Driving Across an Incline

Sooner or later, an off-road trail will probably go across the incline of a hill. If this happens, you have to decide whether to try to drive across the incline. Here are some things to consider:

• A hill that can be driven straight up or down may be too steep to drive across. When you go straight up or down a hill, the length of the wheel base—the distance from the front wheels to the rear wheels—reduces the likelihood the vehicle will tumble end over end.

But when you drive across an incline, the much more narrow track width—the distance between the left and right wheels—may not prevent the vehicle from tilting and rolling over.

Also, driving across an incline puts more weight on the downhill wheels. This could cause a downhill slide or a rollover.
• Surface conditions can be a problem when you drive across a hill. Loose gravel, muddy spots, or even wet grass can cause your tires to slip sideways, downhill. If the vehicle slips sideways, it can hit something that will trip it—a rock, a rut, etc.—and roll over.
• Hidden obstacles can make the steepness of the incline even worse. If you drive across a rock with the uphill wheels, or if the downhill wheels drop into a rut or depression, your vehicle can tilt even more.

For reasons like these, you need to decide carefully whether to try to drive across an incline.

Just because the trail goes across the incline does not mean you have to drive it. The last vehicle to try it might have rolled over.

CAUTION:
Driving across an incline that is too steep will make your vehicle roll over. You could be seriously injured or killed. If you have any doubt about the steepness of the incline, do not drive across it. Find another route instead.

Q: What if I am driving across an incline that is not too steep, but I hit some loose gravel and start to slide downhill. What should I do?

A: If you feel your vehicle starting to slide sideways, turn downhill. This should help straighten out the vehicle and prevent the side slipping. However, a much better way to prevent this is to get out and “walk the course” so you know what the surface is like before you drive it.

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