Starting Off With Off-Roading

It’s brown, soft and pretty innocent looking. But don’t let the looks deceive you. Beneath that brittle exterior lies a menace that both experienced and amateur offroaders may succumb to. And it plagues offroaders in different forms all over the world. Yet despite its “evil” nature, bashing it offers the greatest thrill to offroaders. However one may often bash it a little too hard and end up getting stuck in the process. So how do we avoid such a mishap?

“Mud-bashing” is something that one must do with a really, really clear head because showing off may get one in a pretty deep mess. When encountering a spot with treacherous-looking mud, it is often a good idea to fish out your boots from the emergency kit and do a little “surveying.” A long rod/staff might also come in handy for probing all that gook. Make out like a Sherlock Holmes; Sometimes, a tract of muddy land may be “normally deep” at some points while at others, it may be a patch of quicksand. If you happen to see that your boots are sinking into the mud to a high degree, just back off and try another route.

Even if the mud is not too deep, try not to race through it. Not only will you kick up high walls of spraying mud and mess up your exterior, you may end up skidding or getting stuck all the same because of displacing too much mud with your fast moving tires. The recommended safe amount of deep mud is one that ends up coming to the bottom of the diff. Also try to keep the vehicle in second gear while moving through mud because you may need to shift to the first in case the need arises for more power.

If you start digging in too deep, immediately shift to a lower gear and refrain from pressing the accelerator continuously. Try using varying amounts of low power and avoid moving the steering wheel too far to the right or left (recommended maximum angle: approx 30-40 degrees) as you move because turning the vehicle too far may displace too much mud at the bottom and may aggravate your problems.

In case you vehicle starts skidding, again refrain from jamming the accelerator. Use the varying power approach and this time and move the wheel from lock to lock. An AVS system installed on the vehicle may often help although the nature of mud is really unpredictable.

Often, one may get stuck and find himself/herself unable to move forward. In this case, the best thing to try (what have you got to lose?) is to switch the gear to reverse and slowly back out. Believe me, many of my friends tried this approach and and strangely enough, it works sometimes.

In case all else fails, remember to remain calm! Just call for help and wait. If you surveyed the mud beforehand and found that the vehicle started to dip even though the mud did not appear to be so deep, stop immediately and try to reverse out of the mud. And if you can’t do that, then avoid going further because you might get stuck all the same and at a greater distance from hard ground i.e. a salvage operation may be too painful and hard for the rescuing party.

As always, drive with a clear head and avoid showing off. Avoid mud at all costs if you happen to have friends and a lot of heavy equipment along. Weight is the number one factor that bogs down a vehicle so try to take a different route. Your friends might goad you on to “be a man” but they’ll probably be of little use once your vehicle gets stuck.

© M. Kamil /

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