Successful and safe off-roading is all about problem solving and using the right technique to get over or through.
While some obstacles such as climbing low hills or crossing shallow streams can be pretty easy and straightforward, others like crossing ditches definitely take a little thought.
Though it might not be possible to cross every ditch in your truck or Jeep, knowing the right way to do it can get you through most of them so be sure to watch for all 3 articles in this important off-road techniques!
Inspect Before Crossing
Never drive into something without knowing what’s on the other side or in this case, what’s at the bottom.
Get out and take a look to gauge depth, ground stability, and angles to figure out whether your truck or Jeep can make it.
Consider ground clearance and ascent and descent angles to avoid getting hung up and needing someone to winch you out.
Know The Approach
The most important thing to know about crossing ditches in a 4x4 is don't do it head-on.
Ditch crossing should always be done at a 45-degree angle to the ditch to keep from getting stuck once the bumper reaches the bottom.
Crossing this way, it is possible to use three of the four wheels at any given moment while lessening the chance of scraping the front or rear end of your truck or Jeep from dipping into the ditch.
Set Up Correctly
As with so many other off-road obstacles, traction and low speed are everything.
Put the 4x4 in low range and 1st gear and if you have a locking differential, lock it.
If there is wheel spin in 1st gear, put it in 2nd gear and if you have an automatic, put it in D2 to start out in 1st and the transmission shifts into 2nd when required.
Lastly, lift the truck's suspension to its maximum height if an air suspension as that will increase ground clearance and give you better ascent and descent angles.
Take It Slowly
Slow and steady wins when negotiating off-road obstacles of any kind.
Drive forward slowly, moving only fast enough to avoid stalling.
Creeping into the ditch and up the other side requires careful movement to avoid damaging the underside of your truck or Jeep.
Moving along slowly also provides more control should there be a substantial weight shift as you descend into and rise out of the ditch.
Move One Wheel At A Time
The goal of crossing ditches at an angle is to let the first wheel start moving down the angle while the other three wheels are still on level ground.
Doing it this way avoids heading nose-first into something that might result in dragging the front end of your truck or Jeep.
The bumper remains clear on the upper end, making it easier to descend then vice-versa going back up the other side at the same 45-degree angle.
It’s essential to pay close attention to balance since going up and down inclines at an angle can make a rollover of your off-road truck possible.
This is another reason why it’s so critical to take it slowly to prevent a quick redistribution of weight that could potentially cause a rollover.
Cross Ditches Carefully With Good Planning and Technique
Ditches may seem like something worth avoiding on the trail; however, they are also a great natural obstacle to challenge your skills.
As with other off-road obstacles, the trick is in knowing the technique, then picking a good line and doing it.
Start with smaller ditches to understand the dynamics of doing it at a 45-degree angle and keeping things under control, then move up to bigger, steeper, and deeper ditches as you get more comfortable in your off-road truck.
With a little practice and some confidence, ditch driving will be one more thing to check off your list of off-road challenges to learn and enjoy!