Off-roading tips

Off-roading is increasingly becoming a hobby for people who buy 4X4 SUVs to drive in the city but want to exploit the true capabilities of their cars. Here are a few tips to keep in mind for the next time you go off-roading.

1. Never go off-roading alone. Going off-roading with buddies in their SUVs ensures that when you get stuck, there are people to tow your car out of a pit. 

2. Always remember to carry a tow rope. Without a tow rope no one car help you get your car out of a pit. 

3. If you are going serious off-roading take two sheets of metal with you. If your car gets stuck in loose sand or mud, place the metal sheets in front of the drive wheels or the wheels that are stuck. This will give the wheel/s much needed traction to lug the vehicle out of a pit. 

4. Do not speed while off-roading. The terrain cannot be predicted and therefore maintaining a cautious speed helps you react to different surfaces more effectively. Speeding can cause accidents and you do not want to be far ahead of your buddies or on a different route when you get stuck.

5. When you get stuck do not accelerate and try to get the vehicle out. Accelerating hard will cause the vehicle to spin its wheels and sink further into the pit. 

6. Rock the vehicle gently on the power and see if you can find enough traction to get the vehicle out of the pit without any help.

7. Check the area you plan to go off-roading on. Ask local people about the terrain. Buy maps if available. When uncertain of the terrain ahead, get down and take a walk to inspect the terrain. It’s much better than getting stuck in tricky terrain and spending hours getting the vehicle out.

8. Hold the steering with a light grip. Having your thumbs wrapped around the inside of the steering can break them in case of a kickback. 

9. Know the four wheel drive system on your car. Earlier four wheel drive systems were very simple and everyone knew how to use them. Today however, everything from differential locks to hill descent control is available on cars. Read the owners manual and check with the manufacturer about the different off-roading features your vehicle is equipped with.

10. Having a well maintained vehicle that is in perfect condition is essential for off-roading. The vehicle has to cope with all sorts of terrains and will come under a lot of physical stress, it is crucial that your vehicle can cope with that stress. If your vehicle packs up while off-roading it will be an expensive and tiresome experience of getting your vehicle out of the terrain and into a workshop. 

11. When approaching a terrain always make sure that your transmission is on the right setting. In case of a downhill slope engage 1st gear and low range. This will help increase engine braking by using the clutch. Braking while going down a hill will cause the vehicle to skid and slide. Use the throttle, clutch and steering inputs to direct the vehicle on the right path. 

12. Use 2nd gear to drive uphill with low range or high range 4X4 depending on the incline and the type of terrain. If the terrain consists of loose sand/gravel or marshy ground use low range 4X4. If the terrain is firm smooth ground high range 4X4 can be used.

13. Always drive straight up or down a hill, avoid diagonal lines as it may result in the vehicle rolling.

14. While driving on soft marshy ground deflate the tyres a little bit for added traction. Re-inflate the tyres before driving on the road again. 

15. Equip your car with a winch so that it can be attached to another vehicle or a tree to get your car out.

16. If you have to drive through stagnant water do not panic. Put the car in first gear, and gently accelerate the car forward. Do not drive fast. Maintain the same speed while crossing the water. In case you have to stop or slow down do not lift your foot off the accelerator pedal because water may rush into the tail pipe and flood the engine in which case the engine will die out and the car has to be taken to a workshop. Depress the clutch and do not lift off the accelerator, the car will slow down and come to a halt. Release the clutch to get the car moving again. 

17. Before wading through water. Check the depth and the current speed. Maximum wading depth is about 20 inches for cars that are not modified for river crossing. If the water is still the bottom is usually muddy. If the water has current and the water is choppy it means that there are rocks at the bottom.

18. Do not drive against the current, drive at right angles, using the current to help the you angle your way across the river. Use 2nd gear in low range 4X4 to cross rivers.

19. After coming out of the river, depress the clutch and rev the engine to force out water, if any, out of the tail pipe. 

20. Pump the brakes to force water out and dry the brakes. 

21. While going over ditches and rocks drive at an angle so that one wheel is over the obstacle while the other three wheels have enough traction to move the vehicle forward.

22. Make sure you have enough fuel in your tank. Carry extra fuel if you are going for a long trip. Take enough food, water and usable spares like fuses and bulbs. Some other must haves are spare tools, spare wheel/s, portable air compressor. Maps, blankets, DC phone charger and a first aid kit. 

Offroading is all about oneness and brotherhood. When a group of offroaders meet up they become buddies and help each other out, which can turn out to be quite often. Always stay in a group when you go off-roading and you know someone is there to help you out as there is no cell phone network at times and not a person in sight. Drive safe.

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