There are so many advantages to owning a 4×4 but the most appealing feature has to be the capability no other vehicle has that allows a driver to indulge in some off-road driving. One of the most thrilling pursuits you can get up to in your spare time, before you take your 4WD off the beaten track be sure you’re prepared for any obstacles coming your way.
Know your vehicle
Before heading out you should be completely aware of the dimensions of your car and positioning of fragile parts such as the fuel tanks and differentials. Knowing the exact underside of your vehicle will only help when tackling tricky terrain as you know the best way to position your car to avoid any external or internal damage. You should also be aware of all the technology installed within your car. Those extra buttons are only there to help you – and with the right knowledge you’re ripe to take full advantage of the tools at your disposal!
Know your route
If possible, walk over your intended off-road route before driving over it and map out any obstacles on the path. It is imperative that you are completely sure that your car is capable of handling the terrain. Do not attempt anything too difficult at first. Start slow and build up your experience and confidence as a beginner. Always ensure you take at least one more person with you when off-roading, and if possible also bring another vehicle. This will help you stay secure if any accidents happen or you need help freeing your 4×4 if it gets stuck. You should always carry an emergency safety kit in your car, as well as any extra accessories that will help you recover if your car if it gets stuck.
Our golden driving tips
The habit of holding the steering wheel at the 10 – 2 position is one that we were all taught. However, when driving off-road it is very important not to grip your steering wheel too tight. You also must not rest your thumbs or fingers in the centre of your steering wheel. When driving in these conditions it is likely the steering wheel will suddenly jerk as the wheels find a gap in the uneven terrain. You can still retain control if you drive slowly during this, but you should hold the steering wheel with a loose grip so it can easily move through your hands. Otherwise gripping too tightly may result in strained or broken thumbs.
Take time into consideration before heading out off-road. A small area on a map may take a lot longer to cover than you expect. This is because you should drive as slowly as possible whilst still maintaining momentum in your 4×4. Staying in control of your vehicle is the most important part of driving off-road. Avoid changing the gear when you are on a tough obstacle or terrain to give you the best driving experience by maintaining momentum as much as possible.
Only apply gentle pressure on the accelerator and release this slowly. You should also keep braking to an absolute minimum. This gentle driving style will enable you to avoid any tyre spins.
Try to keep three wheels on the ground at all times. If you are approaching any large obstacles, attempt to clear them by driving over them diagonally. This will help you stay in control of the vehicle.
When driving on slippery terrain (such as ice and snow) or climbing slopes where you need an increase in traction, always use the higher range gears. On the other hand if you are going down slopes, driving on soft ground or on rocky ground stick to the lower range gears. In muddy conditions, a lower gear will result in your wheels spinning, however on sand the lowest gears work best. Be prepared for the conditions you will be driving in and research what gears are best for your terrain.
If you feel the wheels start to spin, slowly pull back from the accelerator until your tyres slow down. As they lose their speed they will also regain grip.
Always be in a comfortable position whilst driving. Stay upright but relaxed to put less strain on your back. You will most likely have a bumpy ride in store whilst you remain off-road!
Back on the road
After a full day off-roading you quickly need to revert back to your normal driving style. Disengage the 4WD feature – unless this is necessary for getting home. Take a moment before setting off to go over your car. Inspect for any damages to the exterior, and clean out any unexpected debris that you have picked up along the way. Check that your windows and lights are clear as well as making sure your registration plate can be easily read.
Off-roading is an experience every avid driver should have at some point during their lives. Take full advantage of your 4×4!