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Adventure Time: How to Drive Off Road

Land Rovers are famous for their mud-plugging ability, able to flatter even a modestly-talented driver and make them look like true off-road professionals.

But we all have call to head into the rough stuff every now and again – so everyone can pick up a few tips from our guide to driving off-road – Land Rover or no Land Rover.

Know your vehicle inside out

Get a good mental picture of the underside of your vehicle. Know where fragile parts are – the fuel tank, engine sump, and gearbox – and you’ll be less likely to snag them on rocks, tree stumps and other obstacles.

If you’re driving something with onboard technology designed for going off-road – as almost all Land Rovers are – you’ll find a guide to using them in your owner’s handbook.

Essential kit

If you’re heading seriously off-road, it pays to pack appropriately. We suggest you carry:

  • Tow rope
  • A shovel
  • Mobile phone and charger
  • Suitable clothing and footwear
  • GPS navigation and maps
  • Food and water
  • A jerry can with extra fuel

Think like an off-road expert

  • Check what’s lies over the brow of a hill before speeding towards it.
  • Walk water obstacles in a pair of wellies. Use a stick to check for silt and underwater hollows.
  • Plan your journey, and tell someone where you’re heading if you’re straying far from marked routes.

Behind the wheel

  • Drive as slowly as possible and as fast as necessary. Avoid gear changes while negotiating difficult terrain.
  • Deep mud or sand needs a steady momentum to carry you through. In mud, too low a gear causes wheel spin. But in sand, the lower the gear the better.
  • Apply the throttle gently, release it slowly. This can help you avoid spinning your wheels, which can dig you into soft ground.
  • If you sense the car digging in, turn the wheel left and right repetitively so the tyres can grip fresh terrain.
  • Keep steering precise and braking to a minimum. Always keep both hands on the wheel, even when reversing.
  • If conditions force you to drive in ruts, know where your front wheels are pointing and keep a loose ‘friction’ grip with the palm of your hands. Don’t hook your thumbs inside the steering wheel. Kickback can cause painful injuries.
  • Approach logs, rocky steps or ditches diagonally. You want three wheels on the ground at all times.
  • Whenever possible, cross water at a ford. When entering water, accelerate until a bow wave has formed. Then, maintain a speed that keeps the bow wave flowing in front of the bumper. Do not cross deep, fast-flowing streams.
  • Never turn the vehicle on a steep slope. This could lead to sideways sliding and/or a roll. For the same reason, approach hills from a straight-ahead position.
  • Damp or firm sand is relatively safe to drive on. You can easily become stuck in dry, soft sand. Keep off wet sand entirely, and avoid climbing over dunes – go around them instead.
  • Be prepared to admit defeat. Back off and try again, or try an alternative route.

Low ratio gearbox

Some specialist off-road vehicles have a second, ‘low ratio’ gearbox. These allow you to use more of the engine’s torque, hauling you out of mud or up steep hills. In today’s Land Rover range, most cars come with automatic gearboxes as standard, so the car can select the right gear for you.

Selecting the best gear (manual cars)

Ground type

Gear (assuming low ratio gearbox)

Rocky

Low range 1st

Soft/mud

Low range 2nd/3rd

Ice/snow

Highest gear possible for conditions

Slopes

Highest possible (climbing), Low range 1st (descending)

Wading

Low range 2nd

Sandy tracks

Low range 3rd-5th

 

Land Rover Terrain Response® system

Many Land Rovers feature a unique Terrain Response system. It’s a ground-breaking feature that adjusts your vehicle to engage the optimum settings for any given driving conditions. Settings include rock crawl, mud and ruts, sand, grass/gravel/snow, or road.

It should be used in conjunction with proactive driving techniques. Its successor, Terrain Response 2, has all the same features but also allows the driver to select an ‘automatic’ mode, which uses a series of sensors to assess the situation and make adjustments.

The version fitted to your Land Rover will vary – if you’re not sure, a member of the team at Hunters Land Rover can help you clear it up.