When AAA Won't Save Your Butt
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Getting stuck is not something you need us to show you how to do. Every single one of you is an expert at getting your vehicle stuck, sunk, or high-centered in the worst possible location. If you dont believe us just flip to the Whoops! section in the back of this magazine. Youre freakin pros at it!
This information applies to all of you, even if youve built your rig with all the traction-adding toys and suspension products you could find. Your rig is not invinciblesooner or later you are going to drive in somewhere that you cant drive out of. Oftentimes having four-wheel drive and a winch allows you to get deeper into trouble than a lesser vehicle could. So unless you like the idea of ditching your pride and joy out on the trail, you are going to have to expect the worst and find ways to save your tail (and your trucks) from walking home.
When the inevitable does happen (and, trust us, it will), and that rock, mud, sand, or snow has brought you to a haltdont panicstep back and evaluate the situation. Sometimes the solution is as easy as moving a rock or stuffing something underneath a tire. We know that each type of terrain has its own challenges, and weve been lucky enough to have wheeled all over the country to see what extraction techniques work and what makes things worse. Follow along with us now as we show you what tricks we use to make it back to camp before dinner is served. A little planning now will save you a lot of aggravation later.
Three Tools That Could Save Your Life
Shovel: This can be any kind of shovel that wont break when you need to dig out mud, sand, snow, or rocks from around your truck. Wooden handles are OK, but will dry out over time and snap when you need them the most. If you find yourself sans shovel, an old differential cover, a 2x6 piece of lumber, or even your copilots hands will get the job done.
Hi-Lift Jack: No matter what type of rig you have it is too heavy for you to move when you get it stuck. A Hi-Lift will give you the mechanical advantage you need to push, pull, or lift your truck back onto the trail. No other single tool is as versatile and valuable as a Hi-Lift Jack when you are stuck. Dont leave home without it.
Tow Strap: These things are like jumper cables. Youll need someone elses vehicle to make them work, but you stand a much better chance of getting someone to help you if you offer to supply your own. Dont waste your money on cheap no-name straps, and dont take chances with old frayed ones either.
There are so many different types of mud across this country that getting unstuck from your local mud pit can be one of the most challenging extractions youre likely to find.
Driving through ruts made by someone with taller tires is the best way to get stuck.
Do not stop forward progress until you are on firm ground. Driving through mud is part traction and part propulsion, so keep wheel speeds high.
When the mud wont let you go any farther forward, put it in reverse and back up in your tracks and find a different line.
Sawing the steering wheel left and right while applying the throttle will clean mud from your tires and often allow you to get a better grip. Dont go too crazy, as this same technique is great for snapping U-joints too.
Winches, tow straps, or a come-along may be able to pull you out of the goo if you arent sunk in too deep. If you are sunk up to the transfer case in mud then even your 12,000-pound winch may not be enough. In some cases it may be easier to jack up the truck and stuff friction-adding material such as logs or rocks under the tires.
The key to driving on sand is floatation. Let air out of your tires! Being stuck in the sand may require you to let more air out of your tires than you would normally think practical. We are talking about taking the tires down in pressure to the point just before the tire will come off the rim.
Just like mud, sand is a terrain that requires horsepower and momentum. Stay on the gas and keep moving. When you do stop, park on a firm surface, or park facing downhill.
If you cant drive any farther, resist the temptation to spin the tires, as it will only cause you to dig down deeper. The worst-case scenario for any stuck is when the framerails are on the ground. Like in the mud, you want to try to back out in the tracks you made coming in as they will be packed down from the weight of your truck.
Break out the shovel and dig away the sand that has built up in front of your tires. If someone else can pull you out, have him pull you toward firmer ground. Oftentimes that means pulling you back in the direction from which you came.
There is no reason to break your truck while trying to follow someone across a dune. Sand is incredibly hard on a vehicles drivetrain. Rocking the vehicle by shifting the transmission from forward to reverse will often get you unstuck, but it does take its toll on the truck. Watch the coolant temperature, and if your automatic doesnt have a transmission temperature gauge, be extra careful not to smoke the ATF. Being stuck is bad enough, but overheating the engine or burning up the drivetrain could mean walking home even if you do get unstuck.
Driving in snow usually means that the outside temperature is below freezing. Getting stuck in the snow can be more dangerous than any other terrain because the human body does not take kindly to subfreezing temperatures. Your own safety is far more important than getting your truck unstuck. If you are unprepared for a cold-weather extraction, ditch the vehicle and get to safety.
Chains are your friends. If you only have one set, put them on the front tires. Hard-pack snow and ice will not provide enough friction for rubber tires in some situations. Mounting a set of chains can give you the extra bite you need to get moving.
Stay on the trail. It is very important that you follow the vehicle in front of you because a covering of snow will mask many trail obstacles. Be on the lookout for water crossings, holes, and even fallen trees that may be hard to see when covered in snow. Trails that were easy in July can be treacherous in January with a foot of snow on the ground.
As in mud and sand, momentum is often the key to successfully driving in snow. Try backing up in your tire tracks before attempting to go forward. Always try to plow through deep snow with a little speed.
Remember that your truck is not a sled. If the tires are spinning and youre not moving, dig out around the tires and stuff dirt, rocks, branches, or anything you can find under the tires to get more traction. If the snow is deep enough to high-center the frame, dig out the snow from under the truck.
When youre traveling over rocks, you arent really driving. Its more like scrubbing the earth. You are bound to get hung up on something, and when you do, a winch (yours or someone elses) is the best tool for a controlled extraction.
High-centering the truck on the frame or part of the suspension is the most common way to get stuck in the rocks. Lifting the truck up and over an obstacle with your Hi-Lift Jack, or even fully inflating your tires, can often get you the additional clearance you need to get moving again.
Getting stuck and not being able to drive over an obstacle are not the same things. If you cant get up the trail the way the guy in front of you did, look for a different line that could work better for your vehicle.
Driving on rocks is usually very technical. Take your time and get out of the vehicle if necessary to survey the trail and get a feel for how you want to approach the toughest parts.
It is possible to get your trail rig wedged between rocks that are beneath, beside, or even above you. Work with your spotter to figure out where to put your ties, and which direction to steer in order to fit your vehicle through tight spots.
When all else fails, even the best drivers are rock stackers.