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Editors' Trail Tips And Tricks - We Ain't No Rocket Scientistians

4WD Stuff
4WD & SU Staff | Writer
Posted March 1, 2010

What Works For Us Can Work For You

You don't have to be a rocket scientist to 'wheel a 4x4. Good thing, too, because, well, we ain't no rocket scientistians. We are, however, privy to lots of trail rides and in the process, a whole mess of trail mishaps that typically require trail fixing. We've also picked up other tips and tricks along the way, like how to 'wheel more safely, how to improve driving skills, and how to get home in time for dinner when it's time. We've gleaned quite a bit from our own blunders, as well, ranging from torn tie-downs that resulted in lost gear to bringing no more than the shorts, t-shirt, and flip-flops on our body for a day run that turned into a night run that turned in to a bivouac.

Read and learn the following trail tips and tricks. One or two of them may just get you out of a pinch one day.

Air Down!
It's obvious – aired-down tires afford better traction and ride off-road. Yet, we've noticed many don't want to do it anymore. Even hard-core 'wheelers don't take the trouble to air down, then wonder why they're not able to surmount difficult obstacles, or are getting stuck in the sand. In a utility vehicle, 10 psi used to be the rule of thumb. With today's beefy sidewalls and load range E tires, 6 psi is the pressure we use in the dirt. It depends on the tires used, but it's okay if the sidewalls bulge off-road. Don't forget to take the time to air up before hitting the pavement, though, as deflated tires get very hot at highway speeds and could fail. Also, having an equal amount of air in each tire makes the ride home on the highway much more comfortable and fuel efficient.

Check The Age
Like everything else, tires age. A tire's age can be a safety problem, though. Tires actually dry out and older tires can come apart – even if they look brand new. Radial tires older than six years can fail, causing serious injury or death. Tires sold in the UK include a warning about older tires, but here in the U.S., the Rubber Manufacturers Association claims age is not a key factor in a tire's performance. We feel it is for radial tires. Bias-ply tires aren't affected, unless they're cracked and leaking air. You can tell how old your tires are. The DOT requires the week and year a tire is manufactured to be molded in the sidewall. The number is the last three or four of the cryptic DOT numbers and letters near the tire's bead. Most times, this number is only on the inside of the tire, so crawl underneath and take a look. In our photo, this tire's "1608" means the tire was built during the 16th week of 2008. If you have a number that says 479, it means the tire was manufactured in the 47th week of 1999. We want you around. Please check the age of your radial tires and, if they're too old, replace them.

Look Where You're Going
When on a bicycle or motorcycle, the place you're looking is the place you'll go. Try riding around a sweeping curve on a bike and look to the right, off the road. Be careful, though, as that's exactly where you'll go. When off-roading, the same thing applies. Look where you want to go and you'll go there. If you're distracted and look somewhere else, you may not surmount an obstacle or could drive off the trail. The other thing to remember is to focus on the end of the obstacle, not somewhere in the middle. If you think about the end, you'll go there. If you're worried about the ledge in the middle, that's where you'll stop. Every time. We realize you need to get over that ledge, too, but think everything out before you start. Once you start, think about the end.

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