Off-road driving: A complete guide for beginners

Updated Oct 07, 2020 | Same topic: Let's Drive Smart!

Eager to brave the trail for your first ever off-road driving? Follow these tips and tricks to ensure for a safe and enjoyable trip ahead!

It goes without a saying that “what is a 4x4 good for, if you cannot trek the great sand dunes and twirls of the Mother Earth?” For the life of excitement and adventure, off-road driving is a thrill to be a part of.

Imagine braving the trail that few men have conquered, maneuvering through the muddy track and discovering a new breed of the sanctuary. More often than not, off-road driving is not just a hobby but an escape.

If you are one of those who purchased or have the chance to drive a 4x4 into the wilderness, you might need to read this article from Philkotse.com on how you can make your first off-road driving fun and safe at the same time.

1. Know Your Vehicle

A 4x4 vehicle is built differently from SUVs, a luxury or a sports car. It is made with adventure and wilderness in mind. You have to understand the following aspects to optimize your drive efficiently.

Traction control

In a nutshell, traction control is the ability of a vehicle to control wheel slips and brakes to make sure the torque is transferred from your car’s tires to the trail you’re taking.

Since you’ll need this function on roads that may render you unable to control or steer you’re a vehicle towards a specified direction, it is crucial to read on your owner's manual so that you can activate it in a jiffy.

off road traction control

Traction control is the ability of a vehicle to control wheel slips and brakes

4WD high or 4WD low option

These options indicate the transfer of gearing from your engine to the trail. When you go for the 4WD high option, consider your day-to-day driving situation when you don’t need torque when you step on the brakes.

However, you’ll need a consistent distribution of speed for a smooth trail. For the 4WD low option, more torque is applied even on low speed drives yet high-speed is maintained.

4x4 vehicles

A 4x4 vehicle is built with adventure and wilderness in mind

>>> Worth to note: 8 Modern 4x4 Features You Should Look Out For

2. Consider the need for special equipment

Since you are driving on an unconventional road, you may never know what’s up ahead in terms of terrain and weather conditions. Check for the following equipment to suit your off-road driving in the future.

Tires

Unless you plan on using your 4x4 for cement or pavements only, you can buy your vehicle a set of regular tires that is appropriate for your driving condition. Remember, sand tires, rock tires and mud tires are designed for a different function. It is best to change your tires before venturing out into new terrain.

Off road car tire

It is best to change your tires before venturing out into new terrain

Suspension

Unlike conventional vehicles that don't put much importance into suspension aka "shock absorber," 4x4 requires a specific kind for optimized reliability and strength on the trail. It is essential to ponder that whatever feature you'll be adding into your vehicles, such as a new tent or another drawer, you’ll burden your suspension even more.

4x4 vehicle suspension

4x4 requires a specific suspension for optimized reliability and strength on the trail

>>> Read more: Suspension modifications for off-road goodness in the Philippines

3. Preparation is the key

Knowing what you might encounter is the key to enjoy your off-road driving session a success. Prepare essential tools that you may need in cases of worst-case scenarios.

Fire extinguisher

You may wonder what you need a fire extinguisher for an off-road drive, simply put, you may overwork your rig and risk starting a fire. If it does begin to light up, you'll need a fire extinguisher to minimize the damages and mitigate the possibility of being injured.

Fire extinguisher in the car

You need a fire extinguisher for an off-road drive because may overwork your rig and risk starting a fire.

Basic first-aid kit

The function of a basic first aid kit is to stop bleeding, clean and patch wounds to avoid infection, and to ensure survivability until medical authorities arrive. The next time you go for a ride, make sure you have one tucked inside your compartment.

Glass breaker or seatbelt cutter

The inevitable is bound to happen, and there will be cases when you need to break the glass off of your car’s window such as a hot car emergency or a burning engine or being stuck while your vehicle is being filled with water. Plus, you’ll need something sharp to cut you loose from a seatbelt that isn’t releasing your lock.

glass breaker

Prepare a glass breaker in case of emergency

Extra food, water, and clothes

The wilderness is an ideal place to lay low and get closer to nature. Reception, convenience stores, and help aren't easy to attain in this place. Should you encounter an unfortunate case, you'll maximize your survivability if you have an extra pair of clothes, water, and food to last you until help finally arrives.

4. Hone your off-road driving skills

Being aware of your current driving conditions will let you strategize your correct course of action whenever you’re off the road. We'll elaborate on what these driving conditions are below.

If you are going to traverse a muddy area, it is crucial to evaluate the depth and the distance you’ll cross. When you’re good judgment tells you not to, don’t do it. If you think you can make it, at least air your vehicle to 20 pounds of maximum air pressure. Next, switch to your 4WD high option and switch off your traction.   

car driving off road

On rocky terrain, you need to be precise and be methodical when you choose a lane to the trail

On rocky terrain, you need to be precise and be methodical when you choose a lane to the trail. Minimize the air pressure and choose the 4WD low option. If you’re lucky enough to have the “rock” switch for your traction, light it up as well.

Remember that whenever you are settled down on a low gear, just keep in mind the throttle so that you can move forward on a slow and steady pace.

>>> See also: A short guide for Filipino drivers to safely drive in the mud.

5. Listen from off-roaders' advice

Since you’re considered as a newbie when it comes to off-road driving, you’re going to need all of the advice and expert recommendations from veteran off-roaders. These tidbits of advice may include:

Mind your speed

Not everything on the road can be conquered with speed. When you’re off the road, you’ll need excellent traction, reliable suspension and an awareness of your surroundings.

Don’t challenge yourself with an undiscovered route

Trails are embedded for a reason. This means that a lot of off-roaders have used this route because of its convenience and safety. If you want to challenge yourself by discovering a new path, you might be putting yourself in danger.

off road driving

You should practice driving off-road with the different routes

Inform somebody of your off-road driving plan

It is difficult to ask for help if you are in an area of limited reception and far away from civilization. To ensure that someone will be coming to your aid, inform a family friend or a neighbor about your trip and your estimated time of return. This will cause an alarm if you're not home by your planned arrival.

Discovering new things and new hobbies are part of your life’s endless discovery for the thrill and excitement. However, just like anything fun and exciting, one should exercise caution and carefulness all throughout.

Don't forget to check out helpful tips and advice for your safe driving on Philkotse.com. 

Hanna Sanchez

Hanna Sanchez

Author

Hanna is one of the most competitive swimmers in the country during her day. It was not long before she discovered her passion for the automotive industry as well. Nowadays, she balances her passion through writing as well as coaching.

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