Tips for driving off-road

If you are not prepared for what is ahead or do not know how to handle the ever changing elements of off-road driving, you can get yourself into a rut.

To assist you in off-road driving, we have put together a quick guide that teaches you how to handle certain situations and how to avoid/be prepared for potential dangers.

Before you set out

Before you jump in your tough new car or used car and start venturing into ditches, it is important to be prepared. This applies even if you have a particularly trusty off-roader like a Land Rover for example. Not only is it important to know the car you are driving, but you must also be ready for any unexpected emergencies.


Understand the underneath of your vehicle

– Before going off-road, ensure that you know the underside of your vehicle. This includes knowing where the location of important parts are, for example the fuel tank. With this knowledge, you can be especially careful when it comes to driving over obstacles, as you will be aware of what areas are more delicate than others.


Know what all the buttons do

– It is no good getting into a rut and then finally deciding to play the buttons, hoping for a way out. The best way to understand what each button does is to simply read the owner’s manual of the car.


Equipment

– If you ever breakdown or have an emergency off-road, it is always good to have the right kit with you. Here are some of the things you should consider packing if you plan on going off-road:

– Appropriate climate clothing (including appropriate shoes)

– Shovel

– Source of navigation (sat nav, map)

– Spare fuel source

– Tow rope

– A two-way radio

– Food and Water supplies

Off-road

You never know what you are going to encounter when you are off-road, but there are many common scenarios you can prepare for and some tips that will serve you well in almost any situation.

General tips

– Make sure that your tyres are fully inflated for greater traction.

– When approaching a scalable drop, make sure you do it diagonally, so that three of the wheels always have grip on the ground.

– Keep a steady momentum where possible to avoid getting stuck.

– Try and keep braking to a minimum, as constant stopping and starting can get you stuck on loose ground.

– If you go into a wheel spin, ease off the accelerator and wait for your tyres to gain traction before trying to drive off again.

– You can always get out of your car and walk a surface to test its condition – if it is safe to do so of course. This can help you better understand what you are getting into.

Hill Ascending

– Before you start climbing a hill, make sure you know what is at the top – or what is over the edge.- Choosing the right gear to climb a hill is key. You want to choose a gear that will give you enough pull but also enough power. If you choose a gear that is too low, you can end up wheel spinning – however, choose a gear too high and you will just roll back down as you will not have enough power. What gear you choose will obviously depend on the hill.- When getting ready to approach a hill, do it head on. If you climb a hill on an angle and start to roll back down, you could tip the car.

Hill Descending

– When figuring out which part of a hill to descend from, try and choose the ‘natural fall line’, which is essentially the route water would take down the hill.

– Do not turn the wheel when descending, as a slight turn could make you slide down sideways and possibly even roll-over.

– Unlike climbing a hill, it is better to be in first gear as you have more control of the car.

– Do not descend a hill in neutral or with your foot off the clutch – you won’t have any control.

Water Obstacles

Wading is one of the biggest aspects of off-road driving and it can trump even the most experienced drivers. Here are a few pointers:

– If possible, get out and walk the water obstacle to get a sense for how deep it is. You can also use a stick to check for depth and see if there are any surprise rocks or holes under the water.

– Do not take your foot off the clutch as this will give you less control over the vehicle.

– When approaching the end of a water obstacle, ease off the accelerator as this can thrust you out of the water, potentially into another obstacle.

– If the water obstacle is on a hill, make sure that you apply your knowledge of ascending/descending hills. Don’t disregard this just because it is a different type of obstacle.