Owning an off-roading vehicle is probably something you have dreamed about for a long time. Now that you own one you probably want to go off-roading all the time because now you can experience driving on rocky terrain with extreme confidence.
Regular maintenance is one of the main things that will prevent your vehicle from breaking down while you're enjoying your off-roading adventures. To keep your vehicle in tip-top condition you need to know some maintenance tips.
Keeping The Vehicle Clean Is More Than Just Looks
When you look at a vehicle that has mud, sand, and grit on it, it may make you feel like you've accomplished something, like you've gone up against nature and won. However, don't enjoy this feeling for too long, leaving your vehicle with all that dirt and grime on it is like washing your vehicle in sandpaper. Not only that, but after a tough day on the trail, that mud, dirt, sand, and even rocks can cause unexpected mechanical issues. After every off-roading trip make sure you wash the vehicle thoroughly especially underneath the vehicle and inside the engine compartment as well.
By taking care of all parts of the vehicle after every adventure you will reduce the chance of mechanical failure down the road.
Know Your Vehicle Limits
Just looking at an offloading vehicle can make you feel like you can conquer even in the roughest terrain. However, it is important to understand how much clearance you have from the ground. While there are things you can do to protect your vehicle such as adding skid plates or bull bars, ultimately you probably want to avoid damaging those as well. While they will protect your oil pan, gearbox, differentials, and potentially the bumpers too, a scratch is a scratch ... even if you try to laugh it off as a battle wound.
Undercarriage and bumper damage isn't the only risk. Roll-overs can be a huge danger and that's why when we wheel, I make sure to never come close to what the manufacturer says it can handle. It doesn't matter how legendary your vehicle is said to be, physics are physics. While guys will continue to debate about Bronco vs Jeep, neither of those is impervious do operators who push them past their limits.
Take Care of Your Tires And Wheels
Just as you would with street tires, make sure to check your treads regularly. Look out for cracks, rub marks, and foreign objects that have become stuck in your tires from your off-roading experiences. Additionally, make sure to look at your lug nuts to make sure that they are tight and that your rims aren't damaged. The integrity of your tires and the rims themselves are essential for off roading, especially if you are lowering your tire pressure. Generally speaking, all vehicle tires are designed to work best at the manufacturer's stated PSI but when you drive at lower pressure, that can weaken your sidewalls and expose them to rubbing. A damaged rim combined with weakened sideways is a recipe for disaster waiting to happen.
Check your spare tire before you go on any off-roading experience. Check your spare tire carrier as well to make sure it is free from damages, this will prevent your spare tire from falling off at the wrong moment.
Make Sure Your Suspension Is Undamaged
Your shocks and other parts of your suspension are essential to check regularly. Sometimes you might not notice a pending failure immediately but you should always do a quick look before and after any off-road adventure. Look for things like one side of the vehicle drooping compared to the other as well as any fluid leaks that might be visible.
While a good mechanic should be able to recognize a well an off-road vehicle immediately, make sure to let your guy know how you drive and to make sure to review the suspension system during other regularly scheduled maintenance work.
Regularly Scheduled Maintenance Is Important Too
Many guys with Jeeps or trucks that are primarily used for off-roading do much of their own maintenance at home. Regardless of age though, there are specific manufacturer guidelines on what should be checked when. Take into account though that things like the expected lifespan of tires and brakes might be MUCH shorter if you are beating the hell out of the vehicle every weekend. Likewise, if you are cruising through the desert, your cabin air filter might need to replaced far more frequently than expected.
There is no doubt that your off-roading vehicle can bring you years of joy and fun. However, for this to happen you have to take very good care of your vehicle. When you take care of your vehicle you won't have to worry that it will break down at the wrong time and in the wrong place.
If you notice anything off about the vehicle do not hesitate to take it to your mechanic to get it repaired as soon as possible.