Off-road driving is an enjoyable pastime for people wanting to get away from the daily grind at weekends and experience the road less travelled. As off-roading grows in popularity, Driver Assist Technologies have also developed along the way, with all sorts of exciting aids to make your journey a fun and comfortable one.
Richard Woolley, vehicle integration attributes supervisor, Ford Asia Pacific, routinely takes Ford vehicles through specific off-road terrains like rocks, deep mud and steep hills to understand just how the vehicle behaves when you take it off the bitumen.
Richard recently ventured to Tasmania, the southern most state of Australia, to enjoy some challenging terrain in the Ford Everest. Richard encountered some of his favourite driving challenges, sharing his expert tips for these techniques below:
Before leaving the city on an off-road adventure, ensure your vehicle has a full tank of fuel and you have either a map or GPS. Built-in navigation such as SYNC 3 in the Everest is a great tool for planning your route ahead of time.
“Even when fully prepared, it’s best not to go 4WDing alone,” said Richard. “Always try to travel with others in case you become immovable or run out of fuel, and notify friends and family of your route before leaving town.”
Knowing where the recovery snatch strap can be safely attached if becoming bogged, where the air-intake is and the total ground clearance, which is 225mm on the Everest, are crucial when weighing up certain paths to take off-road.
Muddy tracks can be a challenge as the road becomes slippery over time thanks to heavily rutted out tracks from other drivers and rain, filling those wheel ruts with water. For vehicles with a Terrain Management System (TMS), a mud-mode is designed to keep its RPM low for greater control, while enhanced ABS and torque control will minimize wheel slip.
“If I get the chance when spotting mud, I like to get out the vehicle and check there aren’t any foreign objects in the path of the vehicle that may damage it before continuing,” said Richard.
A rocky track is typically uneven, so remaining in control at a slow-and-steady pace is the best way through this extreme off-road terrain. It’s easy to employ Rock-mode on the TMS. Simply turn the dial while in neutral and follow the vehicle’s cluster directions to engage 4×4 low range.
“Rock-mode maintains first gear in 4×4 Low, keeping the RPM at optimum for engine torque, plus it also softens the pedal intensity so when you’re getting bumped around over the obstacles, the vehicle will provide a smoother ride,” explained Richard. “ABS and torque transfer are also maximized to help drivers navigate the toughest terrain.”
“When ascending a steep hill, it can be tricky to know which line to take,” said Richard.
“If safe, get out your vehicle and walk the track to find where the ruts and rocks may be – the next task is avoiding wheel slippage.”
By engaging 4×4 Low, the vehicle will maintain optimal revs and engine torque, allowing you to gradually climb the hill without losing too much traction. If stopped on a gradient, a feature like Hill Launch Assist allows you to pause and re-assess the path. When you actually take your foot off the brake, the feature maintains the vehicle in its current position for a few seconds, before driving away.
If the terrain is extremely rough, an electronic locking rear differential will provide full engine torque to both rear wheels, helping with forward momentum.
When attempting a hill descent, you have to be careful not to lock the tyres and start sliding uncontrollably. By engaging Hill Descent Control, the brake-system will take you downhill at a steady pace. You do the steering and the vehicle takes care of the rest.
“If you get the opportunity, walk the hill first to ensure there are no surprises at the bottom and to pick your driving line,” said Richard.
Sand-mode on the TMS dial offers an aggressive torque transfer and increased accelerator sensitivity, combining to maintain momentum needed to drive through sand.
“Driving on a sandy beach is loads of fun, but traction is lessened due to the loose nature of the terrain, so keeping momentum is key,” said Richard.“Trying to be too aggressive will dig you into a ditch, while going too slow may bring you to a halt – it’s a fine balance of steady momentum.”
Always try to roll to a stop in sand rather than applying the brakes, that way the tyres won’t dig in as much, making your eventual take-off easier.
After a fun weekend of driving, check over your vehicle for any leftover debris or damage, particulary the tyres. There’s no point carrying a spare if it’s flat. If you’ve been driving along the beach, or even rivers, give your vehicle a good wash down to avoid salt corrosion developing over time.
Going Further Off-Road
Whether it be a rocky track, sand dunes or mud pit, the Ford Everest has a technology to help you tackle the toughest of conditions off-road. The TMS and other features are there to give drivers the confidence they need to tackle a range of obstacles, whether it be a novice or seasoned off-roader.
About Ford Motor Company
Ford Motor Company is a global company based in Dearborn, Michigan. The company designs, manufactures, markets and services a full line of Ford cars, trucks, SUVs, electrified vehicles and Lincoln luxury vehicles, provides financial services through Ford Motor Credit Company and is pursuing leadership positions in electrification, autonomous vehicles and mobility solutions. Ford employs approximately 203,000 people worldwide.