4WD Driving Techniques for Rocks and Ruts
Driving over rocks and ruts can leave your 4WD battered and bruised. Be off-road ready and master your 4WD techniques using these tips.
(SPONSORED) There are some who consider rock crawling a sport and others who consider it a necessity to get to their favourite camping spot or down to a water crossing. But there’s one thing everyone knows about rock crawling, and that is that slow and steady is the best way to make sure your 4WD doesn’t end up battered and bruised.
Slow and Steady is key
When it comes to driving across rocks or ruts, ideally you want to position your vehicle so that it remains as level as possible and it has the best chance of keeping all four wheels on the ground.
When you have to traverse a deep rut, try to pick a line that will only expose one wheel to the rut at a time. This way, if the rut is so deep that it exceeds the vehicle’s wheel travel limit, only one wheel will lift off the ground at a time.
You don’t need too much momentum to drive across rocks and ruts, so you want to select low-range and keep speed to a minimum. After all, they don’t call it rock crawling for nothing.
If you drive too fast across rocks with your tyres set at road-running pressure you’ll end up bouncing off obstacles, crashing into ruts and risk breaking something on your vehicle. And your passengers won’t be too impressed if they’re bouncing around in the cabin with you.
Dropping your tyre pressures by about 25 per cent when negotiating rocky terrain offers multiple benefits. Firstly, you’ll minimise the risk of punctures, as the tyre will more easily deform around rocks and other obstacles with sharp edges. This deformation will also result in a more compliant ride, which your passengers will appreciate. Finally, by lowering pressures, the footprint of the tyres will lengthen, which will provide increased traction. Of course, if you’re going to drop the pressure in your vehicle’s tyres, then make sure you have a way of inflating them again.
If you’re driving a Ford Everest 4WD, you have the advantage offered by the Terrain Management System, which allows you to tailor the vehicle to suit specific driving conditions. In this scenario, you’ll want to select low-range and the Rock Mode. Rock Mode ensures the gearbox holds on to first gear for longer, allowing you to crawl over difficult obstacles at a slow speed. It also applies the brakes to individual wheels more readily and increases torque transfer to the wheels with grip, ensuring maximum control and traction in extreme terrain.
Once you’ve engaged Rock Mode and low range, and you’re about to tackle the terrain, scan the track ahead of you, looking for the best line. As mentioned, you want to keep the vehicle as level as possible and only expose one wheel at a time to a rut or exposed rock. And although the Ford Everest offers an impressive 225mm of ground clearance, keep an eye out for rocks and other obstacles on the track that could damage the underside of the vehicle if you hit them.
If you’re clambering across a very rough section of track with large rocks, then the trick will be to maintain enough momentum so that your vehicle is able to ‘drive’ across the obstacles almost one rock at a time, maintaining traction. Slow and steady is key when driving across rocks and ruts.
An extra set of eyes will be of great benefit when driving on rocky terrain. Having an observer outside the vehicle, who can direct you via hand signals or a UHF radio, will give you a much better chance of avoiding obstacles.
When descending steep rocky sections, stick to the existing track ruts as long as they’re not so deep that you’ll run out of ground clearance. In the Ford Everest, you can also engage Hill Descent Control to ensure the vehicle maintains a steady, controlled speed.
It’s important that you manage your frustrations when driving across rocks and ruts. Because of the slow pace and the constant rocking as the vehicle moves from one rock to the other, some drivers will try to drive faster; this will cause damage to the vehicle and result in an even more unpleasant ride for passengers.