover et al keep inventing new stuff I must cover!"

Many of the photos are new but, overall, their reproduction lacks some of the crispness of those in the first edition. The pictures aren't just eye candy but in most cases a useful supplement to the text, anywhere from describing a driving technique to identifying a track hazard: article + picture = 1000 more words.

Author Robert Pepper, who in an earlier life drove with the Auckland 4WD Club, has become one of the most authoritative writers on 4WD matters since moving to Australia and, as a qualified instructor, spends a lot of time teaching others. Much of what he has put in the book is the result of his personal experience and observations; buyers and readers are in good hands. Although written from an Australian perspective, most of the content is equally applicable to New Zealand and elsewhere. A failed ascent is still a failed ascent whether it's on the outskirts of Broome, or a farm near Kopaki.

A review of the original volume is here.

The best way to buy is to go to Fishpond and order online. When this was written it cost $59.99 in Australian dollars, discounted to $56.49.

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