Hanover, August 2021. The SUV and pure off-road vehicle segment has been growing in popularity for years. All these vehicles are characterized by their comparatively high wheelbase and generally have a permanent or at least switchable all-wheel drive. That’s the perfect setup for moving forward even when the paved roads are behind you. But to have soft and loose surfaces such as gravel and loose ballast and even rocky terrain under control at all times, off-road beginners in particular should always observe a few basic rules. After all, unlike on public roads, there is no breakdown service in the forest to get damaged vehicles running again within a short period of time.
Off-road operations are traditionally a main focus of General Tire. The tire brand is regarded as an expert in 4x4. “Automotive manufacturers know that hardly any of their vehicles ever drive off the road,” explains Matthias Bartz, Business Development Manager at General Tire. “So SUVs are increasingly being fitted almost exclusively with purely on-road tires at the factory, even true off-road vehicles and pickups. The problem is that these tires aren’t sufficiently damage-resistant, and they also can’t interlock sufficiently with loose surfaces.” So if you are planning off-road driving, you can’t get around replacing tires. Well-known manufacturers such as General Tire have all-terrain tires in their product line that offer balanced performance both on and off the road. “Special off-road products like the Grabber AT3 meet the everyday requirements of modern SUVs, pick-up trucks and off-road vehicles, with the advantage of an excellent drive and braking forces transmission even on loose ground, thanks to the numerous grip edges on the tread pattern design that interlock with all kind of terrains” adds Angélica Cáceres, 4x4 Product Manager at Continental Tires.
If you want to avoid missing the adventure of driving off-road under extreme conditions, you should consider using specialists. “These tires are designed primarily for use on unpaved terrain,” says Bartz. “A true mud terrain tire even delivers performance in deep, muddy ground and, with its designed-in stability and solid tread blocks, protects against damage to the sidewall from contact with obstacles on the track.”
To ensure optimum traction off the road, Matthias Bartz recommends adjusting the tire pressure to the applicable situation: “The information provided by vehicle manufacturers in the operating manuals assume you are driving on the road. In rough terrain, contact with the ground improves when the tire pressure is reduced by around 10 percent. This will increase the contact area and grip. On sand, a reduction of 25 to 40 percent is well advised. On very soft surfaces, the tire pressure can even be reduced by up to 50 percent compared with the manufacturer’s specifications.”
Due to their long history in the off-road industry, General Tire’s expertise goes well beyond the area of tires. “If your vehicle is stuck in the mud, it’s time to keep calm. Some simple tricks usually help you continue the journey,” advises Bartz. “Everything that helps the tires build up traction is useful. For example, you can try to remove the mud in front of the wheels with a shovel. Or you can put car floor mats under your wheels. In a pinch, you can even use sticks. Alternatively, you can try to interlock the side walls of the tires using careful lateral steering movements.”
In the worst-case scenario, you should always also have salvage equipment in the vehicle. That includes gloves, cable winches, belts, or chains as well as ideally a shovel, ax, and tree protection. “Belts can be fastened to recovery points with cable winches,” says Bartz. “To do this, always make sure that the tree is sufficiently stable and that the belt does not damage the trunk.” For vehicles without a cable winch, the expert advises against using a jack: “Using a jack can be very dangerous in off-road terrain unless you have experience with it. In addition, a stable baseplate is essential.” Lifting bags are a somewhat unknown alternative – large PVC bags filled with air from the exhaust that can lift the vehicle up quickly to get it back on track. They are expensive, but lightweight, easy to stow and easy to handle.