4×4 Off-road Driving Tips
The best advise I have ever received : “AS SLOW AS POSSIBLE – AS FAST AS NECESSARY”
GENERAL DRIVING TIPS
- Always wear your seat belt, the exception being when crossing a river.
- When driving in bush or thorn trees keep your window closed to above eye level to prevent thorn branches whipping through the window and damaging the eyes.
- It is advisable to move your seat a “click” forward and to raise your backrest slightly when encountering off road conditions…..this gives you better visual access to obstacles.
- Adjust tyre pressure to suite the terrain.
- Inspect suspect obstacles prior to attempting them.
- Keep both hands on the wheel at all times. Remember to keep your thumbs on the outside of the wheel.
- Choose your driving line and gear before attempting an obstacle and remain committed to your choice.
- A piece of tape placed at top center of your steering wheel will assist in keeping your wheels straight when driving in sand.
- While driving difficult terrain it is advisable to allow the vehicle in front of you to clear the obstacle before you make an attempt.
- Avoid aggressive jerking of the steering wheel, rather use gentle coaxing maneuvers.
- Select four-wheel drive prior to encountering any difficulties.
- When driving in grassy areas check the underneath of your car regularly for grass build-ups that can easily lead to fires.
- When driving on rocky terrain tilt your mirrors down – this allows you to see what your back wheels have to deal with.
- Remember that when stuck in a seemingly impossible situation it often helps to sit down, relax, have a refreshment and consider your predicament.
WHAT TYRE PRESSURES ARE BEST FOR WHICH SITUATIONS
Correct tyre pressure can help to extend the life of your tyre, improve vehicle safety and maintain fuel efficiency. Pressure is measured by calculating the amount of air that has been pumped into the inner lining of your tyre in pounds force(PSI) or BAR pressure.
The manufacturer of your vehicle specifies the suitable pressure, and it is your responsibility to make sure that the pressure is checked and corrected on a regular basis, at least every couple of weeks.
Maintaining correct Tyre Pressures
There are three main reasons why maintaining the right tyre pressure is important. The first is safety. Tyres that are under inflated can overheat; and over inflated tyres can lead to poor vehicle handling on the road.
The second reason is economy. Over or under inflated tyres suffer more damage than those with the correct pressure and need to be replaced more regularly. Vehicles with under-inflated tyres have increased rolling resistance that requires more fuel to maintain the same speed.
The third reason for maintaining the correct tyre pressure is the environment. Correct tyre pressures help to maintain optimum fuel efficiency. This can equate to lower Co2 emissions coming from your vehicle than those with incorrect tyre pressures and that has to be good for the environment.
Before crossing any river there are a few important things to consider :
- Take sufficient time to ensure that there are no dangerous wild animals or crocs in the vicinity before you get out of the vehicle to do your recce.
- Before crossing always ensure that you walk the route you are going to take so that you know what is hidden below the water.
- Ensure that there is plenty of space downstream on the opposite bank to drive your vehicle out. You WILL GET PUSHED A BIT DOWNSTREAM if the water has any kind of power whatsoever.
Ask yourself the following questions before crossing:
- Are you pushed downstream when you walk in the water?
- Is the water level higher than you knees?
- Are you unable to walk all the way across and back again to assess bottom conditions?
If the answer to all or any of these is NO ……. THEN DON’T GO – find another way around.
If you are going to cross a river or body of water of any description make sure that:
- Your windows are open (They won’t wind down when the electrics short out!)
- Your seat belt is undone (Its impossible to swim with a car strapped to your back)
- That the water is definitely not higher than your air filter
- That you are in 4×4 Low (2nd)and that you maintain a steady speed to create a bow wave in front of the vehicle.
- DO NOT STOP for any reason whatsoever – keep going…
Be sure not to get into the same predicament as the vehicle in the picture below:
DRIVING ON ROCKY TERRAIN
When driving on boulder strewn river beds or up and down steep rocky slopes or roads always adjust your rear-view mirrors downwards so that you can get a first-hand view of what your rear tyres have to cope with. Also – KNOW WHERE YOUR DIFF IS – rather take a wheel over a large rock than have it damage your diff by trying to keep it between the wheels.
MAKE SURE YOUR TYRE PRESSURES ARE CORRECT – Soft enough to help the tyre over the rocks and prevent cutting by jagged edged rocks – and hard enough to prevent the rocks crunching the tyres against the wheel rims.
SNATCH STRAP SAFETY
One of the most important elements of this training is vehicle recovery, and the proper use of snatch straps. Snatch Straps are extremely dangerous pieces of equipment if not used properly. Irrespective of how experienced a driver you are, if you become complacent, accidents will happen. A number of recent accidents (some even resulting in death), should cause all of us to be aware of the importance of proper off-road driver and recovery training which makes us both confident and fully aware of how we handle our recovery equipment.
When hooking the strap to a vehicle, only ever connect to a rated recovery point and use only rated bow shackles or hooks. NEVER, EVER, SNATCH OFF A TOW BALL. Tow balls are tested to withstand a load of approx. 3.5 tonnes. When using a snatch strap, due to the elasticity of the strap, the load can be magnified to in excess of 8 to 10 tonnes. This is well in excess of the capability of the tow ball and will cause breakage. The tow ball then becomes a deadly projectile as it is slung by the retracting snatch strap.
When hooking a strap to the rear of the vehicle, the best option is to remove the tow ball tongue from its housing and secure the strap by placing the strap eye inside the housing and securing it with the pin that holds the tongue in place. Prior to heading out on a trip, unless towing a trailer, always remove the tongue from your vehicle and leave it at home.
Ensure that all twists are removed from the strap to allow it to work as it was designed to do. Any twists will reduce the elasticity of the strap and cause the strap to fail much earlier.
Always place a damper over the strap, to direct the energy downwards should a failure occur. The same principal applies when winching. This damper can be an old coat, blanket, spud bag or rubber mat out of the car. Alternatively you can head into your 4WD shop and grab a purpose made one, doesn’t matter what you use as long as you use something.
Ensure that any bystanders not directly involved in the recovery move to a safe place well clear of the actual recovery. To the side of area is the safest as the most dangerous areas are going to be fore and aft of the direction of the recovery.
Ensure you have radio contact or have pre-determined signals to communicate when each driver is ready to start the recovery exercise and when to stop. This applies equally to when the attempt is successful or not.
The sole aim of a snatch recovery is to provide the bogged vehicle with just enough assisting momentum to drive out under its own steam. It is not desirable to totally drag the vehicle out as this has the potential to cause damage to both vehicles, the recovery equipment and to bystanders so should be avoided.
Snatch straps work through energy stored within the elasticity of the strap. IE if you stretch the strap, the elasticity will spring it back to its normal length, therefore multiplying the pulling force of the towing vehicle, allowing for a smoother recovery with minimal effort. Accordingly, to determine how much pulling force is required to move the bogged vehicle, becomes a matter of trial and error. With the initial attempt, the towing vehicle only needs to pull away slowly in low gear with the bogged driver also attempting to drive out at the same time. If this fails to provide enough momentum, repeat the process with a little more slack in the strap. From there on, you can slowly increase the speed of the towing vehicle until the desired result is achieved.
To make the snatch as safe as possible always ensure that the vehicle being ‘snatched’ has its bonnet open to act as a shield for the driver should anything snap and whip back at the vehicle.
To maximise the life of your snatch strap, make sure it is washed and dried when you get home, before packing it away ready for the next trip.