Oman motoring: Go beyond with these off-roading tips
April 23, 2017 | 6:50 PM
by Courtesy General Motors

Off-roading is very exciting in this region with so many different terrains to experience and see, offering adventures like no other. Off-roading can really open people’s eyes to beautiful places, that they would have never seen otherwise, and challenge them as a driver. For those who are inexperienced when it comes to off-roading, there are a number of courses available and perhaps starting in an easier terrain is the best way to learn, whilst applying these tips below from Chevrolet. Anyone planning on going off-roading should be aware of these few safety measures whilst also understanding how to drive in the terrain, this will ensure both driver and their passengers have an enjoyable and safe adventure.

• Drives are Better in Twos

Before going off-road, inform someone beforehand of the location you are planning on going in is important, and when you will be expected to return. Should you get stuck or lost, friends or family would know to contact authorities. However, the more the merrier when going off-roading, it is important to have at least another vehicle alongside on the trip, as this ensures there will be extra manpower to help with any sticky situations such as when a vehicle gets stuck or damaged, as well as a form of transport out.

• Safe Driving Positions

As off-roading can include a lot of bouncing around, it is very important that seating position is correct in the cabin for the driver as well as the pedal reach. Correct grip is also another important tip, hold the wheel at 9 and 3 o’clock and ensure the thumbs are held firmly around the inside of the steering wheel. An odd jolt or bump could turn the wheel quickly, and cause thumbs to turn awkwardly and potentially causing injury to the driver or their wrists. Just like on normal roads everyone should wear a seatbelt, and items inside the cabin should be tied down as they can go flying about injuring someone or out of the window. Be sure to check this before heading out off-road.

• Tyre Pressure Tips

Understanding how to properly regulate a vehicles tyre pressure when going off-roading will enhance a 4x4’s tyre performance. A portable air compressor is also a great tool to have. Before taking a trip it is important to research the recommended tyre pressure needed for each terrain and vehicle. A tyre pressure monitoring system like that in a Trailblazer Z71, advises drivers on air pressure levels and if they get too low.

• AWD or 4WD

When off-roading it is important to recognise and understand what systems the car has and when they need to be used. For example AWD (All Wheel Drive) and 4WD (Four Wheel Drive) are useful tools but they can have limitations because their functions are only useful on some terrains and not on others. Whether a vehicle has AWD or 4WD, it is important for drivers to understand the different parameters of both and how they affect the driving technique on varying terrains and conditions.

• Know What Safety Features the Car Has

Get acquainted with the safety systems in your car before you leave, and figure out which ones may need disabling. A vehicle will likely be equipped with advanced active safety features designed to keep the driver on track, and step in whenever they are needed. An ABS system (an Anti-Lock Braking System) offers improved vehicle control and decreases stopping distance on dry and slippery surfaces. Whereas, ESP (Electronic Stability Programme) is a computerised technology that improves a vehicle's stability, by detecting and then reducing the loss of skidding by applying the brakes, minimising the loss of control. It is key to understand the functions of these systems with respect to off-road driving as you may need to disable/enable them according to terrain and conditions

• Get Traction While Driving

While driving, do not apply too much gas when stuck in sand or mud, some vehicles have an automatic TSC (Traction Control System) which can be used. This unique safety system helps reduce engine power and applies braking to slippery wheels, making exiting much easier. This feature for example can be found on the Chevrolet Trailblazer. Speed is not a friend when off-roading, sometimes a little speed may be needed to climb a dune or conquer a hazard, but something that requires even 20km/h is going to be hard to overcome, and the car will get stuck or possibly damaged. Overall, traction levels really depend on the type of terrain that is being driven on and it is important to understand the vehicle's features and capabilities beforehand.

• Stay on a Trail

When off-roading it is safer to drive on previously used paths however, just because another vehicle made it doesn’t guarantee that another one will, due to a variety of factors including; weather, vehicle, and skill of the driver. It is recommended that if there is an uncertainty in the trail that it is best investigated first on foot. Doing regular check-ups of the area and terrain can avoid any damages to a vehicle, driver, passengers and the environment. Finding out about what is the local terrain will highlight any obstacles that a driver could face. Off-roading in the soft desert dunes will be very different to driving on the beach where sand could be wet. Driving in wadis and mountainous areas will have rocks which can become obstacles, so it is important to be prepared and understand what the vehicle is capable of.

• Keep a Controlled Descent

As anyone knows, driving down a steep hill can be dangerous and terrifying, however vehicles with HDC systems (Hill Descent Control) can make life a lot easier when going off-roading like the Trailblazer Z71. A push of the button while descending a height, instantly applies the brakes on all four wheels and limits a vehicles speed to 7km/h. Approach and departure angles are something that the driver needs to be aware of all the time when off-roading. Knowing the angles of the car in the front, back and mid-section will ensure that there is clearance when off-roading.

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