Dodge Nitro: Off-road driving tips - Starting and operating - Dodge Nitro Owner's ManualDodge Nitro: Off-road driving tips

When To Use 4L or 4LO (Low) Range

When off-road driving, shift to 4L or 4LO for additional traction and control on slippery or difficult terrain, ascending or descending steep hills, and to increase low-speed pulling power. This range should be limited to extreme situations such as deep snow, mud, or sand where additional low speed pulling power is needed. Vehicle speeds in excess of 25 mph (40 km/h) should be avoided when in 4L or 4LO range.

Driving Through Water

Although your vehicle is capable of driving through water, there are a number of precautions that must be considered before entering the water:

CAUTION: When driving through water, do not exceed 5 mph (8 km/h). Always check water depth before entering as a precaution, and check all fluids afterward. Driving through water may cause damage that may not be covered by the new vehicle limited warranty.

Driving through water more than a few inches/ centimeters deep will require extra caution to ensure safety and prevent damage to your vehicle. If you must drive through water, try to determine the depth and the bottom condition (and location of any obstacles) prior to entering. Proceed with caution and maintain a steady controlled speed less than 5 mph (8 km/h) in deep water to minimize wave effects.

Flowing Water

If the water is swift flowing and rising (as in storm run-off) avoid crossing until the water level recedes and/or the flow rate is reduced. If you must cross flowing water, avoid depths in excess of 9 in (23 cm). The flowing water can erode the streambed causing your vehicle to sink into deeper water. Determine exit point(s) that are downstream of your entry point to allow for drifting.

Standing Water

Avoid driving in standing water deeper than 20 in (50 cm) and reduce speed appropriately to minimize wave effects. Maximum speed in 20 in (50 cm) of water is less than 5 mph (8 km/h).

Maintenance

After driving through deep water, inspect your vehicle fluids and lubricants (engine, transmission, axle, transfer case) to assure they have not been contaminated. Contaminated fluids and lubricants (milky, foamy in appearance) should be flushed/changed as soon as possible to prevent component damage.

Driving In Snow, Mud and Sand

In heavy snow, when pulling a load, or for additional control at slower speeds, shift the transmission to a low gear and shift the transfer case to 4L or 4LO if necessary. Refer to “Four-Wheel Drive Operation” in “Starting and Operating” for further information. Do not shift to a lower gear than necessary to maintain headway. Overrevving the engine can spin the wheels and traction will be lost. Avoid abrupt downshifts on icy or slippery roads, because engine braking may cause skidding and loss of control.

Hill Climbing

NOTE: Before attempting to climb a hill, determine the conditions at the crest and/or on the other side. Before climbing a steep hill, shift the transmission to a lower gear and shift the transfer case to 4L or 4LO. Use first gear and 4L or 4LO for very steep hills. If you stall or begin to lose headway while climbing a steep hill, allow your vehicle to come to a stop and immediately apply the brakes. Restart the engine and shift to REVERSE. Back slowly down the hill allowing the compression braking of the engine to help regulate your speed. If the brakes are required to control vehicle speed, apply them lightly and avoid locking or skidding the tires.

WARNING: If the engine stalls or you lose headway or cannot make it to the top of a steep hill or grade, never attempt to turn around. To do so may result in tipping and rolling the vehicle. Always back straight down a hill in REVERSE gear carefully. Never back down a hill in NEUTRAL using only the brake.

Remember, never drive diagonally across a hill; always drive straight up or down. If the wheels start to slip as you approach the crest of a hill, ease off the accelerator and maintain headway by turning the front wheels slowly left and right. This may provide a fresh “bite” into the surface and will usually provide traction to complete the climb.

Traction Downhill

Shift the transmission into a low gear and the transfer case to 4L or 4LO range. Let the vehicle go slowly down the hill with all four wheels turning against engine compression drag. This will permit you to control the vehicle speed and direction. When descending mountains or hills, repeated braking can cause brake fade with loss of braking control. Avoid repeated heavy braking by downshifting the transmission whenever possible.

After Driving Off-Road

Off-road operation puts more stress on your vehicle than does most on-road driving. After going off-road, it is always a good idea to check for damage. That way you can get any problems taken care of right away and have your vehicle ready when you need it.
• Completely inspect the underbody of your vehicle. Check tires, body structure, steering, suspension, and exhaust system for damage.
• Inspect the radiator for mud and debris and clean as required.
• Check threaded fasteners for looseness, particularly on the chassis, drivetrain components, steering, and suspension. Retighten them, if required, and torque to the values specified in the Service Manual.
• Check for accumulations of plants or brush. These things could be a fire hazard. They might hide damage to fuel lines, brake hoses, axle pinion seals, and propeller shafts.
• After extended operation in mud, sand, water, or similar dirty conditions, have the radiator, fan, brake rotors, wheels, brake linings, and axle yokes inspected and cleaned as soon as possible.

WARNING: Abrasive material in any part of the brakes may cause excessive wear or unpredictable braking. You might not have full braking power when you need it to prevent an accident. If you have been operating your vehicle in dirty conditions, get your brakes checked and cleaned as necessary.


• If you experience unusual vibration after driving in mud, slush or similar conditions, check the wheels for impacted material. Impacted material can cause a wheel imbalance and freeing the wheels of it will correct the situation.

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