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How to Drive Off Road on Rocks, Logs and Ditches

Always check water, snow, high grass and mud crossings for hidden obstacles, such as logs, rocks and holes.

When approaching obstacles, such as a ditch, itís best to be at an angle, so that only one tire enters the ditch at a time when crossing.  This leaves the other three tires on solid ground to provide traction to get you across.  If you enter squarely, then an entire axle could become useless, plus add to the difficulty of getting out.

Before you drive over large rocks, consider whether you need to build a ramp in front of and behind any rock that has a steep approach and/or departure that could ground your vehicle.

Since the underside of your vehicle has many fragile and vital components (differentials, driveshafts, transmission, transfer case, oil pan, exhaust, gas tank), itís best to drive over an obstacle by placing one tire on it, then gently driving over it, rather than trying to take it down the center.

How to Drive Your Vehicle Through Water

Most 4x4s can be driven in water that is axle-deep without taking special precautions. (Max. wading depth is about 20 inches.)  When the water is deeper, you need to know where your engineís air intake and engine computer are located and donít allow water to enter.  Switch off headlights and allow them to cool, as sudden contact with cold water will cause the glass to crack.

When entering the water and performing the crossing, you want to minimize the water entering the engine bay by creating a bow wave, so long as you maintain a brisk forward momentum.  The result is that less water will be sprayed over the ignition system by the radiator fan and less chance of water entering the air intake.

When crossing shallow streams, drive slow and steady to create a small bow wave in front of your bumper that will reduce the height of the water behind the bumper and keep the water away from the air intake and electronics. Select low range and first gear, and keep steering straight.

When crossing fast-flowing shallow streams, cross at an angle and drive slightly upstream.  This presents a smaller surface area and lessens the force of the stream on the vehicle. Never cross fast-flowing deep streams, as your vehicle can be swept away.

Apply your brakes several times after crossing water or deep mud to dry them out.




Be aware of the damage you and your vehicle can do to the environment.


Donít blaze a new trail.  Instead, stay on the established path.  Otherwise:


If you venture off the road into the woods, you may get lost in an area where no one will be able to find you.


Your heavy vehicle will damage the ground and embankments by leaving ruts that will deepen and erode with each passing rain.


You will be damaging the surrounding plant and animal life.


You may do damage to your vehicle.


You can face a serious fine and/or a serious lecture from law officials.


Donít litter - not even a cigarette butt or a candy wrapper.  If you pack it in, pack it out.


Donít spin your tires and tear up the soil - it breaks the surface crust and leads to erosion when it rains.


Should you need to pile stones up to get over an obstacle, be sure to put the stones back where you found them afterwards.


Leave your ego at home.  Every vehicle (and driver, for that matter) has its limitations.  Backing off early and accepting that a maneuver is impossible or choosing another approach may prevent vehicle damage and, more important, personal injury.  Never try a maneuver that you are uncomfortable with.


Donít disturb the wildlife;  this includes plants and animals. Weíre treading on their turf.

Slow down.  Enjoy the scenery. Live the experience to the fullest. You donít want to spend time repairing damage you wouldnít have caused had you driven a little slower.


Just as on the street, you should stay right to avoid oncoming traffic, if you can.  If common sense is to move left instead of right, then do so.  If there is only room for one vehicle to pass, the rule is that the more maneuverable vehicle, or the more experienced driver, should yield the right-of-way.

When two vehicles meet on a grade and there isnít a safe place to pull over, the vehicle traveling up the grade has the right of way.  It is safer for the vehicle traveling downhill to back up, and it will be much easier for the downhill vehicle to get under way.


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