How Much of Ground Clearance is Adequate?


As an ex-owner of a Maruti Zen Estilo, no one understands the importance of Ground Clearance better than me; particularly so since I have got stuck on a dark desolate road with a ruptured Oil Drain Plug, some 50 kms. from Hazaribagh with my family in toe.  This was the beginning of the horror story which repeated itself on 2 other occasions.

Fortunately, I had anticipated such troubles when soon after purchase the vehicle underbelly had scraped against speed breakers and even mild undulations. Among the first few accessories, I ordered for was a Nylon Toe Rope which turned out to be a saviour on every such occasion.

A few years later when I watched on Television the now-infamous Beast of President Obama struggling to pass over a Speed Breaker outside the US Embassy in Dublin, I felt elated at the thought that my sub 4 lakh car with miserable ground clearance was finally in the big league.

What is Ground Clearance?

Ground Clearance refers to the space between the lowest point of the car i.e. underbody and the surface on which the tyre rests i.e. the ground. Coming to the issue of Ground Clearance, it is something that the manufacturer declares in the Product Brochure. Till 2017 the number mentioned used to be the Kerb Weight and not in case of full or partial occupancy of the vehicle in question. Post that the Automotive Research Association of India (ARAI) revised the norms which made it mandatory to measure the ground clearance based on the full load as per maximum capacity or the approved gross vehicle weight.

How Much is Enough

Ideally, the Ground Clearance should not be below 165mm in Kerb state. However, the higher the better, does not apply here as it should be proportionate to the height of the vehicle and design. If the vehicle has a Tall Boy frame, the passengers may experience Centrifugal Force while driving on curves.

On the other hand, a low stance lowers the Centre of Gravity and thus keeps the vehicle grounded and provides more stability at high speed or on turns. So those aspiring for making modifications in their vehicles by replacing the company fitted tyres with larger ones, should not forget to watch the videos of Monster Trucks on YouTube to understand the negative impact of the same.

Automobile Companies spend a lot on RnD to ensure you get the perfect fit but as a vehicle owner, you should take into consideration what kind of road you are likely to travel on before choosing a vehicle. For driving on snow, badly maintained roads, sandy soil or for off-roading, you may require substantial ground clearance, while for intra-city driving, particularly in Metros, a lower GC may be enough. If you are planning to buy a new car, do ensure that the figures mentioned under GC are as per the new norms.

How to overcome obstacles with low Ground Clearance

Some Indian roads may throw challenges at you in the form of potholes, undulations caused by heating of the asphalt or higher than usual speed breakers. Other culprits would be stones and regular debris. To navigate the same always remember to slow down safely and align one of the tyres in such a way that it goes on top of the mound.

While negotiating higher than usual speed breakers take an angular approach with one tyre clearing the breaker at one time. Do remember never to cross any obstacle while placing it between the tyres.

On puddled or submerged roads always adopt a ‘Slow and steady wins the race’ approach. Let other vehicles cross before you to get a sense of the depth of the water. Splashing water on others by swiftly driving through a puddle may look appealing and fun on film but believe me, you may land up damaging your vehicle engine due to the subsequent wave formed.

Precautions to take if undercarriage gets scraped

If despite taking all necessary precautions providence works against you and your prized possession does scrape against any surface the first thing to do would be to move to the side of the road, park the vehicle and watch out for the Engine Oil Indicator. If Aladdin’s Lamp glows up quickly shut down the vehicle and look for a Genie, in other words, the nearest Service Centre or Toing Vehicle. If you continue to drive with a ruptured engine hub, you may cause considerable damage to the pistons and incur a massive cost in replacing the same.

Tips to Happy driving

Driving should be a pleasurable experience and not one fraught with tension. So meticulous planning is required while going into uncharted territory. Always plan beforehand, refer to travel blogs or speak to frequent travellers to get a sense of the road ahead. Also, watch out for updates on Google Maps posted by other travellers before you.

Remember your vehicles strengths and weaknesses before venturing out and you will never regret it. Wish you a Happy Driving!

Also Read: 7 Tips For Highway Driving

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