10 points to follow for a Fun and Safe Off-Roading Experience
Whether you’re off-roading with a truck, Jeep, or UTV, you’re bound to have fun exploring and discovering the terrain of wherever you’re at (Check out our last blog about where to off-road in SoCal!). But safety is an important factor when off-roading too. So here are 10 dos for the perfect off-roading experience to keep it fun and safe!
#1: Know How Your Vehicle Traction Works Off-Road and with 4WD
To move all the wheels on a 4-wheel drive requires locking differentials. Locking differentials lock the axles of the car together to provide full torque power to the wheel with traction. When the vehicle turns, this can cause the wheels to rotate at different speeds. Before you hit the road, check out your owner's manual or do some Googling to discover your vehicle’s differentials and transfer case.
You’ll want to know if there’s traction control and if it’s electronically controlled. You’ll also want to know if your vehicle has limited slip differentials. This means traction will improve when the wheels experience different levels of grip.
#2: Know Your Vehicle’s Angles
If you’re off-roading on rocks, it will be especially important to know your approach and break-over angles. Approach angles are the maximum angles of an obstacle that a vehicle can climb horizontally without interference. This applies to your rear bumper and wheels too, not just the front of the vehicle. Knowing these angles will make getting on and off obstacles easier and safer.
The next angle you need to know is your break-over angle. This is the angle between your tires and the middle of the underside of the vehicle. When climbing over an obstacle, like a rock, you’ll need to know how much ground clearance you have to avoid scraping the rock and your car. If you don’t know or do it wrong, your vehicle can end up teeter-tottering on the rock with the wheels off the ground. Talk about being stuck in between a hard place and a rock!
#3: Start with the Lowest Gear Available
Off-roading usually requires driving up steep inclines with reduced tractions. To easily and safely make it over, start with the lowest gear available. It’s also recommended to use the lowest gear when the vehicle doesn’t have dual-range transfer cases.
Most older trucks and 4-wheel drive SUVs have a low-range transfer case that can be activated by a switch or lever. It’s usually part of the 4-wheel drive system. Low range lets the second set of gears amplify the vehicle's power at lower RPMs. This means your low-range vehicle can go on different terrain and adventures that vehicles without low-range can’t go.
#4: Lower your Tire Pressure
While your manual or tire might recommend a certain number, it’s the tire pressure meant for driving on smooth, paved roads. That number will give your tires the least amount of energy to move. This increases your fuel economy. But, the tire pressure you have in your car to drive on your street will not work in off-road conditions. Instead, it will cause your car to bounce. This can make for a rougher ride and traction loss.
To prepare for your off-roading experience, lower your tire pressure for a smoother ride. Less air in the tires can help absorb more impact and even reduce damage to the vehicle or tires. That’s because more of the tires touch the ground. This makes for more weight balance for the vehicle. This is important to know if you’re driving on sand or mud. The more the tires touch the ground, the more tread the tire can grab so you’re not stuck.
#5: Go with a group
Off-roading should never be done alone because it’s hard to predict the dangers of the terrain and obstacles. It’s hard to also predict everything that could go wrong when off-roading. It’s why going as a pair or a group increases your safety.
If there’s a medical emergency or the vehicle breaks down, a second person can help. In some of the off-roading terrain, there can be little to no cell service. Having just one extra pair of eyes and feet can make a huge difference in what time you come home.
#6: Use a Spotter
Speaking of going with a group, one of those people in your group should be your spotter. This person will be responsible for guiding you and your vehicle on or off terrain. That’s why you should travel with experienced off-roaders, and have one of them help guide you. Your spotter should know how your vehicle works too. This way the spotter can prevent vehicle damage that the driver can’t see.
#7: Follow Trail Rules
Most of the time there aren’t “rules” to off-roading, but you want to be conscious of the rules of the trail (if there are any) and knowledgeable in off-road etiquette. It makes the terrain and vehicle safer and the experience more enjoyable. This means staying on marked trails and out of wilderness areas as it can be dangerous to veer off and can cause a negative environmental impact. Sometimes areas are preserved for a reason. Other etiquette rules to follow:
- If you’re on private property, ask permission from the private landowners.
- Leave no trash behind.
- Obey posted signs and closures.
Breaking any of these rules can be dangerous and costly.
#8: Expect the Unexpected
As we mentioned earlier, you can’t predict what will happen when off-roading. Off-roading comes with challenges like breaking parts, changing weather, unexpected closed routes, and things not going as planned. To have the best off-roading experience, save yourself the stress and go with the flow by adjusting the plan and adapting to circumstances.
Part of this means reevaluating your original plan and knowing you and your vehicle's limit. For example, if your vehicle is stuck or having a hard time with the terrain, it would be safer and smarter to turn back than to try to stick to the original plan and continue. Choosing your original plan can put you, your passengers, and the vehicle at risk. It’s always better to pick the safer route to avoid liability, danger, and injury.
#9: Read the Owner’s Manual
This will be the most boring tip. We know how boring and dreadful this one is, but it can be the most useful. It could even save a life (human or your vehicle!)! Reading the owner’s manual should be done by all off-roaders, but especially ones who don’t have access to emergency services.
But the good news is that car manufacturers are adapting to the times. This means while your owner’s manual might be found in the glove box, it can also be found on apps, videos, onscreen displays, and other digital devices.
#10: Prepare Your Vehicle
For a safe and fun off-roading trip, preparation is key. Before you take off, you should have a list of what needs to be done. Some things to include on the list:
- Inspecting the car
- Check and fill fluids, as needed (coolant, oil, windshield wiper fluid)
- Lowering tire pressure
- Check windshield wiper blades
All these tips work together to create a safe and fun time for you and your vehicle. If you need help with getting your vehicle ready for off-roading, visit us at our store! Find us at 15230 San Fernando Mission Blvd Suite B102, Mission Hills, CA 91345. We’d love to help you create a fun and safe off-roading experience!