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Driving Rocky Terrain

Rocky terrain is one of the most challenging surfaces you can cross in a 4wd vehicle, but it can also be a lot of fun. Whether you just need to negotiate a patch of boulders or fancy trying a spot of rock crawling, getting across is satisfying. It's also not all that hard, and by following a few simple tips you'll be able to do it safely.

First, as usual, you need to make sure your vehicle is up for it. Rocks can be hard on the underside, and if you've been thinking about fitting bash plates now would be a good time to do it. We recommend Underguards from Brown Davis. They're tough and easy to fit, and they'll give your sump and transmission a lot of extra protection. A list kit is a great idea too. A body lift is mostly cosmetic and won't help you much, so go for a suspension lift. This will improve your ground clearance as well as letting you fit larger wheels if you want to. Look at weight distribution. Rock crawling can do strange things to your centre of gravity and it's easy to end up rolling over; keeping weight low will reduce the risk.

Immediately before moving into the rocks lower your tyre pressure to about 20psi. That will give you better grip by putting more rubber in contact with the rocks.

Now you have to pick a route through the rocks. Don't wing it; plan exactly where you're going to go, looking for possible hazards well in advance, then follow the route you've chosen. Look for high points, and make sure you're not straddling them. If a lot of people drive through the area they might leave signs of problem areas – scrape marks on the rocks, or black marks where somebody's spun their tyres, indicate places you might get stuck.

It's important to use the controls smoothly. Suddenly revving isn't a good idea. Always apply power steadily, until you find the right amount. Aim to keep a steady pace instead of stopping and starting. If there are steep slopes, or your vehicle's belly is scraping on the rocks, you might not be able to get moving again if you stop. Having some momentum is key, but don't get up so much speed that you can't stop by smooth braking – that's just asking for trouble. A lower gear will also give you better grip.

A standard 4x4 doesn't have the same capabilities as a specialist rock crawling rig, but if it's lifted and has an Underguard it can cover some pretty amazing ground. Mastering the techniques will open up new places to go and give you some great experiences too. It's all about picking the right route and staying in control. Get that right and you'll do great.