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Whoops! Special: Top Trail Fixes

Posted in How To on April 1, 2011
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Photographers: Readers

Snap! Bang! Hiss! These four-letter words are often followed by other four-letter words when we find ourselves broken down on the trail. If you go off-roading, eventually you'll break something. It may be minor, it may be massive, but it will happen. (If you never break anything and your truck always works perfect, then we hate your good luck.)

Trail carnage isn't all bad. Yes, that initial frustration may have you chucking your keys into the woods and setting the old truck ablaze, but hold up. There is always hope. We haven't heard of many trail mishaps that couldn't somehow be fixed, patched, or jerry-rigged to get the 4x4 home. They're not always pretty, but given some ingenuity, spare parts, and a few essential tidbits you can usually drag your busted brush-truck home to fight another day.

Troublesome Tires
Who in his right mind would go exploring rough country with balloons for shoes? It seems silly, but we do it every weekend, and sure enough the air doesn't always stay in them.

If you lose a bead and your tires are flopping around on the rim, you'll need a jack to raise the truck. You'll also need a source of compressed air to fill the tire, but getting the bead to seat enough to even hold air can be tricky. A ratchet strap around the perimeter can usually bulge the sidewalls enough to stop airflow. Also, check out "Redneck Tire Mounting" on YouTube for a slightly less safe tire reseating method.

Blue Line Pen
ARB Air Lockers offer selectable open or spooled differentials and great traction, but the small blue air hose that runs to the lockers can be cut or melted if not properly routed. Some trail technicians we know disassembled a ballpoint pen, cut and cleaned the ink tube, and slid it perfectly into the blue line. Some duct tape finished the repair, and they were locked up and ready to ride.

Pump 'er Up
Did your carburetor die? Or maybe your fuel pump? Try this fix: Fill your windshield washer with gas, undo the hose, and run it into the carb. Crank the key and pump the windshield sprayer button. It's not National Highway Traffic Safety Administration approved, but it ought to get you off the trail.

Hole in One
Darn tires aren't perfect. They still can get punctures. Plug kits are important trail tools, but sometimes the hole is bigger than one plug can fix. We've seen sidewall holes that were sewn shut with wire and then filled with plugs to hold air. It works, but we wouldn't recommend driving to work on that tire.

Good looks, Brains & Supplies
Grab a duffle bag, an ammo can, or a shoe box, and put the following stuff in your truck. You can probably get home with some or all of this stuff.

Ratchet straps •Bailing wire
•Zip ties •Utility tool
•Duct tape •Piece of chain
•Hose clamps
•Pepper (put in radiator if it springs a small leak)
•Welding rod (see "Battery Power 101," page 56 in this issue)

Never Say Die
Don't give up, there is always a way home. It may not be the safest, so be careful, but you can come up with something. For example, how about getting a four-wheel-drive race buggy out of the desert and over 80 miles back to Ensenada on Mexican roads with only three wheels? Speeds recorded on the GPS device: over 60 mph. Recipe:

•3 ratchet straps •1 creative driver
•1 block of wood •1 rabbit's foot

C Is for Calamity
C-clip axles have been trying to run trails for years and keep falling out at inopportune times. You see, if you break an axleshaft that is held in with a little C-clip it will slide right on out. We've seen lots of trail fixes for these and even a product known as the Trip Saver ( that is carried along to replace the axle and help you limp home. This photo shows how an ingenious reader used a wall from a kid's plastic playhouse and a bunch of rope to get the Jeep off the trail. We're not sure how he came across a plastic playhouse in the woods.

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