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4x4 Truck Worst Case Scenarioes - Achilles' Wheels

Posted in Project Vehicles on October 1, 2008 Comment (0)
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Photographers: Courtesy Of The Victims

Adversity builds character, so goes the old saw. If that's the case, then Four Wheeler readers are a pretty unimpeachable group-at least, if the snafus and stucks shown on these pages are any indication of the adversity you suffer. A few months back, we asked you for your best (or worst) stuck photos, and you responded with plenty of pics and anguished laments-and yeah, a few chuckles, too.

Now for the payoff: everyone who sent in a photo featured here will receive a complimentary box of exclusive FW swag, and one lucky Grand Prize winner takes home (OK, we're mailing it to him) gift certificates worth $2,000 from 4-Wheel Parts Wholesalers. Thanks to all who sent in your entries this time, and for those of you who'd like to enter our latest contest, check out page 48 for all the details.

It didn't happen on a trail-but you know this had to be ugly anyway, and Dave Manning confirms it. Dave was driving home from the grocery store on I-15 near his home in North Salt Lake, Utah, when a vehicle swerved suddenly in front of him. Trying to avoid a collision at 65 mph, he lost control and rolled his Jeep three times-across the highway, off the shoulder, and nearly into the path of an oncoming freight train before ending up in a drainage ditch, a few feet shy of the tracks. The Jeep was totaled, but thankfully Dave was able to walk away from the wreck unscathed: "I was wearing my seatbelt and received only a few cuts and bruises." For surviving a near-death experience-and reminding us again that safety really does come first-we're happy to award Dave our $2,000 shopping spree from 4-Wheel Parts. Happy shopping, Dave. You've earned it.

Here's a Worst Stuck from 1968, sent by Craig Philpott of Angwin, California. Craig's dad Edward (seen in the white T-shirt) ran a road grader in Farmington, New Mexico, back then, and he was routinely sent to retrieve stuck vehicles from Chaco Wash during the rainy season. Here, a Navajo farmer's pickup truck got bogged down in the wash, where rainwater and silty soil combine to form a type of quicksand. In this case, however, Ed's recovery attempt failed, and the patient ... well, it sat for a week. Craig explains: "By the time [the floodwaters receded], there was only a tiny corner of the vehicle's roof showing from the wash bottom. The pickup was dug out completely by hand."

After a day spent wheeling at Silver Lake in Michigan, Doug Wine was running some donuts on the flat top of a steep dune. He got a little too close to the lip of the dune, got sideways and slid down a steep sand embankment before ending up solidly wedged between two trees. Doug explains the rescue: "After about a half hour of digging and listening to spectators' comments like, 'What a moron', and 'What kind of idiot would do something like that?', a fellow duner came along and winched my rear end around enough that I could get myself out." With only $900 in damage to the rear quarter panels, Doug considers himself a lucky man indeed.

Goleta, California, resident Kristofer Troeger enjoys wheeling at the Pismo Dunes, and he sent along this photo of his '72 Bronco on the receiving end of a "sand bath" administered by a buddy's Jeep. "All day I was roosting him whenever he got stuck," Kris explains, "and then I got myself stuck while sidehilling a dune. As soon as I saw him backing up to the edge of the dune, I ran out of my Bronco, leaving my then-girlfriend in the passenger seat to get the full brunt of the blast!" Kris soon got unstuck, courtesy of a tow strap, and drove away under his own power. And the girlfriend? Well shucks, lets hear it for confirmed bachelorhood.

Andrew Turner relates a tale of true perseverance-a muddy mess that took two months to solve. It all started when Andrew and his brother decided to build a trail on their father's property in Jewett, Ohio. One spot on the trail, fed by an underground stream, was muddy, "but nothing our open-diff trucks couldn't handle." Andrew's Bronco was the first victim, and with no tractor access or room for another vehicle to make a clean pull, they resorted to hand-winching. No luck, however, and running out of time, the brothers abandoned the Bronco for a month. When they returned, they took turns getting each other's trucks stuck, then unstuck, then getting Andrew's truck stuck again. Another month later, Andrew was able to jack up his truck with a Hi-Lift to a point where he could be safely pulled out, waterlogged diffs and all. "I think I'll wait for a powered winch before I try it again," he reflects.

That's how we handle situations like this, but if you don't have a winch (or a wench, for that matter), things get a little trickier. In this case, Katrina Campbell "egged on" her husband Jerrod to take their '88 Suburban through a mudhole near their home in Milton Freewater, Oregon. The Sub bogged down a few feet from the end, and after half an hour and one failed recovery attempt, the Chevy was stuck and submerged to the floorboards. A Dodge 1/2-ton Hemi came to the rescue and yanked the truck out, but not before the flooring was trashed, along with the front wheel bearings and seals. Katrina admits this wasn't the first time she'd ever persuaded Jerrod to go where no Suburban has gone before, and offers this bit of advice: "Lesson learned-don't take the wife four-by'ing."

Jordan Zee sent us this pic from a four-diamond trail at Barnwell Mountain in Texas. Jordan, who's still inside the truck here, was attempting to pull out a stuck Jeep Scrambler when, as he puts it, "I goosed it a little too hard and it rolled over. The best part is, it wasn't my truck-it [belonged to] the trail boss' wife"-as did the youngster being pulled out in the photo, though at the time of the roll he was "well strapped in and all smiles." (Safety first again.) Total recovery time was about three hours, with the only damage a busted driver-side mirror. "She told me not to worry about it," Jordan says, noting that "she didn't use those off-road anyway."

A reader known only as "Pottsop" sends this Worst Stuck from the Everglades, where he and a buddy were wheeling one afternoon when they decided to "hit a little mud." As it turned out, "it wasn't so little once we got in." Three different trucks were enlisted in the recovery, with a tow strap yanking the disabled Dodge some 6 inches at a time until it was finally freed from the greasy goo-a full four hours later. That was only the beginning of the fun, though: according to Pottsop, it took three hours of pressure washing and another hour of cleaning to fully demudify his pickup.

There's certainly no shame in getting sideways on a trail like Pritchett Canyon, but for Corey Osborne of Montrose, Colorado, getting stuck was the least of his problems. Getting back on all four would normally be no biggie here, but Corey notes, "trying to give directions while still inside the vehicle proved challenging. A couple of straps pulling the wrong direction slid me completely crosswise along this steep rock face. Once I was able to get out and get my winch hooked up top in front of me, it was much easier-yet even backing up to get another run at it proved a challenge as I was still on the side of this rock face. Luckily, no one was hurt and there wasn't a whole lot of damage. After 10 long hours spent on the trail with his buddies, Corey considered himself "one of the lucky ones" for managing to finish without serious breakage.

Justin Thorn of Carleton, Michigan, was out wheeling his '99 Dodge Ram when he got stuck in the mud on a local trail. But this was only the beginning of Justin's fun as a Chevy pickup rolled over while trying to yank him out. Along next came a fullsize Blazer, which also got stuck in the same mudhole. Finally, a 950 Cat loader was called into service-and as you can see from the photo, this was not going to be a low-buck recovery. The next day, an excavator was hired to pull out the stuck vehicles, and after shelling out some "cold hard cash," Justin came to a painful conclusion: "Buy a winch" next time, he says.

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This marks the sad end of "Gumby," a fiberglass-bodied CJ-5 once owned by Matt Shook of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Matt relates the night he was watching TV at home when his dog wanted to "go outside" to do ... well, what dogs do, we guess. To Matt's horror, he stepped outside to see Gumby engulfed in flames in his own driveway, and by the time the fire department arrived, the Jeep was a total loss. Gone was the swapped-in 350 small-block, the SM465 and Dana 300, the sprung-over Dana 44s, and brand-new 35-inch BFGoodrich M-Ts. Matt's still stumped as to the exact cause of the fire, though he surmises an electrical short may have been the culprit. At least the Jeep was given a proper memorial service: "Most all of my wheeling buddies made their way over to my house to pay their last respects before I shoveled the burnt carcass into the bed of my pickup to dump into a dumpster."

Grand Junction, Colorado, resident Matt Berryman recalls the day his fully built S-10 Blazer met its untimely end. Matt and a friend were "messing around" in the desert near his home when, driving at speed in the dirt, he hit a small ditch in a blind corner. One of the 44-inch Gumbo Mudders unexpectedly dug into the ditch, and the S-10 rolled over five times, coming to rest on its driver side. Luckily, Matt was unhurt, but it took a 5-mile walk out for him to get help, and a Duramax pickup and a tow truck were required to winch the truck into the upright position you see here. As you might expect, the Blazer never ran again, though, Matt explains, "it generously donated its engine to another slammed S-10 Blazer that I have."

Bob Bascom of Warrenton, Virginia, was wheeling with sons Ryan and Matt at the Great Smoky Mountain Trail Ride at legendary Tellico in North Carolina when this stuck occurred. Ryan generously loaned Matt his '87 4Runner for the day, and he was climbing this rutted obstacle when, as Bob puts it "he did a nice pirouette on the left" and ended upside down, suspended by his front and rear bumpers. The extraction took about an hour, and the Toyota fired up right away once back on all fours. Save a busted front driveshaft (which was fixed in camp), the Toy was still quite driveable, despite a bit of rock rash. As Bob explains: "The top of the cab was caved in, and the spare axles stored in the cab took out both the rear window and sunroof. Luckily, the windshield was not damaged because we had a 550-mile drive home at the end of the week."

From Moab, Utah, Brandon Anderson relates a tale of a boonie field fix that didn't quite work. Busting a Dana 30 stub shaft near Cliff Hanger, Brandon pulled the bad shaft and headed to town to find a spare. Not finding one, he decided to head to Poison Spider Mesa for some wheeling fun before realizing "I needed to leave the stub shaft in to hold the bearing together." Tire and wheel soon departed the rig, snapping the steering knuckle and dragging the caliper and bearing along with them. A buddy fetched a new bearing in town, and hours later, Brandon reinstalled the new bearing and the busted stub shaft, tied up the caliper, and returned to camp-eight hours later. Having to drive home to West Valley City with "front brakes only on the passenger side made things interesting," he notes, adding that he now carries "spare shafts for every corner" when he goes wheeling nowadays.

Ken Brouillard of Myrtle Creek, Oregon, sent us this pic, along with narration: "This rollover happened in January of 2004. I had already gone down this steep, rutted hill, when I heard on my CB that someone had gone over on the Beaver Slide (the name of this tricky little spot). I ran back and took pictures, and as you can see, it was close to rolling all the way to the bottom if it had not been for the edge of the bank stopping the Jeep. A couple of winch lines were run to get the Jeep back on all fours. One line was run to keep the Jeep from going back over too quickly, the other to pull him back over. After getting the Jeep back upright and down the hill to level ground, it started right up. Very little body damage and just a minor injury to the driver."

Carl Shirts sent in this pic of his Jeep Cherokee stuck in a water hole near his home in Burlington, Iowa. Carl, who'd only purchased the XJ three days earlier, had wheeled through the same obstacle the previous day with no problems, so gathering his camera to capture some images, he headed back to the same spot, and ... soon it was time to call his brother for a retrieval using his GMC truck. The pickup got stuck as well, so a wrecker was dispatched to the scene, and an hour and a half and $107 later, Carl's ride was freed again. "If anyone ever asks, 'How much trouble can you get in a stock Jeep?' just show them my pics," Carl says. We're happy to oblige.

From Camp Fallujah, International Police Advisor Jason Havlik tells it all: "While on a night mission in Saqlawiyah, Iraq, our driver got a little too far to the right on a narrow road and put our HMMWV into a deep ditch. Being a civilian-and therefore technically not allowed to drive the vehicle-I pleaded with the sergeant to allow me to do so and guaranteed him that my off-road experience would be of value. Two busted tow straps later (due to them not being rated for the weight of an armored HMMWV), I was not quite ready to call it quits. Two hours later, with the help of a front-end loader, I safely got the vehicle out to the happy applause of the Army team who didn't want to have to call on the Marines to come to their rescue, and we continued on with our mission."

Admittedly "green" to four-wheeling at the time this photo was taken, Ryan Carpenter learned quickly what happens when your Chevy truck loses its power-steering belt during a deer-hunting trip in Hancock, Vermont: "I soon realized the 38.5-inch tires don't steer very well without power steering," resulting in a collision with a log that snapped both driver-side ball joints and "bent my axleshafts all to hell." With nightfall setting in, Ryan and buddies had to abandon the rig, hiking two miles in the snow to catch a ride home before returning the next day to affect repairs. With the aid of a winch from a friend's CJ, Ryan's truck was soon freed and home safely. He sums up his experience for other newbies out there: "Lesson learned: Examining the path you travel is worth a lot more than the cost of replacing parts."

Amy Parise of Worcester, Massachusetts, sent us this photo of an unidentified wheeler (at an unidentified location) proving that "XJs do not make good boats. He made it to the middle of the water before he got stuck so people had to swim out to him to hook him up to the winch line. Thank goodness for the winch or he would have still been there."



It took three hours and a Ford Super Duty to extract Josiah Jackson's Wrangler from this stuck, hence the nighttime photo. Josiah was en route to a Virginia mud pit (or maybe already in it?) when his rear end sank in the muck to the bumpers. During the recovery, the Jeep's exhaust pipe broke in two places, and before he could fix it, the "friendly police in Virginia Beach" handed him a $60 citation. "Needless to say," Josiah says, "I won't be going back to that spot."

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