In the last article of our Go-Rig Driving series, we got to grips with the technicalities of using a high-lift jack which should adequately prepare you for the biggest pleasure of all when it comes to 4×4 driving in your Go-Rig: Mud!

When it comes to off roading through mud, some of the basic rules of 4×4 driving remain but at the same time a number of rules get tossed out the window. More on that later. To start with, ensure that the choice of off road tire fitted to your vehicle is correct. With sand driving, the closer the lugs are spaced on your tire, the better the flotation will be on sand and the less the road noise will be. However for mud driving, the inverse is true, in that the wider the spacing between the lugs the better the self cleaning properties of the mud terrain tire will be. It is normally a good idea to consult a professional tire fitment centre in your area before venturing forth.

Off roading mudding rig

Although we are still to cover deep water crossing with your vehicle in our Go-Rig Advanced Driving series, some of the same rules apply when faced with a mud obstacle on a trail. First, if possible, avoid the mud obstacle if you can by choosing an alternative route, but failing which, walk it yourself checking for hidden potholes and rocks. Should there be another 4×4 or SUV in front of you, ensure that they clear the mud obstacle entirely before you commit your vehicle. Also follow in the front vehicle’s exact same tracks and do not alter speed suddenly or swerve violently.  Switch on your wiper blades before entering the mud obstacle, as dried mud will make it impossible to do so later if required.

It is important to note that there are two different varieties of muddy areas to be found when off roading in mud.

The first kind is the thick, bottomless quagmire, where it will be advisable to deflate your tires in order to provide additional flotation for the vehicle. In most cases though, the second type of mud will consist of a slushy upper layer and a firmer surface directly underneath. When encountering this type of mud, do not deflate your vehicle’s tires as it will slide and float on top of the mud surface and possible make you lose control of the vehicle. A correctly inflated tire will break through the muddy upper crust and provide your vehicle with firmer traction underneath.

Engage low range, third gear and ensure your differential is locked before entering the mud. If the mud turns out to be very thick and unyielding, you may even revert to second gear, low range in extreme cases. Should you vehicle start wheel spinning and slowing down, gently ease of the accelerator and slowly turn the steering wheel from side to side. This is known as the “5th wheel” principle in that the side-to-side turning will enable the front wheels to generate extra friction, which will assist the vehicle’s forward pulling motion. As mentioned earlier, some 4×4 rules do not apply when it comes to mud driving and spinning your wheels can actually serve to assist in cleaning the threads of the tires, thus enabling them to continue gripping.

If your vehicle becomes stuck, try to reverse in the same direction as you entered. Failing this, gently rock the vehicle forward and backward by selecting the appropriate gears. You could place rocks, stones or even branches under the wheels to provide extra traction and attempt to clear the obstacle again. In a worst case scenario, an alternative recovery technique needs to be considered.  Normally a hi-lift jack and space should suffice, but in extreme cases, (providing that another vehicle is available) snatch strap recovery or even winching may be required.

When winching a stuck 4×4 out of mud, ensure it is done in the same direction as it entered the obstacle in the first place.  If your vehicle is equipped with a winch and you are qualified to use it, run the winch cable underneath the vehicle and attach it to the back bumper or tow bar before entering a muddy section of the trail. This would enable you to access the winch cable when required, without having to lie down in the mud looking for it!

It is obviously vital to ensure your 4×4 vehicle is thoroughly cleaned when you get home from a day spent in mud. Mud by its very nature will hold moisture against the metal parts of your vehicle, leading to an increase in rust and corrosion.

Ensure that:

  • All mud is removed underneath the vehicles wheel arches.
  • Rims and drive shafts are thoroughly cleaned. Even a small amount of dried mud will throw out the wheel balance of your vehicle and could cause vibration on your drive shafts.
  • Inspect the drain holes of the vehicle’s doors and clean if required.
  • Check and clean the breather holes of the differential, axles and gearbox.
  • The engine and radiator are thoroughly cleaned. Dried mud will retain heat and lead to premature engine failure or overheating.
  • Ensure the vehicle’s disk brakes are entire free of mud as well.

In summary, do not even attempt to ever tow a trailer through a mud obstacle. In our next installment of the Go-Rig Advanced Driving series we will cover winching techniques and safety procedures.


About the author: Johan de Villiers

After originally trained by the 1994 West German Camel Trophy team, Johan has extensively traversed a number of Central and East African countries, including Tanzania, Zambia, Madagascar, Malawi, Mozambique, Botswana, Namibia, Swaziland, Zimbabwe, Uganda, Rwanda, Kenya and Zanzibar. On his return to corporate life, Johan has continued to enjoy the outdoor lifestyle and has since led numerous expeditions through Southern Africa. In addition to being a qualified Land Rover recovery expert, Johan is a qualified helicopter pilot, high altitude mountaineer and a regular contributor to various 4×4 publications. His personal vehicle is a highly modified Land Rover Defender 110 TD5.