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Mud, Thou Art A Deceiving Mistress!!

Posted by on May 31, 2015

She’s always tempting. She’s usually loads of fun, and can get pretty wild! And you gotta admit, she looks pretty easy.

Mud is usually one of the first things new wheelers want to dive into.  Why?

Most figure a romp through the mud is relatively harmless.  How bad could it be?  It certainly seems less risky to sheetmetal panels and drivetrain parts than rock crawling, or than weaving your way through extremely narrow trails lined with body panel crunchers and Mother Nature’s pin-stripers.

…and that’s probably true, for the most part…

However, here are a few important things to keep in mind before you dive into that innocuous looking mud.  Realize, we’re talking about real, marsh quality, soupy, gooey, stinky, bottomless mud.


  • Real mud is always worse than it looks.  Try to find the bottom with a stick before you drive through.  Can you find hard-pack, or is it one of those bottomless, quick-mud pits that could swallow a cow?  Use your own body weight to test drier looking parts of the pit.  Is that just a layer of crust on top that won’t hold any weight?  When you go for it in your rig, test the edges, and tip-toe in slowly before going for the gusto right down the middle of the gnarliest looking line.  You can bog down and get stuck a lot quicker than you realize, and I don’t care who ya are, you’re not pushing, or pulling a 4,500-plus pound vehicle out of the mud by hand!

It really didn’t look that bad…but look how caked those tires are, and how deep that passenger front sank, and that’s just on the edge of the pit!


  • Hemingway’s Iceberg Principle – there’s often more than what you see on the surface.   So it is with water crossings and mud.  You can’t see those stumps and boulders just below the surface, ready to grab, and possibly destroy, your sensitive undercarriage parts. Watch out for what lies beneath!


  • Wheel speed is key. Thick mud can quickly turn even the most aggressive mud terrains into mud-slicks.  Wheel speed is the only thing that’s gonna throw that mud off your treads so your tires can grab.  Just realize you’re not going to stop on a dime in the mud, so watch those immovable obstacles that usually line the pit.  It’s a tricky balancing act!  When your treads load up with mud, remember the phrases “More skinny pedal!” and “When in doubt, throttle out!”



The Venerable BFG KM2 MUD Terrain…


…turned into Mud Slicks!

  • Don’t fight the mud.  Chances are good you’re not the first person to find this mud pit, and say, “Hey, that sure looks like fun!”  Maybe you can’t see them, or tell which way they go, but there are likely ruts, possibly deep ruts, through your mud pit.  You gotta follow those ruts the way people park by feel in Hoboken.  As long as you’re still moving, just keep going.  Drive by feel, don’t fight it.  Let those ruts lead you to solid ground.  Even if it’s not exactly where you wanted to end up, it beats being stuck!

Hey, I didn’t mean to fall into 3 different ruts, and slog through the pit sideways.  I was moving, so I didn’t fight it…and it worked!


  • Strap On a Pair!  At some point, you’re gonna get stuck in the mud.  It’s almost a certainty.  It’s gonna happen.  It makes for great stories, good rousing and can be just part of the fun – as long as you get out OK.  So, make like a good Boy Scout and be prepared.  Have SOLID MOUNTED TOW POINTS, and ALWAYS have a PROPERLY RATED TOW STRAP MADE FOR OFF-ROADING, with NO METAL ENDS, and PROPERLY RATED D-Rings!!  Have you priced getting rescued by an off-road capable wrecker who “un-stuck” you from the beach, or the back woods??  IF you can even find one, you’re still gonna be stuck for hours, and pay a fortune!  

Get yourself a traditional strap, like this one from ProComp, or something newer like a BubbaRope, and the associated equipment.  The right recovery gear is just cheap insurance!  It makes you that much more self-reliant, it’ll more than pay for itself the first time you use it!  



Hook one end of  your recovery strap to your vehicle before you dive into the pit.  Throw the other end in your cargo area.  Just trust me on this one.  You’ll see why the first time you get stuck. 


  • NEVER go wheeling alone.  NEVER go mudding alone.  ’nuff said?!!


  • Clean up is a bitch!  A romp through good, fun mud is gonna be a battle!  You’re gonna spin tires, and sling mud.  It’s gonna get EVERYWHERE – on the roof, between the skid-plates and whatever they’re protecting, inside your vehicle – all kinds of places you’ve never even thought of washing before.  All that cleanup is not just for looks either.  Caked on mud can unbalance tires, or otherwise negatively affect the handling of your ride thanks to unwanted weight clinging to spinning driveline parts.  Certain types of mud can also be caustic, so best to get it off parts that can corrode.  Count on washing your rig at least three times, and generally spending more time than ever before cleaning it up.


Now, go sling some mud and try not to get stuck!  It’s a wheeler’s right of passage!  Have fun with it.



Wheel Safe. Wheel Smart.  Have Fun.  Hope to see you on out on the trails.


Copyright The Off Road Reference 2015