Not only have you got a gradient to contend with, but gravity is also working against you.
It just doesn’t seem fair. However, science is on your side – when attempting the climb for the first time, consider the proven formula for success: A successful climb = the correct route + sufficient traction + sufficient momentum.
Wherever possible, investigate the area on foot. You should always know what’s on the other side of the hill.
Remember your approach angle: is the wheel or nose going to hit the ground first?
Approach the hill straight on, rather than diagonally, to avoid a roll. Use the highest gear in which the vehicle will ‘pull’ comfortably. Never attempt to turn your 4x4 on a steep slope.
Be prepared for a failed climb, it happens to the best drivers. Work out an escape route and take note of where the obstacles are.
Stop one vehicle-length before the descent, so you have time to make any corrections.Remember your departure angle. Is the back of your vehicle going to hit the ground?
Choose the lowest gear possible and select Hill Descent Control (HDC), if available.
If using HDC, try to keep your foot away from the pedal and avoid the temptation to brake. If you do need to brake, apply progressive rather than strong pressure. If you don’t have HDC, just use your lowest gear.
Follow the natural fall line—the route water would take down the slope—and keep your wheels straight. If the vehicle starts to slide, increase throttle to match the ground speed and regain steering control.
If driving a manual, never roll or reverse downhill in neutral or with the clutch depressed. And never turn your 4x4 on a steep slope, as it could lead to sideways sliding.
When descending a steep or slippery hill, it’s important to consider the consequences of losing traction and being unable to stop on the slope. If you’re pointing directly up or down-slope it’s relatively easy to control your direction even without the ability to stop, however if you start to slide sideways you’re best course of action may be to close your eyes and wait for the crunch!!
The route you pick depends on a number of factors which can be influenced by the following:
The rule of thumb when climbing hills is to attack the slope using a route which minimises any side angles where possible. If you start to slide sideways you’ll have very little control over your vehicle, but sliding forwards or backwards can be controlled. Diagram 1: Driving straight up the hill is the safest route, as it minimises side angles
However, if you’re driving in a rutted track it can be best to stick to the exiting route. If your wheels are positioned in the ruts it’s very unlikely that a sideways slide will occur. Diagram 2: If you’re driving in a rutted track, sliding sideways if unlikely so it’s best to stick in the ruts.
If you’ve failed to make it to the top, the chances are it’s either because of one of the following:
If the slope if so slippery that the wheels are locking due to engine braking – you may need to gently apply some throttle to regain traction, then release the throttle gently to re-establish braking.
It’s unlikely that you’ll stall an auto, but it can happen. If this does occur, hold the foot brake firmly and restart the engine (you’ll probably need to select N or P first). Now follow the stages shown below. Recovery due to lack of traction or insufficient traction or momentum in an automatic vehicle:
If you have no choice but to ascend the hill using a side angle, drive as slowly as possible using a light throttle and a high gear to reduce the chances of spinning wheels or a slide. Sometimes a slide is unavoidable and there will be a temporary loss of control. To recover from this situation, you need to heavy end first to allow gravity to help, rather than hinder: