How to Drive Off-Road Safely


If you are planning to learn how to drive off-road with safety in mind, these tips will make your off-road driving experience safer and more pleasurable. Whether you have to drive through snow and ice, desert sand or tropical swamps, these off-road driving tips will help put you on or off the road to fun and safety.

• Get to know your vehicle and its performance potential. Squeeze the accelerator gently to avoid wheelspin while driving off-road.

• Survey difficult terrain on foot to reduce the risk of encountering an unexpected hazard.

• Select “Low” range on the transfer box and a suitable gear before tackling a difficult section. To avoid wheelspin, avoid the temptation to “play safe” by selecting a gear lower than the terrain warrants.

• Keep use of brakes to a minimum to avoid wheels locking on wet, muddy or loose surfaces. This happens very often when you drive off-road. Descend steep slopes in the “Low” range and first gear, then rely on engine braking.

• Reduced tire pressures improve traction in really soft conditions especially sand – but consider the subsequent loss of ground clearance. Reinflate on pavement!

• Follow the fall line to climb or descend steep slopes. Traveling diagonally may result in a broadside slide. This tip alone can save you a lot of trouble if you want to drive off-road safely.

• Avoid exceptionally deep ruts and other obstacles likely to cause ground clearance problems.

• Do not over-steer along rutted tracks. Front wheels sliding through mud while pointed in the wrong direction can suddenly regain traction with potentially serious consequences.

• Always tackle a ridge at a right angle to the crest so that both front and both rear wheels cross together.

• Cross ditches at an angle so that three wheels assist the fourth’s passage.

• Check terrain very carefully for sudden depressions and other hazards if a slope has to be traversed. Load cargo as low as possible. Place passengers on the uphill side of the vehicle.

• Make slow, steady progress through deep water to create a bow wave “cavity” in the engine bay to minimize risk of water drowning the engine. Check brakes after immersion.

• Do not wrap your thumbs around the steering wheel when driving off-road. They can be broken if the wheel kicks back on really rough ground.

• Cleaning clogged tire treads improves traction. Use brushwood, sacking and the like placed in front of the wheels if stuck.

• If the vehicle has dug itself in, jack it up and build up the ground under the wheels to obtain clearance.

Finally, respect private property and the environment. Only drive off-road with permission or on roads designated for off-road vehicle use.

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