For some of us, 4WDing is a hobby that we like to enjoy on the weekends but for others, work may require them to be 4WDing for 8 hours a day! It doesn’t really matter whether you’re new to 4WDing or you’ve had decades of experience, we always seem to pick up new advice and tips all the time. The most important aspect to 4WDing is ensuring our safety and the safety of those around us, so to guide you in the right direction, today we’ll be offering you our top 6 tips to 4×4 off-roading so you and your vehicle arrive home in one piece!
Choose the appropriate gear
First things first, always remember to shift into 4WD before your tyres even hit the dirt, mud, or sand. You’d be amazed at how many folks simply forget to shift to 4WD and get stuck after their wheels start spinning!
On demanding tracks, it’s normally best to use low range 4WD where your vehicle can drive at slower speeds with increased torque being sent to your wheels which assists you in overcoming obstacles with more control. Some outstanding advice passed down to me was ‘drive as slowly as possible and as fast as necessary’ which can be applied to any off-road circumstance. You’ll certainly prefer to be in first gear when driving over rocks, but more momentum and speed is needed when driving through sand and mud to keep your wheels rotating.
It’s well-known that decreasing your tyre pressure enhances traction, but most of the time this alone won’t suffice. If you sense your tyres are beginning to slip or spin, don’t give into that habitual temptation and apply more gas because this typically only makes your tyres lose traction even quicker! Alternatively, stop your 4×4 and slowly move your steering wheel backwards and forwards in a sawing motion which helps the biting edges of your tyres find new spots of dirt or grip to the clean side of a rock. You’ll perhaps need to practice this technique quite a bit but once you’ve got it, you’ll find it to be invaluable! Also, remember to keep your thumbs on the outside of the steering wheel to avoid any injuries when driving over obstacles.
Always bring recovery gear!
Getting bogged is all part of the fun and you must to be prepared for any predicament when off-roading. Even though at times you can get away with floor mats under the tyres and some digging, most of the time you’ll need effective recovery equipment to get unstuck and arrive home before sunset! Depending on whether you’re 4WDing alone or with some friends, an electric winch or snatch strap is the best way to effectively recover after getting bogged.
Read the terrain
Even though it takes some practice, foreseeing what lies ahead by reading the terrain correctly is what 4WDing is all about. Essentially, you should never find an unpleasant surprise when driving through a coarse segment of a trail because if you can’t anticipate it, you should get out of your 4WD and have a look. When driving, lift your gaze so you can see far enough in front of you to identify any changes in the trail. Similar to driving a steep hill, you should pick your line prior to driving the ascent including what rocks you want your tyres on and what rocks to avoid!
Inspect the depth of water crossings
You never know when you’re going to run into a creek or river and it’s essential that you always examine the depth of the water before attempting to cross it. If you don’t know your 4WDs wading depth (how far your vehicle can submerge without harm), then check out your owner’s manual. Investigating the depth is not only an indispensable safety precaution, but it also gives your 4×4 time to cool down before plunging through cold water. A seemingly shallow creek could be much deeper than you pictured, and you never know where large obstacles are hidden which can easily get you bogged.
Know your angles
Even though ground clearance is crucial, it’s not the only spec that will assist you in clearing a large rock or obstacle. To get over a high obstacle, you need to know your approach and departure angles which is measured from the ground to the lowest point of your 4WD (typically under your front and rear bumper). The higher the angle, the more clearance you’ll have. Likewise, you should also find out your break-over angle which gives you an idea of how big an obstacle can be that your vehicle can pass without getting high-centred. Although you’ll almost never measure any obstacles, these angles provide you with a firm mental picture of which obstacles your vehicle can tackle.
In a nutshell, knowing your vehicle’s limits and reading the terrain is key to your 4WDing ability so it’s necessary to always stay within your comfort zone when off-roading. Having an accomplished driver as a co-pilot is the best way to strengthen your skills as they’ll have the ability to hand down knowledge in a comfortable and safe environment.
If you need any additional information about off-road driving techniques, or you’re wanting to buy some 4WD products and accessories, talk to the friendly team at TJM Australia by phoning them on 07 3865 9999.