By Grant Spolander

I asked the same question to several 4×4 trainers to see if commonality appeared in their answers. The question was: “If you could teach only 4 off-road tips, what would they be?”.

In truth, I wasn’t sure what to expect. Would they have wildly different advice, or would a general theme appear? I’ll let you decide the result.

See their answers below…

BERNIE WILLIAMS

4X4 training provider and off-road tour guide (Gauteng)

1) Engage your brain before you engage 4WD! Off-road driving is NOT instinctive; you need to think about what you are doing.

2) Adjust your tyre pressures for the terrain you’re driving, preferably beforehand.

3) Traction determines which gear you should be in and how much momentum is needed.

4) Know your vehicle’s strengths and weaknesses. That includes your tyres.

Contact Bernie here


TRAVIS DUGGAN

4X4 training provider and off-road tour guide (KwaZulu Natal)

1) Know your vehicle’s 4WD system, driving aids, and how/when to engage them.

2) Make sure your tyre choice and pressures are suited to the terrain you’re tackling. Adjusting your pressures – before driving a specific terrain – will significantly minimise the risk of getting stuck.

3) Make sure your vehicle is lined up with the obstacle you’re attempting. Choose your line carefully by keeping the vehicle on the high points as much as you can. Don’t fight the vehicle into a position; let it find its own path within reason, and keep your line as straight as possible.

4) Know when to quit. If your vehicle is struggling to overcome an obstacle, stop before things get worse and reassess the situation.

Contact Travis here


GERHARD GROENEWALD

4X4 training provider and off-road tour guide (Western Cape)

1) Select the correct tyre pressure for the terrain you’re driving.

2) Consider your driving line, which includes wheel placement and knowing how that relates to your vehicle’s lowest point and undercarriage.

3) Traction determines how much momentum is needed. Finding the correct balance between the two is the sweet spot.

4. Plan your escape route before entering a difficult obstacle. Remember that gravity makes steering useless on a steep slope while reversing.

Contact Gerhard here


ROBERT PEPPER

Driving instructor, book author and technical writer (Australia)

1) Always think: What if? Off-road driving is inherently risky, so never drive anywhere without a clear idea of what you’ll do if things go wrong… as they often do.

2) Understand why off-roading is complex. Road drivers can get away with knowing that one pedal makes them go faster and the other slower. However, in tough off-road situations you need to know how things work in terms of differentials, tyres and traction.

3) Push the limits beforehand on shorter trips. Attempt that tough hill, winch, change a tyre on a slope, bog yourself in sand, or use your comms gear. Then, whatever happens on your longer riskier trips, it’ll be easy by comparison.

4) It may seem overwhelming, but start small. You acquire off-road skills and knowledge like any other adventure hobby: training, clubs, reading, and slowly working up to the tough stuff.

Contact Robert here


FRANCOIS MARAIS

4X4 training provider and off-road tour guide (Western Cape)

1) Know and trust your vehicle. It’s essential to know the capabilities, limitations, features and systems of your 4WD.

2) Inspect the track and plan your route through challenging obstacles. Remember to think of your rear wheels, too! If the plan fails: Go back, reassess, and redo it. It’s better to do it over than overdo it.

3) The better the traction, the less momentum is needed. Adjust accordingly.

4) Think! Use your knowledge and experience before using your right foot excessively.

Contact Francois here


GLYN DEMMER

4X4 training provider, author, and off-road tour guide (Gauteng)

1) Your driving position matters. You should always be comfortably seated and in a position that ensures you are not pulled/pushed from the steering wheel when ascending/descending a slope.

2) Keep your seatbelt on, and your thumbs away from the steering wheel spokes to avoid a possible “kickback” injury.

3) The dynamics of an off-road vehicle are different to a road car in terms of centre-of-gravity and stopping distances. Keep these things in mind and adjust your speed accordingly.

4) A critical off-road skill is the ability to select or “read” a line”. A good line allows you to keep all four wheels in contact with the terrain. Knowing how to read a line, coupled with the knowledge of your vehicle, will enhance your off-road experience.

Contact Glyn at gdemmer@mweb.co.za


BRENT CLARK

4X4 training provider and off-road tour guide (Eastern Cape)

1) Get yourself and your partner onto an off-road training course with a reputable trainer so that you understand your vehicle’s off-road systems and limitations.

2) Establish what you want to use your vehicle for, as this will guide you in terms of what needs upgrading. Whilst most vehicles are competent in stock form, their tyres are mostly road-biased and in need of an upgrade.

3) Invest in good-quality recovery gear.

4 An accurate tyre gauge is essential in matching your tyre pressures to the traction/terrain.

Contact Brent here


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