Off-roading: What are approach & departure angles?


Posted by: Chris Odogwu

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Off-roading is not for the fainthearted! Perfect approach and departure angles for an off-road ride will help you overcome obstacles on the way! Here's how!

In the course of getting a grasp of an off-roader, there are certain terms you are bound to come across. Two major ones in this process are approach and departure angles. If you also see “ramp angles” know that they are referring to the same terms. Knowing the nitty-gritty of these terms will make your purchase a well-informed one.

Off-roading is not a driving activity for kids. First off, you are not driving on a tarred road. As a result of this, there will be a lot of obstacles on the road. Your goal as a pro-driver who wants to arrive at his or her destination successfully is to ensure that you do not collide with any of those obstacles. Approach and departure angles are very instrumental in determining how you overcome obstacles on the road to prevent a collision with your bumper as you ascend and descend.

1. Driving over a ramp

Let Naijauto break it down for you.

So, you are driving off the road. You come across a ramp right in the middle of the road. You must drive over it if you want to continue with your journey as there is no other route to follow. Now, the question is, how do you successfully drive past it without getting your car stuck in the process?


The Toyota Highlander has the right features for an off-road drive

Note that, if the ramp is very steep, the first part of your car that will come in contact with it is your bumper. The bumper touches the ramp before your wheels get the chance to move on it. The maximum angle above the ground the ramp has, without colliding with your front bumper, is what is known as approach angle. In other words, it is the distance between the front bumper and the ground as your car drives past a steep successfully. After successfully climbing, your car has to descend, right? The manner in which the rear end of your car passes the ramp is referred to as the departure angle.

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These are the two most-talked about angles. But there is another angle that is just as important as these two. It is called the breakover angle. This angle is in between the tire’s bottom and the mid-point of the car’s underside. Exceeding the breakover angle makes the car to turtle, bringing the car’s four wheels off ground level, making them lose traction eventually.

These three angles: departure, approach and breakover are guided by the design features of the vehicle. The way a car’s bumper is designed plays a vital role in the outcome of the ramp angles. A good off-roader usually have a bumper that is round in style, this way, a chunk of the bumper does not stick out to cause obstruction during climbing.

The distance between the vehicle and the ground also determines its movement across a ramp. Naturally, cars that are not so close to the ground will move easier than those that are almost touching the ground.

2. Measuring approach and departure angles

Ideally, new cars come with their ramp angles provided by their automakers. But in the absence of this, you can carry out the angle measurements yourself. It might seem so technical, but in practical, it is quite easy.

Get a long object. It could be a yardstick or broom, anything long enough is fine. Place one edge of the stick at the point of contact between the front tire and the ground. Lift the other end of the object to touch the lowest point of your car’s front. At the bottom, place a protractor and measure the angle. Compare it to the other part placed on the ground. The result is your approach angle. To get the departure angle, repeat the same steps.


Big cars like this one make good off-road trips

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Auto experts argue that some of the best examples used to display approach and departure angles can be obtained from vehicles such as the Jeep Wrangler. It boasts of a 42.2 approach angle. The Toyota 4Runner is another good example with 33 degrees approach angle.

Measuring the approach and departure angle is key to know whether or not your car can drive across an obstacle. As much as some drivers like to think that they are pro-drivers and can drive along any road and any obstacle, the truth is, some obstacles are not drivable. Trying to prove stubborn by going for it could end badly. You will damage your car in the process, and in worst case scenarios, you might get hurt in the process.

Video: Approach & Departure Angles 4x4 tips - MadMatt 4wd

The kind of car you use for your off-road drive is very important. SUVs are good for off-road trips due to their rugged built and how high they stand above the ground. That way, you can go for the ramp really hard like you mean business. Chances of your car getting damaged will be minimal because of its powerful features.

>>> Visit for more safe driving tips.

Chris Odogwu

Chris Odogwu

Car events

Chris Odogwu is a Content Writer and Journalist. He holds a bachelor's degree in Mass Communication from University of Jos and a master's degree in Mass Communication from University of Lagos. His works have been published in top local and international publications including Forbes, HuffPost, ThriveGlobal, TheNextScoop and Nigeria360 among others. A member of the Nigerian Institute of Public Relations (NIPR), the thrill he gets from writing about exotic cars feels almost the same as riding in them.

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