Four wheeling involves an orderly process. Driving off-road is taxing to both the vehicle and the driver. Just like driving on a road, one has to put in hours behind the wheel to be adept at off-roading. In this article there are a few fundamentals listed which may be helpful when you are just starting to off-road.
Shifting in and out of four-low:
It is really easy to forget this step while driving on rough terrain. It is rather simple, but you can damage your transfer case if you do not follow the suggestion.
Bring your off-roader to a stop and shift the transmission into in to neutral. Then shift into four-low, shift back to drive and carry on. Repeat the same process when you want to shift out of 4-low. This is more often used when you have a hardcore off-roader with a stick leaver for toggling between 4-High, 4-Low and 2-High. Nowadays, most SUVs come with electronic selection and with the turn of a knob, you can toggle between modes, that too while driving (make sure you are not above 80kmph). In case you find yourself stuck, shift the transmission into neutral and once again select 4-low.
Know your vehicle’s lowest point of clearance:
When you are out on the trail, there may be instances where you have to clamber over boulders or get through ditches. So you need to know what the lowest points of your vehicle are. This is also a must-know – When you are competing in an off-road challenge, it helps you get through obstacles without wasting time.
The idea is to measure three lowest points on your front axle and three lowest points on your rear axle. As you approach an obstacle, paint a mental picture of your vehicle’s lowest points. Use that amazing 3D imagination to either go over or around the obstacle without getting stuck or beached.
Know where your front wheels are:
Wheel placement with precision is one of the most important skills required while off-roading. At most times, drivers easily know where the right wheel is placed, but are uncertain about where the left wheel is placed.
To master this art, ask someone to place their hand on the left tyre and raise it up until you can see where that point is on the hood. Make a mental note of the point and next time you are on the trail, you will find it easier to figure out where you left wheel is placed. This will help you drive with a lot more precision.
Throttle control in four-low:
If this is your first time in a hardcore 4×4, your driver’s instinct will tell you to push the accelerator to move ahead. But when four-low is engaged, there is a lot of torque and power available, which will make the vehicle lung forward. Once again, the basic instinct will be letting go of the throttle, this will make the vehicle slow down and again you will be too slow to climb up a slope.
So every time you engage four-low, remind yourself to be gentle with the throttle. Over time you will be able to educate your right leg for a smoother drive.
Walk the track:
Before you tackle an obstacle, you must recon the terrain. This will help avoid the situations where you at times, end up driving off a cliff or into a deep pond of water, because the view from behind the wheel is very different, so make sure you walk the track.
This will also help you to figure what line to take to tackle the obstacle. This will help you save time of planning while driving and you will end up clocking better times.
These are five simple, yet effective, pointers if you are a newbie to the world of off-roading. If you have any more points to add, please feel free to do so. Till then, keep it off the road.