Deadly Mistakes: Spinning Tires

Jeep spinning tires

Getting stuck is a common occurrence among four wheelers. After all, we intentionally drive in difficult areas. Every situation is different, but one common trait I see is the inappropriate use of power to get through. It seems logical enough: I’m stuck or losing momentum; why not just hit the gas? In reality, you want to throttle back or back out in most situations.

Hitting the gas (throttle) often just causes the wheels to spin. Without traction, you begin to drift or slide. Because the ground is never level, you’ll slide in whatever direction is off camber. You could slide into a pile of rocks or worse—go off the edge of a cliff.

You could go from being merely stuck to a life-threatening situation.

Tags: driving techniques

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Let me share a repair I recently performed on my 1998 Ford Ranger 4x4. I noticed one day that I had a noise coming from my truck as I drove it. This lasted for about a month, kept getting louder and started to pick up a small vibration. I quickly found the source of the noise, the CV joint on the front driveshaft was failing.

Upon looking at the driveshaft I was somewhat perplexed. I had never seen a driveshaft with a CV joint in it. I have replaced many a driveshaft with the traditional cross type universal joint. I mean, how hard can this be? I’ve replaced front half shafts on front wheel drive cars and torn the shafts apart to “see how they work.”

Tags: repair

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Camping hygiene

camp-hygiene.jpg

Four-wheeling presents a host of challenges in any environment. Drivers naturally focus on terrain and techniques. Therefore at the end of long day, food safety and hygiene don’t always get the attention they’re due. Let’s review some basics.

Safe food handling and storage

Keeping food chilled properly can be a real chore. A long trip to a remote destination during hot weather puts a strain on any cooler. Eggs, milk and raw meat, in particular, must be kept chilled. A cooler is OK for a day or two, but you’re better off buying a 12 volt on board refrigerator/freezer. I have used one for many years, and highly recommend it. They’re not cheap — good ones run $800 - $1,000 — but the convenience and peace of mind they provide is worth it. Make sure you buy a top model. Reliable brands to consider include ARB, Engel and SportFridge. A good 12 volt fridge/freezer is compact, energy efficient, and easy on your battery. Energy consumption varies, but they typically draw about 2 or 3 amps. That may sound like a lot, but it’s not. You could get by for at least a day or more without charging your battery. Remember that the fridge draws power only when it’s cycling. You can minimize cycling by parking in shaded areas when possible and limiting your access to the fridge. Night time is easier on the unit. It’s naturally cooler, and the fridge doesn’t get opened as frequently. Even though the fridge/freezer runs efficiently, it’s a good idea to have a back-up plan. You could install a second battery—to run the fridge/freezer—or pick up a Micro-Start personal power supply. Though small, the Micro-Start packs a punch, and will jump start your engine.

Tags: camping

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What's on your 4WD bucket list?

Maybe this vehicle is on your bucket list!Have you seen the movie, “The Bucket List”? If not, you’ve probably heard about it. Briefly, it’s the story of two terminally ill men (played by Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman), who try to atone for their lives by making the best use of their final days. As they travel the country—ostensibly while terminally ill, though they appear quite healthy—they enjoy all sorts of experiences.

The term “bucket list” stems from that movie, though people don’t feel they need to be dying to create a wish list. Instead, a bucket list is a collection of goals to be accomplished before the person “kicks the bucket.”.

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Get maps for your mobile devices

Need to know where you're going? Here's info about a free app that's available for both iOS and Android devices to help you get there. This info is straight from the developer's website:

PDF Maps is a mobile map application that enables you to download maps for offline use on your Apple iOS or Android smartphone or tablet. Use your device's built-in GPS to track your location on the map. Plot and record information about locations, import and export placemarks, measure distance and area, and even plot photos. You can easily browse and purchase maps from all over the world using the convenient in-app PDF Maps Store.

Forest Service motor vehicle maps (MVUMs) are available as a free download through the app.

Visit their website at pdf-maps.com to get more info and links to the app downloads.

Tags: trail maps mobile apps

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10 axioms of four-wheeling

High desert landscapeFour wheeling, like any other activity, has its rules and principles. During my 40-plus years in this sport, I have seen and experienced a lot. The following axioms flow from all the wisdom I have picked up from others I respect. My list is actually longer, but I trimmed it to some of the better ones.

  1. Your instincts are wrong off-road, and you have to learn the correct ways. For example, if you’re going down the hill and the vehicle is sliding, the natural tendency is to step on the brakes. That just locks ‘em up and you slide more. If it’s wet and muddy, you will slide in the direction of off-camber. If you’re driving on a shelf road, you’ll go right off the edge. Learn the proper steps to take, and commit those to memory.
  2. Clearance and traction are basic tenets for dirt and rocks. You can get these by applying the correct driving technique and by mechanical means. The Technique comes from your driving skills, as well as your ability to read lines and chart the proper course. Mechanical means includes bigger tires and suspension to lift the body up. Traction is gained through better tires, lockers in the axels, and by airing down. Learn to drive without upgrading the vehicle with mechanical aids. You will develop better technical skills and improve your ability to pick lines.

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