We all break down on the trail sooner or later, aseven the ultimate off-road machine can become susceptible to damage. The key is being prepared when disaster strikes. These tips are all meant as temporary trail fixes and should be looked at only as a way to get by, and for some that means the drive home. Everything listed is basic equipment that we think all wheelers should have. Remember, know your limitations and use your bean. If something looks too unsafe to drive, it probably is.
Body damage is sometimes unavoidable and nobody wants mangled fenders destroying their expensive tires. There are times when a few swings of a hammer may give you all the clearance you need, but for those more "extreme" sheetmetal disasters we suggest the use of a winch. For this tip a fellow wheeler's winch is the best route to go to avoid any further damage to your rig. Figure out which way the fender will need to be pulled, then position the supporting vehicle accordingly and attach the hook. Make sure to inspect the tire for any damage that may have already occurred and remember when you get home to smooth out any sharp edges on the fender.
Busting a weld is never fun. From peeled shock tabs to broken spring hangers, these metal mishaps can leave you stranded on the trail for hours. The good news is if you can round up two batteries, a set of jumper cables, and a welding rod, you can weld your broken rig back together in a safe and timely manner. The key is to wire the batteries in a series, thereby conducting 24 volts of electric feed that when grounded to bare metal can be utilized as a primitive stick welder. For best results prep the area with a grinder or a wire brush. You will need to carry a variety of welding rods and eye protection as well as an extra set of cables or a shortened thick-gauge cable to connect the batteries in a series.
Losing a bead on the trail can result from a variety of reasons, and unfortunately having a fullsize spare on board isn't always an option. But, if you have a ratchet strap and an air source you will be able to reseat the bead and finish out your fun-filled day of wheeling. Remove the weight of the vehicle off the tire and clean the inside lip of the wheel to prevent debris from obstructing the bead. Next, wrap the strap around the middle of the tire tread; you will notice as you ratchet the strap tighter that it will develop a flat spot in the tire. Don't worry as this is the desired effect as the force is now pushing the bead to the outside of the tire. Connect your air source to the valve and watch for the bead to set. If you notice any areas leaking check for dirt between the lip of the bead and the wheel. Once the bead is set you may remove the strap and pump the tire up to the desired psi.
Breaking a universal joint on the trail is one of the most common breakages among wheeling enthusiasts, but with a few standard tools you can swap that busted joint out in no time. First, use a pair of snap-ring or needle-nose pliers to remove the U-joint retaining clips. Once removed, place the shaft on level ground, then line up a larger socket underneath the cap opening, and place a smaller socket on the opposite side. This allows the cap to slide down into the open socket when pressure is applied by hammering the top of the smaller socket. Once the U-joint is out use the reverse process to gently tap in both caps and replace the hardware that is provided with the new U-joint.
Hi-Lift Tie Rod
A Hi-Lift Jack is one of the greatest tools that you can have in your rig. It acts not only as a lift for your far-from-stock rig, but over the years has proved useful in a variety of trail fix scenarios. One of our favorites is a quick cure for a bent tie rod. This can be universally applied to most stock solid-axle applications. You will need to use a rope or winch cable to straighten the bar out the best you can, then unbolt one end of the tie rod from the knuckle. A few basic handtools are all that is needed to remove the bar from the truck. Once the bar is out, unlatch the Hi-Lift handle from the jack and then slide it over the tie rod. Reattach the bar and align the steering the best you can. It would be wise to check the diameter of your tie rod before relying on this tip off road. Not all tie rods are the same and it's always better to know that it won't work while parked in your driveway versus stuck on a trail in the middle of nowhere.
A twisted driveshaft is one of the most dreaded trail breaks. This tip will require a welding source, metal cutting tools, and either a scrap plate or precut strips of metal that will be used to brace the shaft. First, remove the shaft from the vehicle and place it onto a level surface. At this point it would be wise to secure the U-joint caps in place; electrical tape is usually the easiest to work with. Next, measure the approximate length of the strips that will be needed to brace the shaft on both sides. Once the metal is cut it may be helpful to use a set of C-clamps to keep the metal firmly in the right position. After the welding surface is prepped, tack the metal braces evenly to limit the shaft from warping. This will not only aid in keeping the shaft straight, but will help with balance. Let the welds cool, then reinstall.
Tire plugs have been around for ages. Why? Because they are easy to use and they work! There are countless plug kits available-some with compressors and some with fancy plug inserters-while others stick to the basics with just the plug, punch, and driver. In general you take out whatever happens to be stuck in your tire (in this case a nail). Once the object is removed, use the punch to "drill" the hole for easier access for the plug. Most kits have a sticky compound that the plug will need to be coated in once you have it securely placed in the driver. The gook provides an extra defense to prevent air escaping as well as letting the plug slide into the hole more easily. Submerse the plug, then twist it a quarter of the way out. Once partially exposed, snip the excess and check the air pressure in the tire.