We are now well into Autumn and Winter is fast approaching, meaning one thing, the off-road driving season is upon us. For those of you that own a 4×4, whilst the rest of the country is complaining about the cold wet weather, you are getting excited about getting your off-roader out into the countryside and getting dirty! Whether you’ve been driving off-road for years, or if you are just starting out. Here at Friday-Ad Motors, we have come up with our guide to help you get the most out of your next off-road driving adventure.
Get to know your ride
Before you go off on your journey, be sure to get to know your car – note: this does not mean take it on a date – by this we mean to learn the dimensions of your car and what the undercarriage looks like. Try and gain a mental picture of where all the fragile sections of your car are ie. engine sump, gearbox, fuel tank etc. By doing this, you’ll be less likely to incur damage on these key sections of your car. If you do damage to any of these parts, Friday-Ad has lots of car parts for sale to help get you back on the road. It is also important if you have a roof rack, as low hanging trees can do just as much damage to your car as a rogue tree stump or rock. On top of this, before you go anywhere you should always keep a travel kit with you in case of an emergency.
Off-road like a pro
Driving off-road can be very difficult at times but it also a huge amount of fun. So, to get the most out of your off-road trip, try walking at least some of the route. This is to gain a better understanding of the conditions – if you can’t walk it’s likely your car might struggle too. Additionally, if you’re going to be driving over hilly terrain it might be worth checking what’s over the other side before you go flying over it Dukes of Hazard style. All you’re going to do is cause you and your car some serious potential damage.
Another important aspect of off-roading is that you must drive at a realistic speed and avoid excessive wheel spin whenever possible, especially on softer ground, as this can cause you to lose momentum and get stuck. Additionally, you should not change gear while you’re attempting to negotiate the tricky terrain. Finally, this is possibly the most important, make sure you tell someone where you are going and what route you have planned to go. If you get lost or stuck out on your travels, doing this could save you a lot of time and hassle.
If you’re looking to overcome obstacles there are a few tips that you should keep in mind. Firstly, when you are approaching a ridge, be sure to face it head on as going at an angle will reduce the level of performance of the car. Upon clearing any obstacles, when returning to the road, stop and check to see if there is any damage to the car (if necessary) including tyres, body damage, debris etc and make sure that the licence plates are still able to be read.
Similarly, when you are attempting to steer down a deeply rutted track, you need to take extra special care. The reason for this is because, you may not realise that your wheels are not pointed in the right direction until it’s too late, and your car gains grip and steers to one side. A helpful thing we have found is that, unless you’re driving downhill, try and keep a loose grip on your steering wheel when going through a rutted track. By doing this, you decrease the likelihood of your wheels locking.
What’s the best gear?
Selecting the correct gear for the type of terrain you are travelling on or are about to travel over is paramount, as the incorrect gear can severely hinder your progress. Below we have made a simple table as to what gear we think you should look to use for each type of condition:
- Ice and/or Snow – Highest gear possible (subject to conditions)
- Soft ground – Low range (2nd or 3rd gear)
- Rocky ground – 1st gear
- Climbing ridges – Use the highest gear (be sensible)
- Descending slopes – Low range (1st gear)
- Wading through water – Low range (1st or 2nd gear)
- Sand – 1st gear
Mud & Sand
Driving in mud and sand can be considered to be very similar conditions, therefore when driving over either terrain, keep these tips in mind. First of all, make sure to carry a steady consistent momentum as if you are to stop you may not get out without a winch (depending on the conditions). As well as this, when driving through mud, the lower gear you use the more likely you are to encounter wheelspin.
However, when it comes to sand the lower the gear the better, and sand is at its firmest the closer to dawn it is. This is a result of the cooler temperature. Additionally, when driving off-road on sand try to lower the pressure in your tyres to increase the tyres surface area and ultimately aid in gaining traction.
Snow is one of the trickiest conditions to try and overcome if you haven’t had any experience driving in it. Whether it’s the slippery surface of ice or a blinding blizzard it’s never easy if you don’t know what you’re doing. Like when driving through mud and sand, you must try to carry a steady momentum when attempting to go through deep snow. You don’t want to get stuck and have to dig your way out in snowy conditions. Try and avoid wheelspin by keeping your gears higher, but if your wheels do start to spin, ease gently off the throttle and the let the tyre regain some traction before going again.
Crossing water in your 4×4 is one of the most difficult skills to master. The most important thing you must consider before trying to make it across, be sure to make your attempt at a ford, otherwise you are making this more difficult than it needs to be. The second thing you must take into account is the depth. Where possible, try and walk across the water and use a large stick to gauge the depth. If it’s too deep, turn around and try another place to cross.
When you are wading through the water, be sure not to slip the clutch as this can reduce your control of your car and could veer you off course. As you come near to the other side of the water, ease your foot off the pedal and if there’s a steep slope, always approach head on (to avoid a potential roll) and in the highest gear in which the vehicle will pull comfortably.