So you just scored yourself a hot new hardtop or soft top Jeep and now it’s time to take it off-roading. What good is a Jeep anyway if you can’t head out hossin’? But before you get too excited, there’s probably a few things you should know to ensure a safe return and an awesome time:
#1: Check the suspension: Ensure the vehicle has enough suspension lift to accommodate larger off-roading tires (see #2). Increasing the lift also leads to better articulation, ground clearance and negotiation of larger obstacles. Mopar.com offers a great selection of suspension lift kit parts for Jeeps.
#2: Check wheels and tires: Make sure your tires are large enough for an off-roading adventure. 33 inches is a bare minimum, but most Jeeps can only accommodate a 31 inch tire with no suspension lift. That said, if you’re serious about off-roading, you’ll need a suspension lift to handle those 33 inch tires as well as bigger wheels to fit the tires. Off-set wheels are preferred because they move the tires away from the vehicle and protect the edges of the rims. Keep tire pressure low to give more traction and so the tires are less likely to be punctured by sharp rocks.
#3: Install a skid plate: Protecting your oil pan, transmission, transfer case and gas tank will be very important. Puncture any one of those and you’re most likely dead in the water. Even if you have factory skid plates installed, it’s still a good idea to double check them. If they appear dented, or even worse, if they are missing, you may want to consider thicker aftermarket skids.
#4: Make sure you’re prepared: There’s a good chance you may find yourself stuck out in the middle of nowhere. Making sure you have the tools to get yourself free as well as some basic first aid and survival items are key. Make sure you have strong tow points in the front and back as well as a good tow strap. A good clevis shackle never hurts either. You’ll need a shovel, some gloves, a good jacket, emergency blanket, food and water.
#5: Find a legal trail: Now the fun really starts. But you can’t just ride on any old trail. You need to find an ORV (Off-Road Vehicle) trail. But wait! Not all ORV trails are open to 4 x 4 vehicles. So how do you know where you can and can’t ride? You can ride 4 x 4 vehicles in some National Forests, but you will need to contact the local Ranger District for a list of appropriate trails. Organizations like the Washington Off Highway Vehicle Alliance offer interactive maps highlighting trails. The best thing to do, however, is getting together with other experienced off-roaders. There are plenty of good forums like JeepForum.com with people often posting open invitations to runs they are going on.
#6: Get ready to make repairs: Off-roading can wreak havoc on a jeep. Sharp rocks, thick stumps and pointy branches can rip, tear and puncture the tires, body, hard top or soft top. Keep a spare tire or tire kit handy. For tears to your Jeep soft top, the Soft Top Repair Kit by GEAR AID can repair just about any rip, tear or hole. Body damage can be pounded out and topped off with some touch-up paint.
Whether you’re jeepin’, wheelin’, off-roadin’ or hossin’, the above recommendations will have you ready for your next off-road adventure in no time!
Originally Published: Dec 3, 2014