Off-Road and Four-Wheel Driving

This might sound like an everyday skill that everyone knows how to do, but properly knowing your vehicle’s 4×4 performance levels and limitations takes more effort than simply pushing the four-wheel drive button on your dashboard.

For starters, it is surprising how many people don’t realize that 4×4 vehicles actually never have four wheels that are engaged in driving the vehicle. When four-wheel drive is activated, it really means that two wheels (one in front and one in the rear) are providing torque instead of the standard single wheel that two-wheel drive provide. I have many friends and family who also think that when you place a vehicle in 4×4 mode, they are totally safe from sliding on ice or snow and even immune from getting stuck in mud. This is simply not true and most hunters are aware of this fact.

When it comes to hills, steep ones can always be dangerous. Most drivers know when not to drive up a hill, but going down one can be even more dangerous. When going down steep hills, take advantage of the low range of your vehicle’s four-wheel drive and let the vehicle do the work instead of relying on brakes only.

When it comes to holes and tire ruts, crawl over them instead of using momentum to propel you across them. There is no reason to be in a hurry when navigating obstacles so you might as well go slow and avoid any potential damage or extra wear and tear.

When you’re sliding on ice or wet surfaces, it’s almost never a good idea to use your brakes. Try to straighten out the vehicle by turning in the opposite direction and then gently straightening back out. Even if you use brakes softly, they have to eventually grab and that can cause an out of control situation.

Finally, never center your vehicle on large rocks when driving over them. There is no reason to gamble on your vehicle’s clearance height so just put the rubber on the rock and slowly drive over it. 

Four-wheel drive is a great tool for off-road situations but it is not magic and mastering your vehicle’s drive system is a must-have skill that could keep you and other safe.