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OFF-ROAD DRIVING & GUIDE TO TOWING

Off-road driving

Want to unleash the incredible potential of your Land Rover? Then arm yourself with these off road tips and pull off the well-trodden tarmac…

In rainforests, deserts, and other places no ordinary vehicle could reach, you will find all-terrain vehicles. The moment you venture off the tarmac is the moment you realise the incredible potential of your Land Rover or Range Rover. This guide is designed to make sure you get the most out of your off-road adventures.

Knowing your vehicle inside out

  • Before you venture off-road, it’s worth ensuring that you have a good mental picture of the underside of your vehicle.
  • Check the position of fragile parts such as the fuel tank, engine sump, differentials, and gearbox – so you’re less likely to snag them on rocks, tree stumps, and other obstacles.
  • Check the roof rack and consider it as you drive under low tree branches.
  • Read the owner’s manual and discover the purpose of all the on-board technology and features.

Expert tips for off-road driving

  • As long as it is safe to do so, test the surface by walking over the ground before you drive over it.
  • Before ascending a hill, ensure you know what’s over the crest.
  • Always walk your water obstacle wearing wellington boots and carrying a stick for checking silt and underwater hollows. Better to get your feet wet than your vehicle stuck.
  • Never hook your thumbs inside the steering wheel, as any kickback from the terrain could sprain or even break them.

The Golden Rules of off-road driving

  • Drive as slowly as possible and as fast as necessary.
  • Know your vehicle’s dimensions – height, weight, width, length, approach and departure angle, ramp angle, and ground clearance.
  • Know the international hand signals for marshalling.
  • Avoid gear changes while negotiating difficult terrain.
  • Always read the ground as far ahead as you can. If it is safe to do so, walk the ground before you drive.
  • Use great care when driving on loose or wet surfaces due to the reduced level of grip.
  • Be prepared to admit defeat. Back off and try again, or try an alternative route.
  • Avoid excessive wheelspin at all times but especially on soft ground where the vehicle can easily lose momentum and even cause environmental damage.
  • Use a gentle right throttle foot.
  • Always keep both hands on the wheel, even when reversing.
  • Always tell someone where you’re going, what route you plan to follow, and when you expect to return.

Essential kit for off-roading

Land Rover fleece

For any off-road adventure, it’s essential that you know your vehicle inside out (see Overview) and pack the essentials in your Land Rover before heading out.

Check list:

  • Tow rope
  • Shovel
  • 2-way radio
  • Suitable, climate-appropriate clothing
  • Correct footwear
  • GPS navigation and maps
  • Food and water
  • Extra fuel

Driving technique

The basics

To drive effectively over rough terrain, a degree of smoothness is required.

Make sure the throttle is applied smoothly and released slowly. This keeps the tyres from spinning on acceleration or deceleration.

Keep steering precise and braking to a minimum.

The driver always controls the vehicle; the vehicle should never control the driver.

How to overcome obstacles

  • Try walking the ground before you actually drive on it.
  • Approach ridges straight on.
  • Approach a log, rocky step or ditch diagonally so that three wheels always retain contact with the ground.
  • Make sure tyres are fully inflated to road pressures for rocky ground.
  • Straddle deep ruts with your vehicle. This will keep the vehicle level, reducing environmental impact.

How to return to the road

  • Disengage diff-lock, if applied.
  • Stop and check for any minor damage.
  • Check for cuts in tyres including inside the walls.
  • Check for body damage that will rub against tyres.
  • Check for debris lodged in the underside of the vehicle and in the tyres.
  • Check that lights, windows, and mirrors are clear.
  • Check that number plates can still be read.
  • Check that all equipment is secure.

When a deeply rutted track takes over the steering

As you drive along a deeply rutted track, take special care if the ruts are cut into slippery ground. Indeed, you may be unaware that the wheels are not pointed straight ahead until grip becomes available and the vehicle suddenly veers to one side. (Vehicles such as The Range Rover, Range Rover Sport and Discovery 4 have a wheel direction indicator to help you in situations such as this.)

Unless you are going downhill, the best way to avoid having your wheels ‘locked’ by a rutted track is to relax your grip on the steering wheel occasionally, while keeping a frictional grip with your palms. This will allow the wheels to regain the straight-ahead position. The tyres may not be able to grip the slippery sides of the rut and you will be unable to turn the steering wheel to the left or right.

Mud and sand

Range Rover, Discovery 4, and Range Rover Sport have a unique Terrain Response® system that can be set for different driving conditions: rock crawl, mud and ruts, sand, grass/gravel/snow or road.

Terrain Response® is a groundbreaking feature that should be used in conjunction with proactive driving techniques. Here are some additional tips for off-road driving in mud and sand.

The basics:

  • Use steady momentum to carry you through deep sand or mud.
  • Do not select a gear that is too low in mud because it will spin tyres more easily.
  • However, in sand a low gear is usually better.
  • If muddy conditions force you to drive in ruts, make sure you know where your front wheels are pointing at all times.
  • Tyres can cut through mud to find traction on firmer ground below.

Sand is firmest at dawn.

  • If you have to sit out a sandstorm, turn the rear of the vehicle to face the wind, and then turn the engine off.
  • Follow the tyre and Land Rover’s advice on tyre pressure.
  • However, where the sand is soft and contains stones, a low pressure works better.
  • When the wheels start to spin, ease off the throttle and allow the tyres to slow down and regain traction.
  • Remember: Before setting out on your adventure, always make sure you and your passengers are wearing climate-suitable clothing.

Sand: The fine detail

  • The geology of desert. Sand covers only about 20 per cent of the Earth’s deserts. Most of the sand is in sand sheets and sand seas – vast regions of undulating dunes like ocean waves ‘frozen’ in an instant of time.
  • Beaches. Usually firm enough to take a vehicle between high tide mark and four metres from the sea. Beware of incoming tide.
  • Damp sand. Damp desert sand after rain can be easier to drive on. Often, flowers blooming overnight will help bind sand together.
  • Firm sand. Stretches of desert where you can travel in relatively high range.
  • Dry sand. A surface crust that's stronger in the cool of the morning.
  • Wet sand. Keep off. It can contain areas of 'floating' sand or quicksand.
  • Sand dunes. Avoid climbing over dunes, go round them.

Snow

  • Land Rover tyres with snow chains
  • Range Rover, Discovery 4, and Range Rover Sport have a unique Terrain Response® system that can be set for different driving conditions: rock crawl, mud and ruts, sand, grass/gravel/snow or road.
  • Terrain Response® is a groundbreaking feature that should be used in conjunction with proactive driving techniques. Here are some additional tips for off-road driving in snow.

Before you drive in snow:

  • Check which snow chains we recommend for your Land Rover and whether they can be safely fitted to the tyres on your vehicle.
  • Inspect regularly to ensure the chains are taut.
  • Practice fitting snow chains before you actually need them, preferably on a sunny day.
  • Remember: Before setting out on your adventure, always make sure you and your passengers are wearing climate-suitable clothing.
  • The basics for driving in snow:
  • Use steady momentum to carry you through deep snow.
  • Do not select a gear that is too low in snow as it will spin tyres more easily.
  • Follow the tyre and vehicle manufacturer’s advice on tyre pressure.
  • When the wheels start to spin, ease off the throttle and allow the tyres to slow down and regain traction.
  • Select the highest gear possible for the conditions.

Hills

How to climb hills

  • Wherever possible, investigate the area on foot. Always know what’s on the other side of the hill.
  • Engage Hill Descent Control (HDC) if available.
  • Ascend a hill in the highest gear in which the vehicle will ‘pull’ comfortably. If the gear selected is too low, the wheels will spin. If too high, you will not have enough power to climb the hill.
  • Always approach the hill from a straight-ahead position, rather than diagonally, to avoid a roll-over.
  • Never attempt to turn the vehicle on a steep slope.
  • Be prepared for a failed climb. It happens to the best drivers. Work out an escape route and know where all the obstacles are.

How to descend hills

  • Stop a vehicle length before the descent so that you have time to make any corrections.
  • You can also get out of the vehicle and assess the land ahead.
  • Engage HDC, if available.
  • As a rule of thumb, use 1st gear low range or ‘1’ on the automatic gearbox and use brakes sparingly.
  • Follow the natural fall line; the route water would take down the slope.
  • Never roll or reverse downhill with the transmission in neutral or the clutch depressed.
  • Never turn the vehicle on a steep slope. This could lead to sideways sliding.
  • If you do need to stop on the way down ask yourself one question: is it safe?

Crossing water

Off-road driving though water

Tips for crossing water:

  • Whenever possible, cross water at a ford.
  • As long as it is safe to do so, walk the stream before you try it in a vehicle. Use a stick to gauge depth and pinpoint underwater hollows.
  • Do not cross deep fast-flowing streams.
  • In deep waves create a small bow wave about one metre in front of the bumper.
  • Do not slip the clutch as this reduces control of the vehicle.
  • Ease off the accelerator as you approach the other side of the water.
  • If there’s a steep slope, take a look at our guide on driving up and down slopes (see Hills).

How to create the perfect bow wave

  • Accelerate as you enter the water until a bow wave has formed.
  • Try to keep it about one metre in front of the bumper to keep water away from the fan electronics.
  • Maintain a speed that keeps the bow wave flowing in front of the bumper.
  • Remember, the aim is to create a gentle wave, not a surfing wave!

LAND ROVER GUIDE TO TOWING

Before you attempt to tow a trailer, there are some simple laws of physics and the road you should know.

A few important points:

  • Always follow Land Rover’s towing recommendation.
  • It is illegal to exceed the laden trailer weight recommended by the manufacturer of the tow bar or tow hitch that you are using.
  • If you’ve driven behind a caravan on a motorway, you’ll have seen weaving, yawing or snaking at close quarters. Many people think that it’s part of towing, but it’s not.
  • If you load the trailer correctly, so the front is slightly heavier than the rear, you can virtually eliminate all the usual snags in towing a trailer.

The three laws of towing physics

  • When a trailer turns, it will naturally want to rotate about its own centre of gravity (CG).
  • You can reduce the yaw during the swing by setting the CG towards the front of the combined vehicle and trailer.
  • Altering the position of the CG alters the handling characteristics of your trailer.

The physics of successful towing

  • Properly finding and positioning the centre of gravity (CG) of the trailer is the secret of successful towing.
  • The CG is important in towing because a motor vehicle or trailer naturally wants to turn around its centre of gravity. It acts as a kind of hinge and where this ‘hinge’ is placed has a significant effect on towing.
  • When towing a trailer, the CG needs to be just in front of the trailer’s wheels, so that the trailer follows perfectly behind it.
  • When the CG is just ahead of the trailer’s wheels (about 10 – 20cm is best), the trailer can be towed securely in a straight line and you will turn corners safely.
  • If the CG is too far forward, the trailer won’t want to turn and the driver will feel that the car is oversteering.

How to calculate the centre of gravity

You need to know the trailer’s gross weight (use weighbridge), axle to hitch distance (drawbar length), and nose weight (weighbridge).

Then:
CG position = (in cm ahead of trailer axle) noseload in kg x drawbar length in cm by trailer gross weight in kg.

How to load and drive a trailer

Here are a few handy tips for loading and driving with your trailer.

How to load a trailer

  • Always check the owner’s manual to discover the towing capacity of your Land Rover vehicle.
  • Ensure that the centre of gravity (CG) is towards the front of the trailer, usually around 10 – 20cm ahead of the axle. You can do this by loading slightly more weight in the front half of the trailer than in the rear.
  • Adjust the rear tow hitch to ensure trailer is level, or slightly down at the front, but never at the rear.
  • Check the maximum gross weight of the trailer – it should be clearly marked.
  • Secure loads to the trailer tie-downs.
  • Load carefully both side to side and front to back.

How to drive with a trailer

  • Anticipate stops and brake early.
  • Allow a gap of at least four seconds between your vehicle and the one in front.
  • Allow yourself extra turning and manoeuvring room.
  • On hot days, beware of engine overheating on long climbs.
  • Using a lower gear will keep the engine cooler.

Troubleshooting

Here are some tips for handling certain situations.

Weaving

  • Move trailer CG forward, reduce trailer weight, increase trailer and towing vehicle tyre pressures according to manufacturer’s specification, fit a hitch yaw damper, reduce speed.

Oversteer cornering

Move trailer CG further towards the rear of the vehicle.

Tucks in when cornering

Increase towing vehicle rear tyre pressures, reduce trailer weight.

Hitches

Here are some key points to consider in regard to hitches:
- The standard 50mm ball hitch is suitable for on-road towing of a trailer with a gross weight up to 3,500kg.
- Trailers with a gross weight above 3,500kg should have a ring hitch and close-coupled brakes – a special vehicle modification.
- Allow extra room for braking and use cadence braking if you do not have ABS.

Trailers and braking

Land Rover’s Trailer Stability Assist (TSA)
Our new system helps make towing safer by detecting trailer oscillations and then using selective braking to help correct a potentially hazardous situation.
TSA is a groundbreaking safety feature that should be used in conjunction with proactive driving techniques. Here are some additional tips for braking while you drive:

Checking brakes

Whatever trailer type you have on tow, it’s important to check overall braking action as soon as possible. Ensure you do so when it is safe and with due consideration to other road users. Even light unbraked trailers may affect the overall braking action. Testing coupled brakes is also necessary as the trailer may not be proportionally braked and this can result in forces acting on the tow vehicle during braking.

Excessive braking

Avoid harsh braking as this can produce download on the vehicle-towing hitch and in wet or slippery conditions can lead to front-wheel lock-up. Although ABS can help prevent this, moderate braking is always preferable. If your vehicle is not fitted with ABS, we suggest cadence braking (feathering the brake pedal with your foot).

Safer braking in braked trailers
Braked trailers are inherently more stable than their unbraked counterparts. However, braking can accentuate even a minor instability.

To ensure safe braking in a braked trailer, make sure you:

  • Always brake in a straight line for maximum safety and control.
  • Leave a reasonable distance between your vehicle and the one in front.
  • Consider the load you’re towing and drive accordingly.

Reversing
Tips for the gentle art of reversing:

  • Start reversing with vehicle and trailer in the same straight line.
  • Slowly reverse the trailer, turning the vehicle in the opposite direction to the one in which you wish the trailer to turn.
  • As the rear of your vehicle turns away from the direction you want the trailer to travel, the rear of the trailer will turn in the direction you wanted.
  • Do not, however, continue too far or the vehicles will jack-knife.
  • Once the trailer is moving in the right direction, reverse the steering on the vehicle and follow the trailer into the turn and finally straighten it up when you reach the correct direction.
  • Note that generally, frames that are long compared to the wheelbase of the towing vehicle are easier to reverse than those that are short.
  • Comprising of five cameras located around the vehicle, the Surround Camera System provides a near 360 degree view of the world outside. The cameras are mounted in the front bumper (x2), the underside of the door mirrors (x2) and tailgate lift handle (x1) and the images from each are viewed through the infotainment screen in the vehicle’s cabin.
  • Utilising the camera system, Tow Assist is an innovative new function that predicts the direction of a trailer when reversing. Guidelines can be set to the trailer width and when reversing these are displayed on the screen to show trailer trajectory.
  • Additionally the Tow Hitch Assist function helps the driver to precisely couple the tow bar with a tow hitch. A coloured dot graphic is displayed on the screen representing the tow ball together with a guide line showing the predicted reversing path of the vehicle towards the trailer tow hitch.

Lighting
Tips for the safety lighting on your trailer:

  • Before setting off, make sure the lighting equipment on your trailer is fitted, working correctly and meets the latest lighting regulations.
  • At the very least, you should have two good tail and stop lamps, direction indicators, number plate illumination, and two triangular, red rear reflectors.
  • Make sure your trailer has at least one red, rear fog lamp (something you may need to add if your trailer was manufactured after 31 March 1980).
  • Additional lights may be required on larger trailers, as well as horseboxes and caravans.