Five Tips for Off-Roading in Your Jeep
It’s natural to want to go off-roading with your new Jeep. After all, there aren’t many vehicles better equipped than the Jeep to travel through a variety of rugged terrains.
Of course, it takes more than just a Jeep, a driver, and an awesome course. It takes a basic understanding of how to navigate these courses, how to capitalize on your car’s abilities, and how to get yourself out of trouble. If you go out there blindly, you could be putting yourself and your vehicle in danger.
If you find yourself leaving one of your Jeep Wrangler dealers with a new vehicle and a desire to do some off-roading, read the guide below for some tips. It could be the difference between a good time and a, well, not-so-good time…
Know Your Car
Basic knowledge of off-roading will only get you so far. It’s a good idea to read more in-depth on the pastime, and that includes giving your car’s manual a look. This will help you understand what your Jeep is capable of, like it’s ‘ground clearance’ or ability to lock into four-wheel drive.
Furthermore, it’s a good idea to test out your vehicle on a relatively easy path. Nothing would be worse than arriving to a great trail and having to raise the white flag about 10 minutes in. First, obtain a basic knowledge how of your ride operates on dirt and gravel roads. Next, test out your vehicle on narrow roads, inclines, and even creeks (if they’re accessible). This will give you a better understand of what your Jeep can and cannot do.
Finally, you’ll want to do a bit of research on the path’s you’ll be driving on. This will help you anticipate what you should expect, and it will also help you recognize an ideal path for your adventure. Don’t forget to check the weather, too!
Understand The Conditions
The Jeep website has a great guide for off-roading, and it focuses on specific conditions and road types. While different four-wheel drive vehicle may have varying advice, we’re going to stick with Jeep’s recommendations for this exercise.
Sand: drop your tires’ air pressure 10-12 pounds. If possible, try high-range four-wheel drive to help maintain forward momentum. Take wider turns if you can, as tight turns will possibly lead to you getting stuck!
Hills: Never drive at an angle and always go straight up or down. If the hill looks steep and you’re not confident your Jeep can make it to the top, don’t test it. If you end up getting stuck on your way up, simply back straight down the hill in reverse.
If you happen to make it to the summit, make sure you apply more power at the base. Ease up on the gas as you approach the top, and then use the lowest gear (on manual transmission) as you’re heading down.
The brakes should only be used to “fine-tune” your speed, as you should instead rely on your gears and engine compression for deceleration.
Rock Crawling: The ideal speed for rock crawling is generally one to three miles per hour, so it’s a good idea to ease off the throttle and let your Jeep just crawl. Use a low gear and low-range four-wheel drive, and consider lowering your tire pressure about three to five pounds. Understand your ground clearance, and use that to determine whether you should drive over a big rock. If you can’t (and don’t test it), slowly drive around the rock.
Snow/Mud: This is when you really utilize your Jeep’s four-wheel drive capabilities. A low gear and low-range four-wheel drive is the best for driving through deep, wet sludge, and it helps make sure you consistently have momentum.
If you feel yourself losing traction, rotate your steering wheel back and forth. If you feel like you’ve completely lost traction, stop the vehicle. Wheel spinning never helps in these situations, and they typically just make things worse.
Besides making sure that your Jeep is all ready (which would include securing the battery, making sure all parts are in good conditions, checking oil and fuel, taking a look at your tires), you’ll want to be prepared for whatever might go wrong. That means being equipped with all the right tools.
Make sure you have a good tow strap in case you get stuck (assuming someone’s around), a foldable shovel to dig your vehicle out (assuming someone isn’t around), an air pressure gauge, Allen wrenches, grease… basically anything you think will help you if you’re facing an emergency.
In regards to miscellaneous personal items, pretend you’re packing for overnight. In case you get stuck, it’s a good idea to have some extra food, water, and blankets. You’ll also want to take some spare parts and a first aid kit with you. It’s always better to be prepared!
There’s a fine line between packing too much and not packing enough. You want to make sure you’re well stocked in case of emergency, but use your head. Over-packing could add unneeded weight to your Jeep, and that could result in poor balance and unnecessary stress.
To secure all these items, use a heavy-duty strap, not a bungee cord. You’re going to be going over your fair share of bumps, so you want to make sure none of your resources fall out of the Jeep. Additionally, these flying objects could hit you or one of your passengers, potentially causing serious injury.
One final thing to bring along on a Jeep off-roading trip: a friend. While it’s fun to have somebody sitting co-pilot, it’s actually more advantageous to have them driving beside you (assuming, of course, they have a capable vehicle). This assures that someone will be there if you get stuck. To make the ride a bit for fun, bring along a CB or FRS radio. This will also make your ride a bit safer, as you’ll have a source to communicate if anything goes wrong.
It’s a good idea to keep your head on a swivel. As Jeep.com describes, if you’re focused solely on your left wheel, there’s a good chance your right wheel will get stuck. If you anticipate some rugged terrain that may require four-wheel drive, don’t be apprehensive about switching. It’s very difficult to switch to four-wheel drive once you’re stuck, so it’s better off to anticipate that type of situation.
You’re also going off-roading to have a fun, adventurous day. There’s no reason to rush through it, and going fast could get you stuck! As mentioned previously, crawling along with your low-range four-wheel drive activated should keep you moving. It’s not particularly fast, but it will keep you and your vehicle safe.
Learn From Your Mistakes
The hope is that you’ll gain an appreciation and fondness for off-roading following your first ride. If you plan on going out again, apply the lessons from your first trip. Even if you took into account all the tips above, you’re likely going to find yourself in some kind of difficult situation that wasn’t mentioned above.
Write down what worked and what didn’t work, and keep these notes in mind for your next adventure.
Off-roading in your Jeep is an activity that should be embraced. Sure, it is relatively dangerous and could cause harm to your vehicle, but remember: your Jeep and it’s four-wheel drive was designed to handle this kind of stuff. As long as you focus on the tips above, you’ll be absolutely fine.
If you decide that your Jeep may need some repairs before (or after) you take it off-roading, bring it down to Kendall Dodge Chrysler Jeep Ram in Miami. The staff will be happy to get your Jeep back to tip-top shape, allowing you to go on another adventure!