If you’re planning a holiday road trip away from the congested city highways, why not head to the great outdoors for an off-road driving experience? You can expect lots of fun and the incredible thrill of putting your SUV through its paces on an off-road adventure.
While driving through the wonderful outdoors can be exciting, if you’re not well prepared for the abundance of twists, turns and bumps, it can turn into an unpleasant experience. So, here are five important off-road driving tips if you haven’t headed to the great outdoors with your vehicle before.
It’s unwise to take it for granted that your SUV can conquer any obstacle it comes across. Before you take your car to the deep end, it’s important to know what it can do - don’t push it beyond its limits. One of the key things you should know is your vehicle's ground clearance, which is basically the amount of space between the highest point of the vehicle’s tyre and the underside of its body.
It’s also essential to know your vehicle’s off-road capability. Is your SUV a 4x4 model, does it have a differential lock, or both? Control of your ‘diff’ lock will enable your wheels to spin independently, allowing them to take advantage of their available individual traction, which can be a boon on off-road terrain. A 4x2 vehicle with good ground clearance may still be able to handle tricky routes but you’ll need a more powerful engine to carry your heavier vehicle up a steep hill. And remember to check your tyre pressure.
When you embark on off-road driving and you are not familiar with your surroundings, don’t drive fast. You can easily miss a rock or hole in the ground. By driving slowly you can also capture every detail of the natural beauty around you.
The more difficult the terrain you’re travelling on the more concentration on the road it requires. Just taking your eyes off the ground for a few minutes to answer your cellphone can lead to an ugly accident. That’s why it’s also important to find out if your Car Insurance covers you for off-road accidents.
Whether it’s a sand, snow, or just a mud trail you’re crossing, it’s important to remain aware of your front wheels’ position. It’s common to simply assume that if your steering wheel is straight, so are your front wheels, but according to off-road driving experts that’s not always necessarily the case. If you get stuck or are about to take on a challenging stretch make sure your front wheels are straight, which you can easily do by leaning out of your window. Also, make sure that you minimise your steering input, keep your steering in small increments, and hold your thumbs on the outside of the steering wheel, especially if your vehicle doesn’t have power steering.
If you’re not certain of how to get past an obstacle that’s in the middle of the road you’re on, it’s advised that you step out of the car to give yourself some time to analyse the obstacle in front of you before you determine how to proceed. There is often a roundabout route you may discover.
Whichever route you’re taking, the best way to prepare for your off-road driving journey is to get all the information you possibly can about the environment you’re heading to. Prepare yourself for the unexpected by familiarising yourself not only with the environment you are entering, but with the vehicle itself. It’s also useful to have another driver in a separate vehicle with a tow rope accompany you, in case of an emergency. And while you’re getting yourself informed about all the obstacles you can possibly expect, you may also want to read ‘Are Women or Men Angrier on the Road’ for some extra tips on how to deal with road rage.
This article is a guest post written in collaboration with Hippo.co.za.