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Crossing Side Slopes


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Survey it first
Side slopes off-road can be among the most dangerous obstacles you can face. You need to display upmost care and attention. This is principally because you are faced with a potential rollover situation if the centre of gravity of the vehicle gets close to being above the downill tyres. So always stop before you attempt crossing a side slope, get out and walk across the route. You are looking for hidden potholes, ridges, rocks, sudden changes in gradient, tree roots and whether the surface has reasonable traction or not. You are NOT concerned with whether your 4x4 can cross these small obstacles - of course it can. You are concerned as to what efect these small obstacles may have on a) the potential to cause the 4x4 to lean further downhill b) cause the 4x4 to lose traction momentarily on one or more wheels. If there is no established track across the slope, then you are looking for the most viable route across and it is worthwhile putting markers down if there are particular obstacles to be avoided. Try to choose a route that is a direct line and does not require any corrective steering as you cross the slope. You may also find it useful to remove fallen timber or rocks that may be blocking an otherwise preferred route. You need to have all four wheels in contact with the ground at all times on a side slope. If the ground is smooth clay and it sticks to your boots then don't even think about attempting to proceed, even if you have mud tyres fitted. Snow, ice and wet grass are slippery and should also be avoided unless the slope is very gentle. Loose gravel and sand can cause steering issues.

Drive slowly and safely
Your greatest fear is the rollover and factors that can influence this are related to vehicle centre of gravity and load distribution. The lower the weight distribution of whatever you are carrying, the better. It is good policy to ask passengers to exit the vehicle and walk across the slope - some may be keen to anyway!
As in most offroad driving situations it is good policy to have large and heavy objects tied down inside the 4x4. This prevents them from moving and affecting the centre of gravity, but also reduces the risk of injury to vehicle occupants if the vehicle does actually tip over.
Loaded roof racks are a positive danger in these situations.
Your wheels should be directed straight ahead and you should look for a land mark to aim for at the other side of the slope. This helps to keep your crossing in a straight line and so minimises the risk of slide-slips.
You need to be in the lowest gear and with as few revs as possible to keep the 4x4 in motion.
Braking or accelerating is your enemy in situations like this and if traction is lost it can become difficult to regain it.

Is it worth it?
There is no shame in not attempting to traverse a side slope and some practise beforehand is a very good idea. Choose the relative safety of a gentle side slope to practise.


Getting out of trouble

If the vehicle begins to slide or lose traction, just briefly and gently press the accelerator sufficiently to match the wheel and ground speed to regain control again. Always steer down a slope to correct a slide, NOT up it.

Learn from experience
When you have traversed a slope, then do a self-critism of what you did right and what you could have done better.


Crossing a slide-sloped tree trunk bridge. Clay surface and 5metre drop.

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