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Safe and successful off-roading is a combination of knowledge and skill. Understanding specific techniques for different conditions and realising the capabilities and limitations of your vehicle is critical, but the final factor is the tyres on your vehicle. The tyres can often make the difference between getting out of a tough situation, or getting stuck!. The following information is designed to ensure that you get the maximum performance from your tyres. Always survey your chosen route on foot. In mud or other difficult conditions move off slowly and avoid spinning the wheels. Undue wheel spinning will cause the vehicle to slip and will fill the tyre treads with mud.

Driving off-road requires skill and patience, as with most things, experience is invaluable. Probably the best way to gain this experience is by attending one of the main excellent four by four centres now located all around the country, or by joining one of the main off road clubs. Instruction by the centres’ experts or club members will allow an enthusiast to learn the skill necessary to drive safely and responsibly.

Please remember, all four by four owners have responsibility to respect the environment in which they are driving.


In light snow conditions the tyres will break through the crust and grip on the surface below. Use high range ratio and avoid both acceleration surges and sudden braking.

In deep snow avoid revving the engine, go into low range and use a very light throttle, This will encourage the tyres to bite and grip rather than slip. In very severe conditions it may be necessary to fit chains.


The skill in tackling rock conditions is to keep to the high ground wherever possible in order to avoid damage to the diffs, transmission or skidplates.

Torque is more important than power in climbing rock slopes, thus first or second gear in low range is best. Use light throttle to prevent tyres slipping.


When approaching soft muddy ground build up speed in low ratio 2nd or 3rd, try not to spin the wheels by extreme acceleration. Go too fast and you risk bouncing and losing control, too slow and you will lose momentum. In severe mud the most difficult conditions are where the ground has rutted channels and axles deep pits. Try to straddle the ruts if they are too deep to drive in – this will avoid dragging the diffs through the mud, which will reduce momentum and probably leave your vehicle stuck. Always try to maintain a steady momentum. When driving in ruts vary the accelerator and move the steering wheel from side to side – this allows the lugs on the shoulders of the tyres to grip and bite into the sides of the ruts, let the steering wheel find its own way. Whenever possible check your wheel arches to make sure they are not clogged with mud, this clogging will stop the tyres from cleaning the mud from their treads.


For loose sand select high range four wheel drive – this will maintain speed, if however the vehicle bogs down move in to low range.

Soft loose sand is traction sapping and requires continual momentum, often using full throttle.


If it is possible always find an alternative route to avoid traversing a slope. Always have an escape route in mind. If it is absolutely necessary to traverse the face of a slope, keep as low down as possible. If the slope becomes dangerous turn downhill and accelerate, this will not only stop the vehicle from rolling over, but will also restore both steering capability and traction to the tyres.


When negotiating water it is important that your electrics are protected. Silicone based grease on vulnerable items is a good idea. It is absolutely vital that your air intake will be clear of the water. Ingress into the engine is terminal and expensive. Before tackling water crossing it is critical to survey the course first.


  • The river flow, fast flowing means clean silt-free water. Slow moving may mean soft deep silt.

  • Check the depth of water and any silt with a spade or similar. Also check for holes or large rocks which may impede your progress.
  • Look closely at the entry and exit banks, bear in mind on exit you will have little momentum.

When entering the water select low 2nd gear. Creating a bow wave means the water in front of the vehicle is deeper but a trough is created behind the wave, ie. In the engine bay. If you go too fast the bow wave will break over the bonnet losing trough effect in the engine bay. When clear of the water always drive a short distance with the footbrake lightly depressed to restore braking efficiency. Check your radiator to ensure that it is clear of mud and leaves, and of course check for damage to your tyres, because you will not have been able to see potentially damaging underwater obstacles.


Look down the hill from outside the vehicle before thinking of driving down. Go down only in 1st low. Do not try to change gear as you risk missing a gear and descending out of control in neutral. Do not brake on steep hills, allow the engine to do the braking.

If the vehicle should start to slide blip the throttle to make the wheels and tyres match the speed of which you are traveling. This brings back control and steering, now back off the throttle to try to slow the vehicle down.

At the base of the hill be careful not to dig the front bumper in to the ground, select a route where this cannot happen.


Many can be easily crossed if approached at the correct angle. Approach the ditch diagonally, putting one wheel in the ditch at a time, allowing three wheels to have tractive effort. Ensure the steering wheel is straight until you are across. Low ridges should be crossed a similar way to ditches, this is to ensure the vehicle does not get stuck through approach or exit angles or by grounding.


Always drive up a hill or a steep bank squarely, taking the straightest most direct route to the top. Check the route first to see if there are any holes or bumps which might at worst throw you sideway and cause a rollover. Do not change gear when negotiating an obstacle, apart from changing down on crest of a hill to descend. If you try to change gear when ascending momentum will be lost.

Select 2nd or 3rd low, building up enough momentum to carry you to the top of the hill. Finishing at walking pace at the top. if you fail to make the crest of a hill, depress the footbrake and clutch simultaneously select reverse and take both feet off the clutch and brakes simultaneously and under engine braking return to the base of the hill, do not touch either pedal.

If your engine has stalled depress the footbrake, the vehicle is now held in gear and on the footbrake. Depress the clutch and select reverse, and release the clutch pedal. Quickly flip the ignition key whilst taking your foot off the brake, the weight of the vehicle will ensure the engines starts and the vehicle will come back to the hill base under engine braking.

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