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January 2010 Safe Wheeling

Posted in How To on January 1, 2010
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It happens in an instant. One moment, you are tooling along enjoying the challenge nature put before you. The next, you realize the vehicle you spent so much time and money modifying is about to roll. Your thoughts slow down. You realize that no matter what happens next, you, your rig, and whoever else happens to be present, will likely never be the same after the destructive forces of the rollover. As the vehicle starts to tumble, you wonder if all of your passengers are belted in properly. The sounds of broken glass and crunching metal terrify you. As the vehicle continues through its chaotic tumble, you pray that the rollcage holds up to the destructive forces. If only you could press the pause button...

This ultra-clean TJ was basically totaled after a frontwards endo at Florida's Hard Rock Cycle Park. Luckily the driver walked away with only minor bumps and bruises. Notice the contents of the vehicle have succumbed to gravity despite what the owner thought was a "secure anchoring method." While the factory cage did exactly what it was intended to, an add-on front hoop with frame tie-ins could have prevented most of the body damage this rig suffered.

Unfortunately, here in the real world rollovers do happen. Even in the very best of scenarios where injuries are minor and damage is minimal, a rollover can be a real bummer. Yet despite the negative results of a rollover, there is a flip side (pun intended). After experiencing a roll you typically gain some valuable knowledge about vehicle preparation. For example: Did the contents of your toolbox remain securely in place where they should have? Did that extra-thick power cable you ran to feed your stereo amplifier and air compressor stay zip-tied where you wanted, or is it resting against the hot exhaust system cooking, about to ignite an electrical fire? Did that old gas cap you keep forgetting to replace actually seal up the tank, or is that unmistakable gurgling sound a warning of things to come? Or perhaps it dawns on you that your failure to pack the ever-essential container of oil absorbent is the reason that a group of angry backpackers surrounds you, referring to your "environmentally unfriendly ways" as "the reason these trails should be closed to motor vehicles."

Under most circumstances, a friendly lending of assistance by others will help you get back on your wheels and running again. But what if you are all alone? Do you have a winch, towstrap, or other crucial instruments for self-righting your vehicle? Does your CB radio even work after the whip antenna shattered during the initial rotation? Does anyone even know where you are? These are serious questions that sometimes make all the difference in the boonies. Whether you like it or not, four wheeling comes with some inherent risk, and despite what you may think, those risks can affect your loved ones.

Here are ten things to consider about rollover readiness:

1. Ensure that bulky items such as toolboxes and speaker boxes are securely attached to the inside of your rig. This will prevent them from becoming unexpected projectiles during a rollover.

2. Be sure to vent fluid reservoirs in such a way as to prevent spillage when the vehicle is upside down or lying sideways.

3. Don't rely solely on the factory hardtop or sportbar to protect you and your passengers, add a fabricated steel rollcage with multiple frame attachment points.

4. Make sure your battery is always properly anchored and consider swapping in one of those non-spillable, gel-type batteries.

5. Check out your electrical system; make sure that positive wires have proper isolation from abrasives and/or areas of high heat.

6. Place all critical items such as lug nut security sockets or winch remotes in a place where you can find them easily after a rollover.

7. Prevent electrical fires by using fuses or circuit breakers on all aftermarket accessories.

8. Pack extra fluids, absorbent, and garbage bags to use in the event of fluid loss.

9. Double check that seats are bolted in properly with functional seatbelts and grab handles for passengers to use.

10. Ensure that your first aid kit and fire extinguisher are easily accessible from any side of the vehicle; don't stuff them under the seat.

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