Car Advice

4WD Driving Tips For Sand, Dirt and Gravel

Driving on unsealed roads requires laser-like focus and attention. Here are some top tips on driving your 4WD over unsealed roads.

(SPONSORED) Like driving on mud, unsealed roads can vary from hard-packed, well-maintained and grippy dirt to mile after mile of corrugations, or dust covered roads that can be like driving on ball bearings. There are also animals and bone-jarring potholes to contend with. Driving on unsealed roads requires laser-like focus and attention.

Maintaining visibility by slowing down

When travelling on unsealed roads visibility and time to react are of paramount importance and so travelling at a lower speed than you would on a bitumen surface is essential. By slowing down on unsealed roads you’ll have more time to react safely, while maintaining traction, when driving around corners, up a hill or when braking.

Ford Everest Country Drive

There are no lines on unsealed roads and where you’ve got good vision ahead it’s advisable to travel on the crown of the road as this part of the track will offer more grip and less loose material. Knowing this, if you do encounter another vehicle coming towards you, or one behind you that wants to overtake then you should reduce speed and move to the left carefully to avoid suddenly hitting loose gravel and losing control of your vehicle.

Speaking of overtaking, like you would on bitumen, ensure you have good vision and leave plenty of room when overtaking another vehicle, especially when you pull back in to reduce the risk of stones being flicked up.

Convoy driving

Four-wheel drivers are social creatures and tend to head into the outback with fellow enthusiasts and so, when travelling in convoy on unsealed roads you need to be mindful of the dust that can be kicked up by the vehicle ahead of you and your vehicle too. Indeed, when you’re in a convoy on an unsealed road, it’s vital that you maintain a gap between you and the vehicle in front, and this can range anywhere from 100 metres to 500 metres.

Ford Everest Convoy in outback

By staying out of the dust cloud of the car in front, you’re not only ensuring you have good visibility and thus time to react, but you’re also ensuring that your vehicle is sucking in relatively clean air; filters can quickly become clogged when driving across dusty outback roads in a convoy.

The importance of grip

Grip is generally in short supply on unsealed roads and, so, having a vehicle like the Ford Everest 4WD with its full-time four-wheel drive ensures your vehicle is as grippy as can be right out of the box. And you should never switch off your Everest’s Dynamic Stability Control (DSC) as this clever system will allow you to steer and maintain grip when driving on slippery surfaces.

If the road is heavily corrugated then vehicle and occupant comfort is important, so you can look at dropping tyre pressures slightly to provide a more cushioned ride with the added benefit of more grip too.

Driving on sand

When you’re driving on sand, there are two main things you need to bear in mind and these are, one, momentum and, two, tyre pressures. Three actually, if you’re driving a Ford Everest 4WD; make sure you select Sand mode on the Terrain Management System.

The main thing to remember with tyre pressures, and lowering them, is that we’re not trying to increase the width of the tyre but rather the length of the tread. And then we need to look at developing and maintaining the necessary momentum to keep us on top of the sand and almost floating across the surface rather than trying to churn our way through it. It’s not about speed.

Remember that after dropping your tyre pressures you’ll need to take larger turning circles as tight manoeuvring could see the tyre peel off the rim. If you find yourself approaching a dune make sure you only ever drive up and down in a straight line. Never try and drive across a dune as you risk rolling your vehicle.

And, remember, never deflate your tyres if you don’t have a way of reinflating them.

Driving on unsealed roads requires you to slow down and always think and look ahead to ensure you’re well prepared for whatever you might find around the next corner.


Practical Motoring

Practical Motoring