Ascending and Descending

Sometimes, you forget the old proverb “look before you leap” and directly decide to brave dangerously steep slopes while you’re off the road. You may get a kick out of it and you may give yourself a pat on the back that this is what you bought your vehicle for. You may even try to do a Rocky IV and try to ascend a ruthlessly steep crag or you may swoop down to a beautiful valley to enjoy its visual delights. But don’t just “leap” as of yet. Even if you haven’t read any of Aesop’s fables as a kid, let me warn you that rashly navigating slopes can harm you as well as your vehicle in ways you cannot imagine.

The first thing to do here is “surveying” (as always) the area. Do you seriously think your offroader can make it? Avoid side slopes at all costs. A funny “simulation” that you can try is to get one of those cheap “Hot Wheels” toy cars and letting them race down. Sorry, they really can’t go up but you can try one of those cool remote controlled cars. And remember–we are not responsible for any damages.

The art of ascending/descending is learning how to master the use of the correct gear and the application of the correct amount of pressure on the accelerator pad. Yeah, I know it sounds really simple but it’s really not that.

While going up, it’s best to use the second gear while going up although some less-powerful off-roaders may require the first in order to go up properly. Avoid going too fast because this may cause your car to bounce irregularly and may seriously damage to your vehicle and may even cause your vehicle to skid off. In case you start to skid back, try to gently pump and release the accelerator over short intervals and move the steering wheel from side to side. This helps in cleaning the tires and varying the load torque to the wheel and shall hopefully provide you with some much-needed traction. If this fails, suppress your ego and put the gear in reverse and let the vehicle back down gently (and do not touch the accelerator!). If you are part of a group of vehicles and they’ve somehow succeeded in ascending the slope, then just request them to give you a tow uphill. Then stop the car and make out like Rocky Balboa at the end of his training sessions.

When going down, “survey” the area (again!) and try to plan which route shall be the safest for you. Engage the first gear and then allow the car to go down without pressing the accelerator. If you start skidding whilst going down, press the accelerator slightly to gain traction. Remember not to steer too much (i.e. more than 90 degrees) because this may cause the car to skid rather sharply due to a great loss in traction. Weave-Steering within 90 degrees, gently moving the steering wheel back and forth half-lock to half-lock while feathering the throttle, helps in increasing the general surface area of the tire that is in contact with the ground. Pumping and releasing the brake lightly with the left foot also helps if you feel that the front wheels are starting to spin and the car is skidding. This slows the spinning wheels and provides more power to the wheels in order to regain traction. The same can be done for the back wheels with the handbrake but without braking the car completely. But avoid this since over-braking may cause the back wheels to lock up and also may seriously aggravate your problems when going down a steep hill.

The best thing is to drive in packs and play “follow the leader.” If you feel uncertain about a slope, let the other “wolves” dart forward. If they make it, you can simply follow them and if they don’t, you can always stop your car, jump out and laugh your guts out pointing at them all the time.

© M. Kamil /

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