When it comes to off-roading, four-wheel drives (4Ã4) are the autos designed exactly for that. With the engine sending power to all wheels, you can have optimal traction and control on rough, uneven terrains. In a two-wheel-drive (2WD), on the other hand, only the two front wheels receive the engine’s power. As such, it tends to perform poorly on snow and other less-than-ideal road conditions.
But if you’d only go off-roading once a year, let’s say, then buying a 4Ã4 may be impractical. Luckily, it’s not required to enjoy off-roading. But of course, you need to manage your expectations. Your 2WD can’t perform the same way as a 4Ã4 on rough roads. The trip won’t necessarily hurt your auto, but you should give it lots of TLC before and after.
That said, here are the off-roading basics you need to know with a 2WD auto:
1. Traction Control
Unlike a 4Ã4, 2WD autos don’t get engine power in the rear wheels. Besides some performance issues on snowy roads, this system also lacks an on/off setting for traction control. This means your onboard computer can’t monitor the wheel spin and brake accordingly to keep your car moving forward.
But this setting doesn’t magically cure wheel slips in the snow. Hence, you’re not at a total disadvantage with a 2WD. Consider getting some new wheels, though. They would allow you to get more traction while driving on difficult terrains. Choose a tire size that fits perfectly and turns easily in your car’s wheel wells.
If you need more ground clearance, larger tires would help achieve that. But if they’re too big, you’d also need to re-gear your axles or transmission, or you may risk poor fuel economy and power loss.
2. Special Equipment and Modifications
Buying special equipment can help boost the performance of your 2WD during off-roading. New tires are an example of both special equipment and minor modification. If budget permits, consider aftermarket bumpers as well. They’ll protect your car from rock, tree, brush, and animal strikes. You never know what would obstruct your way during off-roading, so best be prepared with heavy-duty bumpers.
If you can’t buy new tires, at least save for a traction device called Maxtrax. It’s an Australian product that goes under your wheels. It would allow your car to crawl out of a hole by increasing its traction and momentum. Don’t underestimate the importance of this device; off-roading makes you more likely to encounter potholes and other major road imperfections. If you got stuck in one of them without enough traction, getting out would be a nightmare.
But if you have a winch, your chances of getting out of a hole without Maxtrax can be a little higher. A winch is a piece of recovery equipment that can lift your auto if it got stuck in a precarious position. However, it takes skill to use a winch correctly, you’d need some training before taking it off-roading with you.
3. Interior Prep
Whether you drive a 4Ã4 or 2WD, your auto’s interiors need ample prep before your trip. You might end up sleeping in it overnight, even if you booked a hotel somewhere. Things can happen during an off-roading trip, so prepare for accidental sleepovers in less comfortable places.
Also, you’d be eating in the car a lot. So buy new high-quality custom rubber mats. Getting them customized is important because if the mats are measured to the exact cabin contours of your car, spills and other mess will be trapped. You can also step on it with muddy shoes, and clean the mats easily after your trip.
Prepare some rags and other cleaning supplies as well. Make sure your cleaning agents won’t discolor the surfaces of your interiors, especially if they’re wrapped in leather. Don’t forget sick bags, too; you won’t always have time to pull over if you need to throw up badly.
4. Emergency and First Aid
Though they have nothing to do with your 2WD’s performance, they have plenty to do with the trip, so don’t forego emergency and first aid tools. Besides, an emergency could also mean falling into a ditch or, worse, falling into deep waters. No matter how careful of a driver you are, accidents like those can still happen.
So if you’d pass ditches, lakes, or rivers, equip your 2WD with a snorkel. It would help control water ingestion should your car get submerged. Bring a first-aid kit as well so that even if you can’t find a hospital immediately, you can prevent any injury from taking a turn for the worst.
With ample preparation, plus a thorough understanding of your vehicle, you’d enjoy off-roading even without a 4Ã4. Take note of these pointers and do whatever you must to get your 2WD ready.
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