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Wheelin' Fun: Off-Roading Tips
With warmer weather and more hours of daylight, now is the time to enjoy off-roading in your four-wheel drive vehicle. To make the most of the opportunity, here are some off-roading tips. Follow these, and get ready to enjoy a fabulous summer.
Find the Right Trails
If you’re new to off-roading, you can relax. You’ll find many state parks offer trails especially for off-road vehicles. These trails are well-marked and provide a great introduction to the sport. They generally indicate the level of difficulty and whether you’ll be crossing any water or climbing steep inclines. Avoid anything you’re uncomfortable with for your first trip.
Leave the sand and mud to drivers with more experience. If you’ve mastered the beginner trails, feel free to be a little more adventurous, but tread carefully. No articles or manuals will prepare you adequately for the change in terrain until you’ve tried it first-hand.
Know What to Do If You Get Stuck
As you master the easy trails, you’ll want to take on bigger challenges. However, it’s important to begin cautiously and ensure your vehicle is up to the task. If you begin to feel your 4x4 losing traction, turn the wheel from the right to left multiple times to try to get a better grip.
If you can’t get out, don’t spin out your tires and dig yourself in deeper. Get out and assess the situation. You can try rocking the vehicle back and forth by switching from reverse to forward and back again. At some point, you may need to ask to be pulled out. If you do a lot of off-roading, expect this to happen at least once in your adventures.
Never Go Alone
Always carry a cell phone with you in case of an emergency, but don’t rely on it as your sole means of communication. Many of the areas you’ll be off-roading won’t have reception. Instead, always take a friend along in another vehicle for your trip. Carry tow ropes and an emergency kit, along with your vehicle’s owner manual.
Make sure you and your friend know the area where you’ll be off-roading. Terrain can look a lot different in person than on a map, so don’t rely on your GPS or maps to tell you what you need to know. Instead, ask others on off-roading forums or friends who have been there about a new trail.
Reduce Tire Pressure
In almost every off-road situation, you’ll need lower tire pressure for adequate traction. Beginner trails might be the only exception to this rule. The lower pressure will allow the tires to get a better grip as the sidewall flexes around the terrain.
Don’t forget to air the tires back up before you get back on the road. Otherwise, you’ll end up with a flat tire on your way home, which is not how you want your fun time to end.
Know the Water Depth
Know how deep the water is before you drive your vehicle in. Make sure you also know how much water the vehicle can handle. Avoid crossing a stream or other water when it’s moving fast. Even a big 4x4 can get swept away in the wrong conditions.
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