Thursday August 8 2013

How you can safely drive on muddy roads

By Darius Mugisha

Critics have continued to preach about how our cities have been poorly planned! It’s a rainy day and some places are known to flood while in other areas going by our poor road works, you are not sure where there is a pot hole, a trench or a pavement. Many people stay out of town because the roads are simply impassable when it rains. But we all cannot do that. It’s another working day and you have to make your way to the office. Here are a few steps here to help you through the mess and get to work just in time.

What to do when stuck
According to, the first way of avoiding skidding on a muddy road is by driving slowly and carefully, especially on curves! Steer and brake with a light touch before entering the curves. Paul Zziwa, a professional mechanic notes that cars get stuck because the road is really bad or just because earlier road users drove through badly and made the road way too slippery. “Some drivers are just aggressive; they want to drive through the mud in high gears and with great force; their cars dig deeper and the more cars, the more slippery the road becomes,” Zziwa says. But Zziwa advises that when driving through a muddy road, one should remain calm, ease their foot off the accelerator, and carefully steer in the direction they want the front of the car to go.

Zziwa also cautions drivers to drive their tyres on the high areas of the road, not through potholes or channels as they are wetter and therefore more slippery.

“When you start to slide, turn your wheels into the direction of the slide and start pumping the brakes slowly; if you can’t stop and are heading off the road, turn the car as gently as possible away from the edge without accelerating,” Zziwa warns that sudden turns can turn the car over!

Manual and automatic cars
The mechanic advises that one should try a lower gear if in a manual car. “Do not engage number one. It’s too strong and the car will dig deeper; balance between gear two and three and this should be done very smoothly; the main point here is; avoid over accelerating in all muddy conditions,” he says. He adds that controlling automatic cars is harder.

“One doesn’t have control over the gears. But when driving through a muddy surface, one should use the gears below the (D) drive position; cars differ, but in most cases the gears below the D are the strongest gears in an automatic car. Use these gears with a light touch on the accelerator.”

For cars with a four-wheel drive mode, he advises that it is vital to engage the car in that mode before it gets onto any slippery surface. “The car uses all its tyres with equal strength in four-wheel drive mode. But if engaged after getting stuck, the car might dig deeper because of the strength that comes with the mode,” he says. He adds that in cases where one realises that it is too slippery or one is going downhill, they should actually take their foot off the accelerator. If one is driving uphill, over accelerating, only makes your tyres spin faster. Zziwa also warns against over-braking, “pump it slowly. Zziwa says that the first step when completely stuck in the mud is to park; then calm down and get out of the car to survey the state of the ground as you plan on the easiest way out.

“Get some stones, small logs and place them directly under the tyres with more focus on the rear tyres especially if your car is not a four wheel drive. “Get back in the car, go forward very slowly; if your tyres start to spin, try to reverse interchangeably; ricking the car back and forth until your tyres hopefully grab. In case they don’t grab, you might have to try more logs and stones.”

Zziwa advises that lowering tyre pressure helps sometimes, but he discourages it because it might lead to damage of the tyre if not done by a person who knows enough about tyres! “But it is very important to have a phone and a breakdown contact; they are very helpful during a rainy season,” he says. Lastly, make sure you park on a surface that you will penetrate if the ground has been soaked with water.