4×4 Driving Techniques
The following techniques are common to all types of terrain. Techniques for particular types of terrain are mentioned under the different terrain headings.
When driving off-road, it is important not to place your thumbs on the inside of the steering wheel. When driving over any large ruts or potholes, the wheel could suddenly turn. This may result in the thumb being bruised or even dislocated if it is left inside the rim. Remembering to leave your thumbs on the outside of the steering wheel is a very easy skill to acquire and should become second nature to you.
With power steering fitted to most 4Wheel drives these days, this technique is not as critical as the power steering unit dampens out sudden steering wheel movements as well as steering stabilizers. Owners of non-power steering vehicles will have undoubtedly experienced at some time the force at which the steering wheel turns when hitting an obstruction.
It is important to know the position of your front and rear differentials as they are usually the lowest ground clearance point of your vehicle. Similarly, any other low ground clearance points should be noted e.g. exhaust, spare tyre etc. When a large rock or other obstacle is on a track that you must drive over, you should ensure you avoid driving directly over it with the lowest ground clearance point of your vehicle.
When using the vehicle’s brakes hard, your vehicle’s front suspension compresses and you ‘use up’ most of its suspension travel, When braking sharply to avoid an obstacle e.g. pothole or rut, and you cannot stop in time, release the brake pedal just prior to hitting the obstacle. This will allow the front suspension to return to its normal height and give more suspension travel when hitting the obstacle.
A four-wheel-drive vehicle cannot be treated like a normal car when cornering. The 4WD will roll over much easier than a car while cornering if they are taken too fast, due to the higher centre of gravity. This applies to gravel and paved roads equally. Although a four-wheel-drive vehicle generally has better traction on gravel than a car, when safe cornering speeds are exceeded the four-wheel drive will tend to roll earlier than a car.