Driving Off-Road


Driving on open, sealed roads and off-roading are complete opposites and both require totally different driving techniques. Off-roading can pose a lot of different obstacles that you might never face on your daily drive to work. Let’s dig into the tips and tricks that might help you on your next 4×4 adventure.

How should you prepare yourself for off-road driving?

It is mandatory to have relevant safety equipment as you never know what you might experience during an off-road adventure. These include tow ropes, a winch, a shovel and first aid kit. If you have had previous experiences with dune buggies or quads, it would be helpful. Ask for a co-driver to help overcome the initial fears.

What vehicle is best for off-roading?

New Zealand has a plethora of great european and japanese off road vehicles for sale. If you have a look through Trade Me Motors, you’ll be able to see both new and secondhand 4×4 vehicles in your area. We would recommend looking at Toyota Hilux or Surf, Nissan Patrol or Ford Rangers. 

Should I walk the track before off-roading?

You might have seen Formula1 drivers take track walks before a race weekend as it helps them to visualize the braking and cornering maneuvers. Similarly, if you are completely new to off-roading, you would be better off knowing the different driving styles needed for different terrains before you jump right into the car. This helps in understanding how grip and traction work on steep inclines and descents. 

How much off-roading experience do I need?

Start small and get familiar with the car. Start by driving on small boulders and beginner off-roading surfaces. Once you have gained sufficient confidence, you can try your hand at more difficult settings such as sand dunes and river crossings.

What 4×4 systems are needed for off-road driving?

Traction Control:

Most 4X4s have some sort of traction control system that brakes the individual wheel that is spinning and transfers power to the wheel with more traction. This allows you to climb out of sticky situations or ensure you have the power to the right wheels if some are lifted off the ground.

High and Low Gear Ratio:

There is typically an extra gear lever or button to switch between low and high-speed gearing settings. Low-speed gearing provides more torque at low speeds and helps to keep the momentum going.

Hill Descent Control:

Hill descent control is another common control system that helps during your descent downhill. This slows the vehicle down. 

Limited Slip Differentials (LSDs):

Limited Slip Differentials (LSDs) help in providing more torque to the wheel that has traction thereby helping the vehicle overcome slippery conditions.

Should you stay on the trail when 4×4?

Driving on the already established path when 4×4 driving is generally a safer idea than creating your own trail when you are off-roading for the first time. Once you’ve become familiar with the surroundings, you can drive in a different path that may prove adventurous. Be sure to tell your friends or family where you are heading and when you expect to be home.

What speed is right for off-roading?

Off-roading is all about getting to know the surroundings and how your car behaves on different terrains. Be it mud, boulders, mixed rocks, or wet conditions. Once you are able to control and direct your car onto the intended path, it becomes easier to drive and have fun. So driving slowly helps in this aspect. All driver inputs such as braking, accelerating and steering should be smooth and not sudden impulses. Dry and wet conditions pose different challenges and each requires situation-specific responses.

Does tyre pressure affect off-road driving?

Roads made of dry asphalt provide high traction and make driving easier. Optimum tyre pressure improves ride and handling. On the other hand, when driving off-road on surfaces such as rocks, boulders, or sand, lower tyre pressures make driving better as the tyres absorb the impacts and spread to provide more grip.
Tyre tread is another important parameter to take note of. Make sure that there is more than sufficient tread on the tyres. Off-roaders have tyres with higher tread depth and a different tread pattern in order to provide good traction on soft and rugged surfaces. You can find the right set of 4×4 tyres here.