Most offroad driving is a matter of common sense and, often, seat of the pants intuition. The first rule is never to drive faster than is absolutely necessary, and to take obstacles at a slow and steady pace. This, with minor exceptions, will carry you through tough situations more easily than charging the obstacle. And charging obstacles will certainly damage your vehicle, perhaps terminally. In remote places, your life depends on your vehicle, so treat it with respect. The second rule of offroading is always to prepare for the worst case scenario. If you have free-wheeling hubs, lock them as soon as you leave the road. Locking them when leaving the tarmac, so that if hit a slippery or tricky patch, a flick of the transfer stick into high ratio four-wheel drive helps regain traction. The use of high range four-wheel drive on rough or corrugated tracks also halves the fatigue loading on the rear prop shaft and half shafts by evenly spreading the transmission loads and, depending on the vehicle, can significantly reduce fuel consumption. Always select the gear you will need for a situation before entering it, and try to stick with that gear throughout: more vehicles bog down through botched gear changes than for any other reason. You must know the exact position of all the vulnerable undercarriage points (diffs, spring U-bolts, sump, steering rods) and steer accordingly. Always walk a tricky section before driving it, so that you know exactly where the hidden obstacles are. Always keep both hands firmly on the steering-wheel and never hook your thumbs over the inside of the wheel as a sudden jolt could break your finger. Wear your seat-belt to prevent sliding around or cracking your head against the ceiling.

----------------------------------------------

ROCKY TRACKS / GULLIES / RIDGES


Avoid the big rocks, drive slowly, and engage high ratio four-wheel drive to reduce transmission wear and give greater vehicle control. Drop your tyre pressures to the point where the tyre is just beginning to bulge, which makes the ride more comfortable, saves on suspension, and saves on punctures as the tyre has some 'give' in it when it hits rocks, rather than presenting a rigid, hard surface which can split. In deep V-shaped gullies, be careful not to drop one side of the vehicle into the deepest point: drive with the wheels straddling the gully so you don't end up hopelessly jammed in a position where digging and pushing do not help. When approaching a small gully head-on, enter at an oblique angle, dropping and removing one wheel at a time into and from the gully.

----------------------------------------------

BADLY RUTTED TRACKS


Heavily used tracks are often deeply rutted, to the point where it is impossible to drive without hooking up the undercarriage on the middelmannetjie. Drive with one wheel in a rut and the other on the hump to prevent your undercarriage getting hung up. If there is enough side room, drive with one wheel on the middle hump, and one on the far side of one of the ruts.

How To Drive On Hills

-
When climbing a hill, use as high a gear as the vehicle will "pull" comfortably. If the gear selected is too low, you will spin the tires. If it is too high, you will not have enough power to climb the hill. (The general rule of thumb is 3rd gear up and 1st gear down with an automatic, 2nd gear up and 1st gear down with a manual, all in Low Range. If this doesn’t work, try High Range) Lock front hubs, and lock differentials (if fitted).
-
Line up your vehicle so it has a straight approach at the hill. If at all possible, try to keep the vehicle parallel with the slope of the hill, so the vehicle’s weight is equally distributed, providing equal traction to all four wheels. Apply power at the bottom of the hill, and ease off the throttle when you go over the top to keep the vehicle under control.
-
Always prepare for a failed climb. Work out an escape route and know where all of the obstacles are.
-
If you must park on a hill, turn off the engine, leave it in gear with a manual transmission (or in park with an automatic and apply the hand brake). Place chocks, rocks or logs under the wheels to provide additional braking assistance.

How To Drive On Rocks, Logs and Ditches

-
When approaching obstacles, such as a ditch, it's best to be at an angle, so that only one tyre enters the ditch at a time when crossing. This leaves the other three tyres on solid ground to provide traction to get you across. If you enter squarely, then an entire axle could become useless, plus add to the difficulty of getting out.
-
Before you drive over large rocks, consider whether you need to build a ramp in front of and behind any rock that has a steep approach and/or departure that could ground your vehicle.
-
Since the underside of your truck has many fragile and vital components (differentials, driveshafts, transmission, transfer case, oil pan, exhaust, gas tank), it's best to drive over an obstacle by placing one tire on it, then gently driving over it, rather than trying to take it down the center.

----------------------------------------------

MUD


If you hit a bad hole you know you can't get through, wait for the next big truck and negotiate a tow. This may cost a few bob, but it's better than spending the night in the mud hole. When driving through, first walk the route. Fill deep holes with rocks or other material. Check for alternative routes ­ what looks like dense bush may be navigable. All water-filled holes must be waded through to establish their depth and any hidden hazards. Then map your route through the mud hole, using sticks jammed into the mud to indicate drop-offs and other hazards, and if there are two of you, one should navigate the driver through. Mark the exact position your steering-wheel is in when the wheels are pointed dead ahead. It's easy to turn your wheels too far to one side without realizing it, as the vehicle continues going in a straight line, getting more bogged by the second. Select your driving gear, and try not to change gear throughout the crossing ­ maintaining momentum is critical, but there is a very fine line between going too slowly and going dangerously fast. Low range second or third gear are your obvious choices, avoiding wheel spin. First gear gives too much torque and causes wheel spin. Reduce power on slippery bits, and gently feed in power as soon as traction improves. If the wheels spin, gently drop the revs until they grip again. Jiggling the steering from side to side helps the wheels regain traction, but avoid exaggerated steering. If you start bogging down, stop immediately without braking. Get out and plot the best course of action before you bog to your axles ­ usually this will mean simply reversing or a bit of minor digging.

----------------------------------------------

SAND


Sand is one big vehicle trap waiting to happen. You need to float over the top, not brute your way through. The only way to achieve this is by having a wide tire 'footprint' and keeping your momentum going. If your vehicle is fitted with standard issue 'biscuit' tires (the best all-round offroading wheels) deflate them so the side walls begin to bulge outward. Most of the time, high range four-wheel drive will be fine, but when things get churned up, switch to low range. The hotter it is, the tougher the going, because as the sand heats up, moisture evaporates and the air molecules in the sand grains expand, making the surface looser and stickier. Heavy dew or light rain make a huge difference to traction, as does driving early in the morning or late afternoon. Execute gear changes well before hitting the tricky patches, as sloppy gear changes cause wheel spin, which can bog you down, or worse, snap a halfshaft. Don't fight the steering-wheel, rather grip it loosely and let the sand do the steering. Never use your brakes except in an extreme emergency, as braking will bog you down. Just take your foot off the accelerator, and allow the sand to bring you to a halt.

----------------------------------------------

BEACH


Beach driving should be avoided unless you have no other option. Lower your tire pressures to avoid compacting sensitive areas (and to give better flotation) Try to stick as closely as possible to the wet sand area below the high tide mark where, because of wave action, the sand is tough and resilient. If this is not possible, drive as close to the high tide mark as possible. Never ever drive on beach dunes. They are perhaps the most dynamic and vulnerable part of beach ecology; constantly changing building blocks which hold the beach together. The backshore section, mud flats and salt marshes are all environmentally fragile and must be avoided.

How To Drive On Mud and Sand

-
When riding through deep sand or mud, deflate your tires slightly to increase the tire’s footprint and provide better traction. Deflated tires will decrease your ground clearance though. Remember to re-inflate your tyres before going on-road again.
-
Use a steady momentum to carry you through. Keep your speed up and use higher gears. Don't spin your tyres, and don't stop till you're out of the deep sand. If your wheels start to spin, ease off the throttle just a bit and allow the tyres to slow down and regain traction.
-
If you lose traction and the vehicle is barely moving, turn the steering wheel quickly from side to side in short strokes (only 1/8th turn) to allow the front tyre walls to find extra grip.
-
If muddy conditions force you to drive in the ruts, know where your front wheels are pointed at all times. Your vehicle will follow the ruts, even with the wheels turned to the right or left. If you encounter a dry spot with the wheels turned, then the front wheels can regain traction and suddenly throw the vehicle out of the ruts, resulting in a loss of control and possible damage.

RIVER CROSSING


Deep water river crossings are among the most dangerous of all offroad hazards. If you have any doubt about a river crossing, don't do it. Find an alternative route, or wait for another vehicle to come along. And, when crossing a river, always prepare yourself for the worst possible scenario. You must walk the route before driving it. If a river is flowing strongly enough to make you lose your footing, then it will be dangerous for your vehicle. If necessary, remove boulders. Mark obstacles with stakes, or have a passenger stand by them. Make sure that the exit point on the opposite bank is driveable. If the river is in flood because of a recent rain storm, set up camp and wait it out. In some areas, river levels drop very quickly after rain. If the water is above the bottom of your door frames, open two opposite doors for the crossing so you don't turn the vehicle into a floating box that flips over. If you have two vehicles, use one as a recovery vehicle. Take the crossing at a slow and steady pace. Never change gear in the water: water will enter the clutch plate and cause the clutch to slip, leading to potentially disastrous loss of traction. Select your gear in advance ­ low range second or first are probably your best options, depending on the severity of the crossing. Proceed at a steady, fast walking pace ­ this sets up a bow wave in front of the vehicle, pushing the water to the side. Once you are up and running, there is no stopping ­ steady momentum is essential. If for any reason you should lose power and the bow wave overtakes you, switch off immediately before water gets sucked into the air intake or manifold, and into the cylinders. Isolate the batteries to prevent the starter motor shorting and turning the engine. Don't restart the engine unless you are certain no water has been sucked into the cylinders. If the water has risen higher than the inlet and exhaust valves or if your air intake is wet, then you have to assume water has entered the ocombustion chambers. If you can recover the vehicle without restarting the engine, then do so, rather than risk the possibility of damaging the engine.

How To Cross High Water

-
Determine how deep the water is and how smooth the bed of the crossing will be.
-
Lock in your hubs if they are manual hubs.
-
Put vehicle into 4-wheel drive. Put it into low range if you have low range on the transfer case.
-
If the water is going to be higher then the hubs; remove the fan belt or unhook the wires on an electric fan.
-
Make sure the air intake for your air cleaner isn't going to enter the water. Move it if you have to.
-
Cross water slowly!
-
After you are done with the water crossing replace all wires and/or belts.
-
If you relocated your air cleaner intake system put it back.
-
When you return home; check/drain all your axles, transfer case, and transmission and put new oil in.

BULLBARS & WINCHING

Bullbars are there to protect your vehicle, not to bash your way through the bush for the fun of it. Doing so destroys vegetation. When winching off a tree, use a commercially available tree saver, a collar of thick rubber or a wadded up sack to protect the bark. Winch cables cut into the bark of a tree, ring barking it, and virtually guaranteeing it will die.

How To Drive On All Types of Terrain

-
Your steering should be precise.
-
The brakes should be used as little as possible.
-
All of your movements should be done with gentle precision.
-
Apply the throttle smoothly and release it slowly to keep the tyres from spinning on acceleration and from locking on deceleration.
-
Your goal is to stay in control and conquer the terrain smoothly and safely.
-
Each obstacle along the route should be attempted as slowly as possible but as fast as necessary.
-
Remember to put your vehicle in 4-wheel drive before you need it, and shift to low range early to reduce the strain on your vehicle.
-
Whenever you are unsure of the surface, select low range.
-
Never change gears in the middle of a water crossing, hills (ascent or descent), or sand crossing!
-
Do not drive with your thumbs on the inside of the steering wheel, as the rough terrain could result in serious bruising or dislocation of your thumbs.

preparations | equipment
terrain knowledge
what to expect | recovery
hand signs | convoying