Here at "ORE"
we are here for you. Our Off-Road Driver Training classes
are designed to instill confidence in your driving abilities, let you experience your
vehicle in varied conditions, learn its abilities and disabilities. Family fun and
adventure is more than possible with your 4wd. Scratches? Body Damage? I
dont think so! We are well aquatinted with todays 4wd suvs and their
purchase price, hence the whole reason behind the class. We are here to teach you
how to do it correctly and with confidence. Theres no reason to damage your vehicle.
As with anything you do, practice makes perfect. To begin, one must always start at the
beginning... "ORE" policy is; all participants must complete the Beginners
course, "a guide
to off-road driving". This policy has proved itself many times over, from the novice
first-timer, to those who call themselves "veteran off-roaders". Any number of
times per season we are asked to make acceptation to this policy, weve yet to budge,
and for good reason. Making the Beginner class mandatory we are able to meet all
participants under the same sort of conditions, thus enabling our instructors to get to
know you, what you want from the class, your abilities and those of your
vehicle (like people, most 4wds arent alike). Some tell us they are not
beginners... by days end (beginners class) these same people are singing a different tune,
the "veterans" telling us they learned things they didnt know, whether
about their vehicle, its abilities, or their abilities. Did they enjoy their day? You bet!
Since we began operation, we are pleased to say that we have had not one complaint, all
responses have been positive. Ranger, Forest Service, Fire Fighter & Search-Rescue
classes available (with certificate).
instructor Bret Morshead discusses the finer points of approach and departure angles, as
well as break-over (shown here). Why dont you join us for a day of fun and
every "ORE" Beginner class we have a short period set aside for what we
call "classroom time", it is during this period that we discuss, among others
things, the off-road driving tips listed here. These "tips" are proven material,
and used by a number of companies throughout the world, including numerous 4WD
manufacturers. Since youve read our web pages thus far, you must be ready to sign up
for one of our classes, right? Hey, we even teach Camel Trophy
participants and hopefuls alike! How about you? Maybe youve read about "ORE"
in one of a number of publications or saw us on KCRA-TV3. Yes?
1) Read your owners manual
thoroughly before going off-road, or on road for that matter. Learn your vehicle.
out alone as a short trip could be costly. Venturing off the highway alone
is never suggested. One canít foresee everything that could go wrong. Being
prepared yourself, having your vehicle prepared and maintained to a
reasonable degree will help counter some problems, but not all. A thought:
You're ten miles off the main paved road, your 4WD quits, you have an
accident, or someone is injured; Now what?
Taking along another car is a smart thing to do, chances are both cars wonít
quit while out. The second car could surely tow out the first, or go for
help if necessary.
Remember the western bound pioneers? Do you have any idea as to how long it
took them to cover ten miles on foot? How about the hardships involved? Lack
of water? Lack of shelter? Poor clothing? Have you thought of these things?
NO? Just think, what if... Your cell-phone doesnít work, no one in
sight, do you sit tight? Walk out? Something to consider, isnít it? Okay, so
you walk, do you have the right shoes? Clothing for when it gets cold at
night? Water? Well? Lots of questions, but few answers. Bottom line is: Are
you prepared to walk out? Read "Travel Kit".
3) Always make sure your vehicle is
prepared before departing. Read "Preparing & Maintaining".
4) Adopt a relaxed
and upright driving position with a loose grip on the steering wheel, taking note to keep
your thumbs out of the center section of the wheel, thus avoiding broken thumbs from
steering wheel kick-back. This is a common problem on vehicles not equipped with power
5) Contact between
your right foot and the gearbox tunnel will help increase throttle control. The use of a
"dead-pedal" on the left is also helpful. DO NOT use the clutch pedal as a
"dead -pedal". Once the clutch is engaged (out), keep your foot clear.
6) Know your
minimum ground clearance.
On vehicles equipped with "live" axles (fixed), the minimum ground clearance is
the lowest point of the axle housing, normally the differential. This minimum clearance
always remains the same as the axle goes up/down with the wheels. To obtain your minimum
clearance, measure from the differential housing (its lowest point) to the ground, there
it is, your minimum ground clearance. The minimum wont change, though maximum can
when a wheel climbs up.
"Live" axle always maintains its minimum ground clearance (arrows left).
6A) On vehicles fitted with
independent suspension however, the front wheels are attached to the A-arms which go
up/down independently from each other, at the same time the center portion of the
chassis/suspension goes up/down as well, though the exact opposite of the wheels. Type of
terrain, as well as braking can effect your ground clearance dramatically; when the front
wheels are bottomed on their suspension points (up in the fenders as far as they can go),
your chassis and front suspension pivot points are now very vulnerable to damage as they
come closer to the obstacle. It is a proven fact, that for heavy duty off-road work
vehicles fitted with "live" axles are preferred.
As you can see from
above, the ground clearance varies as the suspension moves up/down. Left: In its unloaded
position you could have 8" (example), while Right: In its bottomed position it could
reduce to half. Always be aware of vehicle ground clearance and obstacles.
7) Suspension &
Since the time man first developed wheeled vehicles his thought must have been on
smoothing the ride. Leaf springs have been around since what must be the beginning of
time. Horse drawn wagons, buggies and the famed stage coaches had leaf springs. The leaf
spring has two advantages over any other form of suspension, in that a) its cheap to
produce, and b) they will carry heavy loads. A number of todays 4wds are still built
with leaf springs (on a HD pickup its understandable), while others have gone the Coil
spring route. Coil springs do allow heavy carrying capacities to an extent while offering
a smoother ride and better wheel travel/articulation (movement up/down & angle of
axle). Other manufactures have sought to create car like rides on their 4WD vehicles by
fitting independent front suspension, either torsion bar or coil sprung, though neither of
which is in its element when off-road. The best set up? Coil sprung/Live axles; this set
up offers smooth ride with extreme rates of wheel travel (wheel movement up/down) and is
still cost effective to build. Independent front suspension, as described in #6A, is
expensive, car like, and offers little to the off-roader, as it can be damaged easier than
a live axle, has more pieces to maintain/damage, and can not offer the wheel travel and
stability when off-road.
8) Know your "Approach
angle", "Break-over" and "Departure angle" (Below).
Knowing these figures (i.e.: Clearance), youll be able to negotiate obstacles much
easier without damage to your vehicle. Interested in learning what these figures are on
your vehicle? Try a long broom stick. Placing it under the edge of the tire, then lifting
up until it makes contact with the body, you now have some idea of your angles. When
off-road, drive up to your obstacle slowly, then stop get out and look to check clearances
upon approach. When clearing the obstacle, be careful to "walk" the rear wheels
off, remembering always that most 4WD vehicles have some sort of overhang beyond the rear
axle (when "walking" your 4x4, the use of brakes, a spotter and your own sight
will enable you to creep the rear wheels off the obstacle). Damage will result if care is
not taken. As far as break-over is concerned, also know as "high-centered", this
too will take a keen eye, the assistance of a spotter, and practice.
9) Know your
vehicles height and width. Think about parking garages and parking spaces, will your 4WD
clear the obstructions within the structure? Now apply the same to overhanging trees,
narrow washes and rocks. Easy really.
Check the area(s) in which you plan to travel off-road. Ask locals about conditions.
Purchase and review local maps. And... When in doubt, get out and take a brief walk to
review the terrain ahead. This walk could save hours of digging and/or winching, or the
anguish of having your new 4WD damaged.
11) Be aware of
changing weather conditions, the last thing you want is to get caught on the desert floor.
When in doubt head for high ground (when heavy rains come in), and get out of the washes
or off the desert floors. Beware of fast running water... if you cant swim it,
dont drive into it. Many vehicles have been lost in rough weather and water. Beware!
12) Know your
Four-wheel-drive system. Unlike days gone by, the systems of today vary in their modes of
operations and capabilities. Review your owners manual or talk with an expert concerning
your vehicle make. Dont assume anything.
Engage Low-Range before you need it. Choose the correct gear for the situation, see #12.
Note: On vehicles fitted with a manual center "Diff-Lock", this should be
disengaged once traction has been regained. However, Low-Range should be kept engaged
until clear of the hazardous area(s). FYI: This center differential-lock is just that, a
lock, locking the front & rear drive outputs of the transfercase together. When
unlocked (disengaged) it will prevent "axle windup" with in the
Vehicles fitted with a standard High-Low/2wd-4wd system have no center-differential, and
when engaged in 4WD for long periods they will induce axle windup. You may notice that in
tight turns while in 4WD that the front wheels will seem to hop and buck, this is the
windup trying to escape from the system. Dont be alarmed.
Before entering a difficult section, make your choice of gear selection. Remember that you
should ALWAYS use lst gear (First, Low-Range) on down-hills for maximum engine
braking effect, and keep the use of brakes to an absolute minimum, the use of which could
cause sliding and loss of control. To correct a sliding vehicle, turn into the slide and
apply some throttle, you will now have to straighten the steering wheel and let off the
throttle. Gear selection for up-hill use depends on the make of vehicle, though 2nd
or 3rd would be a good place to start. Choosing too high a gear can lug or
stall an engine, keep you eye on the tach. Using steady revs of 1800-2200 rpm is a
good starting point.
15) If conditions
are soft (marshy ground, sand, etc.) it may be advisable to lower tire pressures. This
helps improve traction, and will reduce sinking. Tires will have to be re-inflated for