Deadly Mistakes: Spinning Tires

spinning wheels Hitting the gas causes the wheels to spin. Without traction, you can drift or slide into the ravine.
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Getting stuck is a common occurrence among four wheelers. After all, we intentionally drive in difficult areas. Every situation is different, but one common trait I see is the inappropriate use of power to get through. It seems logical enough: I’m stuck or losing momentum; why not just hit the gas? In reality, you want to throttle back or back out in most situations.

Hitting the gas (throttle) often just causes the wheels to spin. Without traction, you begin to drift or slide. Because the ground is never level, you’ll slide in whatever direction is off camber. You could slide into a pile of rocks or worse—go off the edge of a cliff.

You could go from being merely stuck to a life-threatening situation.

It’s easy to lose traction while going uphill. As they near the top, some drivers goose the engine to propel themselves over. More often than not, the wheels start spinning and the vehicle stops. In some cases the front end jumps up and down. This can cause serious damage. When the wheels touch the ground and--therefore, stop suddenly--it sends a shockwave through the drive train. Drive shafts get twisted. The strap that holds the drive shaft to the pinion gets torn off. Axles, lockers, and free-wheeling hubs can break.

In a situation like this, it’s better to back down and rethink your strategy.

Another possibility is that the driver is able to maintain traction as he nears the top. Along the way, the vehicle picks up momentum. At the top of the hill, an automatic transmission may want to gear down. Doing so causes a sudden transfer of power to the wheels resulting in the wheels breaking free and spinning. It’s actually better to ease up on the throttle to gain traction and try "walking" the front wheels before you lose all forward momentum.

It sounds counterintuitive, but it’s true: Traction improves at slower speeds. Some situations require you to crawl along at idle speed. Throw the vehicle in Low or first gear, and let it creep by itself. I have been able to make progress up a slope with a thin covering of snow using this method. (You may need to air down, as well.)

Spinning wheels also dig holes in the ground, making it difficult for you (or anyone else) to proceed. This is especially true going uphill. As you’re sitting there spinning your wheels, you’re creating divots in the dirt.

As you back up and try again, your wheels hit those divots, and you lose traction and momentum.

The other thing I see is frequently is the process of turning a small step into a large step. When the front wheels make it up but the back wheels don’t, the application of power most often results in just spinning the wheels. That spinning moves material away from the step digging it deeper and deeper. The obstacle becomes significantly changed making it harder for everyone.

To review, spinning wheels can cause you to:
  1. Drift into a bad situation.
  2. Damage the drive train or other parts.
  3. Modify the trail so it’s more difficult for others to use.

Unhappily, every once in a while it works - a driver is able to get out of the jam (or over the hill) with power, dust flying and tires spinning. That, unfortunately, just reinforces a bad technique. Four wheeling is all about implementing the correct techniques at the proper time. Train yourself to ease up on the accelerator the second you feel your wheels spinning. You’ll regain control of your vehicle, allowing you to “walk” out of a tough situation.


Related Articles from Badlands Off-road Adventures

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Upcoming Events

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Mojave Lower Desert, CA
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We have two big events coming up during July and August - The Wine Safari and the Rubicon Trail. It is time to register for both events. The Wine Safari is only a few weekends away and you need to start planning for the Rubicon Trail (see below).

Summary of upcoming events.


Rocks Clinic June 20


The Class will be in Johnson Valley. This is an introduction to Rock crawling but it is not on "baby" rocks. We take our time and stress careful wheel placement. We use spotters for difficult sections. You learn by inspecting the obstacle and predicting the line; by watching others try their line; by experiencing it yourself; and by the coaching. We recommend you repeat the training several times. You will be much more relaxed the second time over the same obstacles and you will pick up on little details missed the first time. More Details...

You can register directly at http://www.4x4training.com/calendar/calendar.php#Rocks


Wine Safari July 25

Wine Safari

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Our Wine Master will have a whole new bunch of bottles and some old favorites to taste. Make it a get-away weekend. Camp with us or stay in a local motel.

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Rubicon Trail Adventure August 10- 13, 2015

The Rubicon Trail

The Rubicon Trail is the stuff of legends. It is considered the Grand Daddy of trails. If your vehicle has a weakness, it will find it. Any serious four-wheeler needs to "Do the 'Con" at least once. There is no guarantee of avoiding vehicle damage. Even the most skilled driver can succumb to the fatigue of 12 unrelenting miles of rocks. Just bring a good attitude and the best prepared vehicle you can. This could be a once in a lifetime trip but a lifelong of bragging rights. More Details

You need to register now so you have time to prepare. Register directly at http://4x4training.com/calendar/calendar.php#Rubicon

Winch Recovery Bandana & Winching DVD

Winching Recover Bandana
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We have our new stock with many new colors (Red, Orange, Green, and Blue) on hand. The Bandana is packed full of useful information and is a quick reference in the field when no DVD player is available."

The Bandana layout follows the “Vehicle Recovery Plan” with pathways to more detail. A unique section of the Bandana, gives the steps for a “Winch Rigging Check: Walk through” so that you verify every element of the rigging before you commit to the pull. Stuff this in your recovery kit and you will always be ready!

Pick up or order the Winching DVD too! There is no substitute for hands on training. If you can, sign up for one of Badlands Off-Road Adventure’s Winching Clinics.

Warning – the Bandana and DVD are not a substitute for proper training and use of quality equipment that is used within the bounds of their safe working load. We advise you to use the information provided in both the Winching Recovery Bandana and the "Basic to Advanced Winching and Recovery DVD" at your own risk. We cannot control the quality and specifications of the equipment used and the methods actually employed.

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Order a Basic to Advanced Winching & Recovery DVD too!

Winch DVD
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I hope to see you on the trails!
Tom Severin, President
Badlands Off Road Adventures, Inc.
4-Wheel Drive School
Make it Fun. Keep it Safe.

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