January 30, 2010

Off-road driving

Doing geophysics fieldwork often involves at least some degree of going away from the roads with different kinds of vehicles and/or equipment depending on what you are doing.

Off-road driving is something that you really don't learn well by reading about it, getting good at driving in the terrain is something you learn by experience, however this experience can be pretty "expensive".
I myself have spend many many hours reparing damages and getting stuck vehicles freed, I guess I have learned a bit in the process.

Here is a few tricks that might be of help:
  • Tire Pressure: Lowering the tire pressure is a help in many kinds of terrain, but not all. I have been amazed at how much it helped to keep a car afloat while driving in sand. Keep in mind that with lower tire pressure you also increase your risk of punctures and don't go out driving fast on tarmac in a vehicle with low tire pressure.
  • Speed: Often the best way to get through bad difficult terrain is to keep the vehicle moving at good speed, if you feel the vehicle is starting to get stuck don't take you foot of the gas pedal or you might not be able to get out again 
  • Stuck: If you have come to a stop in deep mud or something similar don't just spin the wheels, you will just bury them deeper, often what will get you out is moving the wheels very slowly or in bursts to make a rocking motion until you have the vehicle moving again. Use whatever you can get your hands on to free the vehicle: Sand, branches, stones etc. It all might help get the vehicle up where it again has something solid that the wheels can grab. Another trick to be used with great caution is to tie something like a long tough log to the wheels (especially if you have a vehicle with big rear wheels like a tractor) and rotate the wheels until either the vehicle is standing on the log or if more suitable until you have moved half a turn of the wheels.
  • Training: Getting out and driving on slippery winter roads is great training for driving in the terrain, so on days where the roads are particular slippery get out and have some fun. Big empty parking spaces and gravel roads do especially well for this.
  • Towing: Very much depending on the situation there is some point where trying to free a vehicle on your own is no longer the right way to go, sure you might be able to do it, but only at great risk to the equipment, personnel and costly hours spend, keep in mind that there is a time when calling for help is the way to go.
  • Topography: Everything gets a lot more difficult when you go uphill, try to use the terrain, find places to drive where the slope is less steep. In muddy terrain try to keep up on the high areas or close to drain channels and such where the ground is not as wet.
  • Trailer: Pulling a trailer or similar through terrain increases you risk of getting stuck and makes it a lot harder to free a stuck vehicle. Bring along chains or ropes and when stuck, unhook the trailer move the vehicle out and then tow the trailer from better ground.
  • Weight: A pretty obvious thing, but it really is worth cutting down on the weight as much as possible. More than once I have been able to free a stuck vehicle by unloading it.
These are just a few things from the top of my head, surely there's lots of better reading to do on the subject than this, but best way to learn off-road driving is by doing.
It's great fun by the way ;)

No comments: