Mastering the skill of rock-crawling with the Maruti Suzuki Jimny

In the final chapter of this series, we venture to Jawai in Rajasthan for an exhilarating session of serious rock crawling with the Jimny
You need a proper body-on frame 4X4 with a low-range transfer case like our Jimny. You cannot take an AWD SUV rock crawling.
You need a proper body-on frame 4X4 with a low-range transfer case like our Jimny. You cannot take an AWD SUV rock crawling.Rohit G Mane for evo India

This is it, Folks! the final showdown, the ultimate challenge, the boss fight, if you will. If you have been following this series, you know that we have guided you through the toughest trails, forded rivers, climbed mountains, conquered the desert, and even danced on ice. But we have saved the toughest challenge for last: rock crawling. Consider this a serious disclaimer: do not attempt rock crawling until you’ve honed your skills in other forms of off-roading. Out here, there is no sand or snow to cushion the blow. One wrong move could lead to an expensive crunch, and at worst, it could bruise more than just your ego. You have been warned. For this challenge, we took the Jimny to Jawai in Rajasthan. Renowned as India's premier leopard spotting location, Jawai is also famed for its vast rock formations. I’m talking about large, uninhabited granite peaks that rise up to 300 feet in height. These peaks boast numerous caves where leopards seek refuge by day but they also offer ample trails for rock crawlers. As far as rock-crawling trails go, Jawai is still fairly mediocre on the difficulty scale. This isn’t Moab but go looking for trouble and you will find it really easily.

Rock and roll

Let’s begin by explaining why rock crawling is different from what we have shown you so far. It all boils down to the surface. Unlike other terrain such as mud, sand, or ice, where traction is the primary challenge, rock crawling presents a different set of hurdles. While traction on a rock-hard surface is generally better, precision becomes paramount. Navigating your way around colossal boulders and tackling the rugged, often uneven terrain and steep inclines requires extreme precision. Every move has consequences, demanding careful consideration as you navigate through this unforgiving landscape.

Now, let’s explore the essential gear required to go rock crawling. First and foremost, you need a proper body-on-frame 4x4 with a low-range transfer case like our Jimny. You cannot take an AWD SUV rock crawling. Let me rephrase that: you can take an AWD SUV rock crawling but it might not return in one piece. Grip is crucial and deflating your tyres to between 20 and 25 psi can significantly enhance traction by allowing the tyres to conform around rocks. Therefore, a tyre pressure gauge and a tyre inflator are indispensable.

Equally crucial is having a spotter. They act as your eyes and ears outside the vehicle, using hand signals to guide you and flinching to indicate proximity to a rock. Ensure both you and your spotter are familiar with the hand signals commonly used off-road. A quick tip: instead of using ambiguous directions like ‘go left’ or ‘go right’, the spotter should physically point in the desired direction to avoid confusion between perspectives. You and your spotter will also be getting out of the vehicle a lot, so wearing grippy shoes is essential to prevent slipping on the jagged rocks. Lastly, bring along a friend with a 4x4 vehicle equipped with tow straps in case assistance is needed to extricate yourself from a dicey situation.

The Jimny’s brake locking differential is a lifesaver when rock crawling.
The Jimny’s brake locking differential is a lifesaver when rock crawling.Rohit G Mane for evo India

Know the limits

Before heading out onto the rocks in your vehicle, take your time to walk the path, identify hazards and scout bypasses wherever possible. Furthermore, familiarise yourself with the off-road angles your vehicle is capable of, namely the ground clearance, approach, departure and breakover angles, and understand how they translate to real-world scenarios. Our Jimny features a ground clearance of 210mm, an approach angle of 36 degrees, a departure angle of 47 degrees and a ramp breakover angle of 24 degrees.

In simple terms, ground clearance refers to the distance from the lowest part of the vehicle to the ground; approach angle denotes the steepest incline the vehicle can ascend without the front-end making contact; departure angle indicates the steepest descent possible without the rear end making contact; and breakover angle represents the maximum traversal angle without the vehicle getting stuck in the middle. While memorising these figures won’t guarantee whether your vehicle can overcome an obstacle, they provide valuable insight into its capabilities and limitations.

Creep and crawl

Rock crawling requires unhindered visibility, so sit upright and position yourself as high as comfort allows to gain a good view of the terrain ahead. If your visibility is hindered at any point, it’s best to come to a stop and assess the situation on foot. Just remember to secure the hand brake when you do. Secondly, 4WD mode must be used at all times. When faced with a particularly steep climb, you might need to switch to 4L but remember to switch back to 4H once you are done because driving on the rock-hard surface in 4L can put a strain on the transfer case.

Remember that it is called rock ‘crawling’ for a reason; speed is the last thing you need out here. The slow and steady win, and then get to drive the car home. If you’ve been following this series and putting what you’ve learned into practice, then by now you should have gained the ability to analyse obstacles and determine the appropriate gear, RPM and approach. If not, don’t fret; just get out there and practice.

Precision is key when it comes to rock crawling. The driver and the spotter need to work in unison to visualise the trajectory of each tyre and place each tyre with absolute accuracy. If required, the driver can also roll down the window and look down to better place the tyres but always keep your seatbelt securely fastened. And if things go awry and you are about to tip over, do not instinctively stick your hand out the window. That’s how a lot of rock crawlers lose their limbs.

The goal is to keep the vehicle as level as possible. Big lean angles and wheels hanging in the air look great in pictures but they also greatly increase the risk of tipping over and damaging the vehicle. To protect the underbody of the vehicle, make sure your tyres don’t stray into deep ruts. Instead, straddle the ruts to give the vehicle maximum clearance and minimise the risk of damage. When tackling rocks and boulders, the general rule is to place your tyres on top of them rather than in the gaps between them. This way, your drivetrain, the engine and the differentials have clearance, and are not taking a beating. On such terrain, you will frequently be relying on the tyre tread and even sidewalls for traction, which is why reducing tyre pressures to maximise the contact patch is crucial.

The ’wheel is just the 
right size for quickly manoeuvring  between rocks.
The ’wheel is just the right size for quickly manoeuvring between rocks.Rohit G Mane for evo India

As far as possible, try to keep all four tyres grounded and the vehicle slowly chugging along using the torque in 4L. However, there might be instances when one tyre becomes unloaded and starts spinning. Typically, in vehicles with open differentials, power follows the path of least resistance, meaning the tyre in the air will spin meaninglessly while the one with traction remains idle. However, our Jimny, equipped with a brake locking differential, automatically brakes the spinning tyre, diverting power to the tyre with traction and pushing the vehicle forward. While the limited slip differential provides assistance, mastering throttle control is indispensable. It’s crucial to find the threshold of grip and modulate the throttle to maintain momentum without unnecessary wheel spin, and the only way to learn this is through practice.

Lastly, it’s important to recognise when to concede defeat. If you’re unsure whether your vehicle can overcome an obstacle, err on the side of caution and opt for an alternate route. While the stock Jimny boasts impressive capabilities, frequent rock crawling might necessitate upgrades like all-terrain tyres and underbody protection. Remember, off-roading is a marathon, not a sprint, and the only losers are those who don’t finish. With that, we conclude our ABC of off-roading series. We hope you’ve enjoyed this series and, more importantly, that it has equipped you with knowledge to ensure safe off-road adventures. See you on the trails!

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