Offroading is an activity of riding a vehicle on surfaces that are uneven, technical, and problematic for your everyday ride.
The activity is fun. There is no discussion about it. However, a number of people keep making the same mistakes before they take this endeavor. The problem is that when someone is off roading without a proper backup of someone who can help out it is easy to just due to an overlooked problematic part in your car that the owner did not bother to check to get stuck somewhere.
The experience itself is magical and can take you to places that one would never have even dreamt about in their wildest dreams. It has lately been hitting the mainstream spotlight with major media outlets making fun articles about localized off-road trails while car manufacturers are always competing with each other to create the best and most versatile offroad vehicles. People are starting to pick it up mostly due to the fact that a number of American and European households are already enjoying having their 4WD or AWD drive vehicles. All of a sudden, they realized that during the weekends the hiking trips can become that much more adventurous with their own very vehicle parked on the street. The momentum is being coughed by private companies monetizing on the popularity as well.
In a good number of countries, casinos are quite popular with their offers for jackpot winning customers to walk out with a brand new sports vehicle. Well, the offroading scene also got some love and affection when some of the best online casino outlets started picking up the pace by offering offroad cars instead of usual sports vehicles to their luckiest customers. This has caused a surge in the number of newbie offroaders that have been hitting trails left and right. Inherently this is good news but a good number of them do not take into account that the endeavor is quite heavy on the vehicle itself and it takes proper maintenance before they hit the road to make sure that there would be no saddening surprises lying in wait.
Everything has a proper precautionary process which means that the main means of transportation (and the whole point of “offroading”) has to be properly checked.
Here we have compiled 5 of the most important things that everyone who’s going offroading has to check-in non-priority order:
First things first, going offroading on 2WD is just not the same and depending on the difficulty of the road the car may just not be able to power through the place with just 2 wheel drive. This is why it is extremely important to disengage and engage your 4WD system to see if it even works in the first place. There is no bigger bummer than realizing that something so vital is just not working in the middle of the trail.
An addition if your car has lockers, this is a perfect moment to check on their functionality as well.
Imagine going on a huge hiking trip in your flip flops. It is quite easy to understand that there would be numerous problems arising from this endeavor. Tires are the same for your offroad car as your new fancy hiking shoes. Bad tires will quickly let you know that they’re just that – bad. Your car will not have proper traction, it will slip on certain surfaces, won’t be able to drive through those lovely mud holes that well or even at all, as well as a good number of other issues that will show up. Make sure that the pressure is set to the highway-speed travels since there is no need to torture your car with low tire pressure on an asphalt road but remember to release some once you go offroading.
Check for cracks on your tires to not have a headstart on tire pressure. The most common spots are in between the lugs along the wheel’s sidewall. If there are no cracks (which is great news) start assessing the depths of treads. This is the moment when potential uneven wear of your tires can be spotted as well. Ideally, there should be the depth of around 4/32 to 6/32 for proper traction on mud tires. Avoiding uneven wear on tires is quite easy. It is recommended to just swap the front tires with the rear ones every 5000 kilometers (that’s around 3000 miles). There is no need to use the spare one and no requirement for extra shenanigans like crisscrossing the rotation.
This part is going to turn into more technical than the ones before. However, fear not since we will cover these little but important aspects in the simplest of manners. So there are a number of belts and hoses that your car requires to run properly. The best way to go about this is to work with a professional car mechanic and have them check out all of these little details for you. Otherwise, those who are savvy car mechanics can also perform these actions on their own.
The most important things to take into account are all of the different belts and hoses that your car is utilizing. To notice them one only needs to go as far as the front side of their car. Just open the hood and have a look around what’s going on in the engine bay. The hose that you need to look out for is called the low radiator hose. It is located next to the elements and the upper rad hose. The inspection will take a couple of minutes where you need to look for any signs of significant wear like cracks, hardness, accumulating rust, splits, and broken clamps. Another thing to look out for is the alternator (water pump) and so-called serpentine belt or in layman’s terms the power steering pump. Both of these have to be checked for cracks somewhere down the middle. Technically both of these have to be changed every 60,000 kilometers or so. If you haven’t done the swapping process make sure to do it and if it’s still in the operative condition keep the old one with you since you never know when the spare one will come in handy.
We feel like this needs to be reiterated more than once during this article. This is not a how-to guide. We definitely recommend doing all of these operations including the hoses and pumps check with a professional. Although we will skim through a very condensed version of how to go about the business this is not a guide that will help a newbie person to properly check and fix the issues. Running gear is an extremely important and delicate matter. If the check and repairing is done improperly it may cause a hazard to life.
Now let’s get back into what needs to be checked. Here is a small list:
- Steering – To inspect this part you will require another person with you. Apart from this, there are mechanisms that also need to be present at hand that most of the people will not have in their garages. To inspect this part you need to elevate the vehicle first. Once secured one person places their hands at around 9:00 and 3:00 o’clock locations. When this is done they should begin moving the tire back and forth while the other person checks for excessive movement in joints. If the problem is identified then most probably you will have to get new tire rods and go through with the front-end alignment process.
- Ball Joints – First of all the person doing the checking will need a pry bar. After this, we need to find the lower control arm and the steering knuckle (also called the C knuckle). There is a ball joint connecting these two together. Once everything is identified you need to check for excessive movements in these joints. They have to move just a bit but not too much. If the bad ball joint is identified there are two things you need to pay your mind to. First of all, if your car has a solid axle then both upper and lower ball joints need to be replaced. Keep in mind that if one has failed others most probably will too. The pricing to change all of them together is much cheaper than separately so keep this in mind.If the vehicle is IFS then there is no need to change both just swap out the one that is malfunctioning since they are working independently from each other.
- Wheel Bearings – much like steering examination you need to elevate the car and make sure it is secured properly. Then approach the wheel and grab it on 12 and 6 o’clock locations and start moving it up and down. If there is excessive movement then you need to get a new set of wheel bearings.
Last but not least, much like how humans need food and water for us to be able to operate in the first place the car requires its fluids. These are usually easy to check and even a newbie mechanic can do it. Here are things to look out for: filters, motor oil, coolant, ATF and gear oil, windshield fluid, power steering fluid, brake fluid, and coolant.
These things may seem obvious but due to this very nature, they keep getting overlooked left and right. Check if there are any contaminants in your fluids and that their levels are how they are supposed to be. Apart from this, one thing that we definitely recommend is to bring extra supplies with you in case something happens. Going offroad means that there likely will not be any mechanic shop nearby. Nor will a specialized vehicle be able to come for the rescue (mostly). So make sure to have everything extra with you in case something happens.