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Tom Severin

Maintain Proper Distance Off-Road

Appropriate distance for safe off-road four wheelingAs a rule of thumb, you should be far enough back to at least see the other guy’s rear differential. (If the differential is just visible above your hood, you’re about 17 feet away.) Any closer than that, and everything between you and the other vehicle is in a blind spot. You never see the difficult obstacles so you can pick a line. And you won’t have time to react if need be. Back off so you have a better view of the trail and obstacles ahead. Tailgating is a real problem on dusty roads—you can’t see squat. There could be a washout or deep rut up ahead, and you wouldn’t see it until it’s too late. As soon as you see the driver ahead kicking up dust, back off. Stay behind the dust cloud, and monitor that to determine how the other driver is responding to conditions ahead. (Another advantage to staying back is that you’ll be able to enjoy the scenery.) You’re probably wondering, aren’t the drivers communicating with each other? Maybe, but maybe not. A good 2-way radio is indispensable in these circumstances. That’s why I always require a 2-way radio in each vehicle during my off road trips. CB is fine, but I’ve found that FRS radios perform well. The lead driver lets everyone know of obstacles, blind curves, oncoming vehicles, and other issues. During my trips, I ask the last driver (my “tail gunner”) to acknowledge my broadcast. That way I know it’s been received properly. Any vehicle that didn’t hear my message will likely hear the follow-up transmission. In addition to keeping an eye on the vehicle ahead, drivers should occasionally glance in the mirror to make sure the trailing vehicle is still in view. If not, he should contact the driver. (Of course, it’s also important for the driver in distress to speak up when he gets in a bind.) I can’t stress enough that you must keep your 2-way radio on and any distracting noises to a minimum. Turn down the commercial radio and your iPod. You should be focused on the road ahead and any instructions coming over the 2-way radio. When you’re the lead driver, remind the others to keep their trailing vehicle in sight. If each driver does this, no one loses a vehicle when the driving gets tough. Even with reliable communications, verify that the trailing vehicle is still behind you after you take that fork in the trail or make some other change. Any drivers really focused on the obstacle just ahead can forget a set of instructions they heard moments before. Similarly, if your vehicle encounters a problem, make sure you get on the radio. The vehicles ahead and behind should stop. If everyone is looking out for the guy behind, the entire caravan will soon stop. Address your problem, and resume the drive. It all boils down to teamwork and trust, with every driver knowing and adhering to protocol.##########################Related Articles from Badlands Off-road Adventures

What Causes Wash Board Roads?10 Rules of Trail EtiquetteWeather to GoRespect Your Teammates. Arrive Prepared.Meet At The Trailhead, And Caravan In From ThereDid you miss the previous article?  I hope to see you on the trails! Tom Severin, PresidentBadlands Off Road Adventures, Inc.4-Wheel Drive School 310-613-5473http://www.4x4training.com Make it Fun. Keep it Safe.

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Tom Severin

Top 10 Fears of New 4WD Owners

Stuck Forever Results of Stuck forever.
(Click picture for a larger image.)
Driving off road presents a host of challenges for any driver. Four wheeling can be especially intimidating for new drivers. Those initial concerns are understandable. It takes off-road experience to build skillset and confidence.

If you’ve considered going off road but are reluctant to do so, relax. The following information should convince you take up the hobby. While you are reading this remember: in town, you can be in a pile-up as the result of other driver’s errors and actions. Off-road in almost every instance the driver made the decision and judgment that lead to his predicament.

After years of talking with new 4-wheel drive owners, here is my perception of the Top 10 Fears of newer drivers, and what to do about them.
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Tom Severin

Avoid "Trail Prices" - Take Spare Parts


Avoid "Trail Prices" - Take Spare Parts Need to figure out what is wrong! (Click picture for a larger image.)In last month’s article, Proper Storage Maximizes Space, Minimizes Down Time, we reviewed various storage methods and explained why it’s important to be neat and compact. This article goes into more detail about what you should carry. Normally we think of in terms of basic supplies. Here we’re focusing on spare parts. Bear in mind that the farther you are from civilization, the more troublesome a breakdown can be. Remember this important axiom of four wheeling from last month’s article: The more difficult and more remote the trip, the more stuff you need to take. For a day trip to the local mountains, you may only need to throw in a cooler and a warm jacket. Your buddy can run into town and bring back tools and parts. For a longer camping trip or a difficult trip like the Rubicon, you need a lot of gear and in particular spare parts. You may wonder, what are "trail prices"? The term refers to the extra price you pay to compensate for a critical part you didn't bring along. One example is the part you had to buy from a buddy. You might pay 3 times what it cost at the auto parts store. Another example is the time needed to acquire or fabricate a part.In essence, any cost that allows you to drive off the trail under your own power. Here are the top three areas to focus on :Tires Drive train Electronics Tires top the list because of all the abuse and stress they take. Of course, your vehicle comes with a spare tire. Is it in good shape and inflated to proper level? Do you have a tire repair kit? Many tire problems experienced off road can be repaired on the spot, so it’s good to review tire repair procedures. See: Tire problems shouldn’t deflate your day Stuck 3 day on Rubicon. Had to go to town for parts. (Click picture for a larger image.) The drive train also takes a lot of abuse. Tie rods and drag links are particularly susceptible. They hang down in front of the vehicle and are susceptible to being hit and bent, even broken. Consider buying heavy duty replacement parts. They are pricey and available only from a dealer, but you’re stuck without functioning parts. Axles, u-joints and drive shafts are at risk as well. A set of U-joints are small, easy to pack and good insurance. See Expedient Field Repair - U Joints A complete set of front axles (inner & outer for both left and right) is a good investment if you are doing extreme and remote trails like the Rubicon. The electronic system in today's vehicle has components and sensors for which there is no work around. The worry here is that a critical part will go out leaving you stranded. Without a spare sensor the vehicle's brain will not function. On the list of critical parts with no work around are your coil/ coil pack, fuel pump, MAP sensor, crank sensor and the starter (on automatic transmissions). Spark plugs and spark plug wires (on older vehicles) bear watching, too. Replace the set of wires if any are cracked. When you replace the wires, save the longer ones and pack them with your spare gear. If you ever need a spark plug wire while off road, you’ll have a spare. Regular inspection, while important, won’t catch all the parts that are ready to go. Sensors are perfect examples. There’s no way to tell in advance when a sensor will fail. If your vehicle has a lot of miles on it, I encourage you to replace the sensors mentioned above, and keep the old one to bring as a spare. Upgrade vs. StockOne big decision 4WD owners need to make after buying a vehicle is whether (and to what extent) to upgrade their vehicle. Should they swap in a heavy duty tie rod with beefier tie rod ends, for example, or leave the vehicle in stock condition? Understand that upgrading adds cost and, in the case of heavy duty tie rods, new tie rod ends might be available for purchase only from the manufacturer. Damage one on the Rubicon and you will be waiting on the Greyhound bus to deliver a part (and that is just into the closest town, not out on the trail). There are good reasons to go either way. My suggestion is that if you decide to upgrade, keep the stock parts in your vehicle. You may discover while on the trail it is easier to convert back to stock parts than to repair. Final route: fabricate, fixEven with a comprehensive set of spare parts, you may find that you need to fabricate or fix a certain part. Consequently, I suggest you buy and pack some additional general purpose gear. Useful spares include fuses, hoses, sealants, hose clamps, baling wire, electric wire, chain, duct tape, zip ties, ratchet straps, and the ability to weld. Install a Premier Welder under the hood. Now you’ve got a welder at your disposal, but it doesn’t take up valuable space inside your vehicle. Broken track bar Many four wheelers have fixed a bent tie rod using the handle from a Hi-lift to reinforce the tie rod. A few track bars were fixed (just to get home) by welding two big wrenches across the broken section. A cracked axle tube was held together with chain wrapped around the lower control arms and then using the winch to take the slack out of the chain. A broken rear control arm bracket was held together with a number of ratchet straps until pavement was reached. A mechanic’s tool set is always valuable. You don’t need a full, 200-piece set, however. Select the top tools, and store in soft-sided containers (pouches or military packs). Those will tuck nicely into nearly any spare space or crevice.Final thoughtsTaking a friend on the trail with a similar vehicle doubles your spare parts. While it will not help get you off the trail, AAA's 200-mile tow plan will get your vehicle home where it is easier to work on it. And in the worst case turn the hubs to free-wheeling and drop the rear drive shaft. Yep, turn your vehicle into a trailer. Packing spare parts may seem like a daunting task. There’s no way to know in advance which, if any parts, will crap out on you. And, you have a limited amount of space to work with. Driving off road for decades has given me some invaluable insight; following the suggestions above will help ensure any breakdown you experience has a minimal effect on your trip. # # # # Original linkOriginal author: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

 

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Tom Severin

Proper Storage Maximizes Space, Minimizes Down Time

Outstanding Camp Site!
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Got a new vehicle - or new to you? After you put the lift on, bigger tires and rock sliders, you still have a major task ahead of you. How do you get all that stuff you want to take in the vehicle? Sure you can just make a big pile. The trick is how to organize it so it can be retrieved quickly (read that – move as little other stuff out of the way to put your hands on the item you want). And how can you store it safely and securely. Hit a big rock or flop your vehicle on the side, you want most (actually all!) of you gear to stay put.
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Tom Severin

Don’t Get Caught Off-guard Cruising from a Base Camp

Base Camp
A base camp allows you to bring lots of extra "comfort" gear that you do not need to take with you each day.
As you prepare for your next 4WD excursion, I’m sure you put a lot of thought into what to take. Naturally, that depends on what types of trails you’ll drive on and what destinations you expect to visit. Included are some thoughts about recovery and survival.

But, once you’re started your journey, do you still think about safety and survival? Specifically, if you’re traveling from a base camp, have you given much thought to what if?

Cruise vs. base camp

Once off-road, trips tend to fall into one of two categories, cruise and base camp.
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