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Land Rover Off-Road Driving


Want to unleash the incredible potential of your Land Rover? Then arm yourself with these off road tips and pull off the well-trodden tarmac…  

Know your vehicle inside-out   

  • Before you venture off road, equip yourself with a good mental picture of the underside of your vehicle. 
  • Know where fragile parts are, such as the fuel tank, engine sump, differentials, and gearbox – you’ll be less likely to snag them on rocks, tree stumps and other obstacles if you can see them in your mind’s eye.  
  • Remember your roof rack if you’re driving under low hanging trees. 
  • Understand your on-board technology and all its features. You’ll find everything you need to know in your manual.  

Off road like the experts

  • As long as it’s safe to do so, road-test the surface by walking on it first.
  • Heading up hill? Check you know what’s over the other side. 
  • Walk your water obstacle wearing wellington boots. Carry a stick for checking silt and underwater hollows. (Better wet feet than a stuck vehicle.)
  • Don’t hook your thumbs inside the steering wheel. Kickback from rough terrain can sprain or even break them. 

The Golden Rules for off road driving 

  • Drive as slowly as possible and as fast as necessary.
  • Know your vehicle’s dimensions – height, weight, width, length, approach and departure angle, ramp angle, and ground clearance.
  • Know the international hand signals for marshalling.
  • Avoid gear changes while negotiating difficult terrain. 
  • Always read the ground as far ahead as you can. If it is safe to do so, walk the ground before you drive.
  • Use great care when driving on loose or wet surfaces due to the reduced level of grip.
  • Be prepared to admit defeat. Back off and try again, or try an alternative route.
  • Avoid excessive wheel spin at all times but especially on soft ground where the vehicle can easily lose momentum and even cause environmental damage.
  • Use a gentle right throttle foot.
  • Always keep both hands on the wheel, even when reversing.
  • Always tell someone where you’re going, what route you plan to follow, and when you expect to return. 

Essential kit for off roading 

The essential kit for serious off roading

Up for adventure? Get the basics covered first. Know your vehicle inside out and pack your Land Rover with these essentials:

Check list: 

  • Tow rope
  • Shovel 
  • 2-way radio 
  • Suitable, climate-appropriate clothing
  • Correct footwear 
  • GPS navigation and maps 
  • Food and water
  • Extra fuel 

Driving technique 

The basics 

Drive rough terrain smoothly.

Apply the throttle gently, release it slowly. This avoids tyre spin on speed changes. 

Keep steering precise and braking to a minimum.

The driver always controls the vehicle. Never the other way round. 

Overcoming obstacles

Test the ground you want to drive by walking on it first.

Take ridges head on.

Approach logs, rocky steps or ditches diagonally. You want three wheels on the ground at all times.

Check tyres are fully inflated.

Straddling deep ruts keeps your vehicle level and environmental impact to a minimum.

Returning to the road

  • Disengage diff-lock, if applied.
  • Stop and check for any minor damage.
  • Check for cuts in tyres including inside the walls.
  • Check for body damage that will rub against tyres.
  • Check for debris lodged in the underside of the vehicle and in the tyres.
  • Check that lights, windows, and mirrors are clear.
  • Check that number plates can still be read. 
  • Check that all equipment is secure.

Steering a deeply rutted track

Take special care driving along deeply rutted tracks, particularly if ruts are cut into slippery ground. You may not realise your wheels aren’t pointed straight ahead until your vehicle recovers grip and veers to one side. (The Range Rover, Range Rover Sport and Discovery 4 have a wheel direction indicator to help in situations like this.)

Unless you’re driving downhill, relaxing your grip on the steering wheel can help avoid wheel lock on a rutted track. A frictional grip with your palms can allow the sheets to regain their straight-ahead position. 

Selecting the best gear

Rocky ground. Low range 1st gear.
Soft ground. Low range 2nd or 3rd gear.
Ice and snow. Highest gear possible for conditions.
Climbing slopes. Climb in highest practical gear.
Descending slopes. Low range 1st gear.
Wading. Low range 2nd gear.
Sandy tracks. Try 3rd, 4th or 5th in low range.

Driving in mud and sand

The Range Rover, Discovery 4, and Range Rover Sport have a unique Terrain Response® system that can be set for different driving conditions: rock crawl, mud and ruts, sand, grass/gravel/snow or road.

Terrain Response® is a ground-breaking feature that should be used in conjunction with proactive driving techniques. Here are some additional tips for off road driving in mud and sand.

The basics: 

  • Deep mud or sand needs a steady momentum to carry you through.
  • In mud, too low a gear causes wheel spin.
  • But in sand, the lower gear the better.
  • Sand is firmest at dawn.
  • Your tyres can cut through mud to find traction on firmer ground below.
  • If muddy conditions force you to drive in ruts, know where your front wheels are pointing.
  • Caught in a sandstorm? Turn the rear of your vehicle to face the wind, and turn the engine off.
  • Follow the tyre and vehicle manufacturer’s advice on tyre pressure.
  • Low pressure works best for soft and or stony sand.
  • If your wheels spin, ease off the throttle. Slow the tyres to regain traction.

Remember: Before setting out on your adventure, always make sure you and your passengers are wearing climate-suitable clothing.

Sand: The fine detail 

  • The geology of desert. Sand covers only about 20 per cent of the Earth’s deserts. Most of the sand is in sand sheets and sand seas – vast regions of undulating dunes like ocean waves ‘frozen’ in an instant of time.
  • Beaches. Usually firm enough to take a vehicle between high tide mark and four metres from the sea. Beware of incoming tide.
  • Damp sand. Damp desert sand after rain can be easier to drive on. Often, flowers blooming overnight will help bind sand together.
  • Firm sand. Stretches of desert where you can travel in relatively high range.
  • Dry sand. A surface crust that's stronger in the cool of the morning.
  • Wet sand. Keep off. It can contain areas of 'floating' sand or quicksand.
  • Sand dunes. Avoid climbing over dunes, go round them.


As with mud and sand, Terrain Response® can also be set for driving in the snow. Terrain Response® is a ground-breaking feature that should be used in conjunction with proactive driving techniques. Here are some additional tips for off road driving in snow. 

Before driving in snow: 

There are recommended snow chains for each Land Rover. Check which can be safely fitted to your tyres and vehicle.

Check regularly to make sure your chains are taut.

Practice fitting your snow chains before you actually need them.

Remember: Before setting out on your adventure, always make sure you and your passengers are wearing climate-suitable clothing. 

The basics for driving in snow: 

  • Use steady momentum to carry you through deep snow.
  • Don’t go too low with your gears in snow, it’ll cause wheel spin.
  • Follow the tyre and vehicle manufacturer’s advice on tyre pressure.
  • When the wheels start to spin, ease off the throttle and allow the tyres to slow down and regain traction.
  • Select the highest gear possible for the conditions.


Going up

  • Wherever possible, investigate the area on foot. Always know what’s on the other side of the hill.
  • Engage Hill Descent Control (HDC) if available.
  • Ascend a hill in the highest gear in which the vehicle will ‘pull’ comfortably. If the gear selected
  • Always approach the hill from a straight-ahead position, rather than diagonally, to avoid a roll-
  • Never attempt to turn the vehicle on a steep slope.
  • Be prepared for a failed climb. It happens to the best drivers. Work out an escape route and know where all the obstacles are. 

Coming down 

  • Stop a vehicle length before the descent so that you have time to make any corrections.
  • You can also get out of the vehicle and assess the land ahead.
  • Engage HDC, if available.
  • As a rule of thumb, use 1st gear low range or ‘1’ on the automatic gearbox and use brakes sparingly. 
  • Follow the natural fall line; the route water would take down the slope.
  • Never roll or reverse downhill with the transmission in neutral or the clutch  depressed. 
  • Never turn the vehicle on a steep slope. This could lead to sideways sliding.
  • If you do need to stop on the way down ask yourself one question: is it safe? 

Crossing water

Tips for crossing water 

  • Whenever possible, cross water at a ford. 
  • As long as it is safe to do so, walk the stream before you try it in a vehicle. Use a stick to gauge depth and pinpoint underwater hollows. 
  • Do not cross deep fast-flowing streams. 
  • In deep waves create a small bow wave about one metre in front of the bumper.
  • Do not slip the clutch as this reduces control of the vehicle.
  • Ease off the accelerator as you approach the other side of the water.
  • If there’s a steep slope, take a look at our guide on driving up and down slopes (see Hills). 

How to create the perfect bow wave 

  • Accelerate as you enter the water until a bow wave has formed.
  • Try to keep it about one metre in front of the bumper to keep water away from the fan electronics.
  • Maintain a speed that keeps the bow wave flowing in front of the bumper.
  • Remember, the aim is to create a gentle wave, not a surfing wave!

Land Rover Guide to Towing

Before you attempt to tow a trailer, there are some simple laws of physics and the road you should know. 

A few important points: 

  • Always follow Land Rover’s towing recommendation. 
  • It is illegal to exceed the laden trailer weight recommended by the manufacturer of the tow bar or tow hitch that you are using. 
  • All trailers, including unbraked ones, must be clearly marked with maximum gross weight in kilogrammes. 

Why trailers weave, yaw or snake 

If you’ve driven behind a caravan on a motorway, you’ll have seen weaving, yawing or snaking at close quarters. Many people think that it’s part of towing, but it’s not. 

If you load the trailer correctly, so the front is slightly heavier than the rear, you can virtually eliminate all the usual snags in towing a trailer. 

The three laws of towing physics 

  • When a trailer turns, it will naturally want to rotate about its own centre of gravity (CG).
  • You can reduce the yaw during the swing by setting the CG towards the front of the combined vehicle and trailer.
  • Altering the position of the CG alters the handling characteristics of your trailer.

The physics of successful towing

Properly finding and positioning the centre of gravity (CG) of the trailer is the secret of successful towing.

  • The CG is important in towing because a motor vehicle or trailer naturally wants to turn around its centre of gravity. It acts as a kind of hinge and where this ‘hinge’ is placed has a significant effect on towing. 
  • When towing a trailer, the CG needs to be just in front of the trailer’s wheels, so that the trailer follows perfectly behind it.
  • When the CG is just ahead of the trailer’s wheels (about 10 – 20cm is best), the trailer can be towed securely in a straight line and you will turn corners safely. 
  • If the CG is too far forward, the trailer won’t want to turn and the driver will feel that the car is over steering. 

How to calculate the centre of gravity

You need to know the trailer’s gross weight (use weighbridge), axle to hitch distance (drawbar length), and nose weight (weighbridge).

Then: CG position = (in cm ahead of trailer axle) noseload in kg x drawbar length in cm by trailer gross weight in kg. 

How to load and drive a trailer

Here are a few handy tips for loading and driving with your trailer. 

How to load a trailer 

  • Always check the owner’s manual to discover the towing capacity of your Land Rover vehicle.
  • Ensure that the centre of gravity (CG) is towards the front of the trailer, usually around 10 – 20cm ahead of the axle. You can do this by loading slightly more weight in the front half of the trailer than in the rear.
  • Adjust the rear tow hitch to ensure trailer is level, or slightly down at the front, but never at the rear.
  • Check the maximum gross weight of the trailer – it should be clearly marked.
  • Secure loads to the trailer tie-downs.
  • Load carefully both side to side and front to back. 

How to drive with a trailer 

  • Anticipate stops and brake early.
  • Allow a gap of at least four seconds between your vehicle and the one in front.
  • Allow yourself extra turning and manoeuvring room.
  • On hot days, beware of engine overheating on long climbs.
  • Using a lower gear will keep the engine cooler. 


Here are some tips for handling certain situations. 


Move trailer CG forward, reduce trailer weight, increase trailer and towing vehicle tyre pressures according to manufacturer’s specification, fit a hitch yaw damper, reduce speed. 

Over steer cornering 

Move trailer CG further towards the rear of the vehicle. 

Tucks in when cornering 

Increase towing vehicle rear tyre pressures, reduce trailer weight. 

Trailers and braking 

Land Rover’s Trailer Stability Assist (TSA)

Our new system helps make towing safer by detecting trailer oscillations and then using selective braking to help correct a potentially hazardous situation. 

TSA is a ground-breaking safety feature that should be used in conjunction with proactive driving techniques. Here are some additional tips for braking while you drive: 

Checking brakes 

Whatever trailer type you have on tow, it’s important to check overall braking action as soon as possible. Ensure you do so when it is safe and with due consideration to other road users. Even light unbraked trailers may affect the overall braking action. Testing coupled brakes is also necessary as the trailer may not be proportionally braked and this can result in forces acting on the tow vehicle during braking. 

Excessive braking 

Avoid harsh braking as this can produce download on the vehicle-towing hitch and in wet or slippery conditions can lead to front-wheel lock-up. Although ABS can help prevent this, moderate braking is always preferable. If your vehicle is not fitted with ABS, we suggest cadence braking (feathering the brake pedal with your foot). 

Safer braking in braked trailers 

Braked trailers are inherently more stable than their unbraked counterparts. However, braking can accentuate even a minor instability. 

To ensure safe braking in a braked trailer, make sure you: 

  • Always brake in a straight line for maximum safety and control.
  • Leave a reasonable distance between your vehicle and the one in front.
  • Consider the load you’re towing and drive accordingly. 


Here are some key points to consider in regard to hitches: 

  • The standard 50mm ball hitch is suitable for on-road towing of a trailer with a gross weight up to 3,500kg. 
  • Trailers with a gross weight above 3,500kg should have a ring hitch and close-coupled brakes – a special vehicle modification.
  • Allow extra room for braking and use cadence braking if you do not have ABS. 


Tips for the gentle art of reversing 

  • Start reversing with vehicle and trailer in the same straight line.
  • Slowly reverse the trailer, turning the vehicle in the opposite direction to the one in which you wish the trailer to turn.
  • As the rear of your vehicle turns away from the direction you want the trailer to travel, the rear of the trailer will turn in the direction you wanted.
  • Do not, however, continue too far or the vehicles will jack-knife.
  • Once the trailer is moving in the right direction, reverse the steering on the vehicle and follow the trailer into the turn and finally straighten it up when you reach the correct direction.
  • Note that generally, frames that are long compared to the wheelbase of the towing vehicle are easier to reverse than those that are short.
  • Comprising of 5 cameras located around the vehicle, the Surround Camera System provides a near 360 degree view of the world outside. The cameras are mounted in the front bumper (x2), the underside of the door mirrors (x2) and tailgate lift handle (x1) and the images from each are viewed through the infotainment screen in the vehicle’s cabin. 
  • Utilising the camera system, Tow Assist is an innovative new function that predicts the direction of a trailer when reversing. Guidelines can be set to the trailer width and when reversing these are displayed on the screen to show trailer trajectory.
  • Additionally the Tow Hitch Assist function helps the driver to precisely couple the tow bar with a tow hitch. A coloured dot graphic is displayed on the screen representing the tow ball together with a guide line showing the predicted reversing path of the vehicle towards the trailer tow hitch. 


Tips for the safety lighting on your trailer 

  • Before setting off, make sure the lighting equipment on your trailer is fitted, working correctly and meets the latest lighting regulations.
  • At the very least, you should have two good tail and stop lamps, direction indicators, number plate illumination, and two triangular, red rear reflectors.
  • Make sure your trailer has at least one red, rear fog lamp (something you may need to add if your trailer was manufactured after 31 March 1980). 


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