Tread Lightly

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Always face the danger when turning around.

Always face the danger when turning around.

10 More Tips Your 4WD Instructor Didn’t Tell you!

By 4×4 Coach and Master Tread Trainer Tom Severin

Regular visitors to my blog know I sometimes present material in list format. Lists offer an easy way to read and digest information.

Well, I’ve come up with some additional tips to keep your four wheeling fun. These suggestions cover a wide variety of issues, but mostly center around safety. That’s a common theme of mine, for good reason: If you’re not safe out there, bad things can happen.

In no particular order, here are 10 additional tips to help you enjoy your day of four wheeling.

1.  Don’t move a vehicle with the hatch open. After pulling into a campsite you realize that you’d like to reposition your vehicle. So you hop in and throw it in reverse. Next thing you know, you’ve just smashed the tailgate (or hatchback) into a tree. Make sure all doors are closed before you move the vehicle.

2.  Close car doors when you stop to take pictures. This is more of an aesthetic issue. Vehicles photograph better with all the doors closed. For one thing, you’re not showing the world just how messy it is inside. Close the doors, get the sun behind you, and snap those images.

3.  Check your lug nuts if you get help with a wheel. Don’t be surprised if others jump in when you have a tire problem. Just remember that it’s your responsibility to ensure your wheels are on tight before you resume. If the guy who helped you seems offended, shrug your shoulders and say, “Sorry, Mac. It’s just a habit of mine.”

4.  Stow your gear at night. Bad weather can bury your gear in snow, mud or debris. If you’re in one of those old ghost towns, a grizzled and gap-toothed gold miner may take a fancy to a piece of your gear. Pack up properly at night, and you’ll be able to find everything the next morning.

5.  Stay out of mines. Now I’m getting serious. Avoid old mines, period. They weren’t safe 100 years ago, and they aren’t safe today. Take a peek inside, take a picture outside, then split.

6.  Mount a fire extinguisher where it’s visible and accessible. This is as much for your guests as it is for you. An emergency causes everyone to panic a bit. You shouldn’t have to think about where the fire extinguisher (or first aid kit, for that matter) is. Mount it prominently.

7.  When in doubt, don’t commit until you spot the trail. This is especially true when you’re climbing a hill. As you near the top, your view is obstructed by the hood. Don’t assume you know what’s coming next. Get out and verify.

8.  Be careful when driving into the sun. If you can’t see the trail well, don’t assume all is well. Either you or your spotter must get out for a look. Repeat that step as often as necessary. Be patient, especially at the end of the day. (Though you can encounter a bright sun early in the morning, too.) You’re eager to get back to camp, which is when mistakes occur. If necessary wait until the sun sets. Remember this axiom: Don’t try if you can’t see.

9.  Always face the danger when turning around. Another important safety tip. Let’s say you need to turn around on a narrow shelf road. As you perform your 3 point turn, back up toward the canyon wall. This keeps the danger—the drop off—in view. Never turn the other way, or you’re likely to go sailing right down the side of the mountain.

10.  Tie your boot laces in the shape of a square knot with a bow. You’ll be more stylish, and your laces are less likely to come untied. (I hate that when it happens!)

Tuck these suggestions into the back of your mind. And make them a habit whenever you backup, turn around, get out of the vehicle, have a flat tire, camp out, drive into the sun, or tie your boot laces.

Tom Severin is a 4×4 Coach and volunteer Master Tread Trainer.  He teaches 4WD owners how to confidently and safely use their vehicles to the fullest extent in difficult terrain and adverse driving conditions. Visit www.4x4training.com to develop or improve your driving skill.


 

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