Driving on a difficult terrain or a rocky surface is an entirely different story when compared to oozing your way through traffic on tarmac. In order to get the hang of off-roading, two of the lead engineers who helped develop the new Ford Endeavour have given some basic tips for beginners and also the people who got used to the same.
The new Ford Endeavour has been tested in some extreme environments in the world such as deserts of the Australian Outback, jungles of Southeast Asia, rocky mountains of western China, Swedish and Canadian Arctic, etc. Richard Woolley is a vehicle integration attributes supervisor at Ford Asia Pacific and Nick Allen, an attribute lead engineer for off-road capability and trailer tow have come up with eleven tips to tackle and enjoy safely the world of 4×4 driving.
1. Get prepared to face the challenges of any off-roading conditions by planning your journey and taking up the essentials like a full fuel tank, a tow rope, a shovel, a spare tire and tire-changing kit, a portable air compressor, a map and compass (or a GPS unit), and a mobile or satellite phone. Most importantly, try to drive in a convoy.
2. Knowing your vehicle before going off-roading is essential as for example the all-new Endeavour has low-range setting and an electronic locking rear differential that should be learned how to engage and disengage. Familiarizing the dimensions and capabilities of the vehicle along with its behaviour in different conditions are needed as well.
3. To improve the vehicle’s off-roading performance and passengers’ interior comfort, reducing the tyre pressure is pivotal. When there’s more tyre contact patch on the ground, the weight of the SUV is evenly distributed and they can absorb impact pressure in rocky terrains alongside helping better driveability on sand and mud. It also gives smoother driving experience, but reducing the tyre pressure depends on which type of surface you drive. Avoid turning sharply at low pressure and remember to re-inflate whilst back on road as it may reduce fuel economy, tyre life span and vehicle safety.
4. Having the vehicle at lower range gears gives better control and performance at low speeds. This provides increased stability while driving on rocky terrain or tacking steeps and descents. In the 2016 Endeavour, it works in tandem with the rock mode in the Terrain Management System (TMS) and can be engaged when the vehicle is stationary.
5. Driving faster can increase the chances of crashing and especially at high speeds, the vehicle can be damaged while driving over obstacles. Drive slow and the suspension will absorb the bumps and will give time for you to react in unexpected situations. However, steep ascents need more speed to tackle but the same cannot for said for every surface you drive on.
6. It’s important to choose the safest route possible in a convoy or an individual adventure to avoid caught up in something unknown. Choosing a line ensuring all four wheels hit the ground will avoid damages to the underbody of the 4×4. Have a spotter to help you guide through difficult sections on the journey.
7. Understand the vehicle’s wading ability before stepping inside water crossing. The Endeavour’s class-topping wading capability of 800 mm deep is achieved by steadily driving at speeds no more than 7 kmph. Measure the depth of the water before at walking pace entering into the stream. Also check for submerged hazards, such as large rocks or holes and keep moving in the water in order not to flood the parts of the vehicle.
8. Having the knowledge of driving in different terrains should be of immense help. The TMS mode will adapt for different surface conditions like sand, snow, mud, grass or rock. Keep your engine revs high when driving in deep sand and maintain the momentum or else you will get stuck in the sand.
When driving on slippery or loose surfaces like mud, gravel, wet grass, snow or ice, keep the vehicle under control and do not lose traction. The Endeavour’s gearbox will upshift early and downshift late to keep the engine from revving too high while increasing traction control to reduce wheel slip and reduce the sensitivity of the throttle.
Rock mode in the TMS will require placing your vehicle in low-range all-wheel drive to give better control at low speeds. The traction control here will stop the wheels from spinning when climbing over large rocks and throttle will be made less sensitive.
9. Despite the presence of Terrain Management System, the driver must have confidence in doing the off-roading. It’s always appreciable to go back where you came from when you cannot navigate through the terrain as safety comes first and there’s no shame in it.
10. Informing the friends and families about your plans for the off-road journey in prior is very important. When you plan the route through an inaccessible terrain, people should know where you headed at as you mightn’t have mobile phone coverage and thoroughly checking the conditions with the local authorities will avoid any unexpected blip in the trip.
11. Be familiar with any specific regulations concerning the path you’re travelling through and mainly if it’s through national parks. Fitting flags in some off-road desert driving to ensure visibility to the vehicle may also be required.