HOWTO : River crossings, and tough off road terrain in non 4x4 vehicles


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Currently, the Manali Leh thread talks about river crossings and similar stuff, and doing that in small cars. Some cars are reported stuck, while others made through with fast driving.
so here is a small howto, based on my "off road" experiences with the indica.

A tough off road track can be a challenge for low GC vehicles, and when you have a river crossing or a nallah crossing, its bad even for high GC vehicles.
On seeing other vehicles, you may be tempted to full throttle and rush through.
In 99% of the cases you will get through, but there is a good chance that a wayward hidden stone can take out the sump. Not a happy thought miles away from civilization.
A few steps to clear it without vehicle damage.
Survey on foot.
Observe other vehicles crossing. See where they bounce, where they spin wheels, and how deep do they go. Its better to take of your shoes and wade in the nallah on foot, feel the surface.
Is it rocky, is it sandy? Are there sharp stones, loose round stones. Are there any big stones?
Pick up the bigger stones and throw them out of the way wherever possible

This gives you the track idea.
For example if its sandy crossing, you can use speed. There is little chance of damage for normal sedans.
If its sharp stones, there is a good chance of tires getting ripped out in case of wheel spin
Round stones can result in acting like ball bearings and taking you with the flow of water.

Know your vehicle. Not all cars are same. For example in some cars, you have the power steering belts hanging low on one side. Make sure that part follows the path of least resistance. A slightly bent cross member is cheap to replace, and does not cripple your car, but a broken sump will ground you. You won't be able to even start the car without engine damage.
Know the weakest spot. If possible, put a guard there before your trip. Otherwise, try to keep that part safe.
For example, in the safari, I always plan in a way that the only part which can hit is the foot guard. Center has the low hanging intercooler, which can get damaged easily.

A lot depends on where you are. Is there traffic? If so, always go slow. Even if you get stuck, somebody can pull you out. If you damage your vehicle, you are stuck.

In case of typically stony crossing which you will find in the Himalayas, you can use speed, but you need to mentally plan the route of least resistance.

To do that you need to see atleast 5-6 other vehicles how they cross. Where they go "thunk", where they pitch wildly.

You need to remember this path, and then zoom through, not at breakneck speed, but in first gear with rpm around 3000 for petrols and 2000 for diesels.

If water is deep, make sure its not so high that air filter will draw in water. Also keep revs high if your exhaust will be under water. Here you may need to use some clutch to control speed.
Yes, its half clutching, but for 5 seconds its okay. If you rev in first gear, many cars will go to 20kmph+ which is too fast.

Have you been using your headlights. Well then stop and let them cool down. If ice cold water splashes on the lights, esp in a scenario where fog lamps go under water, they will crack.
My safari has cracked fog lamps from a icy water crossing. I learnt it the hard way. You do not have to damage your lights.
Switch them off, wait for 10 minutes.
If its night time, then after cooling them, splash them with water to make them cold.
Then switch on your lights, and immediately wade through. Switch them off again, and wait.

Normally, main lights are more resistant as compared to fog lamps, which run much hotter due to confined space.

Also another very important thing is know when to back track. When you are in doubt, do not attempt. I did not attempt to cross the river near Agam because I knew it was going to cover the wheels completely. Even with a 4x4, I backed out. No use getting stuck in a river, with a damaged vehicle.

Follow these tips and ride safe.


wonderful guide, specially the cracking of fog light :)

Also just to add, never ever underestimate a small stone, and drive over it. with a push from trye it can become a bullet and can damage sump or any part. So big or small, avoid going over the stone.

One more, when you reach a bad spot with water crossing, and climb, together, like on pin bends, its difficult to understand from which part you should climb. So walk upto the other side, which is the upper side and then assess the situation, you will get a better perspective.

Se how you would have gone down, and take the same route while climbing up
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Also,god forbid,in case you get stuck.
try to switch to 1st and reverse gears,back and forth,rather than revving uselessly in gears.

My Accent got stuck in Muck today,and this trick got me out without any assistance;)


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try to switch to 1st and reverse gears,back and forth,rather than revving uselessly in gears.

My Accent got stuck in Muck today,and this trick got me out without any assistance;)
I had posted this on another thread yesterday:
but I see it belongs here as well!
Dheeraj, there are no great tricks that can be used.
In slush and snow, you will likely lose steerage; not much you can do about it! You might need people outside to help change the car's heading! :eek:

You'll have to maintain some momentum; sad part about 2WD cars. If you feel loss of traction and wheel spin, do not try to rev your way through - you'll only bog yourself down deeper.
Try to get out of the situation in reverse, steer the wheels both ways and try, or use rocking motion back & forth to create some space and try to get out.

Water is different. You need to pull over to a side and watch other vehicles cross.
Fix a clear trajectory that you will follow and go through it without let up! If the water is deep, make sure to keep engine revs high so as to preclude water ingress into the exhaust pipe.
You may have to do a recce on foot to select the best path!

Never do any half clutch manoeuvres anywhere! Surest way to get stranded with a burnt clutch plate!
In all such situations gear change is to be avoided. Choose a low gear before entering and complete the crossing in that gear.


New Member
Tanveer - that was real insightful.

If one reads between the lines, you are also saying something which has nothing to do with the vehicle - patience. A tricky patch can get treacherous just because one might be in a rush and feels that rushing through it is the best bet.

As you advise - it's best to watch a couple of vehicles roll by, choose your line and go through at a steady speed.

Tha's just amazing tanveer thank a ton..i was crying for this on many threads untill Anup sir finally responded on one...but this guide in one place would help alot more than likes of me....thanks alot...