Driving off-road is always a rush and a unique experience. And for rally enthusiasts in Pakistan, I thought to share some off-roading tips, which could make this experience more fun and easily manageable.
1: Know Your Terrain
Off-Roading is not being afraid by a section of a trail or driving your vehicle without prior knowledge about it. So, it is imperative to know what you are getting yourself into. Experienced off-roaders do not hesitate to climb out of their vehicles and scout ahead to get an idea of how to tackle a particularly tough terrain. A quick look and some planning can go a long way in saving you a lot of trouble.
But let’s be honest, 4×4 is all about exploring on a vehicle not just on foot. So, when I say ‘Scout Ahead’, it means instead of scouting the whole trail, you will want to learn to read the terrain. Some techniques involve elevating your gaze so you can look far ahead to notice how the path changes. With some practice, you will be able to see and anticipate what lies ahead.
2: Gear Selection
One of the most important things while off-roading is the timing of the gear selection. Because once the rear tires began to spin, it is a strong possibility that your vehicle might be stuck. And shifting into a 4WD at this point will not necessarily always free the car.
If the trail gets tougher than using low-range is always an option. This low-range puts the engine’s power through another set of gears before it reaches the wheels. This gear multiplication is increasing the torque output at low speed to ensure maximum performance of your vehicle to ease up and over obstacles with more control.
As mentioned earlier, gear selection plays a pivotal role in any off-roading experience. Driving slow or fast is all dependent on the trail. For example, in a manual transmission 4×4: you will end up using low range to climb over rocks. However, soft surface requires a bit more momentum and wheel speed to keep the tires afloat on top of sound, so selecting a higher gear in these circumstances makes sense.
A Muddy trail is always a wild card if it’s deep then driving slow is not guaranteed to get you out. However, in theory using a higher gear in these circumstances insures more wheel spin and the centrifugal force will remove the mud from tires and provide fresh, biting edges.
3: Recovery Gear
Off-roading drivers are very thorough in their preparation. And they should be because of the nature of seeking this driving skill. Even with carefully planned moves behind the steering wheel, your vehicle will get stuck if the terrain gets tougher. So, one solution comes in the shape of slipping a rugged floor mat under each tire, or simply using the old stone stacking, which could get you free. But for a serious stuck, you will need the mindset as well as necessary recovery tools to ensure vehicle recovery.
If you could carry just one piece of recovery equipment, it should be a heavy-duty tow strap. The straps on the end of the towing strap can be secured using strong clevis at each end to attach directly to the vehicle’s frame (no the axle or suspensions) or bumper as an attachment point.
And of course, if you are a lone wolf then it is recommended to fit an electric winch on your vehicle. And obviously winches come in all forms and capacities, so getting one to fit your vehicle is not a big deal but finding them in Pakistan is, or you could always get it imported.
4: Beauty of Tire Pressure
Dropping the air pressure in your vehicle’s tires will allow the tire sidewall to flex and mould itself around a rock, or other trail obstacles and the tire will envelop rocks under its tread; as a result, the vehicle has more grip and offers a softer ride experience. Dune or snow running also requires lower tire pressures, but in these cases, the expanded footprint helps to keep the vehicle ride on top of terrain instead of digging down and getting stuck.
But a word of warning: Lower air pressure in tires, the more likely tire bead will risk pop off the trim, and you will have a flat tire. And lower air pressure also means less ground clearance.
One more thing, it’s not like higher air pressure is not needed at all. That’s not exactly true. Increase tire pressure ensures a hardened side wall which is less prone to damage. So, if you plan to run through rocky deserts at high speeds, you have your solution. And more importantly, a fuel station in the middle of an excursion is hard to fine so it is advised to keep an onboard air compressor with a gauge.
Sometimes, when the terrain starts to get tougher and tougher, even the lowered tire pressure won’t be able to provide grip, it’s easy to have tires slip on sandy surfaces or dig down into holes. The best you can do in these situations is back off the throttle. Because once a vehicle gets stuck; the majority of the drivers start to push the throttle even more. But here’s the tricky thing, squeezing more throttle usually makes the vehicle lose its grip even more. As I said before the obvious solution is to back off and gently release-apply the throttle and saw the steering wheel left-to-right to find the traction.
6: Water Depth
As they say, 4×4 excursions are unpredictable. You might end up crossing a stream at day’s end. Nonetheless, make sure to check the fording depth of your vehicle, its mentioned in the owner’s manual. And be sure not to drive in the stream without checking its depth. As we know, the floor bed is often irregular, and that seemingly placid stream could be far deeper than you think, and water could rise from the hub to headlight height in just a few feet, raising the chances of hydro-locking the engine.
Well, these were some of the tips which might come in handy. And last but not the least, make a to-do list, which will not only help you in streamlining the preparation and planning for an off-road trip but will also help as memo notes.