Whether you wheel your daily driver every weekend or bust out the trail machine a few times a year, it’s a good idea to give your rig the once over before you hit the trails, especially if it’s been a while since your last trip off-road. It’s one thing to breakdown on the road to work. Just call the boss-man, then your buddy or the tow truck, and sit tight. It’s another thing completely to break down in the woods.
As with just about everything else in life, the ‘6Ps’ (Proper Planning Prevents Piss Poor Performance) apply to your off-road trip. No, you can’t prevent everything. Yes, things break. Sure, those moments sometimes become great learning or bonding experiences. (They’re pretty much always become reasons to break your buddy’s balls.) But do what you can in advance to prevent any issues on the trail.
So, with that in mind, I spent the last few weeks getting ready for the annual Mid-Atlantic Early Bronco Roundup. Since it’d been a while since I had the Bronco on the trails, since I hadn’t driven it much on the road and since I’m a gluten for punishment, I gave her more love than usual. But probably just like most of you who are balancing all kinds of competing priorities, and while I did much better than years past, I still left a bit too much to the end.
I changed the starter since the last one almost left me stranded in “The Quarry” at Rausch Creek. Big Thanks to those two guys in Jeep TJ Rubicons who wheeled with me the Sunday after Trailfest and helped get me back to the parking lot! Man, I didn’t realize how bad my old starter was until I cranked her over with the new one. Being such a relatively cheap part, and so easy to install, I shoulda changed it long ago. (hint, hint for anyone with older rigs, or a”new” used rig… And the same could be said for the alternator.)
I changed the transmission cooler lines, just because I didn’t like the looks of the old ones…
I changed the oil in the engine and transfer case. I checked the oil in the diffs, the fluid in the trans, and the coolant levels.
I checked a bunch of fasteners, like those on key steering and suspension components. I checked the lug nuts. I broke out the torque wrench and brought the intake manifold bolts back to spec, because a couple of those GD things always seem to be a bit loose…
I charged the battery.
I checked the tires, and rolled out the “trail spare”… (It’s round, once had tread and still holds air, for a little while anyway. I can get away with this because I’m wheeling with a hundred or more other Bronco guys, and I’m trailering. I’ll get back to the parking lot just fine if need be.)
There were last minute projects to finish (or start), like changing the sending unit in the gas tank. (The new one only sat in the garage for months…)
Then there were a few last minute surprises. I mean, the fact that the driver’s door handles didn’t work couldn’t really be counted as a cool “security feature.” Given the lift and tires, I’m not goin’ Dukes of Hazard style through the window… “YEE HAW”!
I even cleaned off the undercarriage (HEY NOW), cleaned out the inside, and washed and waxed her. Hell, I even bought an air freshener for the wife and kids…
Then I gathered up and loaded my recovery gear, trail tools and extra fluids. Yep, it came down to the wire, but she’s ready. I got-r-done!
Tomorrow we are loading up the trailer and pulling out. Which reminds me, I’ll have to double check my straps holding my rig to the trailer.
The point is, A LOT goes into properly getting ready for a trail ride. Nobody’s perfect, and sometimes you’ll have less prep time than others, but whether you do it yourself, or pay a mechanic to do it for you, do what you can to ensure your rig is ready for the trail before you hit the dirt or head out for that big trip. It’ll make it a better and possibly less costly experience for you, and for everyone else in your group.
Now, I should probably pack some clothes, and camera gear, and some snacks, and a few beers for back at the hotel…
Wheel Safe. Wheel Smart. Have Fun. Hope to see you on out on the trails.