Going off-road – It's an adventure that can be challenging and confusing, especially if you're not prepared. However, with good preparation and decent practice, anyone can off-road.
Remember that not all four-wheel-drive vehicles are created equal or designed for off-road use. You must know your vehicle limits and your own limits as a driver. Always drive in terrain suited to your car and your driving abilities.
This guide will give you the essential elements you'll need to enjoy your off-road adventures more safely, including:
- What you should know about your vehicle
- Gear you should pack for the journey
- The "Golden Rules" for off-road driving
- How to inspect your rig once you return to the road
KNOW YOUR VEHICLE
The key to safe driving on any terrain is a profound knowledge of the vehicle and what it can do.
If possible, plan your journey by checking the terrain and topography of the area you'll be visiting. Consider the current and recent weather and how it might affect the land.
Before you set off, make sure your wheels are correctly inflated. Secure anything in your vehicle that could move or fall during a bumpy ride, and don't overload the roof rack.
Always make sure that you're prepared for the journey that you're about to undertake. Keep all equipment in a single bag that is readily accessible and portable if needed.
OFF-ROAD DRIVING GOLDEN RULES
Travel only in areas open to four-wheel-drive vehicles and stay on the designated route.
If in doubt, don't do it! Always keep risk to a minimum.
Travel with at least one other vehicle and tell someone where you're going and when you're due to arrive.
Be prepared and always carry at least minimal survival gear in your car.
Always drive as slowly as possible and as fast as necessary.
Know your vehicle limits and yours as a driver. Think about what could go wrong and how you'd deal with it.
RETURNING TO THE ROAD
Check for damage: look for wear or cuts in the wheels and check the vehicle's underside. Use your flashlight if necessary.
Clear the vehicle lights and number plates from any mud or dirt.
Make sure that any equipment is secure to the rack.
If you've lowered your wheel pressure, remember to revert to the correct pressure as recommended by the manufacturer.
Mud on the wheels could affect handling and braking - set off slowly.
Always check for a firm brake pedal and ensure there is no resistance in the steering.