Month: December 2017

Off-Road Basics

By Nena Barlow

This article originally appeared on

With all of the time we spend studying advanced winch rigging techniques, comparing tire composition, and ogling the latest navigation applications, it is easy to forget the fundamentals. Ignoring these fundamentals cause the majority of four-wheeling difficulties we see on the trail. The difference between an enjoyable trip and a catastrophic one can be as simple as these four things: knowing and using your Jeep’s 4WD system effectively, airing down the tires, picking a good line through the obstacle, and having a functioning jack. These few basics should be the foundation of every Jeep driver’s education regarding his or her specific rig.

Many people get into snags on the trail simply because they didn’t use 4WD at the appropriate time. It’s easier to shift to 4WD before you need it, rather than spinning and chewing up your tires, digging up the trail, and making your situation worse. It doesn’t make you less macho to use 4WD—it means you are smart, have mechanical sympathy for the rig, and are respectful of the trail. Though running in 4WD all of the time on flat, tractive surfaces is not good for your rig’s driveline and steering, it is important to recognize when a little better distribution of power will smooth out the trip. What about the infamous hot oil light? Using 4L is the solution. A basic guideline we teach is to use 4H whenever you start on an unmaintained road, and 4L if you are going less than 10-15 mph due to narrow, steep, or rough surface.

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