Mud Wrestling
4x4 Magazine Australia|September 2110
IN THIS FIRST INSTALMENT OF 4X4 AUSTRALIA’S HOW TO OFF-ROAD DRIVING SERIES, WE’RE GOING TO EXAMINE MUD, AND HOW TO BEST DEAL WITH THIS GLOOPY, STICKY, MESSY STUFF WHEN YOU’RE INEVITABLY TASKED WITH DRIVING THROUGH IT
DEAN MELLOR

MUD wrestling might sound like fun, but it’s always a safe option to try to avoid the sticky, gloopy stuff if you can. Why? Because mud is no good for your 4x4; it can be damaging to paintwork, to mechanical components and to your vehicle’s interior.

And it’s not just your vehicle that can cop damage when driving through mud; aggressive mud-terrain tyres spinning furiously while trying to gain purchase in mud can cause severe damage to roads and tracks, making it more difficult for following vehicles to get through, even after everything has dried up.

As well as vehicle and track damage, if things really don’t go to plan in mud, you could end up stuck … and getting out of sticky, gloopy mud can sometimes be extremely difficult.

So, the next time you’re driving along a track and you’re tempted to drive through a big mud hole, a better option would be to look for a way around it. Of course, sometimes there won’t be an alternative route, or you just might not be able to help yourself, in which case here’s what you’ll need to do …

PREP YOUR VEHICLE

YOUR 4x4’s tyres are critical when it comes to maintaining forward progress on any off-road surface, and mud is no exception. When it comes to driving in mud, aptly named mud-terrain tyres are the best choice. They have wide-open tread blocks that allow them to gain traction more easily in slippery mud, and they are also more able to clear mud when spinning than tyres with ‘tighter’ tread patterns that can trap and hold on to mud. Some mud-terrain tyres also have tread blocks that continue over the tread face and on to the sidewalls (sometimes called sidebiters) for additional traction in the slippery stuff.

Mud-terrain tyres aren’t for everyone however, as there are several compromises compared to less aggressive all-terrain or highway terrain tyres. These include less on-road grip, increased on-road noise and faster tyre wear. If you’re not willing to accept these compromises, all-terrain tyres are the next best choice for mud driving, but even highway-terrain tyres can still work well in mud if the correct tyre pressures are set … but more on that later.

The next thing to consider for mud driving is your vehicle’s ground clearance. As mud is viscous, it gets pushed around by spinning tyres, often resulting in deep wheel tracks as vehicles pass through muddy sections. If your 4x4’s tyres fall into these deep wheel tracks, you can soon run out of ground clearance and find yourself ‘hung-up’ on the crown (the raised middle bit) of a road or track. Obviously, the more ground clearance you have, the less chance there is of getting stuck.

In most states and territories, you can legally increase your vehicle’s ground clearance by 75mm (three inches) by combining larger diameter tyres (+25mm) and a raised suspension system (+50mm)*. You can go even further in some states/territories if you have engineering approval … or a vehicle that has been modified and registered by a second-stage manufacturer.

Other vehicle equipment that is beneficial for mud driving includes the fitment of front and rear differential locks, a quality snorkel and extended breathers for your vehicle’s differentials, gearbox and transfer case.

You’ll also want to make sure your vehicle is equipped with rated recovery points front and rear, and that you are carrying appropriate recovery gear in case you get stuck.

*Check with your state authorities regarding the legalities of raising the height of your vehicle.

BEFORE YOU DIVE IN

IF you’re driving along a bush track and you’re confronted by a big mud hole, you’ll need to find out what’s lurking beneath the surface, and the best way to do this is with a big stick … unless of course, you don’t mind getting dirty and wading through it on foot. If you choose the latter option, make sure you’re wearing sturdy footwear.

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