We've all been there-you're climbing a hill or going over a rock and all you can see through the windshield is sky and hood. In your head are the blueprints for the road ahead, so you steer and pedal accordingly. But what if it's a new trail, or you somehow manage to slip off of the edge of a familiar trail or obstacle and are now looking straight down the barrel of rut-roh? This month we have some basics that might help you in a similar scenario.
•If you can't see where you're going, don't drive it. Simple as that. Walk up and look ahead. "I have a saying," said Tom Severin, president of Badlands Off Road Adventures/4-Wheel Drive School. "Spot the trail before you commit to going down, because you might not be able to back out of it."
•You failed to heed that advice and now you're in a situation. Stop, stabilize the Jeep (such as put the E-brake on), and access WTF is going down. Don't start screaming yet. "The best case is that you dropped down on the axle or frame and you're stuck, so you didn't go over. Worst case is that it's already too late and you're going down," said Severin. Steer straight down the hill.
•Let's go with that: Your Jeep is teetering. You know how in action movies they throw the car in Reverse and haul ass outta there? Not so much here. Racing your wheels won't get you as much traction as a slow-turning tire. But you don't want to drift into the off-camber. "That's worse," said Severin.
•In those same movies, everyone moves to the back of the car to redistribute the weight when they're dangling, right? "I don't think you should move to the back," explained Severin. "My rationale for that is that you are now just a passenger; you can't use the brakes, steer, or accelerate. I think you should stay in the seat so you have some control." If you can get out safely, fine. But...
•...if there's a passenger, always have them get out first. The reason? They have no control from their seat, so if you leave them and the Jeep slips, slides, or dangles further, there's nothing they can do about it except go along for the ride.
•Hmm, you can't get out safely (that first step is a doozy) and need a tug. If the situation involves a straight-back yank, you can probably use a strap. If the rescue involves an odd angle, winch it.
•The vehicle doing the winching should be in Neutral with the brakes on, while the one being rescued should be driven in the direction it's being pulled.
•"The biggest issue in my opinion is the vehicle going to pendulum (during winching/strapping), or going down and dragging the other vehicle." Don't wish that you'd watched the DVD Basic to Advanced Winching and Recovery Clinic with Tom Severin before you left the house that morning-watch now.
•OK, you can't get out safely and are going to roll. "Instruct passengers to bend over, cross their arms, and grab hold of the seatbelt on each side. Passengers have nothing to hold on to; the driver has the steering wheel." said Severin.
•And don't let passengers grab the rollbar. It's instinctive to do, but their hand could get smashed once the vehicle lands on the ground, or squashed if the Jeep tags a tree on impact.
•Good news! "Most of the stuff people roll off of is about the length of a vehicle, not much more," noted Severin. "There's also a chance you can roll out of it at the bottom if you give it a little gas at the last minute and steer into it." Results may vary.
•But remember, at all times everyone should have a seatbelt on. "It's not necessarily the rollover that's going to get you-it could be the big rock you didn't see, and you didn't have your seatbelt on and it throws you right through the windshield."