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4WD Smart

Ontario's spectacularly vast and varied landscape is a goldmine of off-road opportunities! Whether you’re heading out for a few hours of fun or a lengthy backcountry expedition, ensure that you’re properly prepared and outfitted to make any adventure safe and fun.

4WD Smart Tips

  • When on the trail, always have your vehicle in 4WD (Hi or Lo). Although not always necessary, it impacts less on the environment.
  • Avoid sudden actions, maintain control over the vehicle at all times.
  • Keep your thumbs out from inside the steering wheel. If the steering wheel should turn suddenly (from contacting an obstacle), the spokes could break your thumbs.
  • Never stand downhill of a vehicle and always stand well back of any vehicle in motion.
  • Do not trust the “Park” setting (automatic) or leaving a vehicle in gear (manual) to hold your vehicle on a hill. Always use your parking brake along with either of the above if you must leave your vehicle on a grade unattended. Try to find a natural chock (i.e. a rock or log) if possible.

4WD Smart Etiquette

  • Be courteous to all other trail user groups you may encounter on the trail. These individuals have just as much “right” to be on the trails as you do. Pull over and let them pass, be friendly and wave.
  • Maintain reasonable speeds on the trails at all times. There are often many blind corners and narrow passages on trails, proceed with caution through these sections as you may encounter other users.
  • Ensure that everything you brought out on the trail returns with you. Secure items and be proactive in removing litter left by other users.
  • Stay on the trail. Do not, under any circumstances, deviate from the trail or construct new trails, this is illegal.
  • Do not cut down any standing trees on or off the trail. You may only remove deadfall that blocks your path on an existing trail; if you cannot pass without deviating from the trail, turn back.
  • Always attempt to avoid areas which are environmentally sensitive (river crossings, marsh lands, etc.). Choose trails that are elevated and rock-based during wet seasons.
  • Respect “multi-use” trails. Consider the other uses which may occur on trails and avoid damaging bridges or other trail features required by other users.
  • Stay off private land and obey “No Trespassing” and other signs that may appear on the trail.
  • Do not abuse alcohol or other substances when on the trail. Many of the same laws and penalties regarding drinking under the influence apply whether you are on or off-road. Being in possession of open alcohol on public land (aside from a campsite) constitutes a fine.
  • Promote “Organized” 4-wheeling to others. Encourage 4WD enthusiasts you meet to become involved in a 4WD club. The more people who become educated as to appropriate use of a 4WD vehicle, the better the chance to eliminate the negative stereotypes surrounding the sport. 



  • Do not travel across a hill, always drive as straight up or down the grade as possible.
  • Use low gear (called engine braking) when traveling down hills and avoid sudden heavy braking.
  • Attempt a controlled “crawl” of each hill before attempting it with momentum.
  • If the vehicle begins to slide sideways while traveling up hill, stop and re-evaluate the situation. Call and wait for a guide to assist you.

Water Crossings:

  • Avoid water crossings if at all possible.
  • When crossing water, maintain forward progress creating a “bow wake” in front of your vehicle. This creates an air pocket in the engine bay.
  • Motion should be steady and continuous.
  • Water that is hub depth is safe, avoid water which is more than bumper depth.
  • If you find yourself in unexpectedly deep water and your vehicle stalls DO NOT ATTEMPT TO RESTART. Contact your trail leader for assistance.
  • Brakes will not function to their full capacity after crossing deep water. Temporarily depress them after exiting the water to restore performance.


  • Use low gear to traverse muddy sections of trail.
  • Use just enough throttle to maintain forward momentum. Too much throttle digs you deeper and decreases traction.
  • Turn your wheels rapidly from side-to-side if you feel yourself loosing traction. This allows the side lugs of your tire to grab the edges of ruts and increase traction.
  • When traversing ruts try to avoid falling into the ruts, attempt to straddle them. Beware of falling into deep ruts which could result in a rollover.

Ditches & Steep Ascents/Descents:

  • Be aware of the approach and departure angles of your vehicle. Avoid grounding your bumper or dragging the rear of your vehicle in ditches.
  • If the ditch is not too deep, cross it at a 45-degree angle, entering and exiting one wheel at a time.
  • Go slowly and with control using low gear.


  • Avoid attempting obstacles (large rocks, fallen trees) head-on. Cross them on an angle with control and in low gear. Most obstacles can be completed by “crawling” them.
  • Never straddle an obstacle, drive your tires over them to avoid being "high centered" (stuck).
  • Know where the low points are on your vehicle and be aware of their location when negotiating obstacles (usually differential pods).
  • Use a spotter if you are unsure how to proceed through an obstacle or get out and check the situation yourself, if it is safe to do so.

Traveling in a Pack:

  • Leave lots of space between vehicles.
  • When approaching an obstacle, ensure that there is sufficient space beyond before continuing.
  • Keep the vehicle behind you in view; never leave anyone behind.
  • Never go 4-wheeling alone.


  • Use simple hand gestures rather than words (spotters left is not drivers left).
  • Allow only one spotter, more than one signal can confuse the driver.
  • Stand well back of the vehicle and in clear view of the driver.