Tips For Off Road Driving for Beginners – Where To Begin

It’s finally here, your off-road vehicle. Your fingers are itching to finally race through an off-road park. But if you don’t have any off-road experience yet, it can quickly become dangerous. We’ve put together a few tips for off-road driving that you should take to heart, both as a beginner and as an advanced driver.

Of course, there is much more to off-road driving than just 5 tips to consider. And only theoretical knowledge is also not enough. But the 5 tips we’ve written down for you here are ones you should definitely know.

A warning beforehand, these tips do not replace training with experienced off-road instructors. They are for preparation, tuning in, reference, or even repetition.

, Tips For Off Road Driving for Beginners – Where To Begin, Mad Digi

Switch On Mental All-Wheel-Drive

The most important thing in advance. When your car goes off-road, your head has to do the same. Take a quick breath and mentally go through a short checklist: Is your vehicle set up correctly? Do you have your equipment with you and is it in order?

If you’re traveling with more than one, is the CB radio turned on and on the right channel? Are you wearing your seat belt and are your passengers wearing theirs? Do you have all the other vehicles in sight? Are you excited? Then just wait.

Maybe drive behind someone else who you know won’t make any reckless maneuvers. That gives you a little more security.

Get To Know Your Off Road Vehicle

Before you go off-road for the first time, you should get to know your vehicle. What does that mean exactly? Each type of off-road vehicle has its own four-wheel-drive system, different dimensions, and equipment.

Does your off-road vehicle have regular street tires, or do you at least have AT tires (All Terrain, 50 percent street / 50 percent off-road) or even MT tires (Mud Terrain, 20 to 30 percent street / 70 to 80 percent off-road)?

Have you familiarized yourself with your winch, if you have one? Here’s more on how to properly use your winch, and here’s how to maintain your winch.

Especially for used vehicles with a winch, you should take a closer look at your winch.

, Tips For Off Road Driving for Beginners – Where To Begin, Mad Digi

What Equipment Does Your 4×4 Have?

Check the manual of your car and the additional equipment or let a knowledgeable friend or off-road instructor explain the technical details to you.

If the previous owner installed additional equipment, it makes sense to ask him about it when you bought the car and have him explain everything to you. If not, he will not be angry to give you some more information afterward.

All-wheel drive – Manual, automatic transmission? how is it operated? Remember, don’t leave a manually engageable all-wheel drive on solid ground. This will cause high tire wear and damage.

Reduction gear – does your vehicle have a reduction gear? How is the gear changed? The reduction gearbox reduces all gears to an even higher ratio. This means the off-road vehicle drives much slower, but with much more power.

When the car is rolling, the engine brakes much harder in the reduction ratio. The reduction gear is an important component of an off-road vehicle. Vehicles without reduction gears may have very short 1st gear or electronic hill descent aids to provide the necessary power and braking.

, Tips For Off Road Driving for Beginners – Where To Begin, Mad Digi

Safety When Driving Offroad

Off-road, as on the road, you must wear a seat belt. Even if you don’t tend to collide with other vehicles off-road, you can still hit a tree, your vehicle can tip over, or in the worst case, even roll over. So you’d rather be strapped in.

If the vehicle slides a short distance and brakes abruptly in a gully alone, you’ll fly into the windshield with your head unbuckled. To minimize the risk of injury, all occupants should always wear seat belts as long as they are in the vehicle.

Adjust your seat so that you can safely operate the pedals, steering wheel, and gearshift lever and see as much as possible outside the vehicle.

Leave 8 to 10 inches of air between your head and the roof. Keep the window on your side open one-third. This way you can see what’s happening outside, but in the event of a rollover, you can’t accidentally stick your hand out of the car.

, Tips For Off Road Driving for Beginners – Where To Begin, Mad Digi

Reduced Tire Pressure When Driving Off-Road

Tire pressure and tire tread alone can be written a lot. Therefore also here is only a rough guideline.

On surfaces like mud or sand, you should reduce your tire pressure. On the one hand, this increases the contact area (kg per cm2). This protects the surface so that it can give better traction and the tire can free itself better from the mud. It then waltzes more and pushes out the dirt trapped in the tread better.

But be careful. With reduced air pressure, the steering and driving behavior changes. The car seems more spongy. You should not drive too fast.

The less air is left in the tire, the faster it gets warm due to the stronger rolling of the flanks and the less lateral forces it can absorb. With strong steering movements, it can jump from the rim.

This often happens in sand dunes, for example, when you have to turn sharply in a dune valley. Then the entire weight of the vehicle presses on the tire sidewall of the outer front wheel.

Note: Not every tire tolerates low air pressures equally well.

As a guideline for the reduced tire pressure you can take the following values:

  • 80% of the road air pressure is on soft and poor surface mud. Do not drive faster than 60 km/h.
  • 60% of the road air pressure for particularly soft and non-bearing ground sand. Do not drive faster than 20 km/h.
  • Less than 60% of road air pressure. Soft desert sand – Some tires tolerate very little air. The Toyo Open Country M/T, for example, is known to be safe and very stable even with very little air pressure. Do not drive faster than 20 km/h.

, Tips For Off Road Driving for Beginners – Where To Begin, Mad Digi

Off-Road Driving In A Straight Line

Driving on a straight road sounds easy, but depending on the surface, it is not. On a corrugated, hard-rutted track, you must either drive very slowly or so fast that the car “flies” from wave crest to wave crest. This is how trophy trucks drive. Fast and hard. Look at the Baja 500 and Baja 1,000 races for these crazy MFers.

This speed is often in the range of 70 to 80 km/h! At this point at the latest, you should secure everything in your car. Basically, this should always be the case.

In the mud, you should try to stay in the lane of the car in front of you. If there is one. Where he could drive along, there is then probably some firmer ground on which you should also get further. Watch how deep the ruts are and if you can still get over the high center with your ground clearance.

In the sand, you should not always follow the track of the person in front of you. If the track already seems soft and wide, find your own. But don’t deviate too far, because the sand conditions there can be completely different.

If the track is not deep and only as wide as the tire of the car in front, you can stay on it.

, Tips For Off Road Driving for Beginners – Where To Begin, Mad Digi

Off Road Driving In A Sloping Position

Not only for beginners, but the inclined position in off-road driving can also be nuts. The good news is that in the car it feels much worse and more slanted than it actually is. Still, you shouldn’t drive leaner than you can handle.

On average, significant discomfort in humans begins at about 20 degrees of sideways lean. Take that feeling as a safe limit, even if your car can do more.

If the manual specifies the tilt angle of your vehicle, it refers to a standing standard vehicle. If your vehicle is loaded, if possible with a roof tent on the roof, if it is raised, or if it has a wheel spacer, the tilt angle is different. It is also in motion, which causes additional dynamic forces (momentum) to act.

In any case, when driving at an angle, not only as a beginner, you should drive very slowly and steadily (for example, in reduction and 1st gear). If you drive close to the tipping limit, any impulse that the higher wheels receive due to bumps, roots or similar can lead to tipping.

, Tips For Off Road Driving for Beginners – Where To Begin, Mad Digi

Main Takeaways – Off Road Driving for Beginners

It’s important to remember that you don’t need a ton of speed for off-roading. You’ll want enough momentum, but it doesn’t have to be fast or furious. The key is not so much how quickly you can go in which direction you’re going; the less traction your tires have on the surface below them, the more likely they are to slip and spin out.

Keep this in mind when driving over rough terrain with big rocks or deep sand pits around–you may find yourself spinning out without even trying! One last thing worth mentioning about acceleration is sometimes there will come opportunities where it would make sense to accelerate heavily up an incline (or down one) if there’s no other way past an obstacle like a rock.

One last thing worth mentioning about acceleration is sometimes there will come opportunities where it would make sense to accelerate heavily up an incline (or down one) if there’s no other way past an obstacle like a rock.

One last thing worth mentioning about acceleration is sometimes there will come opportunities where it would make sense to accelerate heavily up an incline (or down one) if there’s no other way past an obstacle like a rock.

Thanks for reading and stay dirty