If you are driving a 4 x 4 vehicle or you are considering purchasing one, you should be aware that these vehicles are designed differently from standard ones and their driving mechanics are also different. Off-roading is a lot of fun, but when it comes to 4 x 4 cars, you should know a little more than just where the driver selector is. To avoid unpleasant situations, keep in mind the following things you shouldn’t do behind the wheel while driving a 4 x 4 vehicle:
1. Using locking differential on dry pavement
When locking differential for your front or rear wheels or dry pavement, you can damage your differential or drive train because the outside wheel going around the corner will be rotating faster and travelling further distance than the inside wheel. By locking differential you make both wheels travel at the same speed and consequences include wheel scrub and damaging your differential.
2. Using 4WD on dry pavement
On dry pavement you don’t need the additional traction provided by 4WD; neither when it’s raining you don’t have to switch the car’s mode to 4WD because the car will perform well under these circumstances even in the 2WD mode.
3. Switching to 4WD while travelling with the transmission in gear
Stop and make sure the transmission is in neutral before switching to the 4WD mode. Some vehicles even allow you to be travelling at 2-3 mph, but the best is to follow the rule mentioned before. Actually, doing this is not even possible with most vehicles as they will lock you out of this option.
4. Flooring it when you’re trying to get unstuck
Flooring it to get out will only make you burry yourself more. The principle explaining this situation is simple – the friction between two static objects is higher than the friction between two moving objects. If your tire is slipping, the coefficient of friction is lower, and as a result the amount of torque you’re putting down is lower. When trying to get out of a stuck situation, it’s recommended to ease on to the throttle and easily get the car out – this way you’re putting down the highest possible amount of torque. A smooth slow motion will get you out of trouble, while hurrying up and flooring it will make things worse.
5. Using aggressive traction control when you don’t need it
Unless you’re over packed snow or driving on rocks and want to avoid slipping, you don’t need a lot of traction control. When driving through mud or sand, or conditions where you can get easily stuck in, you need to maintain momentum rather than using traction control. This will allow your wheels to spin and even a certain amount of slippage is good because it keeps wheels running. Under these circumstances, also avoid cutting engine power – this causes the vehicle to slow down and increases your risk of getting stuck.
6. Not inspecting your vehicle after an off-road drive
For reasons of safety, you should always inspect your vehicle after an off-road drive, even if everything seems fine. Places to look at include the underbody of the vehicle, the tires (check if they are properly inflated), the body of the car (for any possible damage), the suspensions, the exhaustion system, the radiator (for mud and debris that can cause the engine to overheat), and plants that could have gotten caught up in the vehicle and cause fire if they are lodged near the exhaust. If the steering wheel is vibrating after driving off-road, there is probably something caught in the wheels. The brake and fuel lines should be checked for leaks and ruptures.
7. Not knowing what you’re getting into
Having a 4 x 4 vehicle doesn’t mean you are invincible and can do anything. You can always be surprised by a dangerous section on the road, so make sure you know what follows before getting in there. Have a look first or watch another vehicle driving through the same spot. Let’s say you notice an area on the horizon where the trail disappears – this suggests that a steep downhill is coming up, so it’s needless to say you shouldn’t hurry!
8. Not shifting into 4WD when you touch dirt
It’s vital that you shift into 4WD as soon as you reach an area with harsh conditions. You can forget to do it later and you may be stuck sooner than you expect. Switching to 4WD when you’re already stuck may not free your vehicle. Added control of 4WD is required on tough trails because the engine’s power is transferred to another set of gears before reaching the wheels. The result is being able to drive slower with increased torque on the wheels – that means extra control and getting unstuck more easily.
So, what’s important to keep in mind that it’s not the 4 x 4 vehicle that takes you out of bad situations, but your driving skills and following a few simple principles of 4 x 4 driving.