Driving through muddy terrain: How to get you and your car safely through it

Whether it's flash flooding in summer or the usual winter deluge, Britain's weather means that mud is a real problem for those who have to drive off road. Here are our tips on how to handle it.

Driving through mud can be enormous fun – but it can also be scary. Thankfully there are things that you can do to make the experience safer and more enjoyable, from getting mud tyres to adapting your technique.

Here are some smart tips that will let you trek through the mud without a risk.

Get the right tyres

Only speciality mud tyres are really adequate for dealing with mud. Using all-terrain tyres which are also intended for off-roading won’t provide the same results, and let’s not even mention all-season tyres. So if you know you’ll be using your vehicle regularly for rough mud jobs, get proper mud tyres for it.

The wrong tyres will very quickly lose grip on muddy terrain

Once you’ve got the right tyres the next thing to ensure is that they’re inflated to the proper PSI (pounds per square inch). Why is it important? You need to have the entire weight of your vehicle push tyres through the mud and grip the solid ground underneath. You won’t achieve maximum traction if the pressure in the tyres is too low.

Check what the mud is hiding

Before hitting the mud, check how deep the mud is. Use a stick to sink it into the mud and check the depth through the entire stretch if you can. You’ll probably discover some objects hidden in it – large rocks or pits, for example.

Getting your boots dirty is well worth it for the sake of avoiding potential damage to your vehicle.

Engage 4WD and traction control – but know when to turn them off

If your vehicle doesn’t turn traction control on automatically in bad driving conditions, don’t forget to engage it manually – usually via a button on a dashboard. This will make trekking through the mud easier.

If you get stuck, however, this feature will actually hinder climbing out of the mud, so turn it off. Switching over to 4H from 2H (if you have a vehicle without permanent four-wheel drive) will also help boost traction. In the horrible mud, the 4L position will give you even better gripping power while the wheels will work more slowly.

Use a lower gear

High gears aren’t effective for trekking through mud. Change down to second or third gear to keep a steady pace on a muddy stretch. This will make your engine and wheels work harder. When you are done with it and already on the solid ground, move back into the higher gear again.

Avoid heavy accelerating or braking

Tyres need a consistent medium speed to effectively adjust to the terrain and surmount a slippery section of ground. If you slam on the accelerator, tyres will lose traction – when you need to accelerate, do it very gently. Don’t be hard on brakes as well; otherwise, tyres will skid.

Don’t get stuck in a rut

As far as possible, pick a path that is either rut-free part of where ruts aren’t deep – checking the mud beforehand will help with this. The deeper the rut, the higher your chances of getting stuck or – if the rut is deeper than your vehicle’s ground clearance – even of grounding. If that happens, you won’t get out of there without the help of a rescue team. Knowing your ground clearance is an essential part of knowing what your vehicle can handle.