Admittedly, the fun of off-road driving is best understood by those who have experienced it. Leaving the road and hitting the trail is a fantasy that many family car drivers have. Then there are also many of those who own four-by-fours and never dare to leave the road. Knowing some basic things about off-road driving can inspire you to go off-road more often as well as improve the experience.
When it comes to driving, the experience you already have is a serious asset. Skillful drivers know how to get the best from the most common, two-wheel drive, low ground clearance, standard tires cars in all road and weather conditions.
If we put aside the all too obvious disparity in comfort, the main difference between driving off-road and on the road boils down to driving conditions. Hitting the unknown trail means not knowing what lies ahead, so a good preparation is all too important if you want to be ready to tackle whatever obstacle is waiting out there.
For beginners and even more experienced drivers the best advice is to not go off-road driving alone. Having an extra pair of hands is very useful when you are facing a problem in the middle of nowhere. Other than this, the supplies and equipment are all that matters. A full tank of fuel is a must. Here are some of the other basic off-road necessities you’ll need: a good spare tire and a tire changing set, communication device (cell phone)
- Understanding the Terrain
The terrain is perhaps the most important factor in off-road driving. Once you leave the pavement and hit the dirt, you are facing the ground configuration, surface and weather conditions which can differ significantly from track to track. Different terrain characteristics mean different driving conditions and often require a different level of experience.
Driving over sand is another experience altogether. Your road driving skills are simply not enough here because this terrain dictates a particular behavior for the car and the driver. On sand, the car can fall through or dig in, so maintaining speed is important. Slowing down too much can leave you in a sand-trap and that’s not a comfortable situation. Wider, low-pressure tires are a good choice for such terrains.
- Check your fluids
Check your radiator levels. Off- roading puts a lot of stress on your engine, and you want to make sure to have proper coolant levels. Coolant should be properly mixed and depending on your location may be seasonal mixtures. Check your windshield washer fluids & top off. Dirty windows are a sign of having fun on the trail, but seeing out the window is more important. Make sure your windshield wiper blades are in good shape too.
- Drive with a friend
Drive with someone if you can. If you get stuck, you have someone to help, and if there is an emergency, you’re not out there all alone. This person is there to help you stay focused on the trail/road. They’re the ones who will get out in tough spots and help you drive up and line up – find your line to have the safest, best route.
4. Find your line
Your line is an imaginary line that covers your wheels – where you want them to go and where they need to go and where your vehicle clearance needs to be. Your co-pilot is excellent at getting out and helping you see what can’t be seen. Simple hand signals and clear communications are great in staying on this line. Just remember, we’re all human, and you’re driving thousands of pounds on unmaintained roads (or volunteer maintained trails), and shit will happen. Stop, take a breath, re-assess, communicate and try again. Don’t stick to a line at all costs; it’s better to back up, try something new and re-assess as needed.
5. Drive in your comfort zone
Don’t do something you’re not comfortable with. Your jeep, truck or off road vehicle no matter how new, fancy or decked out it is, is only as good as the person driving it. Get some experience under your belt and don’t expect your vehicle to be a magic trail machine.
- Be Flexible
This one sort of wraps up everything from above. Be flexible. Know that things will break, the weather will change, routes may be closed, trails may be closed, and things may not go as planned – but be flexible to change your plans. The worst thing that can happen is you push yourself to do something you shouldn’t do. It’s better to be safe and flexible than and to stay within your comfort zone than to start making mistake after mistake and ruining your experience and your day or much worse.
For those looking to go out there and live the off-road experience, there is no such thing as too much advice. But no matter how much you know you will always find yourself facing a new challenge – that is exactly why off-road driving is so exciting. And Off-roading with the IVM granite is fun and exciting.
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