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4x4 Driving Techniques

Posted in How To on February 1, 2001
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The wrong way to drive off-road. Entertaining, yes. Right, no.




You may think you don't need to read this story, since you've been 'wheeling for years. But what if you learn just one important tip? Sure, you know-it-alls might as well turn the page now, but these are some of the most basic premises you need to know for safe and sane 4x4 driving. Of course, we are talking about the basics here, not how to run Sledgehammer at night, backwards, and with no lights. That's a bit more complicated, but the principles we'll discuss still apply.

Along with driving off road comes responsibility. Responsibility includes more than telling someone where we're going and when we'll be expected back. It also means responsibility for the land on which we drive. No, we're not fanatical tree-huggers or Eco-Nazis, but we do care about the great outdoors and our diminishing right to use it. On public property, think twice before blasting across a swampy meadow, creating a new trail, or mowing down some trees—that just gives them an excuse to close the lands we all want to enjoy.

Whether you are new to the sport or an old trail hand, remember that driver experience wins out over vehicular modifications in most situations. An experienced driver will recognize what terrain is beyond the limits of his vehicle and know when to call it quits. Likewise, a good driver can be capable of taking a stock vehicle through obstacles that the wallet-job rig and newbie driver combo can't even fathom. With a stock or lightly modified rig, driving techniques definitely come into play. Knowing how to use throttle, gravity, and inertia is also important and often makes the difference between getting through a bad section or getting stuck and needing a tow. The key is not to overdo it, but to use these variables to your advantage.

Different types of terrain often require somewhat different techniques, so we've separated this story into sections that deal with what you may come up against and where. And just for good measure, we've included a section to cover the basics that apply to most off-road adventures, and what you need to safely overcome even the roughest of obstacles. Yes, these are the basics you will need to know, and if you don't agree, write us and give us some tips! But for now, continue your journey into some of the specifics for driving on different styles of terrain.
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