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Driving over a Ditch

Approach ditches/holes at an angle for maximum control

Ditch crossing
4x4 OffRoad Driving

Ditch crossings can be quite hard on your car unless the correct technique is used. There is a risk of contact with the ground, and loss of traction is fairly likely depending on the size of the ditch.

If your angle is wrong, two tires may enter the ditch at the same time, which could cause you to get stuck. Drive carefully.
Direct approaches could result in hitting the bumper or underguard against edge of the ditch. The angled approach increases clearance. The angled approach also forces tires into the ditch one by one, reducing the impact to the body. It is important at this time that at least three of the tires maintain traction. Be sure to use full-time 4WD with center differential activated when driving in these conditions.

Driving speed and acceleration

Slowly enter one tire at a time into the ditch/gap. Then, accelerate a little until the tire starts to pass the lip and decelerate right after the tire clears the ditch. Repeat this process for all four tires. On a slippery surface, increase or decrease speed as needed.

Mitigate depth or slope

When the depth or the angle is too great, adjustments could be made by placing a rock or other object where the tires hit.

Rules of thumb

  • High / Low Range:
    Low
  • Gears:
    1st Low Gear
  • Diff lock(s):
    Engage
  • Speed:
    Engine tick over (unless there is a risk of stalling)
  • Note:
    Cross at an angle, not straight
  • What not to do

    Crossing a ditch straight will cause both front wheels to fall into the depression simultaneously and for the front suspension to compress. This can cause the front of the vehicle to make contact with the ground, or reduce traction to the point where you might become stuck.

  • The correct ditch crossing technique

    [manual transmission vehicle]

    To negotiate a ditch in a more reliable manner, cross at an angle, allowing only one wheel to enter the ditch at a time. This provides the greatest chance of success by maintaining the best possible traction using three out of the four wheels. Ensure all the traction aids at your disposal are engaged (such as traction control and differential lock). Tackle the ditch at a slow speed, but have sufficient momentum to drive the vehicle through. If you have the luxury of adjustable suspension, ensure the highest setting is selected to prevent any contact with the ground. Be prepared to increase the throttle slightly if wheels start to spin.

Ditch crossing – straight

Don’t cross a ditch straight on

Ditch crossing – correct

The correct ditch crossing technique
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