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- 4x4 driving tips for various offroad conditions
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Survey it first
Getting a 4x4 unstuck from rocks is quite often a very difficult and risky procedure. It frequently requires the use of a Hi-lift jack, due to the irregular nature of the jacking surface and the amount of lift needed to clear the obstacle. So careful surveillance beforehand can save you significant time, effort and potential damage to your vehicle.
As with most offroad driving challenges, you should survey the ground beforehand but you also need somebody outside of the vehicle to spot your wheels for you and give you the detailed guidance required for careful and accuriate placement of the wheels. Rock crawling is not an activity that should be undertaken alone.
When surveying a potential route through rocks, you need to have your ground clearance firmly fixed in your mind and try to get a feeling of where each wheel will be as you walk the route. This is not at all easy and improves with experience and familiarity with your particular 4x4. You do not want your 4x4 to become high-centred or cross-axled. Whether your vehicle has locking differentials or not will influence how challenging a route you can choose. Do not attempt rock crawling in a 4x4 that does not have much ground clearance.
It is much more difficult to reverse over rocks than to proceed forward, so remember that if you have doubts as to whether your chosen route is viable or not, don't attempt it.
Drive slowly and safely
Rocks recquire the lowest gear and steady progress. Ideally you should not need to use the accelerator unless you need a little extra power to climb a particular rock. You may even find it beneficial to adjust the engine idling speed a little beforehand to achieve this tick-over movement. It can be difficult to gain traction to start again from standing if traction is lost, so try to keep moving over the difficult sections. Your spotter should be only a few yards infront of your vehicle and you should have a pre-arranged set of clear signals for him/her to use to give you instructions. He/she will also need to be knowledgeable about the ground clearance of your 4x4 and the location of its most vunerable points. If the front wheels of your 4x4 slip of a rockthen there is a real danger of bending a track rod unless you have heavy duty protection paltes underneath. You will need to keep a firm grip on the steering wheel and keep your thumbs on the outside as there can be some violent kicks coming through from the wheels. Your feet should remain in contact with both the clutch and brake pedals throughout the rock crawling process.
Lowering tyre pressures by 10psi can help the tread wrap around the surface of a rock and gain more grip. On the negative side though you are rendering the tyre wall more vunerable to cuts and abrasions.
The more agressive a tyre tread is, the more grip it will have on the rocks.
Sometimes your spotter may be able to reposition a small rock to allow better progress to continue.
Is it worth it?
There is no shame in not attempting to follow a rocky route. There may be an alternative. Some practise of the technique beforehand, if possible, is a good idea.
Getting out of trouble
A useful piece of recovery kit is a bridging ladder . It can be used to lower the gradient of a rock incline, keeping you out of trouble in the first place or aiding in recovery, either forwards or backwards.
A Hi-lift jack is very useful for raising a wheel sufficiently to pack small rocks, soil or timber under a lodged tyre.
Learn from experience
Each time you succesfully navigate rocks, do a self-critism of what you did right and what you could have done better. It's a good idea to walk back over the route and re-live the experience in your mind.
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