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Driving Mud


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Survey it first
Mud tends to cover large areas, so it is often not desirable to walk the entire intended route. Once you have gained an appreciation of what yourself and your vehicle can handle, then there is only a need to get out the vehicle for an inspection when a particular anomally arises.
You should be on the lookout for mud which is getting progressively deeper, has an increasing frequency of submerged rocks or timber. Any isolated standing water puddles may be masking a deep pothole caused by a previous vehicle when it became stuck and was subsequently dug out.
Mud has the ability to change the nature of the ground considerably and you cannot assume that previous vehicles that passed that way experienced the same degree of mud obstruction as you are experiencing. Just because you can see ruts passing through the mud does not mean that you can follow them without any problem. They need to be checked for depth and obstructions. If the ground is smooth clay and it sticks to your boots then don't even think about continuing unless the nature of the ground changes in a short disatnce AND you have a winch fitted. Even very aggressive mud terrain tyres are no match for 'potter's clay'.

Is it worth it?
There is no shame in not attempting to traverse a muddy section of your intended route. Once you have experienced getting stuck in mud and have a first hand appreciation of the time and effort required to get your 4x4 going again then you may be more inclined to think that it's not worth the risk.


Take it slow
Don't change gear and avoid acceleration.
For short patches of mud you can generally use vehicle momentum to carry you through it. In general however, the idea is to maintain forward motion without losing traction. Too much power is your enemy in situations like this and once traction is lost it can become difficult to regain it. So don't over-rev the engine and induce wheel spin. Loss of traction often results in the nature of the land having more say on where your 4x4 will go. If there is a down slide-slope then loss of traction will take your vehicle down the slope and it can be difficult to take control of the steering unless you can regain some traction. Moving the steering wheel a little from side to side can often gain some additional traction but the degree of turning should be limited less too much tyre drag is created.
It is important to keep the front wheels pointed straight ahead in deep mud as any sideways angle will quickly present too much drag and you will bog down. This also means that if the 4x4 begins to crab sideways, don't over-react and try to bring the vehicle straight immediately. By doing this you may creat enough tyre drag to stop forward movement.

Learn from experience
If you do get bogged down, then your focus should be to learn the reason why and store the knowledge so gained. If the route is critical to your journey, then attempt it again but with modifications gained from the first experience. Don't just rush at it a second time. Put brush wood, timber, soil, car matting or whatever is available down on any mud patch that cannot be avoided and caused problems the first time. Having been on a mud run, the chassis will be coated in mud, in even the most inaccessible places. Mud will maintain moisture in contact with the chassis and so aid corrosion. So give the vehicle a good hose down underneath as soon as possible. Dried mud in the radiator core will cause overheating problems when you least need them.

Getting unstuck

Once your vehicle has come to a stop in the mud you cannot make the situation worse by staying where you are. So think about what the options are and which would be the best to go for. It is almost guaranteed to be beneficial to get out of the vehicle and look at the situation for ALL of the wheels and decide whether the best option is go forwards or backwards.
You need traction to move out of mud and the most common problem is that one or more wheels are sunk down and are presenting a barrier that reduced traction from the other wheel(s) cannot overcome. In such cases you can reduce the amount of traction needed by reducing the angle of the mud slope either immediately infront or behind a wheel (depending upon which direction you intend to drive out). It is often possible to push small pieces of timber or rocks under a sucken wheel and in severe cases you could jack up the wheel and place material under it. You cannot jack up a wheel though unless you have a spreader board for the jack base. A high-lift jack is the safest to use in situations like this but you need to be aware that the vehicle is inherently unstable when jacked up in a mud environment and GREAT CARE needs to be taken.
If you are using timber to gain traction then be very aware of what will happen as the vehicle mounts the timber. A long piece of timber can upend and do damage to vital fuel or brake lines unless you are very careful.

Mud with standing water can hide deep holes where others previously got stuck.
In this case, reverse was all that was needed. Even though the rear offside wheel was in the air.


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