Off-Road Driving Tips
Land Rovers were initially designed to be used off-road. Many owners, however, only use them on normal roads. Using Land Rover off-road can provide great fun. It requires, however, different driving techniques that can be learnt on special 4×4 driving courses. Numerous off-road centres can be found all over the UK. They provide courses, off-road driving days as Corporate off-road events, team building exercises as well as driving days giving you off-road experience rather than tuition.
These are some off-road driving tips that can be practiced before or during the off-road course.
Firstly, find some good off-road space where, apart from training new skills, you can also relax and enjoy the views.
In order to drive a Land Rover safely, the off-road techniques have to be learnt correctly. There are some UK environmentally friendly codes of conduct that should be followed on an off-road expedition.
Deep Ruts & Ditches
Make sure you know where the lowest points of your vehicles are. In order to avoid over steering, let the wheels follow their own route inside a deep rut. Be prepared, however, to take control if needed. Cross ditches at an angle, do not direct on.
Before going into deep water, you need to check if the bottom is solid or if it’s soft mud, and if there are any underwater potholes. Directional steering can be affected by sideways current so it’s better to turn the air conditioner off. If the water reaches the cooling fan, switch the engine off and let it cool. An electric fan won’t start up at the crossing that way.
Tyres act as floats in the water. Remember that pressure is lowered afterwards. It’s easier for the vehicle to be pushed sideways. Go slowly and steady pushing a bow wave in front. The wave causes a lower water level inside the engine bay. Don’t stop or accelerate through the waves, just nurture them. The Land Rover will be difficult to restart if the water enters the exhaust. After leaving the water, check the brakes. Try to dry brakeshoes and drums by pressing brakes lightly while driving a short distance. Discs will be quicker to dry out. If the vehicle was being driven in the muddy water, remove the brake drums and clean them out.
Before entering cold water, it is advisable to cool hot axles in order to avoid changing the diff and bearings. Only oil will need changing but it’s much cheaper.
In deep water you’ll need well fitted snorkels as well as waterproof electrics in the engine bay. A radiator blind can be made from tarpaulin in an emergency, if you don’t have a snorkel. The aim is to stop water going through the radiator and guide it under the engine. After stalling the engine in the water, dry all electrics before restarting the vehicle, otherwise cranking the engine in gear will move the Land Rover forward and backward.
Hill Climbing & Descending
Avoiding rocks, stumps and holes is a good idea. Try to check the hill, if possible, to make sure it’s safe for the vehicle. Select the gear, then go with a steady pace. Don’t use too much of accelerator but avoid stalling. If a wheel spins, back off the power to get traction again. If you stop on the hill, apply brakes and select reverse immediately. Release the brake and engage the clutch fully. Don’t brake on the way down. Be very careful as if the wheels lock, you’ll lose steering and will slide sideways or even roll over. Without braking, reverse down the hill in gear, trying to take the straightest line. The engine will brake safely.
To descent the hill, use engine braking to low down rather than the brakes. To regain control in case of sliding around, accelerate slightly. Ease off the brake if you brake when driving down and a skid develops. You will regain traction and will be able to steer again.
Be very careful while driving in long grass, as there are several dangers hiding there: it can block the radiator, wrap around the crank pulley, catch fire on the hot exhaust as well as hide obstacles and holes.
Successful driving in the mud depends on the tread on your tyres. The more aggressive it is, the more likely it is you’ll reach the destination. Unfortunately, even the most aggressive treads can’t cope with wet clay. In this situation, turn the steering left and right. Again, steady momentums should solve the problem. Avoid changing the gear and accelerating.
After driving in the deep mud, remove mud from the vehicle and check the braking.
If you want to hit large rocks, try to do it squarely. The sidewall is the most vulnerable part of the tyre. That is why it is advisable to avoid cuts scratches. Put you foot off the clutch pedal. Brake only if necessary. If your Land Rover has an automatic box, you might want to brake gently as automatic boxes give a bit less engine braking. Maintaining a slow and steady momentum, then starting off again after a stalled engine, is recommended. You need to know exactly where the wheels are and where they will be in a few moments.
The sand is firm if you can see tyre patterns, it’s soft it tyre tracks are narrow vees. Before going to on the sand, check it’s not mostly dry just below the surface. If you follow a vehicle on sand, don’t follow its track, drive your own crust. There will be less chance of loosing critical momentum. Maintain momentum, avoid braking and sharp turns are golden rules of driving in the soft sand. Start off slowly, using 2nd gear in automatics. Don’t change gear or slip the clutch when under load. To get the momentum, you might need a running start and you should be at the highest gear. It’s not for speeding, though.
When the wheel is spinning, the Land Rover will be dug down very quickly. If it happens, don’t power your way out. Firstly, come out and have a look. On sandy steep descents accelerate out of a slide don’t brake. Don’t traverse the dune or drive blind over the top of it. Drive straight up or down it. Don’t drive through a sand storm. To minimise vibration, drive corrugations at the best speed. It is recommended to buy a long handled shovel, if you plan to drive on the sand often.
Avoid changing gear unnecessarily and use only as much gear as needed to keep the engine going. There might be several hidden obstacles in the snow, such as rocks, branches etc. Keep to the high side of the slope, drive the crown of the track leaving only a wide margin for ditches.
You’ll loose traction if you turn the steering left and right while climbing. Never change gear on ice.
Driving in freezing conditions can cause ice to build up around the steering and suspension.