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Even though driving through rivers, on boulders, and over rough terrain in an SUV no ordinary vehicle can compare to is an exciting adventure, it is also fraught with danger. Yes, off-roading is fantastic. But safety on the trip demands you to know the limitations and the abilities of the vehicle you will use.

An accident on the trip could leave you injured, stranded, or dealing with huge repair bills. While there are many ways you can handle off-road obstacles, some are right while others are wrong– and a few are just matters of opinion.

 

With that said, no matter what terrain or track you pick to tear up, it is important to guarantee an enjoyable overall experience and avoid damage to your vehicle. Preparation is the secret, so here are the few things you need to check before going on an off-road adventure.

1.      Tires

Arguably the most important thing you need to check before going off-roading is the tires. Ensure they have sufficient tread, are in good condition, do not leak air, and are free from cracks. Make sure you also have a spare tire, which should be similar in size to the other four.

Additionally, ensure you use the right tires for the off-road track or terrain you plan to cross. Highway treads are not the best for hitting up snowy mountain terrain and other rough roads.

Tire manufacturers recommend you use lower tire pressures in off-road scenarios because higher pressures could cause the wheels to bounce, leading to loss of traction and a rougher ride. When off-roading, tires with less pressure absorb more impact and ride better. In turn, this greatly reduces the chances of damage to the tires and the vehicle.

image of Jeep Wrangler big wheels

2.      Steering and Suspension

Tie rod ends, tie rods, springs, shock mounts, shocks, and all the steering and suspension parts play a vital role in ensuring an enjoyable and exciting off-road adventure.

Ensure nothing is loose, cracked, or has more play than required. Your steering and suspension will have to withstand a lot of stress when out on those rough tracks and terrains. So you should ensure they are working just fine before hitting the road.

Know your approach angles and ground clearances as well. An obstacle’s maximum angle onto which the SUV can comfortably climb from horizontal planes without interference is known as an ‘approach angle.’

The same term applies to your rear wheels and bumper. Knowing the car’s departure angle and approach angle clearances will make it easier to navigate obstacles.

3.      Lights, Charging, and 4×4 System

One of your car’s main pieces is its electrical system. It starts and runs the motor, GPS, winch, lights, 4×4 system, air compressor, etc. A charging system that does not work can result in you getting stranded out in the wild. You do not want to risk this.

As far as lights are concerned, they are more important if you are going off-roading for an extended period. However, even if it is just a short trip, check your lights because any off-road experience can quickly get out of hand due to the unpredictability of the trails. Time moves fast when you are stuck on the road, so never rely on sunlight to help you get out of the track.

Another thing you want to ensure works right is the car’s 4×4 system. Most people do not realize it is faulty until they are completely stuck and notice that some tires are not spinning. So, before you go off-road, check that your 4×4 system engages and disengages correctly.

4.      Traction

A 4WD car needs rear and front locking differentials for all four wheels to move. Off-road traction controls can sometimes emulate locking differentials by braking one spinning wheel and transferring power to the other, which has more grip. Go online or read the owner’s manual to determine the car’s differentials and transfer case.

Is your electronic traction control working? Does your SUV have an LSD (limited-slip differential), which helps improve traction when the driven tires experience different levels of grip? If your car has a central differential lock system, you should consider disengaging 4WD when you regain traction.

5.      Weight

The weight of a four-wheel-drive vehicle cruising on paved city streets and roads is important for several reasons. However, it is even more crucial if you plan to take your car off-road. The more an SUV weighs, the more stress its parts have to withstand– everything from the car’s wheel bearings, suspension, and chassis to its motor.

An off-road vehicle that weighs too much will not perform well on rough terrains. The weight also determines whether you will make it out of deep ruts or keep sliding back in.

It is also worth noting that going over the car’s weight allowance can void your warranty. This, in turn, puts you at risk of receiving traffic citations. Furthermore, your insurance can also be affected. Most insurance policies require roadworthy four-wheel-drive SUVs. If your car is overweight, it will be considered unroadworthy, and insurance claims can be declined or reduced.

Takeaway

Off-roading driving is one of the most enjoyable and exciting things you can do with a sports utility vehicle or a four-wheel drive. Having a great time out on rough terrains and trails is something you can enjoy with family and friends.

However, nothing can ruin this experience more than your SUV breaking down and stalling on the track. What started as a dream will quickly become a nightmare leading to injury and permanent damage.

We do not want this to happen to you. That is why we jotted down the five things you should check before going on that off-road adventure. Checking the above will ensure you get the best out of your off-road trip and avoid sleeping in the wild because you could not make it back home.

On top of this, ensure that you let someone know your off-road plans, including the location and how soon you will be back. So, they will know where to find you if you get stuck.

 

FORD F-150

FORD RANGER

TOYOTA TACOMA

TOYOTA 4RUNNER