Off-Roading 101: Part 1 - Preparation
The thrill-seeking hobby of off-roading, whether in a street-legal or a purpose-built Wrangler, is far from a new concept. People have been driving off the beaten path for decades now in Jeep Wranglers of all makes and models, and we certainly believe at TopLift Pros that it is something every Jeep owner needs to experience at some point in time. While your Wrangler may look great on the roads of your daily urban commute, it was meant for so much more, and this potential should not go wasted!
With that being said, if you are looking to take your Jeep off the beaten path for the first time, you’re probably wondering, “how do you know what to do and what not to do?”
Many new Jeep owners will jump right into the off-roading scene without batting an eye. Some of these folks are fully capable of picking things up as they go along and ending up alright, but a great deal of them end up doing detrimental damage to their rides due to their lack of knowledge and preparation.
When contemplating your first off-roading ventures in your Jeep Wrangler, it’s important to be aware of the specific abilities and limitations of your four-wheel drive vehicle before you begin taking it to the extremes. While some minor scratches and damages are inevitable when tackling the harsh conditions and obstacles of trails, your Jeep is your baby, and it’s important to treat it as so. Knowing how to properly navigate and prepare for off-roading will ensure that you can keep your Wrangler in the best condition possible — preventing potentially serious damage and repairs while still getting a whole lot more excitement out of your Jeeping experience.
With all this being said, the following are our do’s and don'ts from TopLift Pros, makers of the Top Rated National® Jeep hardtop hoist, for properly preparing for your first Jeep off-roading ventures.
Do: Read The Jeep Manual
We know this is something that no Jeep owner wants to hear, especially those of us that normally leave instruction manuals to collect dust in most cases, but it is an essential first step to take in preparation. You should read up on all of your Jeep’s functions, like all of those buttons that you never normally mess with while daily driving like traction control, descent control, axle lock, and the variety of others features your Jeep comes fully-loaded with. Using them at the wrong time or in the wrong place or even failing to sue them when they are needed can lead to a variety of issues with your first attempt at off-roading. Another item to search out in your manual is the clearance of your Jeep as this is vital to know before you ever set off onto rugged terrain so you don’t attempt to tackle any obstacle that rises above your Jeep’s clearance.
Don’t: Go Alone
You are inevitably going to have something go wrong at some point in your time off-roading, and take it from experienced Jeepers, they can go even more wrong if you’re on your own. When out off the beaten path with your Wrangler, you are at the mercy of the elements — you can get a flat, get stuck, or even bitten by a snake if you’re really out in the wild. Having someone along for the ride will not only make the experience more enjoyable, but also ensure you have a helping hand and an extra set of eyes to keep things moving smoothly.
Do: Bring The Right Tools
Just as you wouldn’t want to go camping without your pocket knife, bug spray, and other essentials, you don’t want to attempt to tackle your first off-roading venture, or any for that matter, without the proper tools handy.
One of the most essential items to bring along is plenty of water. A lot of the best off-roading spots are in the midst of dry, desert-like regions where you can succumb to dehydration before you know it oftentimes. It’s also easy for an off-roading venture that you thought would only last a few hours to turn into an all-day affair due to the unexpected or simply because you’re having so much fun. This is why it’s always better to be over prepared with food and beverages to last you and keep you energized and focused as you tackle treacherous landscape head first.
If you are off-roading in a group with others, you will need at the very least a tow strap in your basic toolkit. This will come in clutch whenever you inevitably find yourself stuck in a rut, but keep in mind you must have another vehicle in order for it to work.
If you plan on having you and your co-pilot off-road in one vehicle, you will undoubtedly need to purchase and bring along a winch. This is the best solo-method for getting your Wrangler unstuck when you find yourself jammed between a rock and a hard place or in some deep mud as you can attach it to a nearby tree or another anchor in order to “winch” your way out.
Along with these items, you should also bring along a pulley strap, tracks, and a jack depending on how difficult the terrain is you plan on navigating.
While this one isn’t quite a necessity, bringing along a TopLift Pro will help you get the most out of your off-roading experience in your Wrangler. Compared to other Jeep hardtop hoists, the TopLift Pro gives you the freedom of being able to remove your Wrangler’s hardtop anytime and anywhere that you please. This means you don’t have to depend on your garage-mounted Jeep hardtop hoist for going topless and gambling that the weather will hold out for you throughout your time on the road. By being able to bring your hardtop hoist along for the ride in your Jeep, you can break it out and safely stow away your hardtop while you go enjoy the open trails and quickly re-install it if the weather happens to take a turn for the worst.
Don’t: Just Wing It
Like we said, many new Jeep owners go about their emergence into the off-roading scene in this way, which is an incredibly poor choice with such an expensive vehicle and painfully obvious to those who are experienced when out on the trails. Don’t be that newb!
Instead, when on the trails, take time to step out of your ride and analyze the trail in front of you before diving right in. Even the most experienced of off-roaders will take the time to map out their route in order to avoid rocks, roots, and other obstacles that could potentially slash a tire, get their Jeep stuck, or even lead to a rollover.
If you do find yourself stuck, get out and analyze the situation before you simply attempt to floor it and more than likely make your situation worse. One of the most common instances in which we see many beginners get stuck is by attempting to drive over puddles. We recommend when starting off to avoid the watering holes with your Wrangler unless you know exactly what is underneath as they can be remarkably deceiving. Some “puddles” that appear to be no more than a foot deep can end up swallowing your entire vehicle, and in most cases, the bottom of these puddles contains silt, which behaves more like quicksand than mud.
Do: Get An Inspection
Before you go pushing your Jeep to its limits, as an entry-level off-roader, the key to ensuring that your 4x4 is fully-prepared for the rougher terrains is to have a mechanical inspection performed by a professional who is knowledgeable about off-roading and the items it takes the biggest toll on. If you are wondering how knowledgeable your chosen mechanic is, one of the first items they should address is your tire pressure. Depending on the specific Wrangler model and type of terrain, lowering the tire pressure of your Jeep to a certain extent can help immensely with traction and lower your odds of getting stuck or puncturing a tire. It also makes for a very bumpy ride if you leave your tires too inflated going into a rough patch of trail.
While these are just a few of our do’s and dont’s to follow when entering into the wonderful world of Jeep off-roading, they should certainly serve as sufficient preparation to make your first time out on the trails one to remember rather than a stressful process of trial and error.
Stay tuned for Part 2 of our Off-Road 101 series of blog posts for even more detailed insights into how to properly handle your Wrangler when off-roading. If you don’t already own a Jeep hardtop hoist, order a TopLift Pro for your Wrangler online today or a Jeep Store-A-Door Kit so that you can make your first off-roading ventures even more thrilling. Need more convincing? Check out our blog posts on why our Jeep hardtop hoist outperforms the rest along with the best times to go topless with your Jeep to see what you’re missing out on!