How to keep the dust out of your 4WD

Let's face it, tackling awesome tracks like the Old Ghan Railway track in the photo above is one of the best parts of an Aussie road trip adventure.

But if you're driving an older rig like our 24 year old 80 Series Landcruiser then the dust seals are probably not as good as they once were.

We also find that the back tailgate refuses to stay locked shut and usually pops slightly open once we get going which doesn't help when keeping the dust out.

But there is a solution!

The trick to keeping most of the dust on the outside of the car is to pressurise your cabin using your air conditioning settings.

Wind up all of your windows and set your air conditioning settings so that you have fresh air coming in (not recirculating) and the fan is on a higher setting.


Adjust the air con and cool/heat however you need to - these won't make any difference to the dust factor.

Now you have new air being pumped into the car cabin creating a higher pressure inside than outside - this is the same way that planes pressurise the cabin.

The higher pressure air will try to escape through any less than perfect seals around doors, tailgate etc. and while it is trying to get out, the dust won't be able to get in.

Simple but very effective.

Now if you're following close behind another car and have their dust coming in your vents then this won't help the situation as you'll be pumping their dust into your car.

As a rule I never follow close enough behind anyone that I can smell their dust, for several reasons:

  • I don't want to be breathing their dust!
  • If I am breathing their dust then so is my air filter and engine and that is not good.
  • If I'm that close then I'm probably close enough for them to break my windscreen with a rock.

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18 thoughts on “How to keep the dust out of your 4WD

  1. Avatar
    Margaret Davy says:

    We had a scupper fitted to our van too Adele & had more dust & rocks all over the bed! I refuse to open it now, as I feel it is totally useless. Our van Leaks little piles of dust all along the seam lines on walls & floors. Such a pain!!

  2. Avatar
    Warren Pilton, Toyota master tech for 27years so far says:

    Finally someone else knows the truth, you are 100% correct, been trying to tell people this for many years, but some choose to stay on recirculation, their loss and detailing bill everytime they go bush.

  3. Avatar
    Kevin says:

    We had a canopy on a dual cab Ute, it had a scupper vent; we found that opening the front sliding window a little bit was FAR more effective than using the scupper vent. We do lots of dirt road touring & got very little dust under the canopy. No seals on tailgate of our Ute.

    • Avatar
      Jan says:

      We do the same Kevin, with the front sliding window of canopy open, created pressure & very little dust coming in through tailgate .

  4. Avatar
    Steve Read says:

    Dear Steve

    I am a new bee to Four wheel driving and after applying this principal I was pleasantly surprised to find no dust in the cabin after going out west to the farms in Miles.

    Please keep the practical types going!.

    Regards Steve

  5. Avatar
    Janet Elliott says:

    Just finished watching the big lap series and it has inspired us so much. We are actually starting our big lap in October 2016 but unlike you guys we are going to house sit our way around Australia and when house sits dont match we plan to stay in cabins. I will be working as an Registered Nurse as we go, so we are planning to stay in places for 6-8 weeks. But I will be using your resources to help me budget and pack. Thanks its a fantastic website.

  6. Avatar
    Poul Wergeltoft says:

    Dear Steve.
    Thank you for all your informative mails.
    Talking about fresh air or recirculating, I think that it is very important to let people know that you should always, and I mean always have the setting for fresh air coming in, not the reculating air. The very important reason being, that newer cars is very tight sealing and if the setting is on recirculating, you don't get enough, if any, fresh air in to the car. And if you got 3 or more people in the car, it take only a few minutes before the oxygen levels drop to a dangerus level and there is a high risk for the driver to go to sleep and having an accident,

  7. Avatar
    karen woitkowiak says:

    Keeping dust out becomes an obsession, after travelling 22oookm and the Gibb being included I always kept a damp cloth handy and always wiped the door seals out at the end of the day.

    • Steve Baile
      Steve Baile says:

      Good idea Karen . . . but if you start shampooing the battery as well, we'll be calling you Ted Bullpit 😉

  8. Avatar
    Bill says:

    two good ideas--I use duct tape to seal all the door except,of course, the drivers door.i travel alone.
    Thanks for a great website

  9. Avatar
    Tony Russell says:

    If dust is a major problem getting into your ute's canopy area, there is also a simple solution. Assuming the tail gate is as sealed as you can make it and dust is still getting in making your storage area a misery, install a vent into the roof of the canopy and make sure it is fully open, yes, facing into the dust cloud. As with the air cond solution, the air pressure in the rear storage area under the canopy will increase and prevent dust ingress happening. It works a treat.

    • Avatar
      Adele Clarke says:

      Using this same principle we put a scupper vent in our caravan.....all we got was more dust inside and even small rocks 🙁 My husband has now purchased a blower to install in place of the scupper vent so fingers crossed that works. We also put a foam covering over the door vent when we travel which helps a little....anyone got any more ideas as to how to keep dust out of a caravan?

      • Avatar
        Harry says:

        How's the Dust Problem going ?
        You say you use foam to block door vents , if this is correct you are not allowing the pressure vent in the roof to do its job , it need the vents in the door to let the pressure out, a caravan in transit acts like a giant bellow sucking in and out , by using the roof vent it stops the sucking and increases the pressure blowing effect , and for the stone issue I suggest a Stone stomper , and if stones are flicking up from you car you may want to reduce your speed on unsealed roads,
        Cheers Harry.

    • Avatar
      Geoff says:

      Dead right Tony !. The same effect as having your air control lever set on fresh air coming in, thus pressurising the cabin.
      I like Pat Calliinan's work but he keeps on telling us to set the air control on recirculating.......and he's wrong !!!!.

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