Beginner's Guide to Off-Roading

brpmanila | Aug. 21, 2020, 5:23 p.m.

Venturing the wilderness through off-roading entails a lot of challenges that require a capable vehicle and special driving knowledge to overcome. For beginners and even experts, practice makes perfect. There’s a long list of preparations and considerations when off-roading, but with enough practice and knowledge, you can fully enjoy your riding experience while out on the terrain.

Basic Off-Roading Vocabulary
Below are a few need-to-know navigation and system terms that you should add to your off-roading vocabulary:
  • 4×4 High vs. Low – This refers to the gearing scale of your off-road recreational vehicle. A 4WD high offers faster speed while placing lower torque in the wheels, making it great for maintaining momentum on rough terrains. On the other hand, a 4WD low offers slower speed but higher torque, which is ideal for rock crawling.
  • Locking Differential – This controls the turn speed of your vehicle’s wheels, ensuring that your turns generate the least resistance, reducing the risk of getting stuck. Older car models have manual differential locks, while newer ones, including the Can-Am off-road vehicle in the Philippines, are able to activate the locking differential feature with a single push of a button
  • Traction Control – This system activates the brakes and retains grip on the wheel once a slip is detected. Most 4x4 vehicles possess this feature, be it a simple on/off button or a more complex setup. Read your owner’s manual for more information.

Tips for Off-Roading
The key to mastering off-roading is by knowing your vehicle details:
  • Maintenance – This includes your pre-driving checking requirements. Make sure that your tires, even the spare, are in good condition and properly inflated. Take a visual assessment for any leaks or mechanical problems under your vehicle. Ensure that you have a full tank or sufficient gas to last your off-roading activity. Steering and brake conditions must be reviewed, too.
  • Safety Precautions – To increase your safety and avoid potential dangers, here are some safety precautionary guidelines:
    • Bring all fundamental emergency supplies.
    • Be ready for possible sudden weather changes.
    • Bring a companion with you. If you’re going solo, make sure that someone knows of your plans and destinations. You can also consider asking a friend to regularly check on you, or at least get the contact number of the local police while you’re in an unfamiliar place.
    • Mind your vehicle load. Make sure that your load is equally distributed across the vehicle.
    • Beware of the additional height due to the racks.
  • Environment Check – While enjoying the nature, cherish it with respect. Here are some tips:
    • Stay on established trails and do not create new ruts that may erode the soil, especially whenever rain comes. This will avoid damage to the ground or embankments.
    • Do not litter. Have your own trash bin inside your vehicle.
    • Avoid unnecessary tire spins that cause destruction to the soil.
    • Abstain from interfering with wildlife, specifically plants and animals.

How to Deal with Emergencies
  • If the engine stopped running – If you’re caught in a situation when the vehicle is about to stop, especially on a steep incline or decline, never depress your clutch. This may leave your engine out of control suddenly. Rather, switch off your ignition and impose a hard foot brake, then do the parking brake. Once you’ve spotted the best route back, gently depress the clutch, then go on reverse and let the clutch out. Concurrently, you can release the parking and foot brake bit by bit. Afterwards, you can now start the engine. For automatic transmission, beware that shifting your gear to park may lock your transmission.
  • If the vehicle got stuck – In a position like this, you have to come up with the best plan to free your vehicle without wrecking it. If a moveable object is what’s gluing you, jack up the vehicle and clear the object away. If it is immovable, jack up the vehicle also, then fill under the tires to pass over the object. You can try letting out some air in the tire, or activate differential locks and use a high gear.
  • If you can’t get out – In a difficult situation like this, you still need to jack up the vehicle, then look for sand, logs, rocks or anything that can fill the area under the tires. If in case the jack sinks, you can use wood to serve as a base. Using a winch will be the best resort to get unhooked. An anchor can be a vehicle or trees, rocks or other natural resources you can find.