So the salesman told you your new 4WD is capable of fording streams, clambering up and over mountains, carving a path through the thickest of jungles, and tackling sand dunes without even raising a sweat…
There’s just one problem, and that is that you’ve never been off-roading before. While this guide is no substitute for enrolling in an accredited 4WD course, it will help you get more out of your new 4WD.
Tame The Terrain
Mud and Sand: The trick to getting through mud and sand is to use steady momentum, that means to keep even pressure on the throttle; don’t jerk your foot on and off. When driving in mud, don’t select too low a gear as this will cause your tyres to spin rather than grip; second or even third gear is the way to go. While, in sand, a lower gear is usually best.
Water: Make sure the river’s safe for you to cross and never attempt to cross a river in flood. Accelerate as you enter the water slowly to create a bow wave, and then drive at a nice even (slow) pace to avoid overtaking your bow wave (this should sit about one metre off your bumper).
Hills: Always try and walk the hill, mainly so that you know what’s on the other side of it…And always drive straight-ahead at a hill, never approach from an angle (which could cause a rollover), and choose the highest gear the vehicle will ‘pull’ in. On your way down a hill make sure you’ve stopped and assessed the ground. Pick out a rough path and then, choosing first-gear low range, or 1 in an automatic-equipped 4WD (this will provide the maximum amount of engine braking) set off. Or, simply engage hill-descent control if your 4WD has it.
Airing Down: Means dropping your tyre pressures to increase their footprint, which improves traction in soft sand. It’s also worth airing down on rocky terrain as it allows the now soft tyre a chance to roll over an obstacle. Make sure you carry an air compressor to re-inflate your tyres once you get back on the bitumen.
Seven Steps For Driving Off-Road
1. Know just how big your vehicle is and that also means knowing its approach and departure angle, ground clearance and ramp over.
2. Where possible walk the ground you’ll be driving over.
3. Don’t be a hero. If the hill is too steep, the track too narrow, or the water looks too deep then turn around and find another way to go.
4. Keep both hands on the wheel, but never lock your thumbs inside the rim of the steering wheel (steering kickback could sprain them, or worse), and always drive as slowly as possible but as fast as necessary.
5. Make sure you tell someone where you’re going, when you’ll be back and the exact route you plan to take.
6. The rules of bush walking apply; you want someone to know when to expect you back and where to find you.
7. Before you get back onto the bitumen, stop, and check your tyres for cuts and, if you’ve deflated the tyres make sure you pump them back up to road pressures again. Check that none of your gear has come loose with all of the bumping about off-road.
Looking for a 4wd or hybrid AWD vehicle?
Gumtree.com.au has plenty to offer when it comes to finding your next 4wd or all-terrain vehicle. We have thousands of new and used off-road cars for sales every day. Browse models including the popular Toyota Hilux, Jeep Grand Cherokee and Ford Ranger vehicles. For occasional off-road or dirt road use, but a AWD system that is fully engaged all the time, check out the Subaru Forester SUV.
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