The off-road lifestyle is popular here in gorgeous Fort Collins, with miles of track to be devoured all over the state, and more and more people are flocking to the secluded dirt roads every year. The prospect of exploring the outdoors in a new way, in a 4×4 vehicle, is appealing, but it also means that many people head out highly unprepared for what’s to come. Depending on the conditions, this could spell serious trouble for a new off-roader, so it’s always a good idea to do plenty of preparation before giving 4-wheeling a try.
If you are brand new to this sport, or feel rusty after years of street-only driving, here are a few tips to keep you safe off the beaten track this season. And when in doubt, always start with a trip to your local mechanic to have your 4×4 parts assessed and your vehicle tuned up!
Know your rig
Many people assume that if they purchase a factory kit 4×4 car, that they can automatically take it off the pavement without issue. Sadly, this could lead to all sorts of damage, and potentially get you stuck out in the wilderness. Take the time to really get to know your vehicle- understand things like your clearance height, your tires, your traction control, your 4WD options (high/low), your suspension, your differentials, and other components that can make or break your offroad experience. If you need help, you can always have your mechanic give you an assessment.
Prepare for emergencies
When the weather is warm and you’ve got the weekend off, it’s tempting to just grab the keys and go. But all Fort Collins veteran off-roaders know that safety is a priority, and that you should be prepared for anything to happen. Pack a well-equipped emergency kit for both you and your vehicle, always tell someone where you’re going, travel in groups, and have a backup plan in case of mechanical problems, illness, or bad weather. Don’t let your first 4-wheel run turn into a disaster by not taking a few easy precautions.
Learn the techniques
It doesn’t require a physics degree to know that there is a difference between rock, sand, mud, dirt, and snow, and you should be prepared for how differently your vehicle will handle depending on these conditions. Make sure you have the proper 4×4 parts to safely navigate difficult terrain before attempting it, and it never hurts to watch some tutorial videos on driving techniques before you encounter the real thing. Always go slower than you might like to, and really connect with the feel of your vehicle as your traverse different driving conditions.
This season might just be the season you fall in love with off-roading, as long as you take the proper precautions to make it safe and fun. Happy trails!