4×4 Driving Skills & Rules

8 October 2011

When talking about 4×4 driving, it’s way different thing than that of 2wd. 4WD vehicles are designed to drive through obstacles or off road that 2wd vehicles would not be able to overcome. But this does not mean that you can drive it safely. Driving a 4WD vehicle requires a fair degree of understanding about the mechanics of the transmission and surroundings like water, mud, sand etc. So before taking your 4×4 off road it is necessary that you should have some essential skills and practice them. Some of them I would like to share with you are:

  • Vehicle Recovery
  • Transmission Wind-up
  • Sand Driving
  • Corrugated Roads
  • Creek Crossings
  • Bull dust
  • Gear Changes

Vehicle Recovery

Before going off road one must have the idea of all the tools that helps a vehicle to recover sand traps or mud dragging. These include snatch-strap, winch, recovery damper, exhaust jack etc. One must equipped with all these essential recovery tools when going off road.

Transmission Wind-up

This is usually caused by driving a 4×4 on bitumen or non-slip surfaces, the transmission locks and the vehicle will not move forward. It can also be caused by uneven rolling diameters of tyres. If you suspect transmission wind-up is starting, reverse and shift to high 4. You can also jack one wheel off the ground then shift to high 2. Always check that all four tyres either have the same pressures or at least even diameter before engaging 4WD.

Sand Driving

Driving your 4×4 in sand is not difficult unless you know some basic rules

  • Always carry a good quality air compressor.
  • Deflate your tyres up to 20psi when going on soft sand.
  • Never drive over 60km/hr on deflated tyres.
  • Inflate tyres as soon as you pass the soft section.

Corrugated Roads

Driving a 4×4 on a corrugated road is a challenge for the passenger as well as for the vehicle. Nuts, bolts and screws, pipes etc can easily rattle loose in a short period of time. The following can help you to drive over corrugated roads:

1. Tyre Pressure

It is best to reduce your 4×4 tyre pressure about 4psi to 6psi while driving on corrugated roads. Because high pressure tyre will get busted when moving over a sharp object. Thus a low pressure tyre helps to get rid of sharp objects by bouncing over them like a rubber ball.

2. Speed

It is also far preferable to keep speed constant and if you feel confident to handle your vehicle in prevailing conditions then try to aim around 85km/hr. You will find that you can “ride” over the worst of the corrugations at this pace. If you drive faster it can be dangerous and if you drive slower on corrugated roads it will lead you and your 4×4 into pieces as it will get a lot of shakes because of uneven patterns of road.

3. Suspension

While driving on corrugated roads one must check the level of suspension and adjust it accordingly. Making it too low will lead to disaster when getting bumps on the road. A few inches higher will not only comfort the drive but also improve handling vehicle.

Creek Crossings

You should never enter a water crossing without knowing its depth and possibly the type of creek bed. You should check whether it is rocky, muddy or sandy. Most people get out and walk the crossing first, checking for dips and holes and finding the shallowest path. Central locking should be disengaged and all windows should be down because if the car stalls or electrics short you don’t want to be trapped inside. If the water level is above tyre height or axle deep you should not cross unless you have prepared your vehicle. If you do stall and cannot immediately restart you must not continue trying. You will have to be winched out.

Bull Dust

Bull dust is a fine powder-like dust that is very common on off-roads.  It often occurs in areas where the track gets wet then dries and breaks up into fine dust. Driving through bull dust at speed is very dangerous you should try to avoid bull dust at all times. It can cause damage if sucked into engines too, so in very dusty areas you should have a filter on your air intake and check it regularly.

Gear Changes

There is no simple rule for what gear you should use to negotiate any particular obstacle like water crossings, mud, sand, snow, rock steps. But here are a few tips:

  • Ruts

Try to keep the vehicle as level as possible for better traction and comfort. If possible, straddle ruts in the road with a wheel each side. In wet conditions it may be safer to drive into the ruts to prevent skidding.

  • Climbing Hills

Choose a gear that will allow you to get to the top without having to change gear.

  • Descending Hills

Choose a gear that will allow you to descend at a reasonable pace without excessive use of brakes.

  • Mud

Try low range 2nd or 3rd gear to prevent excessive wheel spin. Attempt with normal tyre pressures first to bite into the mud to hopefully find the hard surface below.

  • Sand

You often need high speed and therefore high range 2nd, 3rd or 4th to avoid getting bogged down. Tyre pressures must be lowered so that the vehicle floats on the surface of the sand.


About the Author

4×4 is a platform for all those who are interested in 4wd vehicles, accessories, safaris and rallies etc. We are providing the best forum where you can come and share your ideas, experiences, suggestions and questions with other people who are also interested in 4×4 vehicles, safaris and rallies. More over at 4x4Pakistan we are providing 4×4 Shed where you can create your own virtual garage to showcase your pride and joy. Here, you can add photos and videos of your vehicles, browse other member vehicles and rate them, and see what the world thinks of your 4×4 or SUV.

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