Driving tips for mud and mud ruts (with video)
Ready for your next off-road adventure? Learn to tackle mud ruts safely with our 4WD driving tips across mud and ruts.
(SPONSORED) Driving through mud can be both exciting and terrifying, and often these feelings rise to the surface within moments of the each other.
There are several techniques you can use to make sure you don’t get stuck in the mud, whether it’s in the sticky, sandy red dirt of the Outback, or the thick, cloying, gloopy, power-sapping mud of bush tracks that can clog your tyres and turn them into slicks in seconds.
With the Ford Everest 4WD, you can use the Terrain Management System (TMS) to help you through muddy sections by dialing up the correct setting to suit the terrain you’re driving across. If the mud looks very thick and deep then the added traction afforded by engaging low-range will mean selecting Normal Mode on the TMS and then low-range.
When the going gets muddy
The first thing you should do when confronted by a mud puddle or muddy track is to ascertain its depth and the level of traction on offer. Sometimes the only way to do this is to get your boots dirty, walking the track with a stick in hand so you can see how deep the muddy ruts are, looking for holes and feeling how slippery the base is.
Prior to entering mud ruts, stop your vehicle safely by easing off the accelerator and giving the brakes short, gentle squeezes. Once stopped, climb out and have a look at the ruts and then look back at your vehicle and ask yourself if you will have enough ground clearance to keep from bellying out once your wheels are in the ruts. If the answer is no, then you can start looking around for rocks and other material to drop into the ruts to help provide extra clearance and traction. In these situations, some people recommend using sticks and logs; if you do then never place them in line with the ruts, but perpendicular to the rut to avoid them flicking up and puncturing something underneath the vehicle.
You should also ask yourself whether there’s another way around the ruts. That doesn’t mean pushing your own track around the ruts; doing this causes damage to the environment and will result in a new set of ruts forming as other four-wheel drivers follow your path.
Some off-road drivers suggest lowering your tyre pressures to increase the length of the tread but you don’t want to go too low on thin mud as that will affect the ability of the tyre to push through the surface mud and grip into the hard, dry stuff beneath. But if the mud is particularly thick and deep, lowering your tyre pressures can be very helpful; when the mud is thick, you’re better off trying to float across the top of it than trying to push down into it.
Once you’ve decided it’s okay to proceed, build up enough speed prior to entering the mud so you’ll have the momentum required to carry you through to the other side. Be careful not to drive too fast, however, as you could easily lose grip when cornering and slide out of control. And whatever you do, don’t stop in the middle of a muddy section of track or a muddy puddle, because chances are you won’t get going again. If you need to slow down, brake gently rather than stomping on the brake pedal.
When driving along dry, rutted tracks, it’s often advisable to straddle the ruts where you can, but you shouldn’t do this if the track is wet and muddy, as you could slide into the ruts anyway, which could cause significant vehicle damage.
Throttle control on a muddy track is something that can mean the difference between slipping and gripping. Feed in too much power and you’ll overwhelm the mud-filled tyres, which will result in big slipping. Keep adjusting the throttle, however, by easing off when you feel slippage, and you’ll give your tyres a better chance at gaining traction.
Using your steering is vitally important when negotiating muddy sections of track. If it feels like the vehicle is bogging down, a gentle sawing at the steering wheel can help to push your tyres up against the sides of the ruts where the ground is often harder and grippier.
A spotter makes negotiating muddy tracks much easier. If you have someone with you, kindly ask them to alight from the vehicle and have them guide you through the muddy sections, either using hand signals or a two-way radio.
In the end, momentum and not speed is key to successfully negotiating muddy tracks and waterlogged ruts.