The previous 2 days of the International 4-Wheel Drive Trainers Association (I4WDTA), Training for Certification (TFC) had been nothing short of a whirlwind. The periods of classroom instruction covered dozens of topics at a breakneck pace, and the practical portion had pushed all of the candidates far outside of their comfort zone. Needless to say, everyone was ready for the final test and interview, but first they would have to make it through Day 3.
Day 3 started as usual at the community center, and the main topics of discussion would focus on the candidate’s knowledge of vehicle systems, recovery equipment, and navigation skills.
Bill started off with an in-depth discussion on differentials, drive train components, and transmissions. The goal of the discussion was to test the candidates’ knowledge of the subjects, their ability to explain the differences between different types/styles, and their ability to explain how they function.
As explained by the Certified Trainers in the room, it’s unrealistic for any trainer to know the ins and outs of every vehicle combination on the road. Although with a strong understanding of different system components, a Certified Trainer has the ability to understand and utilize the strengths and weaknesses of any given vehicle. It also allows them to troubleshoot and diagnose breakdowns that inevitably happen in the field.
After completing the vehicle portion, we transitioned into recovery training. The main focus would be the Hi-Lift jack and its multiple uses. The Hi-Lift is easily the most undervalued tool when it comes to off-road recovery, but it can also be the most dangerous when utilized improperly. We’ve all seen the videos of users getting hit in the head by the handle, so making sure a candidate has a strong working knowledge of the jack is a must.
To help better understand the functions of a Hi-Lift, the I4WDTA trainers specially painted each individual part of a standard jack. It really did help clarify how each component functioned, and was probably one of the best teaching aids I had ever seen used in regards to Hi-Lift jack training.
Finally we ended with navigation and mapping, because let’s be honest, GPS systems are great, but when technology fails you, you better know how to read a map. This was a breeze for the ex-military guys in the course who had spent countless hours practicing land navigation, but we still went over all aspects from utilize a compass to understanding topography on tradition paper maps. I can’t guarantee that an I4WDTA Certified Trainer won’t get you lost, but I can guarantee they can probably get you back home.
As per the usual routine, after class we packed up our gear and headed over to UORTC for the practical portion of the day. Luckily for all of the candidates’, the sun was shining, and there wasn’t a rain cloud in site. Unluckily though, they would be hit with their most challenging recovery yet.
Their assignment for the afternoon would be to move Bill’s Range Rover off of an obstacle, but first they would have to change both front tires. Normally this sounds pretty straight forward, but the vehicle could not be started, and the candidates could only utilize what they could find in the front seats.
What was available to the candidates came down to the following: a shovel, tree strap, lug wrench, and winch controller. Notice the most important thing was missing, a jack. Also to make things slightly more difficult, the entire exercise was a timed event, and all of the candidates would be evaluated on their teamwork and leadership abilities.
Now I’ve head of this hypothetical scenario before, but I’d never seen it in person. So to see the candidates put their plan into action was quite impressive.
They started the process by first securing the vehicle with logs for wheel chocks and also by running the winch cable to a tree and putting it under tension. Then the candidates proceeded to place logs between the axle and the ground. Where did they find all of these logs? At the bottom of a hill, because there were no rules about what you could use outside of the vehicle. Then they proceeded to dig out each tire so they could remove the lug nuts and slide it off of the hub.
It sounds pretty straight forward, but the effort required was strenuous to say the least. There were a few points where candidates had to use a lever to lift the Rover a few inches in order to slide a wheel on and off. Their ability to improvise and work together under pressure was nothing short of impressive, and to do it while being critiqued by 10 others made them work that much harder.
The candidates successfully completed the scenario without any major issues, and proved their ability to apply the skills they had reviewed over the past few days in a true field exercise. Everyone had survived Day 3, and all that stood between them and the coveted title of Certified Trainer was a final exam and interview.