So you just bought a Wrangler JK. What's the first thing that comes to mind? Taking it off-road, of course! However, there's a few things you should know before starting out on your next adventure. Here are a few basic off-road driving tips.
Never Go Off-Road Alone!
When venturing off the beaten path, always take a friend! The more the merrier. When using and modifying your vehicle for off-road excursions, breaking down or getting stuck can and does happen. But if you follow these off-road driving tips, you can turn aggravation into fun.
Having a friend (or a few) with tow straps, a winch, or even some shovels, can make the difference between driving out or walking home. There are several ways your vehicle can become immobilized. From puncturing a tire, improperly or hastily installed aftermarket parts (that bolt you forgot to torque down), or the classic, getting stuck in a deep mud pit, off-road problems can ruin your day of fun. But don't let this discourage you. Changing a tire or winching out is much easier with friends, and you'll have a cool story to boot. It's much more enjoyable than having to walk out to call help or a tow truck. We guarantee it!
You can ride with a whole convoy of Jeeps, from the oldest CJ to the newest Wrangler JK with electronic lockers, but it'll all be moot if no one has a tow strap! Go prepared with things like tow straps, snatch-blocks, shovels, and extra D-rings. You may want to consider something like this ARB Essentials Recovery Kit, or the Warn Medium Duty Epic Recovery Kit. Both companies also offer Heavy Duty Recovery Kits.
A winch can be your best friend here, too. With your winch, you should carry a good set of gloves, an extra tree/tow strap, and extra batteries for your controller (if applicable). A high-lift jack and equipment to change your tire is invaluable if you pop a bead or tear a sidewall. It's always a good idea to carry extra water and a good first aid kit too.
Off-Road Driving Tips For 4x4 Wheelin'
Most Jeep Wrangler vehicles come factory equipped with 4x--and lockers if you've got a Rubicon. Unless you're planning a big swap, you're out of luck with the few older 2-wheel drive Wrangler JK's, so double check for 4x4 before you buy a used Jeep. With open differentials, 4-Hi is fine for dirt trails or light mud, but get into a deep bog or rocks, and you may want to use 4-low. Remember to engage the 4x4 before you actually need it. You may need to move your vehicle forward a bit before 4x4 engages. Needless to say, this does you no good if you're already stuck and can't get the 4x4 to engage.
Driving Techniques for Off-Road 4x4
If mud is your thing, keep up your momentum. If you bog down and start spinning tires, back up and try again or pick a different route. For rocks, engage those lockers and go slow. Speed translates to breakage and dented sheet metal, especially around those big boulders at the local off-road park. Follow this off-road driving tip for a smoother off-roading experience.
Off-Road Driving Tips for Tire Pressure
Also, don't forget to air down your tires. Ratings vary by tire and wheel size. but an aired down tire will have a larger footprint than one with street psi. This translates to a larger gripping surface for your vehicle, and it'll usually help you climb up, over, or out of even the toughest obstacles. Beadlocks, seen below, will let you air down your tire even further, for the greatest amount of traction. A simple tire inflator with gauge makes it easy to deflate and inflate your tires. Watch this expert video for more information on tire pressure ratings for off-road driving conditions.
Follow Leave No Trace Principals!
Take a trash bag. On your way out, be sure to pick up your trash. If you see any debris left behind by others, lend a hand and help keep our trails clean for the next group. Off-road trips with a properly equipped Jeep can be an unforgettable adventure for Jeep friends and family!
Be a good steward. Visit wilderness.org for more Leave No Trace principals.