For most of us, driving off-road is only applicable when our sat-nav goes wrong, and we find ourselves heading down unfamiliar tracks in the middle of a barren wilderness. However, there is more to off-roading driving than that. For a lot of people, this is an exciting hobby, whether it’s heading into the rough for the hell of the drive, or taking part in rally or racing events.
So if you have been thinking about getting into off-roading, we have some great advice for beginners right here.
Buying the right vehicle
Your family saloon won’t be able to take the pressure of the rough terrain, so you will need something designed for four-wheeled driving. Jeeps, Land Rovers, mud trucks, and SUVs are some of the common off-road vehicles. A four-wheel-drive vehicle is so-called because all four wheels are powered by the engine, unlike two-wheel drive vehicles. The extra power gives them the oomph needed to manage the toughest terrain, including mud, sand, and slippery roads in icy conditions.
You don’t need to spend a fortune on a car, especially as you will be high-tailing it around bends and over bumps like a daredevil. There are plenty of buying options online for would-be racers and speed demons, such as these mud trucks for sale for anybody interested in mud racing, but there may be something suitable at a local showroom near you. Think about where you intend to take the vehicle and buy something appropriate.
More fun with friends
Riding solo is fine, but you may prefer to join up with other off-roading enthusiasts. There may be a group near you, so check online for available options. Not only will you have the opportunity to share your adventures with others, but you will also have people available who will be able to offer you valuable advice in the upkeep of your car, and guidance as to the best tracks to take your rig.
Care for the environment
You need to drive in places where you are legally allowed to do so, so don’t assume you can leave the road anywhere to blaze a new trail. Your heavy vehicle will damage the ground, so take established paths that have been earmarked for this kind of driving. Remember wildlife as well. You wouldn’t like it if somebody cut through your back garden on a high-speed adventure, so respect places inhabited by other animals and plants, and be a responsible driver.
You may not be driving on the highway, but there are still safety rules you need to adhere to. There are off-roading areas where you won’t be driving solo, so respect other drivers, and remember their safety as well as your own. For example, vehicles traveling uphill will have the right of way, as those driving downhill will have a better chance at getting under way again after letting the other driver through.
You need to prepared for any situation, as the ground will be unreliable. Remember that breakdown services may not always be equipped to reach your destination, so you need to have some mechanical know-how before you embark on an expedition. You should also check your vehicle for any potential problems before you set off on the drive. There is some helpful advice here on how to maintain your off-road vehicle, so improve your knowledge to keep the car running at optimum performance to alleviate any possible problems.
Considering you will be driving in muddy and rocky conditions, your car is likely to stall or get stuck. You need to know how to get out of these tricky situations, so you need to do your research, or take advice from experienced drivers. It is also important to have the
right equipment with you. For example, a winch is your best means to get out of a place where your vehicle is stuck, as it can be attached to nearby trees, rocks, and stumps if you don’t have anybody else at hand to pull you free.
Other recommended pieces of equipment are a tow rope that is heavy enough to handle your car, an air compressor to pump up your tyres when they are running low, a spare tyre in case of a blowout, and a fire extinguisher in case of fire. Then there are the practical items that should always be carried in case of an emergency. For example, a well-stocked first aid kit could be a lifesaver, and a fully charged mobile phone to enable you to call for help.
Choosing the right destination
There are many places to take your 4×4, so consider the places near you. Beginners should consider taking the off-road trails that are often available in state parks. The terrain will consist of mostly gravel and grasslands, which offer easier maneuverability. You should take it slow at first, get to know the routes available, and get out of the car to check out the area before handling difficult situations.
Those at an intermediate level will be able to handle trickier areas. Sand dunes are a lot of fun, but extra care is required due to the lack of traction. In these situations, the tyre pressure should be lowered to allow the tyres better grip on the slippery surfaces, and speed should be maintained to avoid the vehicle digging too far into the sand.
A lot of fun can be had from driving through muddy surfaces, but wannabe rally drivers should practice a route before taking any unnecessary risks. Vehicles will slide a lot more, and while the driver may want to show off his skills at doing a 360-degree spin, he may very well end up crashing into a tree and getting stuck in a ditch instead.
Off-roading is a lot of fun, but you need to know your skill limits, and the capabilities of the vehicle before setting out on a race or an expedition. As the saying goes, ‘don’t bite off more than you can chew,’ and you will keep yourself safe while having a fantastic time with this exhilarating hobby.