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Use your brain on rough terrain!


If you realise early on in your off-road career that knowing the terrain is imperative when taking on 4×4 obstacles, then half your battle is won. There are a number of aspects that are encompassed in good off-road driving and in this article we delve into improving your 4×4 abilities. Click here for the SA4X4 product & vehicle accessories directory

Attempting a 4×4 obstacle with excessive speed is definitely not suggested. It will also damage your vehicle. In most instances you’ll never get out of first or second gear when on an off-road track. Going full tilt at an obstacle is going to take out your undercarriage, damage your suspension, bend important vehicular tackle and even remove the engine from its mountings if you endeavors are too gung ho.

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Top tip: It’s always advisable to travel in groups in remote areas. This way, if you break down, you have assistance at hand and can make it to safety via towing or in another member’s vehicle.

Gear selection is important. You should know which gear or gears you will need for a particular obstacle. Try and use the same gear throughout, as many vehicles bog down due to the loss of momentum when changing gears.

Once you get to know your particular 4×4 well, you will know exactly where your wheel placement is which aids you when finding the correct driving line without the aid of a spotter. That being said, having a spotter to assist you through a particularly difficult obstacle is first prize. The last thing you want to do is knock a hole in your sump or tear a wheel off its stub axle, or worse.

Yes, when you’re out on the 4×4 track, wear a seatbelt. If your vehicle does manage the worst of all off-road tricks and roll over, at least you’re protected by your seatbelt and not getting up close and personal with the roof lining.

As we’ve said time and time again… “walk the route before driving it!” By walking the muddy section, yes you’ll get your shoes muddy but you’ll quickly determine whether it’s safe to drive. Use a stick to prod and poke for large boulders and hidden stumps that could shred you tyres. Gauge the mud depth and if it is too deep, find an alternative route. Simply, go around! Having a spotter in these situations is an advantage. Stay in the low range gear you have selected when passing through the mud obstacle.

Top tip: Keep your steering wheel as straight as possible when negotiating mud obstacles and muddy waterholes. Turning your front wheels will hinder forward movement and dramatically increase your chances of getting stuck.

If you do get stuck and have a winch, with something in the near vicinity to attach it to, do that. Alternatively, ask your friends for a tow.  The worst case scenario, if you’re on your own, is to wait for the next 4×4 to come your way. In remote areas, this might take hours or even days. For this reason it’s important to go off-road with others.

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Like driving in sandy obstacles, negotiating rocky obstacles also requires heavily deflated tyres, right down to 0.8 bar. This allows the tyre a lot of give and the ability to transform over and around sharp rocks and boulders. If normal tyre pressure is used, the instance of punctures increases substantially. Use low range gearing and proceed slowly. For more difficult rock obstacles, use a spotter. Straddle small crevices where possible and maintain as much four wheel contact as possible.

In most cases, with careful preparation, off-roading is a whole lot of fun. When done with like-minded friends, it is a blast that takes you on wonderful adventures into the outdoors.