Off Road Basics Part 7: Climbing and Descending Hills June 05, 2014
Ah, hills. Who would have thought that the mere act of going up or down a hill could be as fun as it is, but from slowing making your way up a steep hill to tearing up it as fast as you can, hills are fun. With that fun comes the need for extra safety and a few good tips on how to not get stuck and not damage your truck, too. In this part of Train Horn Delivered’s basics of off-roading, we’ll look at the how-to of going up and coming down hills. Miss the other parts of the series? Check at the bottom for links to the other parts and get yourself informed before heading out.
How to Climb HillsSo what’s so hard about climbing a hill in your truck? You just aim at the hill and hit the gas, right? Technically yes, but there’s a lot more that goes into going up a hill safely. 1. First, you should check out the hill on foot before you try to drive it. That means walk the length of the hill, looking for things like loose dirt, mud, large rocks, ruts, and any obstacles like trees that are close to the sides of the trail. Once you get to the top, have a good look at what’s waiting for you on the other side of the hill. Does the trail turn right after it? Does it go back downhill quickly? How about obstacles? Just look at everything and take any issues into account before your tires touch the hill. 2. Keep your truck in the highest gear possible where you still get some pull out of the gear. If you’re in too low of a gear you’ll get tire spin and if you’re too high you just won’t have enough power to make it to the top, and you really don’t want to get stuck halfway up a hill. 3. Try to approach the hill from as straight on as possible. Taking the hill from a diagonal can lead to rollover and loss of traction. 4. Never try to turn your truck while you’re on a steep slope. Doing so can lead to a rollover which can hurt your truck and worst of all, hurt or kill you. 5. Accept that even with these tips and proper preparation, your hill climb may fail. Even season veterans fail at a hill climb from time to time, so going into the climb with this in mind helps you prepare for what you need to do if something goes wrong. Decide what you’ll do if you don’t make it to the top before you start and keep that in mind as you climb. As you can see, there’s a lot more to climbing a hill successfully than you might think. Even with this preparation in mind, every hill is different, so each requires it’s own plan of attack. Now that you’re at the top, let’s look at how to get back down.
How to Descend HillsGoing down a hill can be a pretty tricky undertaking. While you probably want to hit the hill at full speed and try to catch some air, but while this might seem fun on the surface, there’s even more to do when going down a hill than when climbing one. 1. Just like going up a hill, you need to walk the descent before driving it. A hill may seem less steep when looking at it, but seem far worse when walking it. Check out obstacles as well as what waits for you at the bottom before ever cresting the hill in your truck. 2. You should use 1st gear in the low range if available, or if you have an automatic, use 1st gear. Use the brakes as little as possible, as they can lead to sliding, which can lead to disaster. 3. Stay on the trail as you descend, as foliage and brush can hide obstacles like loose dirt, rocks, and holes that can really ruin your day. 4. Never, ever go down a hill in neutral or with the clutch pressed in. You need the braking power of the engine to go down the hill safely. 5. Just as with climbing, never turn while going down a steep incline. This can lead to rollover or sideways sliding. 6. Have a plan in case your descent doesn’t work as planned. If you start sliding, know how you plan on stopping the slide. Understand that if there are trees or rocks near the trail you’ll probably hit them if things go south. Descending a hill is more about low speed and high control than high speed and total lack of control, which is what most people think of when going down a hill.
Wrap-UpEven though you need to be safe while doing it, climbing and descending hills can still be a lot of fun, but the fun is in the challenge instead of the speed and danger. With practice, patience, and the tips above, you should be able to conquer just about any hill out there, as long as your truck is up for the challenge.
- Part 1 - Off-Roading Vocabulary
- Part 2 - The Essentials
- Part 3 - A Little More Than the Essentials
- Part 4 - Water and Mud
- Part 5 - Can you put the link in for this one, I don't see it published.
- Part 6 - Surviving Off-Roading in Sand