How To: Mud Driving Part 1

ByDean MellorJuly 24, 2020
How To: Mud Driving Part 1

How to: Mud Driving, Part 1 – Do you really need to do it?

When it comes to mud driving, some blokes (and some sheilas) just can’t help themselves. After all, who doesn’t like jumping in muddy puddles? Especially, it seems, four-wheel drivers with old HiLuxes and Navaras, often with partially obscured ‘P’ plates.

Now I don’t want to put damper on anyone’s idea of a good time but really, unless there’s no alternative, there are plenty of reasons why you should try to avoid driving through mud. So, in Part 1 of Unsealed 4X4’s series on mud driving, we’ll look at why you shouldn’t do it at all, if at all possible. But don’t worry, we’ll also get to the fun bit later on in the series, so stay tuned for Part 2 and beyond. In the meantime…

Avoid it if you can

What’s the first rule of mud driving? Don’t do it… at least if there’s an alternative.

Why? First up, you could get stuck, just like this bloke did in Western Australia recently. And if you get stuck in mud it can sometimes take a Herculean effort to get out, even if you have all the recovery gear in the world and several other vehicles to help you. And if you’re on your own, and in a remote area, it could be game-over, for you and your rig.

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Mud is bad, okay…

Mud is not at all good for your four-wheel drive, working its way into places where it’s impossible to thoroughly clean out and leaving behind abrasive sediments that can wreak havoc on mechanical components and make your shiny rig look scratched, dull and crappy.

Mud can work its way past oil seals and damage CV joints, wheel bearings and even clutches, and it can get in between your vehicle’s tyres and its wheel rims leading to deflation. It can also build up on the inside of the wheel rims throwing the balance out.

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Due to its abrasive nature, mud can also damage your vehicle’s paintwork, so you should wash it off as soon as possible. If you’re on a long trip and washing your rig isn’t possible, at least avoid leaning up against it because it’ll end up covered in crazes and scratches.

Of course, mud can cause damage on the inside of your vehicle too. First of all, it’ll make a mess of your seat fabric and carpet, and it can take a hell of a lot of effort to clean it off. Secondly, just like the paintwork on the outside, mud can scratch plastics and trim, especially glossy components such as piano-black surfaces or faux woodgrain found on the consoles of many modern 4x4s, or the plastic screen over your instrument binnacle, or the plastics in the cargo area that might have luggage or other gear rubbing against them.

Oh, and some mud can stink! Especially stagnant mud that has been sitting in the middle of a bush track for some time. I recall a mate who, when testing a new Range Rover back in the late-90s, dropped into a deep mudhole and before he made it out the other side the rotten stench of the mud had permeated the surrounding bush and, of course, the vehicle. I reckon he spent a solid day cleaning that Rangie before he took it back to Land Rover HQ… still smelling like someone had left a dead rat under the console.

Long-term damage

I was under my Defender the other day (yes, it’s a regular event) fitting some new rear shock mounts and I spotted a build-up of mud in behind the rear cross member. As I started to dig it out, I noticed some of the cross member coming away with it and, before I knew it, there was a neat little hole. Nothing major, mind you, but it’ll need cutting out and a small plate will have to be welded in there.

The problem with mud is it retains moisture for a long time in out of the way places under your vehicle and, depending where the mud is from, it can contain all sorts of minerals and salts that can promote corrosion of the vehicle chassis or body. The best way to avoid this problem is to avoid driving in mud.

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Track damage

If you’re out on a fire trail or an outback road and you happen across a muddy section, driving through it is most likely going to cause track/road damage. If you bugger up a fire trail you’re going to make it bloody hard for the RFS to get in there (and get out) when they really have to, and chances are the track will eventually be locked up so no one gets to use it. If you bugger up an outback road by driving it when it’s closed due to wet weather then you’re not a very considerate four-wheel driver and, if you get caught, you’ll likely be issued with a hefty fine. Always check track/road conditions with the local authorities and if a sign says “track/road closed” due to muddy conditions, then don’t drive on it.

No choice? Let the fun begin…

Of course, there are going to be times when you have no alternative but to drive through mud, and sometimes for days on end. When this is the case you’ll need to make sure your vehicle is properly prepped for the muddy times ahead, and that you’re armed with the best techniques for driving through it, you know what to do if you get stuck, and you know how to get all the mud out of your vehicle at the end of a trip.

Stay tuned for Part 2…