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Mud SmartNotes From The Road

Mud Smart
By Debbie Murphy/

How to Safely and Simply Get Out of a Bog -
Off road maniacs seek it out; we played in it as kids, some may have even eaten it. But on the road, it seems to take on a life of its own as it spreads its maliciousness over asphalt or sits on the side waiting to swallow vehicles in one belch. It's mud.

Smooth Moves
Urbanites may go an entire lifetime without ever facing the challenge of driving through mud. But for the rest of us, the soothing patter of rain at night means we have to face varying degrees of quagmire the next morning. For some of us, the first sign of spring is the dirty, gray snow banks melting away into rivers of mud. We've either learned to deal with it or become entombed by it.
So what do you do, where do you go for advice if you're about to venture from the dry pavement of the city into the mud-coated countryside? Those off-roaders who go in search of it, like the Holy Grail, are some of the best sources of advice. While their techniques for driving through mud are valid, the major difference between them and us is the equipment. Our tires don't have huge lugs that grip mud the consistency of peanut butter. And we don't have winches to haul us out if we fail to make it to the dry side. Lastly, our suspension clearance is dwarfed in comparison.
Therefore, the first piece of advice is simple. If the mud you're facing includes debris (think chunky peanut butter), don't even attempt traversing it. Or if the mud virtually camouflages the contour of the road under it, is still moving, or is littered with stuck vehicles, simply turn around and try another route.
The easiest mud, in relative terms, to survive is shallow, defined as two inches deep or less. But don't be deceived—even shallow mud can combine the characteristics of an ice rink and quicksand.
With any luck, you'll be entering this shallow mire at low speed. If you hit mud at speed, your vehicle can take on the characteristics of a luge on an ice chute. The key is to give the tires a chance to bite into the mud and find traction on the hard surface underneath. Keep your line through the sludge as straight as possible; turning the wheels causes more drag and can bog you down. This technique works for mud-covered asphalt or well-traveled dirt roads after normal rainfall. Off-roaders will tell you to drive as slow as you have to and as fast as you can; a riddle only they have the answer to. The translation: momentum and torque will get you through.

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