Driving & Safety tips

The following are a few tips on Driving & Safety on the trails.


    Reading about how to drive off-road and also to be able to recover a vehicle that is stuck is very similar to reading about how to ride a bicycle. You need practice. However, it may help to read the suggestions given below. Know your driving limitations and the limitations of the vehicle you are driving.
    Drive as slowly as possible, but as fast as necessary.

    Seat belts should be worn at all times.

    Examine the path ahead to avoid any "surprises." If you have any doubts about the path ahead get out and walk over the path you intend to traverse. Make sure that the trail extends beyond the obstacle and does not become an impassable quagmire or that the path does not end at a cliff.

    Drive up and down sand dunes vertically. Travelling diagonally can cause you to roll over.

    Usually you will improve traction by reducing tyre pressure - as low as ,6 bar in soft sand. But beware of turning fast and sharply with under inflated tyres as they can come off the rim. Also remember that ground clearance will be reduced with softer tyres. When you come off the sand you will need a compressor to re-inflate the tyres for travelling on the tar.

    Ditches or logs should be crossed at an angle so that one wheel at a time goes over the obstacle. The more wheels that remain on the ground the better the traction. Be aware that you lose traction when one wheel leaves the ground.

    Steep slopes must be descended in low range and first gear. The most dangerous thing you can do is to depress the clutch if the vehicle begins to slide. The engine compression will slow the vehicle. If necessary you can dab the foot-brake and if the vehicle begins to slide accelerate just a little so the moving wheels can gain traction. If you stall on a steep incline you must know how to descend using reverse gear and no clutch.

    Do not over-steer - especially while in deep tracks or axle twisters. The steering wheel may look as if the wheels are centred, but the front wheels may be at full or partial lock.

    Drive slowly and steadily through deep water to create a small "bow wave" in front of the vehicle. This minimises the risk of water getting into the engine. If water does get into the cylinders there is a very good chance that extremely expensive damage will occur as water does not compress as well as air. The differentials should have breathers opening high in the vehicle if they are to be immersed in water. Also remember that the brakes will probably not work properly until they have dried out.

    Keep your windows wound up when driving through bush as this will prevent a branch hitting you in the face. Keep your windows at least partially wound up if there is any chance that the vehicle will roll over and hold onto your seatbelt and never the window or doorframe. If you roll over and you put your arm out of the window you can be seriously injured.

    Do not drive with your thumbs between the steering wheel spokes. If the front wheels are hit by a rock the steering wheel backlash can cause a serious injury.


    An outing can be spoiled if someone is hurt or seriously injured. Safety belts should be worn at all times when in off-road situations. The only exception is when you travel in deep water and may have to escape from your sinking vehicle.

FIRST AID You should carry a first aid kit and someone should know what it contains and how to use it.

SNAKES, SCORPIONS AND SPIDERS Leave them alone and do not handle dead ones.

BEES Bees can be extremely dangerous and when they start to swarm around your water and cold drinks it is time to evacuate the area.

FIRE Burn injuries can be very dangerous and even more so far from medical help. You should carry a fire extinguisher. Camp fires should be extinguished when leaving and should only be lit in "safe" areas. Ciggerette smoking should be avoided on all trails, for fear of sparks igniting dry brush.

VEHICLE RECOVERY When a vehicle becomes stuck it will require very large forces to free it. This always results in potentially dangerous situations. A snapping wire rope or loose shackle is a lethal missile. A tow bar ball is not a safe recovery point - the ball breaks off and can kill someone. A tow rope is not a snatch strap and can not be used for a snatch recovery. Onlookers need to stand well back when the action begins.

HIGH LIFT JACK A high lift jack can be a very useful tool to jack up the vehicle when a tyre change is required or even to recover a stuck vehicle. However these jacks can also be extremely dangerous - make sure you know how it works before you attempt to use it.

CHILDREN Do not leave children on the back of an open vehicle when descending or ascending extreme gradients. Standing on running boards when the vehicle is moving is dangerous as the person can slip and land under the wheels of the vehicle. Often wild areas are unsafe for unattended children.

WATER Water can ruin an internal combustion engine and if it enters the differentials and remains undetected it can ruin them too. Deep water is for boats not vehicles. Seawater is especially bad for vehicles.

SHOES When in remote areas wear shoes at all times - beware of bare feet - foot injuries can make it very difficult to drive home.

TIE DOWN STRAPS AND ANCHOR POINTS When you go off-road there is a real danger that objects will fly around when the vehicle points up so severely that all you see is sky and when it goes down similar slopes. Bumps can also make objects fly around. Apart from the damage that can be done to the objects they can severely hurt the passengers in the vehicle. You will need appropriate straps and tie down points in the vehicle to restrain everything in the vehicle.

GRASS Grass can block the radiator and cause the vehicle to overheat. If this goes unnoticed the chances are that you will break down completely when the cylinder head gasket blows or worse. A guard should be placed in front of the radiator. Grass can cause a serious fire if it gets caught in a "hot spot" underneath the vehicle. When driving in long grass you should regularly check the bottom of the vehicle to see where the grass is accumulating and remove it. It is not unknown for vehicles to be totally burned out with all their contents because of a grass fire caused by the hot exhaust pipe. A fire extinguisher is essential.

Below is an earlier and still relevant version of TTORC Safety and Driving Tips still used as the Standard Induction Package for New Members which is now incorporated here as it compliments the foregoing. All members, new and experienced, are encouraged to assimilate the information:-

Visitors and new members you are required to read this short- form listing of advice and tips prior to your participation in any off road activity or event. Should you require explanations in any area please do not hesitate to ask, as we want you to be fundamentally off road competent and also safety conscious and environmentally aware. This is your responsibility and duty which goes along with your privilege and right to off roading enjoyment for all.


Ensure that your vehicle is both mechanically sound and in legal working order.

Be courteous and considerate to other drivers, trail users and the environment. Do not litter the trail or waterways. Clean up your trail side mechanical repairs. Do not cut down or damage living trees. Take your rubbish home with you. Do not trespass. "TREAD" Lightly.

Do not continuously engage your part-time four wheel drive on paved roads as this will cause excessive tyre wear and scuffing due to transmission wind-up. It will also cause strain to drive line components (transfer-case, gear box, drive shafts, crosses).

Do not use different size tyres (in height/diameter) on your 4WD vehicle or again, severe transmission wind-up and drive line component damage or wear will occur in the case of part-time and even full-time 4WD/AWD vehicles. The only exception to the above rule is where front and rear differentials have been engineered for different size tyres.

You must know your vehicle under carriage low points, such as, where your differentials and transfer case are located relative to your wheel placement. This is necessary in order to avoid becoming hung up or HIGH CENTRED on trail obstacles.

If you must drive over a trail obstacle, perhaps a rock for which there is no room to go around, then it is generally better to put either your left side wheels or right side wheels on the obstacle rather than let it pass under the vehicle. Watch out for rocker panel damage though.

When going down steep, slippery inclines avoid jerky movements and sudden harsh application of your brakes. As far as possible, use your low gears and gentle use of engine power to stay in control and DRIVE down the incline, with little or perhaps no use of your brakes.

When approaching a challenging trail hazard or obstacle such as deep mud, deep water crossing, large rocks, steep inclines or blind spots, always stop your vehicle, park it in gear or "park" (with brakes set), get out and carefully check your line of entry and exit by walking the hazard.

When driving through a deep water crossing, as far as possible maintain a steady forward movement. This sets up a bow wave and a trough which reduces the likelihood of flooding the engine air intake.

When parking on steep inclines it is safer to park in gear and lock your wheel towards large embankments or cliff walls rather than straight ahead or worse, pointing towards a steep drop off or precipice.

When stuck and in need of towing assistance, it is better to assist the recovery vehicle by using your own engine power to spin your wheels. This is partly because inertia and static friction is overcome and the traction contribution from the spinning wheels is significant compared to the stationary situation. It is then very much easier to recover the stuck vehicle under its own power.

When using a heavy duty strap or rope to recover another stuck vehicle, always attach the strap or rope on the tow hooks or eye area of the vehicle frame using rated bow shackles or tow hooks (rear spring shackles are also used in the absence of a rear tow hook or eye but only if absolutely necessary and then with caution).

As far as possible do not severely jerk or jolt a vehicle with a tow strap. This may cause frame stretching or damage to the vehicles. It may also cause the tow rope or strap to break and whip dangerously.

As a spectator never stand downhill of a vehicle being towed or winched, as should the vehicle break free for any reason, it may run over or crush you.

Do not stand in between vehicles which are towing or winching each other. This, as in the above case, is not a safe practice.

When winching a vehicle using wire rope (cable), as far as practical keep a blanket or large towel draped evenly over the cable. This will help to dampen and absorb the tremendous energy stored in a loaded cable should it suddenly break for any reason. This precaution is to reduce the dangerous whipping and slashing effect of a cable breaking. (Opening the bonnet of the winch vehicle during winching will provide significant shielding/protection against cable whiplash).

Use of a properly rated pulley snatch block with a winch can almost double the pulling capacity of a winch, if the winch cable is rigged through the pulley. This is true when the cable is effectively doubled 180 degrees through the pulley (approximately in line and parallel). The larger the included angle, the less effective the mechanical advantage of the pulley. At greater than 90 degrees included angle the pulley has no effect in increasing pulling force but it can improve the recovery chances of a vehicle which is not in line with the winch.

When using a pulley snatch block and winch, do not attach the end of the cable onto the winch mounting plate or bracket. This effectively doubles the load on the winch mounting bracket. Instead attach the free end of the cable to the vehicle frame so that half the load is on the frame and half is on the winch. (Note: The pulley snatch block should be rated at least twice the pulling capacity of the winch and should also fit the winch wire-rope/cable diameter).

Lowered tyre inflation pressure greatly assists traction while off roading in slippery conditions. (Always remember to re-inflate your tyres for normal road use afterwards).

When charging up a slippery incline or through a deep mud situation always use as high a gear as your engine power and torque will allow. (Unfortunately for a 1000cc Suzuki this usually means 4WD low and first gear, but more powerful vehicles might be more effective in 2nd gear)





Here are some things to remember on the Trail.

1-  Have your vehicle properly prepared as per scrutineer requirements

2-  Have any special medication you may require readily available: Let you buddy know where it is, what it is for, and how to administer it.

3-  Have a proper medicine kit

4-  Have a suitable fire extinguisher: Class B, Class C: Know how to use it.

5-   Don’t drive when you are exhausted

6-  Don’t drive when you are sleepy

7-  Stay a safe distance behind the vehicle in front of you


9-  Do not horse around

10-      Know how to use special tools before using them

1 1-     Pay attention to the terrain

12-      When in doubt, walk the trail: know what you are getting yourself into

13-      Listen to advice from experienced members


15-      Keep children in check at all times

16-      Fasten all loose objects

17-      Don’t carry gasoline in loose containers inside a vehicle

Sham Mahabir

Safety/Training Officer 2003