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Crossing a Ditch or Gully


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Survey it first
Ditches can get you seriously stuck, so it is essential to get out of the vehicle and survey the situation. You are looking to see if the crossing is viable or not - a few feet wide should be OK and long wheelbase vehicles are better able to cross ditches without getting stuck. You need to assess whether you can cross with at least 3 wheels in contact with the ground at all times, otherwise you run the risk of becoming motionless through being cross-axled with no viable power to any wheels. You need to inspect the edges of the ditch so assess whether they are likely to collapse and render the ditch wider than it initially appears to be. The surroundings of the ditch need to be able to provide sufficient traction for the wheels, because at some point, the vehicle is likely to be effectively in 2-wheel drive. This is because at some point one wheel must inevitably be hovering over the ditch - unless of course you have locking differentials fitted. It is not advisable to attempt steep-sided ditches if their width approaches within 2 feet (60cm) of the wheelbase of your 4x4 without using addtional aids such as bridging ladders.
Gullies
These are basically very wide ditches which require the 4x4 to descend into and subsequenting be able to climb out of. The sides need to be of a sufficient gradient for the 4x4 to be able to enter and leave without getting stuck on either entry or departure. Long wheelbase vehicles present the greatest problem here due to their lower departure angles together with the risk of them becoming high-centred on entry to the gully.
Gullies may be dry or partially filled with water. In either event, the nature of the bottom surface needs to be checked out and in the case of it being submerged, then you have to get your feet wet and probe with a stick for potholes, soft mud and submerged objects.

Drive slowly and safely
Ditches
Ditches should NOT be approched head-on but at 45degrees, otherwise you risk coming to a sudden stop and even causing a rollover. Your greatest fear is getting cross-axled, with no wheels able to provide traction, so choose the lowest gear you have and lock any freewheel hubs and differentials if you have them fitted. You need to be able to keep forward momentum when one of the front wheels loses traction as it crosses the ditch. So don't rev the engine and lose rear wheel traction at this point.
Gullies
Unlike ditches, gullies can often be approached head-on, if the sides are not very steep. Entry into the gully is not so much of a problem as being able to get out of it. So low gear and slow movement, with constant traction on all wheels is what is required. If the exit is steep and slippery then make sure you choose a route where all wheels can remain on the ground at all times. Don't over rev the engine to get up the opposite bank as it will just cause wheel-spin

Is it worth it?
There is no shame in not attempting to traverse a ditch or gully. There is often an alternative. Some practise of the technique beforehand, if possible, is a good idea.


Getting out of trouble

If the vehicle fails to make it across a ditch, then reversing is the first option. Otherwise, packing timber or soil, or whatever is available, under the suspended wheel may give you sufficient traction to get clear.
If exiting a gulley is the problem then again reversing is the first choice. Any second attempt at either a ditch or gulley should not be undertaken without a clear understanding of what went wrong. Choose a different entry and/or exit point.

Learn from experience
Each time you succesfully cross a ditch or gully, do a self-critism of what you did right and what you could have done better.



An easy gully, but choose crossing points with care.

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