Off-roading 101

Published On  January 06, 2015 11:52 AM By Firdaus Shaikh at

So you’ve got yourself an SUV and are eager to try some off-road trails. But you’ve never given it a shot and are worried to bits about damaging your precious new love in an attempt to indulge in your passion. You are very keen though to try off-roading but where do you get the basic tips from? Of course you’ll always have your friends who give you a list of do’s and don’ts, some of which may work, while some may not. So to help you out with this dilemma we bring to you the top most tips that you need to keep in mind when taking your SUV off-road. These are tips from professionals who are associated with the sport of off-roading for a living, and we for a fact have put these to test with positive results each time, so yes they work.  

Here we go:

1. Know your vehicle controls

Before you go throw your machine onto an off-road trail get to know its functions i.e. know the difference between the 2x2 and the 4x4 function on your car/jeep. Vehicles perform differently in above mentioned modes and again these modes are meant for different terrains – one mode is not meant for tarmac, snow, gravel, slush etc. You have to alternate.

To explain it in a jist – in the 2H mode or the 2x2 mode the power is diverted only to the rear two wheels. However in the 4H or 4L mode also known as the 4x4 mode the power is diverted to all the four wheels independently. So in case one wheel gets stuck in a ditch, the other three have power to pull the car out altogether.

The 2H mode is ideally used for everyday driving on the tarmac. As mentioned power is driven to the rear wheels and this helps avoid unnecessary wear and tear along with giving better fuel economy

The 4H mode (high range) is when the power is transmitted to the front wheels as well. This mode is particularly useful when climbing inclines and is handy when you need speed as well as traction.

The 4L mode (low range) is when you need a lot of acceleration and torque but not much speed. Crawling over rocks, ascending or even while descending this mode is highly useful and it offers sharper engine braking. Gear ratios also becomes short in this mode meaning you’ll exhaust all your gears at relatively lower speeds, say for instance 40 kmph.

2. Understand the basic jargons

Approach angle: This is the angle between the front tyre and the bumper. Higher the angle, steeper the climbs your machine can tackle. Think the G55 AMG which can tackle an incline of 45 degree.

Departure angle: This is the angle between the rear tyres and the rear bumper. Like the approach angle, higher the departure angle lesser the scope of your vehicle’s rear hitting an obstacle.

Breakover angle: To put it simply it is the ground clearance at the centre of the vehicle. Higher the breakover angle, lesser the possibility of the vehicle seesawing over obstacles. A high breakover angle also reduces the possibility of damage on the underbelly of the machine.

Winch: This is a metal rope attached above the bumper or the grille of the car and is electrically operated. A winch will have a hook at the end which is attached to the other car to pull it out; winching is very common during off-roading especially when the car is stuck in slush or ridges.

So you’ve understood the functions on your jeep/car and know the basic jargons as well, now it’s time for the tips or we may say rules

1. Reduce air pressure on all the four tyres. Reducing tyre pressure will widen the contact patch of the tyres with the surface. Wider the contact patch, better the stability and the weight distribution of the vehicle.

2. When going down a hill or a slope, ALWAYS make sure you’re parallel to the slope. This will ensure you don’t roll over. If you’re NOT PARALLEL to the slope and are at a right angle, the chances of your car rolling over increase considerably and that’s not a good position to be in.

3. Never go out alone. If you think just because you have an SUV and can go off-roading alone, think again. What if your vehicle is stuck and you’re not able to pull it out inspite of the 4x4 function. You will need someone other vehicle to winch it out. No company, no winch. Also you can’t possibly winch out your own vehicle, even if a winch is attached to it. So always have company when you go off-roading

4. Engine braking: When you’re going down slope rely more on the engine braking than ram the brakes yourself. Yes, it’s a little difficult, but with practice you’ll get a hang of it.

5. Tackling ridges: Never tackle ridges or pot holes head on. The key to overcoming such obstacles is to go in a zig-zag motion. Imagine if you were to go over a ridge head on, parallel or perpendicularly, you’ll land up getting two wheels stuck in it and will have to wait for the car to be winched out. Zig-zag motion is the best because at any given time there is a possibility of just one wheel getting stuck, which can easily be recovered with the 4x4 power of the car.

6. Tackling water or deep puddles: To make sure your vehicles glides safely through puddles and water patches keep throttling aka keep revving, make sure you don’t throttle all the way. The key is to intermittently push the throttle and keep doing it in quick successions. Doing this gives the engine enough power to wade ahead and also ensures the water doesn’t enter the engine via the silencer. Think of it as if you’re standing at a signal and revving your machine to garner the attention of a hot chick. Get the drift?

7. Peer pressure: Last but not the least; do not attempt an obstacle if you’re not comfortable with it. You’ll always have people who’ll challenge you or coax you to try something, but if you’re not confident about it, or if you think your vehicle cannot handle it, do NOT try it. Remember, it’s always better to be safe than sorry.

We hope these tips are useful for you and we hope you have a blast taking your machine on unexplored paths.


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