7 Common Off-Road Myths Busted! December 04, 2013
There are certain myths in the off-roading world that are so pervasive that they just won’t go away, no matter how wrong they are and need to be answered before you decide if off-roading is for you. As new people enter the world of off-road they bring with them these myths that have been proven over and over again to be false. While there are probably a hundred off-road myths, a few tend to be the worst and the most prevalent, so in hopes these can be laid to rest once and for all, here are the top seven common off-road myths, busted! 7. Leaf Springs Are Tougher Than Coils One of the biggest suspension myths is all about springs. It’s widely believed that leaf springs are necessary for heavy hauling or big trucks. With the way coil springs area built today this just isn’t the case. To prove this you need to look no farther than the Unimog, which uses coil springs all around. Leaf springs are cheaper to produce, which is why they are seen on a lot of utility vehicles. Strength has nothing to do with it. 6. Lower Tire Pressure Is Worse For Rock Climbing The myth here is actually two-fold. First, it’s believed that lowering your tire pressure makes you more prone to sidewall damage and second; the lower ground clearance will hurt your climbing ability. Both are mostly untrue. The additional threat of sidewall damage is minimum at best, with an extremely slight increase in sidewall size and the small amount of ground clearance you lose is more than made up for with the additional grip you’re given. The lower pressure makes tires bounce less and lowers the risk of a puncture. If you’re rocking it, lower the pressure. 5. 4WD is 4WD People believe that if their trucks say “4WD” on them that they’re ready for mudding and off-roading. This just isn’t the case for a number of reasons. Above the lack of safety and outdoor equipment on a stock truck, the big issue here is with locking differentials. If a truck doesn’t have locking front AND rear differentials it’s only slightly better than a 2WD truck. To get all four wheels moving in the same direction you need locking differentials, plain and simple. Without locking or a limited slip your 4WD is just 2WD with one front and one rear tire doing the work. 4. More Power = Better Off-Roading This myth is actually sold via truck manufacturers to sell bigger engines as well as by the American “bigger is better” credo. Horsepower doesn’t mean a whole lot when going off-road unless you’re in a rally, then it’s pretty important. The big winner in regular off-roading is torque, which is what delivers traction. Horsepower is great for acceleration but actually hurts you in regard to traction. This is why some of the best off-road trucks out there are smaller-displacement diesel engines. They have lower horsepower but tons of torque. You need something that will climb, not something that will win a quarter mile. 3. Four-Wheel Drive Helps With Icy Roads Everyone’s seen that guy that flies past everyone on a snowy, icy highway in his 4WD truck, and some have even seen that same guy wipe out as soon as he hits the ice. 4WD is great for snow, mud, and sand but on slippery roads it’s just two more tires to spin out of control. While you will gain some acceleration control, this will just give the illusion of actual control for when you hit the brakes all that control goes right out the window. Nothing helps you stop on icy or slippery roads but time and distance. 2. Lift Kits Improve Off-Road Performance Lift kits are made to give you ground clearance to drive over bigger things and to allow you to install larger tires. Past these two things, there are no additional performance gains. In fact, a lift kit raises the center of gravity for your truck, making it generally handle worse and more prone to rollover. A good driver can drive a truck with or without a lift kit without issue, so treat a lift as a tool for a purpose, not a general fix that gives you all around better performance. 1. Manual Is Better Than Automatic This is an age-old battle fought by those truck drivers that love their manual gearboxes. There’s nothing wrong with manual transmissions, but an automatic transmission is basically just a big torque converter that smoothly and automatically converts engine torque into wheel movement. This means an automatic transmission will give better control and smoother acceleration off-road, making it better than a manual. This fact is sure to anger a few manual transmission lifers, but it’s the truth. This doesn’t take the fun out of driving a manual transmission; it just means there’s no actual advantage. In short, drive the way you want, just don’t expect to be better with a manual. Wrap-Up Myths are not only annoying; they can be damaging and actually dangerous. It’s best to know the truth about off-roading so you’re as safe as possible and know how to get out of bad situations when one comes up. Know the truth about your sport and you’ll enjoy it much more. Now go spread the gospel of off-roading knowledge and help your fellow driver be better and safer. Do you agree or disagree with the myths in the article. Feel free to comment below.