What fun is it to stay on the beaten path? Adventurous SUV drivers yearn to feel the crunch of terrain under their tires — to navigate the natural world behind the wheel of their trusty Jeeps.
When you watch someone crawl a rocky trail, ford a stream, or make it out of a mud pit, the first thought that comes to mind is probably something like, “Cool!” rather than something like, “Huh, I bet they put in a lot of legwork to prepare.” But the truth is, successful off-roading requires preparation, planning, and brushing up on safety protocols before you head for the hills.
Here are # tips meant to help make your off-road endeavors in your Jeep Wrangler a success.
Know Your Vehicle’s Essential “Stats”
Every once in a while, you may hear about or see a vehicle that unsuccessfully attempted to make it under a bridge or overpass — semis and boats are two popular culprits. This type of situation occurs in part because drivers may overestimate the amount of clearance they have while underestimating the exact height of their vehicle. The result — hefty repair bills — not to mention a possibly dangerous situation.
The same can happen when off-roading to drivers if they do not know their Wrangler’s stats. Examples of important information to know includes:
- How much ground clearance does your SUV get? Know your ground clearance to the inch so you can safely assess whether your Wrangler can make it over certain obstacles without bottoming out.
- What kind of 4×4 system does your vehicle have? Wranglers can feature three different 4×4 systems: Command-Trac, which sends torque to all wheels; Selec-Trac, which switches between 2WD and 4WD as needed; and Rock-Trac, which facilitates low-speed crawling plus additional torque on the Rubicon.
- How much can my Wrangler safely tow? If you plan to tow a trailer with you on an outdoor adventure, be sure you know how much weight you’re carrying, how to connect it correctly, and how it will affect your off-roading endeavors.
Getting to know your Jeep Wrangler inside and out before you hit the trail will help you understand its capabilities and decide how to react in the moment — while avoiding mishaps and miscalculations.
Brush Up on Trail Etiquette
Just like in any environment, there are spoken and unspoken rules to know about off-roading. The state of Colorado urges off-roading enthusiasts to read the signs, stay on existing trails so as to avoid harming wildlife, pay attention to what others are doing, communicate verbally and/or via hand signals to let other drivers know what you’re planning, and pass others with care. More on the last point: Vehicles going uphill generally have the right of way compared to those going downhill.
Knowing rules like this will help you keep yourself and everyone else safe, while also just helping the general flow of things.
Hope for the Best, Prepare for the Worst
Pack an emergency bag you can trust if anything goes awry. Some safety essentials to include in your survival kit include:
- First aid gear
- Fresh water
- Vehicle repair supplies
- Spare tire
- Tie-down bungees
- Fluids for vehicle
- Warm clothing/blankets
- Communication equipment (especially if you’re off-roading where cell service is sparse)
Along with carrying this kit every time you pull out of your driveway, you should also inspect your vehicle ahead of time to make sure all systems are go.
Off-roading in your Jeep Wrangler can be a rewarding — and, frankly, addicting — experience. But the real work begins before you so much as touch the trail.