Vehicle Attributes

Getting to know your vehicle is the first step towards being a safe and successful off-road driver. There are various natural attributes of your vehicle which determine the severity of the obstacles you can drive. These include the approach, departure and ramp angles, the ground clearance and the suspension travel.

Approach, departure and ramp angles

These angles (shown in Diagram 1 below) dictate the severity of slopes your vehicle can attempt without damage. The ‘approach’ angle (a) is the angle formed if you draw an imaginary line from the bumper to the bottom of the tyre, and dictates the degree of slope which can be approached without contact with the ground. The ‘ramp’ or ‘ramp over’ (b) angle determines the size of a ramp-like obstacle which can be tackled. The departure angle (c) is the angle at the rear of the car.

Various vehicle accessories can affect the angles – a good example is a tow bar, which tends to protrude into the natural departure angle. If the departure angle becomes less than the approach angle you might find the rear of the car touches the ground when climbing particularly steep inclines. Diagram 2 highlights this issue using an exaggerated pick up truck to illustrate the problem.

Ground clearance

Decent ground clearance is vital if you want to make progress without dragging the body of your car over the ground. Ground clearance is usually determined by measuring to the lowest point on the car which is usually the differentials (if your 4×4 has solid axles). D = the ground clearance .

Suspension travel

Good suspension travel allows all four wheels to remain in contact with the ground for as long as possible – this increases traction and will allow you to progress further before getting stuck.

[box type=”info”]Suspension travel determines the maximum articulation a vehicle can handle[/box]

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05 tacoma longtravel jump


1.) Let someone know where you’re going and when you expect to return.

2.) Check your battery terminals to make sure they are tight and corrosion free. Load test your battery and if it is more than 4 years old, good ideal to replace just to be safe.

3.) Inspect your tire-tread wear and check the lug nuts to make sure they are tight.

4.) Examine the radiator for leaks. Have the radiator “pressure checked” for leaks that are not obvious on a visual inspection. Check coolant level and carry extra with you.

5.) Examine all belts and hoses associated with your cooling system carefully. Make sure there are no cracks or leaks. Replace any you have doubts about, and carry extras

6.) Check all the car’s fluids: oil, coolant, brake fluid, power steering and automatic transmission fluid (if applicable), hydraulic clutch fluid (if applicable).

7.) Change the oil and oil filter – it should be changed every 3,000 miles.

8.) Inspect vehicle for any loose bolts transmission, suspension, and so on.

9.) Carry extra oil, water, antifreeze, ATF and brake fluid with you.

10.) Check that your spare tire, jack and tire tools are in good working condition.

11.) Carry a good first aid kit

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