You have just emerged unscathed from a roll in your 4x4. Depending on the severity of the rollover, you might have reduced your beloved machine to a crumpled wreck of plastic and metal or it might live to wheel another day. There's nothing more intriguing than a good battle scar, a dramatic tale, and a cool web video of the carnage. But first you have to get back home. Maybe your vehicle lazily flopped on its side and only needs to be righted to finish the trip, or maybe it will require hours of jerry-rigging. Either way, you have to get it off the trail. Driving it off the trail is far better than dragging it.
So now that the adrenaline rush has subsided, you're standing there scratching your head wondering what to do to get your rig back on its wheels and on the trail. In most cases, a simple flop or lean on the side can simply be righted, but a major rollover will require a number of checks and fixes. The key to successful and safe extraction is preparation, having a game plan in the event of disaster. Follow along as we walk you though a step-by-step recovery.
1. The first step in recovery is obvious-safely get your rig right-side up, back on its wheels and tires. This may sound easy, but we see it done incorrectly all the time. The winching point on the vehicle should be solid so it won't rip off-injuring or killing you or any unwary bystanders. Properly secured steel off-road bumpers with D-rings are perfect, but not always in the right location when the vehicle is on its lid. Other safe winching points are the rig's frame, crossmembers, and any securely welded tubing. Be sure the transmission is in gear and the parking brake set before you get the rig back on its tires so it doesn't roll away. If the vehicle is still in a precarious position after it's righted, make sure you immediately chock the tires.
2. Safety first! This is not the place to stand when winching a vehicle. Stand as far to the side of the vehicle as you can. We don't care how safe you think it is-move. You were just lucky enough to walk away from a rollover. Why take your chances being injured by a flying winch cable? This is also a good time to check the rig's belly to make sure things like the transmission, driveshafts, and suspension aren't damaged. If any of these parts are damaged and really quick to repair, do it. Any attempt at a repair shouldn't take more than a few minutes, and try it only if the vehicle isn't puking fluids like oil, gas, and coolant. And if it isn't spilling its lifeblood, then the engine piston cylinders could be filling up with fuel and oil, and that's a bad thing.
3. If the vehicle has been on its lid for a while, it's always wise to pull the spark plugs before starting the engine. Check the battery to make sure it's in place and that the terminals won't arc out on anything. Cover the open plug with some rags and crank the engine by just bumping the ignition in short spurts. Listen for any unusual noises. Then crank the engine over to expel any built-up fuel or oil. This will keep the engine from being hydrolocked and damaging the pistons, rods, and crankshaft. Playing it safe could save you lots of dollars.
4. It's important to check oil and coolant levels before heading on down the trail. Carry a jug of water (you can't drink coolant) and a couple extra quarts of oil in your recovery kit. The engine will more than likely smoke for a few minutes once started. The oil that leaked into the piston cylinders is burning off; don't be alarmed unless it gets worse and starts making funny screeching noises.
5. Clean up after your mishap. Not only is it the responsible thing to do, but it protects our environment and keeps the extreme environmentalists off our backs. All they need is one more excuse to shut down our trails, and you better believe they walk the trails after major events, camera in hand, looking for an chance to exaggerate the "irresponsibility" of four-wheeling. Carry plenty of paper towels, rags, a shovel, and storage containers to hold any toxic spills. Wipe down rocks and clean up everything you possibly can. Keep in mind that fuel-laden dirt will eat through plastic trash bags. Leave the area just as you found it, if not cleaner.