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Posts Tagged ‘Bow Wave’

A fundamental issue that arises when evaluating the offroad driver is speed. All too often you’ll see someone hammer down the throttle while negotiating an obstacle, and invariably you’ll get to witness something break, twist, grenade, or the holy grail of ignorance…the roll over! Believe me when I say these things can be common for those who control their throttle and exercise caution also. But let’s just say that the probability is greatly reduced.

Knowing when to get on the gas is just as important as knowing when to stay off. This one single skill when mastered will save your rig, save your money, and complete the mission.

Do you know your limits and those of your vehicle? Speed and recklessness will point them out quicker than any obstacle in your way ever could. Getting on the accelerator at the wrong moment of an off camber situation will pitch you right over, which can result in you on your side or upside down at the edge of the trail with your gear dumped… or it can pitch you right off the side of a cliff ending in a single or multiple fatality!

Imagine for a moment you’re in your Land Rover or Jeep crawling over some very large rocks in a riverbed after a rainfall when the trail is at its roughest and your passenger front tire gets wedged; bringing you to a stop. You attempt to turn the wheels which severely stresses your steering components, you throttle up and… BANG! An axle breaks, a tie rod bends, or a steering knuckle snaps. It happens just that fast. Larger, heavier tires compound this problem. Add lockers into the equation and it’s even more probable that breakage will occur. We’ll get into the spare parts list and the portable welder at a later date.

Slow, consistent throttle application is the key to proper offroading. Choose the lowest gear and don’t manipulate the gas too much. An inconsistent application of the gas will cause you to bounce. When you bounce, your vehicle is out of control… out of YOUR control. If you’re lucky, it comes to a stop and you try again. If you’re unlucky, it flips over depending on the incline and obstacle. But there’s an often-overlooked situation that occurs when you bounce, which is WEIGHT. The bounce can compound the weight of your vehicle as it makes contact with the ground again… making the possibility of driveline and/or axle failure a reality. Slow and smooth is what we’re after here.

When do I get on the throttle you may ask? Each scenario presents its own unique set of challenges, but my answer for the purposes of this writing is MOMENTUM. Sometimes you just need to carry enough speed not to get mired in the muck. Maybe a quick blip on the gas is what makes the difference of getting your rear wheels over the rock to avoid the bounce. Use your best judgment and FEEL what is going on with your vehicle.

Another speed consideration is crossing water. After first getting out of your vehicle and determining that you can in fact cross without sucking water through the intake and hydro-locking your engine, approaching the water with sufficient speed to create a bow wave in front of your vehicle and driving in the lower water level behind it is the proper way to handle the situation. Stay tuned for more on the raised air intake, commonly known as the “snorkel” and prepping your rig for water.

Until then, control your speed and keep the shiny side up!

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