Off-roading is not always about power and big torque – it’s more about finesse. You will enjoy your experience most if you increase the difficulty of the terrain you try gradually, and perhaps start with one guided course and instructor. This way your skills will increase and you can take on more challenging terrain without damaging your vehicle or scaring yourself off.
These are a few tips that can help:
1. Don’t drive too fast. Try to drive only as fast as necessary. Taking your time will allow you to take a smooth path and give you enough time to react. Also, if you hit a rock, going slowly will stop the vehicle. If you were going too fast, it could knock a hole in the oil pan, diff or even knock off the oil filter. Off-roading is about feeling and navigating the terrain, not trying to fly over it.
2. Do some research about the terrain you’re going onto. If you’ve got any doubts, get out and check. Make sure the trail does have a bottom and see how deep it is. Often a walk-through can really help, as you will have an idea of where to slow down and what lies beyond each corner.
3. Drive directly up and down the hills, never diagonally, as this could result in a sideway slide or even a rollover. Some trails require off-camber driving. Go slow and keep the tyres in the tracks.
4. If you find yourself in a situation where a rollover is imminent, quickly turn the 4×4 into the slide and drive down. If you can’t and you’re going over, turn the vehicle off and hold on to the bottom of your seat. Never turn around on a hill!
5. You may find you can reduce the tyre pressure. This will improve traction, especially on sand. Remember to re-inflate before going on the pavement. How much air you can reduce, depends on the tyre and on the type of 4×4 you have. You could go as much as 15psi or lower, even 10psi for soft sand, but for an average 4×4 18-20 will be enough.
6. When traversing obstacles, make sure one wheel at a time goes over the obstacle whereas the other three stay on the ground.