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Pre-Trip Prep Tips For Your Jeep 4x4

Posted in How To on June 1, 2011
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Everybody has issues at one time or another while off-roading. Whether it’s a broken axleshaft, busted driveshaft U-joint, bent steering linkage, cut finger, broken ankle, or worse, unless you’re sitting in your living room with your remote control and fluffy turtle pillow, calamity has a chance of befalling you. With that in mind, here are some tips on what to bring along on your next trail outing, as well as advice on what to check on your vehicle before you hit the trail. There’s no shame in breaking down due to unforeseen circumstances. But if the cause of your trouble is your own apathy, we have no sympathy. If you’re not equipped to handle the problem yourself, we’ll be tempted to dig a big hole and chuck you and your ill-prepared Jeep into it.

Tools & Gear
If you’re usually wheeling with buddies, it’s easy to get complacent and think you can borrow anything you might need from one of them. Do yourself and everybody you wheel with a favor. Know your and your vehicle’s limits and bring the appropriate tools and gear to handle both.

  • Compressed air (whether CO2 or electric compressor)
  • Welding equipment, on-board welder or just using 2 batteries (rods, leads, hammer, brush, gloves, #11 shade mask/goggles)
  • Inclement weather clothing (sun hat, warm clothes, poncho, sunscreen, goggles)
  • Recovery bag (minimum two D-ring shackles, tree saver, 20-30 foot tow strap, leather gloves, snatch block, winch controller if applicable)
  • Air down components (low-pressure gauge, spare valve cores, and valve stems)
  • First-aid kit (bandages, ointments, snakebite kit if applicable, emergency blanket, cold compress)
  • Water and food for at least one night
  • Tools (Know your vehicle for specifics, but a good wrench and socket set are minimum. A multi-tool, prybars, screwdrivers, axle and T-case yoke nut sockets, hub socket, breaker bar, gasket scraper, pliers, dikes, hammer, Allen wrenches, pitman arm puller, multi-meter, and anything else you think may be required to address a weak point on your vehicle.)
  • Hi-Lift Jack
  • Bottle or scissors jack
  • Teflon, duct, and electrical tape
  • Zip ties
  • Ratchet straps
  • Fire extinguisher (one is good two is better: mount within easy reach of driver.)

It’s not uncommon to use a Hi-Lift Jack handle as a steering fix, but if you’re got the room, why not bring along a full steering linkage replacement or a full set of axleshafts? While probably not necessary for 35-spline axles, if you’re pushing the limits of durability on any of your Jeep’s components, it’s best to bring along a spare. Think outside the box and cram any free space in your Jeep with spares.

  • Front (and/or rear) axleshafts (can be clamped to the fender/radiator grille/body with driveshaft U-bolts, depending on side)
  • Driveshaft U-bolts and U-joints
  • Axleshaft U-joints
  • Pitman arm
  • Tie rod ends (or complete steering linkages with ends attached)
  • Fuel pump (especially if fuel-injected with external pump)
  • Engine oil (3 quarts), gear and transmission lube, water for radiator
  • Driveshaft (if necessary and you have the room)
  • Assorted nuts, bolts, scrap steel for welding
  • Rod ends (if used in steering/suspension components)
  • Fan or serpentine belt
  • RTV/Gasket Maker
  • JB Weld

Preventative Maintenance
Simply spending 15 to 20 minutes inspecting your Jeep and tightening any loose bolts can make the difference between a great trip and a miserable trail repair story. Here’s a pre-flight checklist to run through before your Jeep even leaves the garage.

  • Lug nut torque
  • Suspension U-bolt/control arm bolt torque
  • Steering box bolts
  • Pitman arm nut
  • Tie rod/drag link ends
  • Tighten any jam nuts/check rod end condition (if applicable)
  • Driveshaft U-bolts
  • Driveshaft U-joints (grease and check condition)
  • Locking hub bolts
  • T-case adapter bolts
  • Clutch linkage
  • Check for fluid leaks
  • Check engine/transmission/T-case/axle fluid levels
  • Radiator fluid level and condition
  • Check fuel system lines for leaks
  • Air cleaner condition
  • Battery voltage at rest
  • Battery cables/hold down tight
  • Hubs adjusted (no wobble/free play)
  • Ball joints tight
  • Inspect frame for cracks/breaks (especially around steering box and suspension mounts)

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