Tarmac, paved roads, concrete, asphalt/bitumen roads, are a thing of developed countries, and in a lot of rural areas, many drivers do not have the luxury of driving on the nicely paved flat surfaces you can find in developed areas such as Japan. I'm sure a lot of you are aware of this fact, and are well accustomed to driving on non-paved roads. Off of the tarmac, you may find dirt, rock, gravel, mud, grass, or even water on your roads, so it could be quite trying when you go on your first ride in these conditions. I know I had a time trying to learn how to drive in these conditions.
When driving on rough terrain, there may be some obstacles that you may need to overcome, or there may be some flat tires that may need to be replaced. But, once you are accustomed to driving on these wonderfully bumpy land, then you may find yourself enjoying your drive to the city.
Generally, when you are driving, you will want to drive within your ability, meaning try not to drive too fast, but just fast enough. A few key points when driving on this kind of terrain are:
- Know your vehicle
Generally, when you are driving on rough terrain, you will want to have a mental picture of the underbody of your car, and how much ground clearance you may have, and what angles you can and cannot cover.
- Understand how your car works
High tire pressure will decrease traction, but stiffen the tires for a little protection from damage, and low tire pressure will increase traction, but they both have a place. When driving up hills you will want to go straight up the hill, and not at an angle to avoid a roll-over. And when driving over ditches, try to take them at an angle to have only one tire hit the ditch at a time--this will allow your other three tires to help the tire out in the case it gets stuck in the ditch.
- Drive slow, but fast enough
You have to get the right speed to get over some of those obstacles. With mud or puddles of water, you may want to just power through them, and keep your steering wheel straight, and when you are traveling on soft dry surfaces such as soil or sand, you want to keep enough speed to allow your tires to float on the surface, but not so much speed as to have your tires start slipping. It's like going on a date for the first time, you have to probe just enough to get your date talking about him/herself, but not so much as to make your date think you are a stalker.
- Know when to shift into 4WD
As a general rule of thumb, pop your car into 4WD the moment you hit dirt, before your car gets stuck somewhere. Sometimes shifting into 4WD after getting stuck may just be too late, and you will need assistance with pulling your car out of the ditch, or mud.
- Know the correct gears you want to drive in
Too low of a gear, and your tires might just start spinning with all the torque, and too high of a gear, and you might just start rolling down the hill when your brakes lock up.
- Keep a spare tire and rescue kit in your vehicle
A spare tire and some rope could be a life saver when one of your tires blow out, or if you get into a mud puddle you can't get out of. You can use the rope to help tow the vehicle out of your mess, figuratively and literally.
- Drive safely and responsibly
Last but not least, drive safe and responsibly. You never know what kind of trouble you may run into.
A lot of times, when driving on this type of terrain, you will want a car with enough clearance, and 4WD or AWD. And most of the time, you will want an SUV with 4WD for their durability and ruggedness.