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4x4 Off Road Preparation Check List - Check It -Twice

Posted in Features on May 1, 2005
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My dad always made lists of stuff when I was growing up on the farm. Mostly lists of chores for me, but alsolists of parts needed, broken stuff that should be fixed, cows that were missing, and when to grease the tractors. I dreaded those lists 'cause they severely cut into my spare time goofing off, but now that I'm starting to forget stuff, I'm finding the value of the list, and have been making one recently that should be really useful for your next wheeling trip.

When you get off the Interstate and start creeping down the backroads, you need to be ready for anything. You never know when a three-hour tour can turn into a "stranded in the woods with a busted rig, under cloudy skies, with a long hike from anywhere" type of dilemma. In such a situation it is most important to stay calm, and the security of having a few supplies on hand can help tremendously in keeping your heart rate down, and the question of "How am I gonna get out of this mess?" at bay. So here is a basic 4x4 checklist. Things to inspect before you hit the road; things to bring along, whether going for a weekend or for an hour; and things that sometimes slip your mind when you are too excited to get to the dirt. Here's a hint-when you are loading up the truck, have your wife, kid, dog, or neighbor check off everything on the list as it goes in the truck.

When properly prepared, and traveling with a come-what-may attitude, you should be able to get through almost any obstacle that should arise. Remember that the longer you plan on being out there, the more stuff you should probably bring. Doing a 20-minute competition course means making sure you have fuel. Traveling from the tip of South America to the Arctic Circle means bringing everything on this list and then some.

B-4 U GoCheck these items so you may avoid making some repairs in the rocks or mud:Engine oilTransmission fluidBrake fluidHydraulic-clutch fluidTransfer-case oilDifferential oilPower-steering fluidBeltsGrease all driveshafts, U-joints, and steering jointsAll lights and turn signalsWindshield-washer fluid (helps clean off mud)Radiator coolant levelTire pressure and look for leaks or gashesTow hooks (front and rear) of your vehicleTell someone where you are going and when you'll be backCheck for loose parts: Lug nuts, driveshafts, engine and tranny mounts, suspension joints, and U-bolts

Bare NecessitiesBring this stuff and some ingenuity and you will get out of many trail mishaps:A buddy with either a history in long-distance running to go get help, or his own 4x4Duct tape (fixes everything) Baling wire (prehistoric duct tape)Zip-ties (modern-day duct tape)WD-40 (spraying under the distributor helps start trucks that have splashed through water)Ratchet strap (reseat tires, helps strap parts in place)Tow strap (useful if you get stuck or need to be drug home)Leatherman type utility tool and/or Swiss army pocketknifePiece of 11/44-inch-or-larger chain 4-feet long (good for fixing suspension and motor mounts)Warm jacket (being cold makes being stuck and broke worse)First aid kit (loss of blood makes trail repairs challenging)Jug of waterGranola bar or candy bar (food is important to survival, helps you think straight)Fire extinguisher (our friend watched his truck burn to the ground and then walked home)Flashlight (hard to walk home in the dark without one after your truck burns to the ground)Matches/lighter

What We Always BringIf we're going wheeling for the day, this is a good list of tools and stuff to bring:Tool bag containing:Screwdrivers (3 different sizes) Pliers (Dikes, needle-nose, channel locks, snap ring, adjustable, locking gripsHammer (ball-peen)Wrenches (standard and metric-we bring both, you decide what you need)Adjustable wrenchSockets (standard and Metric-we bring them, but often wrenches are enough)Spark plug socketPick tools (handy for fixing hubs)Test light PrybarJack of some sort (High-Lift, bottle, or floor-depending on the terrain and size vehicle you own)Tire repair kitElectrical tapeAllen wrenchesHacksaw

Personal Stuff These items will make the trip more enjoyable:Toilet paperSunscreenBug sprayFood and water (no, beer doesn't qualify as water)Extra jacketRags/towels

Spare PartsThese parts start adding weight, but it's better than the long walk home:Tie-rod end or Heim joints (spherical rod ends) for steeringHeim joints for your custom linked suspensionEngine beltsFront axleshaftsRear axleshaftsFront axle U-jointsDriveshaft U-JointsSpare tireSpare locking hub or set of drive flangesSpare bolts of commons sizes found on your truckFuses for your truck (some fuse panels have spaces to store spares)Radiator hoseHose clampsElectrical crimp kitValve coresLug nuts

LubesDifferent goo to help you go:NOilPower-steering fluidBrake fluidAutomatic-transmission fluidGasoline or dieselForm-a-gasket or RTV silicone to reseal gasketsWater Gear oilWD-40

Camping GearBasic stuff for staying in the dirt:Warm clothing and rain gearTent or good tarpCamping stove and fuelSleeping bag and padCooler

Bonus Stuff That We Like Having AlongMany of you get along without these, but they are very useful, especially if you need to do extreme trail repairs:Air compressor or CO2 tankImpact gun and impact socketsUnderhood welder

Get Out Of A Stuck Situation StuffBring more of these the longer and farther from civilization you are going:WinchWinch controlShackle or twoSpare cable (especially if you see yourself doing really long winch pulls)Chain (Grade 70)Snatch blockHigh-Lift type jackPull-Pal recovery anchorShovelAxTree protectorSnatch strapGlovesWinch bag (something to put over the cable or rope to keep it under control should it snap)

NavigationIf you don't like asking for directions:NMapsGlobal Positioning System (GPS)CompassCitizens Band radioCell phoneGas station guy, so your wife can ask directions when you won't

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