Car Advice

4×4 Driving Tips – Adapting To Suit The Terrain

Ready to drive your 4WD off-road? Safely adapting to different terrains is key. Learn more about different terrains so you are prepared for your drive.

(SPONSORED): The key to driving off-road safely and being able to adapt to changing terrains and conditions is all down to preparation, and a back-of-your-hand understanding of your 4WD and what it can do.

So, before you pack up your new 4WD and head off to the Tanami Track, you’ve got to know your new vehicle from the inside out.

Starting on the inside, you’ll need a thorough understanding of any terrain modes your vehicle might have. In the case of the Ford Everest, that’s the Terrain Management System (TMS), which consists of several different driving modes to suit different conditions, but we’ll get to that later on.

On the outside of the vehicle, you’ll want to have a good look around to gain an understanding of how the vehicle might perform in off-road conditions. Take a good look underneath the vehicle, and from all sides too. While you’re down on the ground make a mental note of anything that hangs down low that might become snagged on a rock or a branch when you’re driving off-road, and look at the location of potentially vulnerable components such as the fuel tank, engine sump, differentials and the gearbox.

As well as the bits hanging down underneath, have a good walk around the outside of your 4WD and look at areas that could be damaged when driving off-road, such as the front and rear bumpers. Important information such as your vehicle’s maximum approach, departure and ramp-over angles, ground clearance and wading depth will be listed in the owner’s manual.

Taming the terrain

Mud & Sand: The trick to getting through mud and sand is to use steady momentum, that means to keep even pressure on the throttle; don’t jerk your foot on and off. And, when in mud, don’t select too low a gear as this will cause your tyres to spin rather than grip; second or even third gear with an even throttle is the way to go.

Ford Everest 4WD Trend driving through mud ruts

Water: Make sure the river’s safe for you to cross and, if possible, always try and cross at a ford/causeway – never attempt to cross a river in flood. Accelerate as you enter the water slowly to create a bow wave, and then drive at a nice even (slow) pace to avoid overtaking your bow wave.

Hills: Always try and walk the hill, mainly so that you know what’s on the other side of it…And always drive straight-ahead at a hill, never approach from an angle (which could cause a rollover), and choose the highest gear the vehicle will ‘pull’ in.

Airing Down: Means dropping your tyre pressures to increase the footprint, which improves traction in soft sand. It’s also worth airing down on rocky terrain as it allows the now soft tyre a chance to roll over an obstacle. Make sure you carry an air compressor to re-inflate your tyres once you get back on the bitumen.

Ford Everest 4WD – Terrain Management System (TMS)

The Ford Everest’s Terrain Management System offers four driving modes designed to enhance the vehicle’s capability in differing types of terrain types. These modes are Normal, Snow/Mud/Grass, Sand, and Rock. In addition the Everest has high- and low-range gearing, and the TMS incorporates a Hill Descent Control function.

Ford Everest 4WD Terrain Management System and Hill Descent Control

Depending on the mode selected TMS changes vehicle attributes such as transmission response, traction control settings and throttle response.

Normal mode: This mode is for on-road conditions and should be used on hard road surfaces, or once the need for any of the off-road modes has passed.

Snow/Mud/Grass: If you’re driving on grass, gravel or snow, then select this mode via the console-mounted dial and the TMS will smooth out the throttle response and adjust the transmission settings so it will be slower to downshift and upshift. This essentially keeps engine revs low to help prevent wheel slip over slippery terrain. While this mode is ideally suited to slippery surfaces, it’s not as effective in deep mud or snow.

Sand: This is the mode you want when driving through soft, power-sapping surfaces such as sand or deep sticky mud. In Sand mode throttle response is increased and more wheel slip is allowed so the vehicle can maintain the momentum required to drive over the terrain.

Rock: When the terrain is very rough, select Rock mode. This will adjust the traction control system to suit the terrain and dampen the throttle response which allows for a nice, precise, slow movement that you want when driving over large boulders or other extreme terrain. Low range must be selected before this mode can be activated.

Low range: You can engage low-range in either Normal or Rock modes. With low range selected in Rock mode the transmission will not up-change from first-gear unless manually shifted, giving you all the control you’d expect from a manual gearbox.

Hill Descent Control: Hill Descent Control does exactly what its name suggests. The vehicle will hold a set speed on steep descents, which can be slightly increased and decreased via the vehicle’s cruise control buttons on the steering wheel. This keeps vehicle speed nice and slow and controlled on steep descents without the need to apply the brakes, all the way to the bottom.

Ford Everest 4WD driving down a steep hill


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Practical Motoring

Practical Motoring