The digital garage of my 1998 Jeep Wrangler.

Off Road Driving Tips

Driving on Hills

Hills can be fun and challenging. First word of caution is not to let anyone talk you into climbing a hill you are not confident about conquering. Avoid climbing a hill at an angle. Aim straight up (or down) and keep your wheels on the ground. Short steep hills will pose less of a problem, but the longer the ascent the more difficult the challenge becomes. Start with a bit of speed at the base of the hill. It will be harder to accelerate once you are half way up the hill. If your front wheels start to bounce as your climbing you should let off a bit on the accelerator. Remember: Keep your wheels on the ground. Wheels in the air have zero traction. Back off of the accelerator as you hit the crest. You don't want to go flying over the top.

Be careful driving a short wheel base (SWB) vehicle like a Jeep up hill. The shorter the wheel base, the less weight on the front wheels. The weight is transferred to the back wheels sacrificing traction. And if you run too steep, and then hit the accelerator, you run a greater chance of rolling your front end back over, and over, and on down the hill. To prevent this you can strap your front end to another vehicle that has made it to the top. If you feel your front end get too light, don't wait too long to hit reverse.

Momentum is a two-edged sword. A small amount can make the difference depending on the hill and surface features. Too much and a bad bump could also be devastating. Try the hill as slow as possible before you try taking a running start at 20 mph. If there is a change in the surface like a small rut or other obstacle you may need to have more momentum to clear that obstacle, but you don't need to race to get there. Try to accelerate as you approach the obstacle, just enough to clear it and keep moving.

Know when to give up. I've watched as my fellow wheelers have run up a hill only to be stopped short of the crest, but in refusing to give up they would sit there and spin their wheels relentlessly. This destructive to the trail and is not going to make you any friends, especially in the group of wheelers behind you that will get stuck in your big ruts.

If you find you cannot make it up a hill, carefully back straight down. Do not coast down riding the clutch. Put it in reverse and let the engine compression slow you down. Use your brakes as required to keep you from gaining too much reverse momentum.

Know what is on the other side. If you are on an unfamiliar trail and approaching a steep hill it's a good idea to walk up and make sure you know where to steer once you do make it to the crest.

Do not coast down the hill or ride the clutch. Use your lowest gears and let the engine compression slow your descent. Unless you have ABS, you can pump your brakes lightly if you are picking up too much speed. If you start to slide turn your wheels in the direction of the slide to help keep your vehicle from rolling.

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