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Common-Sense Safety Tips for 4x4 Off-Roading

Whether you've gone off-roading in your 4x4 before, or are about to take your first off-road trip, knowing how to keep yourself, your passengers, and your vehicle safe is always smart. Here are some common-sense safety tips to run through before you ever leave home, designed to help make off-roading all fun, and no fear:  

  • Be sure you know your vehicle well, and have become used to driving it. You should also know your truck's limits, and how not to exceed them. Other things to know about your 4x4 before you leave the pavement are:
    • The location of your spare tire and jack, and how to use them
    • The height, width, length, approach and departure angles, and ramp angle of your vehicle, so you know which tight spots you can squeeze through, and which you can't. You'll also want to know where the lowest point of clearance is, and how much clearance you have.
    • Find out if your 4x4 has an electronic stability control system and learn when, why and how it works.
    • Practice using the low ratio gearbox
    • Know the location of your truck engine's air intake and computer, so you'll know the maximum depth of any water you can cross.
    • Stay up to date on maintenance of belts, filters, and hoses, and keep all fluids topped off.
  • Be prepared. Inclement weather or an unforeseen break-down can put a real damper on an off-road trip, so be sure to pack emergency supplies, including energy bars and water, a first aid kit, and either extra clothing or blankets, or both.
  • Don't Fly Solo. Always take at least one other person with you, and if possible, have an extra vehicle along on your trip as well.
  • Contact Counts. Always make sure someone at home knows where you're going and how to get in touch with you, and be sure you have their number, as well. Also, bring along the phone numbers for the local sheriff or police department, and your insurance company. It's also a good idea, at least on your first few trips, to check in with your emergency contact at a pre-arranged time, just in case.
  • Maintenance Matters. It cannot be repeated often enough: be sure your 4x4 is in good condition before you take it off-road. This includes making sure the tires are in good condition and adequately inflated, that all belts are intact, and fluids topped off, and that your brakes and steering are in good, working condition.
  • Lighten the Load. While it is important to have necessary emergency supplies with you, don't over-pack, and when you do load your truck, be sure to balance the weight evenly. If you're using a roof-rack, be sure to account for the additional height of any items packed in it.
  • Location, Location, Location. Always know where you're going, and how you're going to get there, and be aware that a trip that looks short on a map may be a long drive in a 4x4. Keep maps with you going off-road doesn't mean ignoring usual safety conventions.

Off-roading in a 4x4 is thrilling and exciting, but having an emergency in the middle of no-where is never fun. Take safety precautions before you leave home and you won't have to spend your time fixing problems instead of taking hairpin turns or tackling challenging hills.  

Always know where you are, where you're going, and which route you intend to take. Be time-conscious... What may look like a short trip on the map may take many hours in 4-wheel drive -- so allow enough time for safe travel.

 

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