Wheeling - Steep Grades II

May 31st 2011

by Charlie


VEHICLE TYPE: 2002 TOYOTA 4RUNNER – V6 4WD stock transmission

TIPS: When I am going uphill on a steep incline, the transmission is in 4wd, Low Range, and Drive Gear as the main gear (my automatic also has a 1st and 2nd gear). In general while wheeling I keep the transmission in 4wd Low Range and in “Drive” mode. When approaching a steep hill, keep your speed and forward momentum steady and even going not too fast but not too slow. If you lose your momentum, stop take a moment and think. It may be safer to reverse back down the hill and try again. You will then get an idea of how much momentum it will take next time to make it up and over the hill.

TOPPING OUT - When you get to the top of the hill, you will want to wait until you can see straight ahead in front of you and then stop. Don’t stop too soon as you may lose your momentum and oftentimes the “CRUX” of the hill is at the top. As you approach the top of a steep hill, you will only see the sky in front of you. This is where you will need to “FEEL” the road beneath you and sense when it is leveling out for the top. At this point, I recommend stopping and looking out your driver side window to check terrain below. If the downhill section looks daunting, park safely and use your emergency brake to secure your rig and get out and walk the trail/scope out the trail.

GOING DOWNHILL - After checking out the terrain below, I put the Gearbox into 1st Gear and the transfer case is still in the Low Range Position. This is commonly known as “Compression Braking” or “engine braking” and is highly effective to control a steep descent. Slowly release your brake and feather while letting the engine braking do its work. When you come to a steep step or blind spot on the descent slow down and stop if possible and ease yourself over the edge on the front and back tires.

EXTRA TIP: When driving downhill on a steep and off camber trail, you can use this general rule of thumb to prevent a tip over.

If your rig starts tipping down on driver side, then you will also turn to driver side to allow your rig to find the straightest line downhill. Same goes if you are tipping downward to the passenger side, turn your steering wheel to the passenger side to level out your hood. If you turn into the high side of the front of your rig going downhill, you will flip over your rig as now you are turning sideways and up into the hill. Think about this and practice this on the not so steep stuff so when you get to the really steep stuff you will do this by habit. Practice makes perfect.

The farthest I have tipped my Rig over is about 25-30 degrees during a 4x4 training class. It helps to have a leveling meter/clinometer in your rig to see how far you are tilting if you inexperienced and worried about tipping. In general from what I have learned in 4x4 School and on the trail that the Safe Angle for maximum sideways angle is about 30 degrees. Now if you have measured and been in your rig in the 25 degree position, it already feels like you are going to tip over but you have still have plus or minus about 5 degrees of play. This of course is the danger zone. Driving many trails will get you the experience you need in judging how far you can drive at a severe angle on an off camber trail.
For more information on 4x4 Training go to www.4x4training.com
For those of us who do not yet have True Lockers on our rigs, here is a helpful tip that can help you get over some of the tougher and bigger rocks and obstacles. It is commonly know to wheelers as “Left Foot Braking”. While you are giving the accelerator pedal gas, you are simultaneously pressing down on the brake pedal with you “LEFT FOOT”. This creates the needed tension in your transmission to allow power to be more evenly distributed to all 4 wheels. Practice this technique when you are in the smaller rocks so that when you get to the bigger rocks, you will do this by habit. This technique is also helpful for going up steep rocky trails with big steps or waterfalls.

Know when to go for it, and when to back off.
“Every man has got to know his limitations”