Be Like Bear Grylls With Basic 4WD Recovery Techniques
Top tips on how to self-recover your 4WD when it’s stuck out in the bush, mud, snow or sand.
(SPONSORED) DRIVING OFF-ROAD is a whole lot of fun and can be very safe provided you know what you’re doing and where you’re going. The key to avoiding having to self-recover is to be aware of your surroundings; be mindful about following tracks around a boggy section of the track as this will just lead to the creation of another boggy section of track overtime and result in another side track, or ‘chicken track’ being carved out and the environment suffering. If there’s nothing else for it, then use the side track, but do ask yourself the question, do I really need to attempt this track on my own?
Off-roading should be more about the destination rather than heading into the bush to try and find your 4WD’s limits and become stuck… and especially not when you’re on your own. Indeed, the photos in this article were only taken because we had a second, recovery vehicle nearby.
But, let’s say you’ve decided to explore a side track on your own and have become stuck. Here are a few of the things you can try if you’re all on your own with very little recovery gear in the back of your 4WD.
Be like Bear Grylls…
The most important tool in your 4WD recovery kit is your own brain and internet access on your smartphone. Always use the former but the latter can be helpful for when you run out of ideas. And, above all else, don’t panic.
You’re driving a 4×4… so use everything it’s got
So, use your vehicle the way it was intended. All modern 4×4 wagons, like the Ford Everest, have different driving modes; but few are as advanced as the system in the Everest 4WD, so make the most of all the modes at your disposal.
Here’s a very brief explanation of how the different modes in the Ford Everest 4WD work:
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.
Mud/Snow/Grass – This mode should be used where a firm surface is covered with loose or slippery material. This includes gravel, shallow mud, wet grass or snow covered road.
Sand – This mode should be used for crossing deep sand or deep sticky mud.
Rock – This mode gives low speed controllability for crawling over rocks. Low range must be selected before this mode can be activated.
In low-range only Normal and Rock can be selected, and the vehicle will not up-change from first-gear low in Rock mode – you need to manually select higher gears. As usual with mud/snow (and grass) modes these are not suited for use in deep, soft conditions such as snow more than about 100mm deep or thick mud. Think of them more as ‘slippery surface’ modes, and that’s why Ford recommends Sand mode for when driving across deep mud.
Sometimes, knowing which seemingly disconnected Mode will work in the situation you’ve got yourself in is a case of trial and error, but did you know rock mode is great in some sand situations, and so on?
It might be using, or not using, the rear-axle locking differential, low range or not. And the first thing you should check is that the car is in its best 4WD mode, if you’re driving an Everest 4WD then make sure you’ve selected the correct Terrain Management Setting; you might have accidentally left it in Normal. Sometimes, locking the rear differential (if your vehicle has such a feature), or switching off the car and engaging 4×4 again can be the difference between being stuck and making it out.
Consult the owner’s manual, the manual for the Ford Everest 4WD contains some very handy off-roading hints, or just keep trying different options, even if they seem silly.
Stuck in a dead end…
Quite often when you’re driving off-road you can get stuck in a track that goes nowhere. Indeed, just the other day I had to reverse back down a track for more than two kilometres. There was no indication from my maps that there was a gate at the end of it… more than that, the track was overgrown and so turning around just wasn’t an option without having to bulldoze a section of bush and scratch up the front and sides of my Ford Everest 4WD. In the end, using a combination of the reversing camera and my mirrors I could reverse back down the track slowly and carefully until I found a spot where I could turn the vehicle around.
Indeed, if you feel like the track is closing in or the going becoming a little harder and the light is failing, then backing off and reversing back from where you are will have the effect of keeping you from getting stuck in the first place. The same applies to hill climbs or maybe not driving through that boggy section of mud and finding a path around it.
Get your hands dirty
Sometimes all it takes to help your vehicle clamber up and over an obstacle is a little bit of help. So, before you start to panic, get out of your car and have a look at the area that’s preventing progress along the track. It might be that a fist-sized rock placed in front of a wheel is enough to help the vehicle drive up and over… Building a ramp in front of each wheel is often the difference between being stuck and making it up and out.
The key issues here will usually be ground clearance and traction, and by building on the track you can help stack the odds in your vehicles favour.
Fill in holes where the tyres spin, and reduce the height of anything the car is grounding on. If you’re smart, you’ll do both at the same time. You may need to sacrifice the internal floor mats or other trim. Use rocks rather than wood to build as wood is slippery and can break and stake the tyre causing it to go flat, and then you’ll have another problem to deal with. And, if you’ve got one, some sort of duffle bag filled with rocks can also help; just make sure you place the bag where it needs to go and bring the rocks to it rather than filling it and trying to carry it to where it needs to be.
Stuck in soft sand… or mud
Then lowering your tyre pressures can often help to get the traction needed to get your vehicle out of its sand trap. But, if you do decide to let the air out of your tyre and you don’t have a portable air compressor with you then you’re going to need to be extremely careful. Let out enough air to flatten the tyre and get you unstuck, but then you need to remember to keep the speed right down to avoid overheating your tyre and breaking the bead. If you manage to make it out and back to the bitumen, it might be worth stopping and calling for someone to come and help with the portable air compressor you should have had in the back of your vehicle.
If you’re stuck in mud… well, you might end up having to get dirty. You can refer to the ‘track building’ ideas above for help with mud… in mud there’s almost no traction, so, you can help your vehicle out by placing stuff at the front of the wheels to help give them a bit of grip. Another trick is to use reverse and then forwards gear to try and rock your vehicle forwards, and you can see-saw at the steering wheel with the aim of trying to grab the side of the boggy ruts you’re in; these usually offer more grip and hopefully the tyre’s shoulder won’t have become caked with mud, allowing it to grab against the wall of the rut and help you to inch your way out of the bog. By steering side to side while driving forwards it helps to push the slick mud away from the tyre and hopefully down to a harder, grippier surface. And lowering your tyre pressures and providing the tyre with a longer tread pattern and thus more grip can also help.
In the end…
Common sense and making use of your 4WD to its full potential, like using the right Terrain Management Setting on the Ford Everest 4WD, will allow you to self-recover from most difficult situations. That said, investing in a basic recovery kit and leaving it in the back of your 4WD will make life easier if you do get yourself stuck. And don’t ever head into the bush with only a quarter of a tank of fuel… you don’t want running out of fuel to be the reason you get stuck. It’s much easier to build up a section of track than to find fuel when you’re a long way from anywhere and have just noticed you’ve got no phone reception.