Sunday, December 19, 2010
With the first round of nasty winter weather across the region, it's time to brush off our winter driving skills:
The first tip is not about how to drive, but whether going out is the "right" thing at all. Etiquette is what we do when others are looking, ethics is what we do when no one is around. Consider the urgency of your trip: Wet roads may not be impassable, especially for experienced drivers, but driving on them may tear up the roads and trails unnecessarily, not to mention risk mud and water damage to your Jeep. Some mild trails can become very slimy and slippery, even for expert 4-wheelers. In general, we recommend AGAINST using trails during wet weather unless you absolutely have no other choice. Do the right thing.
With regard to water crossings: A good guideline for flooding streams is "If you cannot see the bottom, do NOT cross." If you cross, do so slowly--don't splash. And don't forget to thoroughly assess the condition of the bank on the far side.
With regard to slippery terrain: Most of the time, steady and fluid corrections are usually the key to successfully traversing nasty terrain. If you make sudden changes to steering, throttle or brakes on wet or icy terrain, you will very quickly come to understand what we mean by "breaking the tenuous threshold of traction." A little blip of the throttle is a good thing when your back end starts trying to pass your front end, but the most important thing to remember is to keep your tires pointed in the direction you are sliding or leaning. By keeping your tires under you in the direction gravity and inertia is moving you, the better steering control and anti-rollover influence you will have.
There are some very important things you should know about driving down steep hills at any time, but especially when conditions are wet:
1. You don't want (or need) to start DOWN a hill with ANY momentum--gravity will get you down. CREEEEEEP off the top of hills.
2. You want to go STRAIGHT down steep hills, not turn your tires any direction but straight down the hill. Many inexperienced drivers' tendency is to turn the tires away from the slide, and then they just flop over.
3. NEVER use lockers going downhill. Lockers only work when you are using the throttle. Lockers downhill only make it difficult to steer and harder on your front axle.
4. Don't lock up the brakes. If you lock up the brakes, you are just going to slide, and you are risking snapping an axle when you hit a rock. If you start to slide, ease up on the brakes a little to regain some steering control.
Always remember that your safety comes first. If it's nasty out, don't go looking for trouble!
Here is my blog post from last year for on- and off-road driving tips: http://trailwiseusa.blogspot.com/2010/01/winter-driving-on-and-off-pavement.html
Watch some of my favorite wet weather 4-wheeling videos--some luck and lots of skill involved...