Sure, you own a truck or Jeep, but that doesn’t mean that you can just head off-road on the trails. You need to make sure that your vehicle is ready to handle the rugged terrain! That might mean getting a few aftermarket parts, but it’s worth it knowing that your vehicle is sturdy enough to handle whatever trail riding has to throw its way.
Here’s a handy guide to help you determine if your 4X4 is truly off-road ready.
You wouldn’t head out on a week-long camping excursion without a first aid kid, why would you hit the trails without some form of emergency toolkit for your 4X4? You want to make sure you have a spare tire, everything necessary to change a tire, a first aid kit and survival gear in case you get stuck, and any spare parts, whether aftermarket parts or used parts, that you think might be necessary for the type of terrain you’ll be traversing. There’s nothing worse than having something break that is a simple, cheap fix out in the middle of nowhere!
Conduct a Once-over
This doesn’t mean you should do this once. It means that before you take off for any trip, you should conduct a visual inspection. Do a quick inspection of the exterior and interior to be sure you don’t have loose body panels, that all of your windows are operational, taillights and headlights are functional, etc. Then it’s time to get down to the actual mechanical function of your truck!
Belts and Hoses: Inspect all belts and hoses thoroughly, looking for any visible bulging or cracks. Replace any that are.
Axles and Differentials: Inspect vacuum lines, seals, hubs, vent lines, u-joints for issues.
Transmission and Driveline Check for leaks, and thoroughly inspect case and shifter, universal joints, CV joints, and skid plates.
Frame: Inspect the frame thoroughly for cracks or any imperfections.
Engine: Be sure that you give your engine a thorough inspection – plugs, wires, fuel injectors, carburetor, distributor, etc. Check for oil or coolant leaks as well.
Tires: Be sure you check your tire pressure, following the vehicle’s guidelines. Check to see that all lug nuts are tightened properly, and that there is the proper amount of tread. Visually inspect all areas of the tires for cracks and imperfections.
Wipers: This is important if it’s going to be a muddy off-road trek! You want to make sure there are no cracks, and that there is ample fluid in the event the mud gets thick. To be safe, pack extra wiper fluid.
Battery: Look for any signs of corrosion, and be sure that the terminals are nice and clean.
Radiator: Check the condition of the radiator cap, the hoses, and thermostat. This is especially important when you plan to do a lot of climbing, working the engine a bit more than typical driving conditions.
Exhaust: Don’t just wiggle your muffler to make sure it’s solid. Get under there and check the entire exhaust system to be sure there are no loose hangers. This is easy to correct with some aftermarket parts. If you have a hole in the exhaust anywhere, you can rely on used parts in certain cases, just be sure everything’s nice and tight, fully sealed. You just won’t get as much power with a compromised exhaust system.
Fluids: This might seem like a no-brainer, but you’d be surprised how easy it can be to forget something so elementary. You get wrapped up in tires and suspension, and realize you forgot to check the transmission fluid level, and the next thing you know, you’re stuck in the middle of the trail. Check the oil, transmission fluid, gear oils, power steering fluid, brake fluid, and coolant levels.
Nuts and Bolts: Besides the lug nuts, you want to make sure other nuts and bolts are secure. The trail will jostle them around a bit, so take the time before hand to check them, or else you’ll leave some parts behind!
Steering: Be sure that the power steering fluid isn’t leaking, and that the alignment is good.
Brakes: Besides the engine, this is arguably the most important system you have going for you on the trail. Thoroughly inspect drums, pads, shoes, rotors, hoses, e-brake, and brake lights. Replace worn out components with aftermarket parts.
Suspension: If you don’t check the suspension system, you’re in for a rough ride! What’s more, it could lead to other parts breaking down. Be sure springs, bearings, linkage, and shocks are all in top notch working order.
Off-roading can be fun, if you’re being smart and safe. As long as you’re prepared before you go with a knowledge of the trail and knowing that your vehicle is in peak working order, you’re bound to enjoy your ride!