Winter is here which means so are the horrendous road conditions and road closures. For many people, these nasty conditions caused by the snow and rain call for a dreaded drive or a shelter in place. But for us four-wheelers, we embrace this time of year. Even if the snow hasn’t reached our town, we go out of our way to find it.
A group of ARB 4X4 USA team members came together recently for a day of winter four-wheeling through the Cascade Mountain Range. For some, this was their first time off-roading in the snow but for others, it was their first time engaging their vehicle in 4WD. Aside from enjoying the beautiful views that the Pacific Northwest has to offer, this trip was put together to teach our group how to drive in the snow and how to properly use off-road equipment.
Each vehicle was equipped with off-road suspension and larger tires. Of course, many of the rigs were well equipped with Air Lockers and beadlock wheels for maximum traction; however, this was not a requirement for this trip. Using the ARB Digital EZ Deflator, the vehicles with beadlock wheels aired down to 5 PSI and the vehicles without them aired down to 10 PSI. Airing down allowed us to gain more traction because it increased the footprint of the tire. We were also equipped with ARB compressors which allowed us to air up when we were done on the trail and handheld radios for communication. Although the trails that we were tackling weren’t extremely challenging, we wanted to be prepared. Before the trip, we ensured that the ARB fleet vehicles were packed with the proper recovery and emergency gear for the terrain. The gear list consisted of an ARB Premium Recovery Kit, ARB Jack, ARB Speedy Seal Kit, TRED Pro recovery boards, and Warn Winches attached to ARB Bumpers.
The four-wheeling basics still apply for the snow; check your vehicle beforehand, don’t go alone, carry the correct gear for the terrain, and make sure you can always see the driver behind you in your rearview.
After deflating our tires, each of us engaged our vehicles into four-wheel drive. Those of us with lockers engaged our rear lockers, however, our front lockers remained unlocked until we needed them.
Driving in the snow is unlike any other terrain because it is so unpredictable and inconsistent. Even the most experienced four-wheelers may have trouble their first time in the snow. Understanding momentum is key in the snow. If you are on the throttle but not making headway, stop the vehicle. If you continue to spin your tires you will likely dig yourself into a hole and get stuck. If you find yourself losing traction, aim towards the side of the trail because there is usually thicker snow there which will provide more traction.
Understanding the different types of snow is also important. Driving through thick, powdery snow is completely different than driving on compact, frozen snow. However, there can also be compact, frozen snow under a thick layer of fresh, powdery snow. The compact, frozen snow is what you have to watch out for, it is extremely slippery. Having a good set of deflated tires is the biggest key. If you find yourself sliding in ice, release the accelerator but try not to brake abruptly. Braking abruptly can cause your vehicle to slide even more. If you can, aim towards the side of the trail that has thicker snow. This will give you the traction you need to carry on.
With these tips in mind, we hit the trail. We all had a great time and learned a lot about our vehicles. Each of our vehicles handled differently in the snow due to different types of tires and varying sizes. The tips we learned that day aren’t just off-road tips, they are also useful for on road during a heavy snow day.
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