Regardless of whether you’re a seasoned 4WD enthusiast or you’ve just purchased your first 4WD, we’re always in a constant state of learning and tend to pick up new tips and tricks all the time. Making mistakes is part of the learning process, however there are certain rules which must be followed to ensure your safety, the safety of those around you, and to keep your 4WD out of trouble!
It doesn’t really matter how much 4WD experience you have, even professional drivers still find themselves in sticky situations every now and then. To help you avoid these situations as much as possible, today we’ll be offering you our top 6 off-roaddriving tips to ensure you and your 4WD get home in one piece!
Choose the right gear
The first tip is to always remember to shift into 4WD before your tyres even touch the dirt, sand, or mud. You’d be surprised at how many times people simply forget to shift to 4WD and get stuck after their wheels begin to spin!
On challenging tracks, it’s always best to use low range 4WD which allows your vehicle to drive slower with more torque being sent to your wheels to help you get over obstacles with more control. Some excellent advice given to me is ‘drive as slowly as possible and as fast as necessary’ which can be applied to any off-road situation. You’ll clearly want to be in first gear when driving over rocks, but more speed and momentum is required for soft sand and mud to keep your wheels spinning.
Read the terrain
While it takes some practice, anticipating what lies ahead by reading the terrain properly is what 4WDing is all about. Ideally, you should never get a nasty surprise when driving through a rough section of a trail because if you can’t anticipate it, you should get out of your 4WD and take a look.When driving, elevate your gaze so you can see far enough ahead to find any changes in the trail. Similar to driving a steep ascent, you should pick your line before driving up the hill including what rocks you want your tyres on and what rocks to avoid!
Always bring recovery gear!
Getting bogged is all part of the game and you need to be prepared for any situation when off-roading. While sometimes you can get away with floor mats under the tyres and some digging, most of the time you’ll need proper recovery gear to get unstuck and make it home before dusk! Depending on whether you’re traveling alone or with some mates, a snatch strap or electric winch is the best way to properly recover.
While we all know that lowering your tyre pressure increases traction, sometimes this alone isn’t enough. If you find your tyres are beginning to spin or slide, don’t give into that instinctive urge and apply more gas because this usually only makes your tyres lose traction even faster! Instead, stop the vehicle and gently move your steering wheel back and forth in a sawing motion which allows the biting edges of your tyres to find new patches of dirt or grip to the clean side of a rock. You’ll probably need to practice this technique but once you’ve got it, you’ll find it to be priceless! Just don’t forget to keep your thumbs on the outside of the steering wheel or you could find yourself in a lot of pain after driving through certain obstacles.
Check the depth of water crossings
You never know when you’re going to hit a river or stream and it’s vital that you always check the depth of the water before crossing it. If you don’t know your vehicles wading depth (how far your vehicle can submerge without damage), then check your owner’s manual to find out. Checking the depth not only proves an invaluable safety measure, but it also gives your vehicle time to cool off before hitting cold water. A seemingly shallow stream could be much deeper than you imagined, and you never know where large rock are hidden which can easily get you bogged.
Know your angles
While ground clearance is important, it’s not the only spec that will help you clear a large rock or obstacle. In order to get over a tall obstacle, you need to know your approach and departure angles which is measured from the ground to the lowest point of the vehicle (generally under your front and rear bumper). The higher the angle, the more clearance you’ll have. Likewise, it’s also important to know your break-over angle which gives you an idea of how tall an obstacle can be that your 4WD can pass without getting high-centred. While you’ll rarely measure any obstacles, these angles provide you with a firm mental picture of what obstacles your 4WD can handle.
Essentially, understanding your vehicle’s limitations and reading the terrain is vital to your 4WDing capability so it’s important to always stay within your comfort zone when off-roading. Having an experienced driver in the passenger seat is the best way to improve your skills as they’ll be able to pass on knowledge in a comfortable and safe environment.
If you need any further information about off-road driving techniques, or you’re looking to purchase some 4WD products and accessories, get in touch with the friendly team at TJM Australia by phoning our staff on 07 3865 9999.