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(Un)Common Trail Maladies - Kopycinski's Brain

Posted in How To: Transmission Drivetrain on October 31, 2014
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Surviving off-road is all about the weakest link. Whether you’re racing the Baja 1000 or just exploring the backcountry with the family, the chances of your vehicle making the complete journey without a problem depends on maintenance and condition. Tires can go flat, worn or weak steering components can bend or break, or any number of other maladies may befall you far from civilization. And, Mother Nature can strike.

Of course, your first line of defense is the aforementioned vehicle maintenance, which includes looking over your rig thoroughly from time to time and correcting issues as they’re found. Second, is your ability to know and understand the workings of your vehicle and how to do some repair work on it. Third, is to always carry a decent tool set with you to facilitate doing repairs, should the event arise. It also can’t hurt to do home rig maintenance with your vehicle tool kit. That way you establish what tools you most likely need to have along.

The final attribute that’s handy to possess in times of mechanical trouble is an inventive mind that can see solutions that are unconventional and possible at times when the proper tools and repairs parts may not be convenient. We’ve seen some talented field repairs that served well enough to get folks home to where they could complete a permanent repair in a garage environment.

Here are a few examples of field repairs that may spur thoughts as to how you can best prepare for the inevitable trail fix.

You’ve just installed a new lift or otherwise changed your suspension. It seems the driveshaft has sufficient travel to handle the new droop distance. However, on a trail run, you quickly discover the splines separate. What you forgot to account for on a leaf-spring axle is that the axle can roll under torque load and pull the yoke further apart, beyond what you see at simple droop. Fortunately, you can usually reassemble the driveshaft on the trail with simple tools, and add a chain or temporary limit strap to keep axle droop in check.

Fallen trees and rocks can sometimes wreak havoc on undercarriage areas in the most unpredictable ways. In this case, this truck ran over a large tree limb that flipped up and tore a hard brake line right off the axlehousing. The plan was to crimp the hard line over and stop the brake leak. However, both ends were damaged. Clamping the hard line in some locking pliers, a lag bolt was gently tapped into the line forming a new flare. It wasn’t great, but the improvised flare worked and we were able to reconnect the hard line. Note: It can make sense to carry brake line plugs for just such an incident.

They say duct tape can fix almost anything, and much of that statement certainly seems true. It’s a simple and useful item to carry for fixing hoses, loose parts, and most anything else that needs to be closed or kept still. Other useful repair items to have on board are bailing wire, various nuts and bolts, hose clamps, and zip ties. We’re surprised by how many people head into remote areas without a few basic patch and repair items. Keep used belts and hoses as backup spares in case you should need one on the trail.

Remember the weakest link can bite you. One day on the trail, this Jeep owner was experiencing intermittent front drive issues. Upon some disassembly and examination, it was discovered that a repair shop had reassembled the front locking hubs incorrectly. It was an easy fix, but a good example of how knowing your rig mechanicals can save yourself in the boonies. Fortunately, there were knowledgeable friends along to help sort out the problem.

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