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Waterproof Your 4x4 Rig

Posted in How To on June 1, 2007
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Photographers: The ManufacturersKen Brubaker

Driving through deep water can be a lot of fun, as long as your rig is properly prepped. Without such provisions, an encounter with deep water may certainly lead to a plethora of repairs-or worse; it doesn't take long for H20 to find its way into vital electrical components, which can leave you dead in the water. So we decided to put together a mini parts guide for anyone who may encounter deep water out on the trail.

These seals were developed specifically to keep dirt, grime, and water from entering your axletubes and destroying critical components. The seal body is made from T6 aluminum with two internal O-ring grooves to ensure a water-tight fit. The seals are highly pliable and can work with different axleshaft diameters. Available exclusively for Jeep Dana 30 and Dana 44 axles, these seals offer excellent protection for your front axle.

JE Reel builds these waterproof U-joints for those of us who don't want to deal with the hassle of greasing after each dip in the pond. Thanks to its specially designed seals that remain effective through a greater range of temperature, these unique joints are not affected by water and are said to last much longer than OE units. They also come equipped with special waterproof grease that is rated for extreme pressure and high temperature. They are forged from high-strength alloy steel and are cryogenically treated to increase durability by up to 40 percent.

Electrical components are oftentimes the most difficult items to waterproof. Relays in particular are items that don't usually fare well in the wet. That's why the owners of sPOD designed and built this trick waterproof power distribution pack comprised of six relay-controlled circuits. The system is designed to complement their initial product offering (which we spotlighted in the Oct. '06 issue). This little unit mounts under the hood of any vehicle and simplifies the task of hooking up aftermarket electrical accessories. It's available with either sealed waterproof relays or standard-type relays and features fuse protection for each circuit. Also included is a sharp-looking external housing that uses an all-new high-definition color-print anodizing process that looks very cool under the hood.

A mini grease gun like the one shown here is an excellent first line of defense. We recommend performing grease maintenance before and after each trail ride, especially if water crossings occur. Frequent grease maintenance prolongs the life of friction surfaces. This particular grease is highly fortified with synthetic polymers, which is said to increase protection against corrosion due to water intrusion.

Everywhere else in the world, snorkels are commonplace on 4x4s. Heck, even a handful of overseas vehicles come with them from the factory. Americans are the only 'wheelers who seem to underestimate the value of this modification. Fortunately, ARB is out to change that with a line called Safari Snorkels. We scored this unit for our Everyday Titan from Automotive Customizers of Pompano Beach, Florida. It's actually designed for a Ford Super Duty, but the folks at Automotive Customizers figured out how to make it work on the fullsize Titan and Armada SUV. They offer this kit for around $525.

Painless Wiring is another great source for waterproof electronic parts. They have everything from complete chassis harnesses to individual waterproof ignition switches. Two items we liked in Painless Wiring's catalog were this waterproof fan relay kit and the universal switch panel. Each product was designed to prevent water intrusion, even under the severest of conditions such as our Tank Trap at Top Truck Challenge.

Exhaust systems, when completely underwater, can provide a very direct route for water to enter the engine. For extreme dunkings, we recommend a simple exhaust-fording kit like you see on military Hummers. Or, if you want to get really fancy, try an electronic smog pump off a mid-'90s vintage LT-1 engine. Clever plumbing will allow the pump to draw fresh air from your snorkel and push it into the exhaust system through a high-temperature check valve near the collectors. While in operation, this setup can pressurize your exhaust system with fresh air to prevent an unwanted backflow should the engine stop running while submerged.

Fluid Caps
Some vehicles come equipped with a vented gas cap, oil fill cap, or power-steering cap. These will usually always allow water in where you don't want it. It's a good idea to take a look at these caps and seal them up if necessary. Usually a dab of RTV silicone will do.

Cooling Fans
When submerged, a clutchless mechanical cooling fan will act much like a boat propeller and pull forward slightly, possibly damaging the radiator in the process. We've seen people build thin sheetmetal skidplates in the shape of a doughnut that, when fixed to the radiator, will actually protect it from fan contact. Fans equipped with a clutch will typically stop turning and prevent these types of issues.

Electric fans also have problems with water. We recommend installing a kill switch to prevent fan-blade damage.


Superior Axle & Gear
Rancho Cucamonga, CA 91730
JE Reel
Pomona, CA 91766
Automotive Customizers
Pompano Beach, FL 33060
ARB/Safari Snorkel
OMNI Lubricants

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