Important Off-Roading Skills for Beginners

what you need to know before you take your lifted truck off-roading


Off-Road Beginners Tips

When you’re new to off-roading there are some things you can practice and learn off the trail which will make your first experience mudding go much better. Most people practiced driving within the safe confines of a parking lot before they ventured out onto the streets, so practicing the following skills before you hit the trails is no different. You’ll feel more confident in your ability and your lifted truck if you take the time to practice.

Get Used to Shifting Between 2WD, 4WD, 4H, and 4L

While off-roading generally your vehicle will be using 4WD, but when in 4WD you can change between 4L (low range 4WD) and 4H (high range 4WD). Comfortably being able to shift into 4L is the important one since 4L is what you need when you are really working your truck while off-roading. To shift into 4L bring your truck to a stop, shift into neutral, and then you can shift into 4L. With most trucks, if you try to shift into 4L when moving it will not shift, so this should be easy to get a hang of.

Also, 4WD, especially 4L, drives very differently than 2WD. 4L has a lot of torque so you’ll need to adjust how you accelerate otherwise you’ll rock back and forth in the truck as it quickly accelerates and then decelerates. This is a great one to practice beforehand or you may end up with some motion riders.

Know Your Truck

You really need to know your entire truck while off-roading, because if you don’t you may end up in a dire situation. Take your time getting the feel for your truck and it’s helpful to have a friend assist.

Take time to figure out your vehicle’s clearance under the truck. Learn what the lowest spot on your vehicle is and be able to judge where it is while you’re driving. You’ll need this knowledge when deciding whether to go over or around an obstacle.

You’ll also need to be able to place your tires accurately while driving. Most people have no trouble doing this for the left tire, but the right becomes tricky. While off-roading you don’t have the luxury of eyeballing it, so get a friend to help you out by standing directly in front of your right tire. Doing that you’ll be able to see where the tire is in relation to your hood and, if you need, you can mark the spot with a magnet or other removable item.

All drivers are aware of blind spots to the side and back of their vehicles, but with off-roading the blind spots in front of the vehicle are just as important. When you’re trying to judge where to place your tires to miss a rut, rock, or stump, the front blind spot really comes into play. Your height, your vehicle, and how you position your seat will all affect the size of the front blind spot, but on average, it extends 17 feet in front of the vehicle. The simplest way to reduce this blind spot is to lean forward and crane your neck up to get a better view, and this can reduce the blind spot significantly.

Know Your Fuel Tank

While it’s hard to know what the miles per gallon for your lifted truck will be if you haven’t off-roaded before, you can start with the general rule that off-roading MPG is about 2-5 MPG less than your city driving. Once you start off-roading make sure to fuel up as close to the trailhead as possible and to fill up your spare fuel can too. After you finish for the day, and before you drive home, note how much of your fuel tank you’ve used and how many miles you’ve gone. Keep a log and after a few times you’ll have a pretty good idea how much gas you’ll need for future excursions.

Taking the time to learn these skills and your used lifted truck before you go on your first outing will make you more confident on the trail and be prepared for what is to come. It’s also good to talk to experienced drivers to get tips from them and learn from their mistakes.

So what are you waiting for? Check out the online inventory of used trucks in Olympia, then visit South Sound Trucks to test drive the truck of your dreams and find a new weekend warrior to hit the trails with.