If an obstacle such as a bear suddenly appears it is very important not to swerve while braking, once a skid or slide starts, it is very difficult to regain control…

IH Harwood offroad jeep

Off-roading is a popular pastime but it’s amazing how many people arrive in the backwoods ill-prepared for what should be a fun adventure.

Here are a few tips on off-road driving;

If you are driving in rocky terrain it is important to have sufficient ground clearance and proper suspension travel. High ground clearance allows the larger rocks to pass underneath without contacting vulnerable vehicle components while good suspension travel allows the wheels to remain in contact with the ground.

Independent suspension usually provides a smoother ride in this type of road, but its design limits the wheel travel and ground clearance available. Rocky terrain should be traveled at low speeds to minimize vehicle contact with the terrain.

While independent front suspension generally provides a smoother ride, it has a variable ground clearance to the front differential. As the front wheels hit a bump, the wheels rise up to absorb the bump. However the differential remains in the same position, reducing the ground clearance under it. This can result in the differential hitting the ground, even though the object was only half the height of the ground clearance.

Live axle front suspension does not provide as smooth a ride as independent front suspension. Many live axle suspensions are now fitted with coils rather than leaf suspension, which improves the ride. The advantage of live axles when off road is that when the wheels hit a bump, the whole axle rises with the wheels to absorb the bump. This maintains the same clearance from the differential to the ground. While this is an advantage off-road, the weight of the entire axle is constantly moving with any bumps leads to a rougher ride, compared to independent front suspension.

When large drop-offs or ledges are encountered, they can be done at an angle to allow one wheel at a time to drop down. Keep in mind how this will affect the position of the vehicle as turning at an angle to a downhill ledge may result in a side rollover.

Travelling on long sections of gravel roads can lull the driver into a false sense of security. Most four-wheel drives can make a rough road seem smooth with their smooth suspension and quiet interiors. Speed creep can occur in these circumstances and when a curve in the road is encountered the high center of gravity in most trucks may cause you to cross to the other side of the road or it can lead to a high risk of rollover. New drivers should be extra careful.

If an obstacle such as a bear suddenly appears it is very important not to swerve while braking, once a skid or slide starts, it is very difficult to regain control. It is best to use four-wheel drive on gravel roads to gain better traction. Gravel roads provide enough slip not to cause any transfer case windup problems.

After driving long distances on poor quality roads, it is a good idea to check all nuts and bolts to see they haven’t vibrated loose. It is especially important to check all suspension components.

When driving on dusty roads, it is a good idea to have all your windows closed and the ventilation control set to outside air with the fan on high. This pressurizes the cab of the vehicle, and helps reduce the amount of dust sucked into the vehicle. When another vehicle approaches, move the ventilation control to re-circulate to stop dusty air coming in. Remember to move the ventilation back to outside air once you have passed or else the pressurization effect will be gone. The interior is already experiencing some very dry conditions and with predictions of a serious fire season ahead please do your part not to be carless and report any fire to 1-800-663-5555 or *5555.

Contact: ian [dot] harwood [at] drivewaybc [dot] ca

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