As with all sub-cultures, off-road 4X4 enthusiasts face a great deal of misinformation. Everyone has an opinion, everyone has secret information, and everyone knows best. It can be confusing, and downright frustrating, especially when accepting bad advice lands you stuck in the mud.
The fact of the matter is that off-roading is niche culture. Few will ever face serious off-road conditions, especially if they don’t go looking for the experience. Those that do tackle off-road conditions are amateurs at best, likely having never really done serious research. More to the point, vehicle technology has advanced rapidly, meaning that advice that was valid a decade ago may no longer apply.
Here are some hard truths about 4X4s and facing off-road conditions.
Increase Tyre Pressure For Mud
Facing fresh mud is any off-road enthusiast’s biggest nightmare. Mud, like no other surface, has the potential to bring even the most powerful 4X4 to its knees. What can be more frustrating than getting stuck in the mud, tyres spinning uselessly, only to not move an inch?
So what is the best approach to mud? Some insist on more air pressure, others insist on less. A prevailing myth says that more air pressure will help the wheel cut through the mud and get traction from solid ground below. Don’t believe this nonsense. Reducing air pressure deforms the tyre, meaning that more of it makes contact with the mud. When it comes to soft surfaces more tyre contact is always better.
Wide Tyres Make More Contact
Modern 4X4s are incredibly advanced, adopting computer-controlled tech that is bewildering. Heck, a modern 4X4 will let you engage in FIFA betting via the on-board computer, even as you tackle a mountain. What no computer will do is convince wide tyres to make more ground contact than narrow tyres.
This myth is heavily debated, with some even getting obsessive about it. Here are the facts; a wider tyre makes the same contact as a narrow off-road tyre, just in a different shape. Narrow tyres have lower rolling resistance, thereby requiring less grunt from the engine in order to move the vehicle. That’s why increasing tyre pressure also improves fuel economy.
Raise Air Pressure For Rocks
Last we have another myth that will get the 4X4 forums into a frenzy; should you increase or decrease tyre pressure for rocky surfaces? There is a notion that increasing tyre pressure helps, due to reducing the side bulge that occurs when going over uneven terrain. Reduced bulge means less chance of a blowout, right? It also ensures that the body is higher off the ground, keeping it out of harms way. So surely that’s all better for rough terrain, right?
Make no mistake, 4X4 vehicles were designed for rough terrain. Increased tyre pressure will do virtually nothing, other than make the vehicle bounce more than it should. Sideways bulge is also minimal, and not much of a risk. Reducing pressure is best for rocky terrain, for the same reasons it’s better for mud.