10 Tips for Beginner Off Roaders
Category: TECH TIPS
10 Tips for Beginner Off Roaders
1.Know Your Car
Before heading off road it’s vital to know your vehicle’s capabilities and limitations.
It's important to look under your car to identify its lowest point (often the rear differential), while also being mindful of the tow bar, if fitted. Depending on the variant, your four-wheel drive will have an approach and departure angle, along with a ground clearance figure and wading depth.
The approach and departure angles refer to the angle of the hill face you can attack front-on without impacting the front/rear edges of your vehicle.
2. Be Prepared
Check the weather – not just for while you’re away, but for the time beforehand – because heavy rain can drastically change the surface conditions.
It's also worth taking a spare pair of shoes to walk through water to test its depth before driving headfirst into the unknown.
It’s important to have a rated and good quality recovery kit on board AND IN REACH if you do get yourself into trouble. Its no good in your rear drawers when you’re backed up against a tree or embankment. A winch and/or snatch straps are essential. Shovels, recovery tracks and a little elbow grease will also help you out of sandy spots.
3. Slow Is The Go
It’s important to pace yourself and plan your route. Before you even reach an obstacle inspect it to the point you are comfortable and more often than not - the slower you go, the easier it is.
Speed multiplied by torque = breakages.
There are high torque strains on your vehicle when off roading so starting slow will minimise the chance of vehicle damage while providing more vehicle control and ability to adapt to the terrain.
4. Keep Calm and… Think First
Take your time. Off roading is not a race and panic often leads to rushed decision making and errors.
If you are in a difficult situation and the vehicle is stable, take your time to assess your options to choose the safest way to get yourself back on solid ground.
5. Understand Hill Descent Control
Hill Descent Control (HDC) allows smooth and controlled hill descents on rough terrain without requiring the driver to touch the brake pedal. HDC uses the ABS system to brake each wheel individually, giving it more control than a driver using the brake pedal, as manual braking only works across the axles.
Once engaged, most four-wheel drives allow the driver to change the crawl speed of the descending vehicle by using the cruise control plus and minus buttons on the steering wheel, or adjusting the throttle during descent.
If your vehicle is fitted with HDC, refer to your owners manual for full instructions.
6. Tyre Pressure Is Everything
Tyre pressure, is the key to optimising traction across varying terrain and also reducing the chance of punctures!
Chunky mud tyres might look like they’ll grip everything but a high pressure tyre on a rocky surface will more than likely simply damage, puncture or spin the tyre due to the small surface area in contact with the ground.
Reducing tyre pressures on rocky terrain to around 22-25psi will allow the tyre to conform and manipulate its shape around rocks. This provides better grip, a smoother ride and reduce the chance of punctures as the tyre will bend rather than pop. Think of a deflated balloon.
In sand driving, reducing the pressure to between 16-18psi will extend the length of the tyre tread pattern on the ground providing larger surface area to “float” across the sand rather than “cut” into it.
7. Thumbs out
Placing your thumbs and all other parts of your hands outside the steering wheel is a discipline worth getting in the habit of early.
In the event you hit an obstacle which impacts your steering, the wheel will spin around no matter how hard you’re holding on and will take your thumbs and fingers with it! Ouch!
8. Be Aware Of Water
There’s a common saying – “If you can’t walk it, you can’t drive it.”
It’s important to walk through water before driving through it to check a number of aspects of any crossing. Surface condition – is it solid underfoot? Muddy, big rocks?? Depth – will the crossing be deeper than your vehicles air intake. Cars drink fuel and diesel – not water.
Once ensuring it’s safe to enter, approach the water slowly and maintain a constant speed in water.
Often 2nd Gear Low Range provides a good combination of traction and speed.
9. Turn Toward Your Fall
Off road is not flat. At some time you might find yourself in a position where your vehicle is positioned a precarious angle feeling as though you are going to tip over.
As in Points 3 & 4, slow is the go and keep calm.
Provided it is clear to do so and you are not going to make the situation worse, in most cases you can correct the vehicles angle by turning and driving toward the direction you are tipping.
10. Follow The Ruts
Mud and hills don’t mix.
Ruts are often caused by loose traction which is commonly found on hills. And when hills get muddy they get slippery.
Provided your vehicle maintains ground clearance, following the ruts will be the safest way through an obstacle. Trying to straddle or avoid muddy ruts can result in the vehicle losing traction and falling into the rut potentially causing damage to steering, axles or panels.
This is by no means a complete list so if you have any questions, just speak with a club member or your Club Induction Officer for any help.