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Sticky Situations – How to Drive in Mud?

Sticky Situations – How to Drive in Mud?

Tuesday, October 2, 2018

Like a child jumping in puddles, driving through muddy tracks in your brand new 4x4 is very tempting at first glance. While it may be the most fun you’ve had all week, the tears of joy can quickly turn into disaster if proper care isn’t taken. Mud can vary from black silt to brown clay to salt pan, and every mud track is different so precaution must be exercised to ensure you don’t damage your 4WD or any vital underbody components.
If you haven’t had the opportunity (or heartache) of driving through mud before, today you’re in for a treat. We’ll be providing you with a crash course in how to drive in mud and get out of those sticky situations.
If possible, avoid them altogether
If there is another track leading to your destination (that isn’t mud), then always take the easier option. Driving in mud is risky and should be avoided if possible. Of course, there’s always those situations where there’s no other options but getting dirty, however it’s vital that you plan ahead to minimise any track damage, vehicle damage, and emotional damage!
Inspect the mud
Unlike water which is clean and clear, mud is sticky and stinky and you have no idea how deep the mud is without inspecting it. Before driving on any mud tracks, you should assess the mud for depth and also any other obstacles which can cause damage to your 4WD. Poke a stick in the mud to see how deep it is and plan a path that is free from any obstacles (such as submerged logs and rocks).
If recent vehicles have already made a track through the mud, look at the ruts of these tracks and if they’re not too deep, they’ll be your best option. On the other hand, if the ruts are so deep they’ll cause clearance issues, you’ll have straddle them and try not to fall into the middle (which is easier said than done).
Crossing mud tracks with other vehicles is ideal because it makes recovery much easier with a snatch strap. In any case, always have a plan in case you get stuck (such as a tree to winch off) and have your shovel and recovery tracks in an accessible location. You’ll also want to lower your tyre pressure to increase your traction if the mud has a soft base. Aim for about 22 – 28psi as mud can find its way between your tyres and wheels which will lead to rapid deflation. When driving on mud with a solid base, there’s no need to lower you tyre pressure.
Driving through mud
Like driving in sand, momentum is key so you want to select low range second or third gear which will give you enough momentum but not too much to damage your 4WD. Engage all your diff locks if your 4WD has them fitted, including rear, centre, and front, and don’t forget to engage your lock free-wheeling hubs if you have them.
Once you enter the mud, keep your revs up and try to avoid changing gears in manual vehicles. You’ll likely get stuck when you disengage the clutch because your 4WD will get sucked into the mud. Don’t be too concerned if your tyres spin in the mud – spinning wheels will actually help clear the tread blocks and give you better traction. But, if you begin to lose momentum and your wheels are still spinning, see-saw the steering wheel from left to right which will give your front tyres the opportunity to bite into the sides of the ruts. This technique will give you more momentum to get through the track.
Stuck in mud
If you get stuck, there’s a good chance that there is a build-up of mud in your front tyres so simply reverse out and try again with more momentum. On the other hand, if your 4WD can’t move in either direction, you’ll need to grab your shovel and clear away the mud from anywhere it has made contact with the underside of your 4WD (think diff locks, bash plates, sidesteps, tyres).
If you still can’t get out, you’ll have to use your recovery tracks if you’re by yourself or use a snatch strap or tow strap if you’re with other vehicles that are close by and aren’t stuck. With recovery tracks, use low-range first (or reverse) and try to make contact with the tracks without spinning the wheels. Build on this momentum until your tyres hit firmer ground (which may take several attempts). The last option you have is to winch yourself out using a solid anchor point such as a tree or another vehicle.
Cleaning the mud
It’s vital that you clean your 4WD as soon as possible to avoid any mud damage. While you may be proud of your effort and your dirty 4WD, mud can seep into oil seals, wheel bearings, CV joints, and clutches, and the abrasive nature can cause paint damage. Consequently, thoroughly cleaning the interior and exterior of your 4WD is the most important step to minimise corrosion and rust damage.
If you’re heading on a trip where there’s a chance of mud, it’s best to be equipped with 4WD products and accessories that will help you get across. For a wide-range of 4WD products and accessories, get in touch with the specialists at TJM Australia by phoning 07 3865 999, or alternatively use our handy store locator to find the TJM store closest to you.