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Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Off-road driving tips from Ford Endeavor Engineers

Yesterday I received a press release from Ford, listing 11 off-roading tips compiled by its top engineers who were involved in the making of latest Ford Endeavor (Everest in some countries). I would normally ignore press releases, but this one seemed potentially useful to off road enthusiasts. Some of the points were new and informative. Below post contains off roading tips shared by Ford, I have edited it mildly to add my opinion and also include a other-than-ford perspective, along with relevant photos (all from my trips/experiences). If automobiles as a topic don't interest you, I suggest you read my Singapore or Australia posts.

Many SUV owners never leave the comfort of tarmac- either because they are scared about the potential damage to their expensive cars, or they do not have adequate information about how and where to pursue their off road interests.  A Chennai based group, named Terratigers, lead by Arkavat Datta conducts simple to medium complexity off road drives over the weekend for the enthusiasts- Read my detailed posts on them here- Terratigers Off Road Part 1 * Part 2 *

Now, what it takes to drive off road? What precautions to take?

Richard Woolley, vehicle integration attributes supervisor, Ford Asia Pacific, and Nick Allen, attribute lead engineer for off-road capability and trailer tow, have compiled below list of tips to make you get out into the rugged world of 4x4 driving. 
Vishnu's Ford Endeavor with Maxxis off road tyres in action
Vishnu's Ford Endeavor with Maxxis off road tyres in action
Here are few top tips for tackling challenging terrains and staying safe when driving off-road:

1. Be prepared
Being equipped with right gear
  • Full tank fuel
  • A tow rope & shovel
  • Spare tyre and tyre changing kit
  • Maps, GPS, Car charger, portable air compressor
Planning your trip- knowing the terrain, nearest villages, highway, other facilities

Going in a group, so that other vehicle may be able to pull you out.

Some modifications and additional accessories- such as adding a roller bar, winch, changing to off road tyres, snorkel greatly enhance your abilities, if you are very serious about it. Otherwise even stock vehicles are pretty capable these days
Ford-Endeavor-in-action
My First off-road trip with Ford Endeavor- photo clicked by Ram
2. Get to know your vehicle
It’s important to get a feel for your vehicle and understand how it behaves in different scenarios. You should also learn how to engage specific features and technologies that are designed to aid you in off-road environments. For instance, the new Ford Endeavour has a low-range setting and an electronic locking rear differential that you should learn how to engage and disengage before driving in extreme off-road conditions.

As well as understanding the technology in your vehicle, it is also important to be familiar with its dimensions and capabilities. There are many four-wheelers that claim to come with 4x4 capability, but their abilities greatly differ. You may have to squeeze through some tight spaces, wade through water, or climb over challenging obstacles. Different parameters like approach/departure angle, water wading depth, ground clearance, power, wheelbase etc make lots of difference to a vehicle's off-road abilities.

3. Reduce your tire pressure
This is one of the simplest tricks to improve your vehicle’s off-roading performance and your comfort level in the cabin. There are a number of advantages to reducing the air pressure in your tires

·         It means that more of the tire is touching the ground so that the weight of the vehicle is more evenly distributed. This helps you to stay on top of softer surfaces like sand or mud

·         The tires can absorb more impact pressure, which helps to protect the wheels and the rest of the vehicle in rocky terrains

·         It will give you a smoother, more comfortable driving experience when off-roading. Slightly deflated tires will absorb many of the smaller bumps in the road instead of bouncing over them

How much you reduce your tire pressure will vary depending on where you are driving. Be sure to check the optimal tire pressure for the specific terrain.

When driving with reduced tire pressure, keep in mind that you should avoid sharp turns. Turning sharply when your tires are under-inflated can increase the chance of detaching them from the wheel.

Just remember to re-inflate your tires before you get back on the road. Using under-inflated tires for regular road driving will reduce vehicle safety, the life-span of your tires and fuel efficiency.
4. Use low range, or the lowest gear available
Understand what is meant by 4H, 4L, 2H etc. Keeping your vehicle in low range gives you more control and power at low speeds. While driving over highly technical or rocky terrain with reduced traction, or when tackling steep descents and ascents, you should have more control over the vehicle than having more power and speed. With the new Endeavour, low range can be manually engaged when the vehicle is stationary with the flick of a switch, and also works in conjunction with the Terrain Management System’s (TMS) rock mode, which gives you maximum control when you need it most. Some SUVs let you change the mode on the move (say up to 60 kmph)

5. Drive as slowly as possible
If you go by Jeremy Clarkson's approach to off-roading, which is "Power and Speed", you will end up in the ditch. The phrase, "Slow and Steady wins the race" is very much true during off-road maneuvers. Driving faster means you will have less time to react if something goes wrong, and it will take longer to stop. High speeds will also increase the damage to your vehicle when driving over obstacles or if you collide with anything. Driving slowly lets your vehicle’s suspension absorb most bumps for a more comfortable ride. It will also give you more time to examine your surroundings, and anticipate and react to situations.

Some obstacles might require more speed to tackle, such as steep ascents or scenarios like sand or slush where if you don't maintain momentum, you risk digging into the ground, but most obstacles need little more than a walking pace. Try to remember to drive as slowly as possible, while still driving fast enough to overcome the ascent. If you find you are driving too slowly, it’s easy to step on the accelerator – but if you are driving too quickly, you may face more risks and find it difficult to safely correct.

6. Choose the best line
Look at the terrain ahead of you and try to ascertain the safest route. There are often multiple ways to overcome an obstacle, and it is important to choose the route that poses the least risk. To avoid potentially damaging the underneath of your vehicle, choose a line that ensures all four wheels maintain contact with the ground. If the path ahead is particularly narrow, steep, or has large objects that you can’t see around, it is worth having a “spotter” – a friend who can get out of the vehicle and help to guide you through these sections.

7. Approach water crossings with caution
Before you take on a major water crossing you should be aware of your vehicle’s water wading ability. The Endeavour, for example, has a class-leading ability to wade through water up to 800mm deep which is achieved travelling a steady speed of no more than 7 kilometers per hour.

When approaching a water crossing, it is a good idea to get out of your vehicle to measure the depth of the water ahead either with a stick or by walking through the section that you plan to cross. Needless to say, if the water is deeper than your vehicle’s water wading ability, you need to find another path. When assessing the water’s depth, you should also be on the lookout for any potential submerged hazards, such as large rocks or holes. It is also important to know that riverbed is solid enough to support the vehicle.
JLR Evoque Swimming in water


If the water looks safe to cross, enter slowly (walking pace) to prevent an excessive bow wave over the hood of your vehicle. Once moving it is important to maintain your speed: Stopping in deep water can cause components of the vehicle to flood.
RangeRover's Sonar that shows water level and ground... (not available in freelander)

8. Understand how to drive in different terrains
Different terrains call for different driving techniques. The smart TMS modes in the new Endeavour (or Terrain Response System in other brands) make your job easier by optimizing performance for different conditions. Here’s how they work:

Sand
When driving in terrains with deep sand, the key to successful off-roading is to maintain your momentum and keep your engine RPMs high. If you slow down too much or don’t keep the wheels moving, you run the risk of sinking into the sand.

Sand mode in the Endeavour’s TMS helps you maintain your momentum in a number of ways. Firstly, the transmission upshifts much later and downshifts earlier to keep the engine RPMs high; it also reduces the traction control intervention to allow your wheels to keep spinning; and finally, it dramatically increases the sensitivity of the throttle so that small foot movements have a much greater impact on the speed of Ford Endeavour (Everest in some countries). All of this combines to help keep you moving smoothly through the dunes.

When parking in deep sand, you should always allow your vehicle to roll to a stop. This prevents the wheels from digging into the sand when the brakes are applied so that it is easier to get moving again. Another tip to help you drive away with ease is to always park on either a flat surface or with your vehicle pointing slightly downhill.

Snow, Mud, Grass
When driving on slippery or loose surfaces, such as mud, gravel, wet grass, snow or ice, your priority should be to keep the vehicle under control to avoid a loss of traction.

When using Snow, Mud, Grass mode, your Endeavour’s transmission will upshift early and downshift late to help keep the engine from revving too high. It will also increase traction control intervention to reduce wheel slip and reduce the sensitivity of the throttle to give you more precise control over your speed.

Rock
For technical, rocky terrain you will want to maximize your control at very low speeds. This will help you to climb over large rocks without damaging the vehicle, and will allow the suspension to absorb impacts more effectively. 
Rock mode in the TMS requires you to place your vehicle in low-range four-wheel drive to give you better control at low speeds. The traction control is designed to intervene aggressively in order to stop the wheels from spinning when climbing over large rocks. Rock mode also makes the throttle much less sensitive so that bumps in the road don’t cause you to accidentally press the accelerator and accelerate too quickly.
endeavour
A first generation ford Endeavor I had once rented from Avis
9. Remember that it’s OK to turn around
Machines and Technology can only help to a certain extent. Ultimately, it is a driver's assessment if it is safe to proceed or one should back off. Do not take it as an ego issue- if you feel unsafe, uncertain or unprepared, turn around, try an alternate path or get help. Youtube is full of Off-road fail videos (like this one) where over-confident drivers ended up damaging their cars and risking lives. 

10. Never go alone or at least keep people informed
It is very easy to get lost in the woods, without mobile signal and without knowing the way out. Avoid going all alone or at least keep your friends and family informed about your trip plans, so that if you don't return within a reasonable time, they will know that you are in trouble. Lots of forests and other places are off limits for general public, so entering without proper permit can land you in trouble with the local authorities.

11. Familiarize yourself with the legal requirements of the areas you’re proposing to travel through
Before you set off; it is important to make sure you’re familiar with any specific rules or regulations concerning the country you’re travelling through, particularly if it’s through national parks. Some off-road desert driving also requires flags to be fitted to vehicles ensure there’s plenty of visibility to other off-road users so it’s important to make sure you respect these requirements.

Off-roading is a life-long passion, and there is always more to learn,” says Woolley. “But if you follow these eleven tips, you will be safer and more successful on your first foray into the world of off-road driving.

The new Ford Endeavour claims to be a truly capable off-road vehicle that has been engineered to flatter the novice driver and reward the expert. It has been reportedly tested in some of the most extreme environments in the world, from the deserts of the Australian Outback, through the jungles of Southeast Asia, to the rocky mountains of western China, and to the Swedish and Canadian Arctic.

With their off-road expertise, Ford engineers like Richard and Nick have made sure that, long before you take your new Endeavour off-roading; it has been engineered to handle the world’s most challenging terrains. 

Also read: Dhanushkodi Off road experience where aged maxicabs are converted into 4x4 to ferry tourists to ghoast town of Dhanushkodi off Rameshwaram. If those maxi cabs can do off road, your 20-30 lakh 4x4 SUV can do much better. * My Kannada article on Off Roading * LandRover Experience * Mercedes LuxDrive, Chennai *  Ford Endeavor 2.5 MT review

1 comments :

Sandesh said...

This is very useful...