With Off-Roading becoming more and more popular and parts suppliers being readily available, “Wheeling” has become a weekend warrior type hobby that you can do with your daily driver. Whether you plan to just go out on the trail to camp for the night or an intensive rock climbing weekend out into the great beyond there’s some things you should do to prepare yourself. We decided to put together a small list of things a beginner should consider before hopping the white lines of the road into the rocks and dirt. Check our list below and feel free to comment below if you have some advice for beginners as well!
1. Understand the capabilities and functions of your vehicle- No we don’t mean if it has heated seats or a back-up camera, or how many Starbucks Latte’s your cup holders can handle; we mean REAL Functions of your vehicle. Does your vehicle have 4×4, is it activated manually or with a switch inside the truck? Can you turn your traction control off or lock the differential? These are the important things things to know that will help you understand how extreme your off-roading can be. It’s also a good time to practice locking hubs manually and driving in 4×4 before taking it out on the trail. If you live in a snowy area, winter is a great time to practice in an empty parking lot.
2. Is your vehicle properly equipped?– Having 4WD and fog lights are great for off-roading, but if the vehicle isn’t properly equipped you won’t get very far off the beaten path. Start with your tires, are they TRUE off-road tires with some fairly aggressive tread for traction? Does your vehicle have ample ground clearance? You don’t need swamp tires with enough ground clearance to fit a baby elephant under, but you do need to be able to clear some uneven terrain to even begin having fun off-road. Tires and suspension are the first two things you should consider upgrading if you plan to regularly take your vehicle off-road. For many enthusiasts this is all you really need to do other than simple bolt-on modifications like brush guards and better lighting.
3. Find a wheelin’ partner– Adventures are more fun with a friend right? We ALWAYS suggest finding a partner to at least ride with you in your truck or to bring their vehicle out on the trail with you. Your wheelin’ buddy can help you spot your path through difficult areas, help you prepare your vehicle, and help assist you if you get stuck or have trouble. Always brief your partner of what you have done to your vehicle and what supplies you have packed so you can both be as prepared as possible.
4. You can never over-prepare– Preparation can be as important as the actual driving you do. We suggest to make an emergency kit of tools and supplies you might need on the road. A good first aid and tool kit, jack, Flash Light, fix-a-flat, and tow strap are the bare minimum. A shovel, blanket, food, and camping supplies aren’t a bad idea either if you’re really going far out and are adventurous enough to “rough it” for a night.
5. Check or have your vehicle checked– Whether you drive your rig to the daily grind or it’s your mud princess you should make it a rule of thumb to check out the basics on your vehicle before your next wheelin’ trip. Check your suspension components like ball joints, tie-rods, shocks, etc. Checking the condition and air pressure of your tires right before you go on the trail is also a good practice. Off-Roading is rough on a vehicle and worn parts can instantly fail under severe conditions. That ball joint with excessive play can just break or fail when on uneven surfaces. Also be sure to check your undercarriage for any damage that could have happened on the last trip; fluid lines as well as oil and transmission pans are all at risk on a relatively stock vehicle.