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Damage Mitigation

New JK on Rubicon Almost 1000 miles new - on the Rubicon
Of all the concerns expressed by my newer students, #1 is damage to a new or expensive vehicle. Thatís understandable. You buy this special vehicle, then decide to take it off road. The last thing you want to see are marks and scratches.

I understand how you feel. That first ďouchĒ really hurts. Usually itís just some minor scratches or pinstriping. But youíre bummed nonetheless. Over time youíll come to accept those, because youíre having so much fun. Even so, there are some ways to minimize the damage.

One problem with stock vehicles is that they donít offer enough clearance on the approach and departure angle. Youíre going to have some scrapes and dings on the bumper. Youíre also likely to lose the air dam early on.

If you want to go off road, thereís no avoiding some abuse. You will have to accept a certain amount of bruising in order to enjoy the trails. But itís worth it.

How to minimize damage to your vehicle

Thereís one very easy way to avoid damage to a new car, which Iíll get to later. Letís look at some steps you can take now. By the way, these suggestions apply to all vehicles and four-wheelers, not just new ones.

The best advice I can give to all drivers is: ďKeep all four wheels on the ground and go slowly.Ē By driving slowly you can pick good lines, and feel your way through a rough patch. Ask one of your buddies to spot for you as you approach an obstacle. Realize that whatís under and really close to you is out of sight. Most of the undercarriage is pretty strong. You can scrape it but not hurt the vehicle. Itís when you go airborne and drop it on a rock or other hard surface that you experience big problems.

Another good tip is to watch the vehicle in front of you. Observe how that driver faced the obstacle; what did and did not work. It may also help to get out and study the obstacle. Your perspective from inside the vehicle is different.

Consider adding armor to your vehicle. Most off-road vehicles come with a skid plate over the gas tank and a small one over the transfer case. Add those if they are missing. Even if yours has a transfer case skid plate, you may consider swapping it for an after-market model. OEM pieces arenít that strong.

A really important item, though, is rock rails. The bottoms of the rock rail protect you from the effect of sliding on rocks and other stuff. The rails stick out three or four inches, and allow you to pivot away from rocks on the sides. Rock rails are critical, because the side panels are really vulnerable.

If you have a new Jeep you might look into covering it with "Jeep Skins" to protect the paint. Check out http://www.jeepskins.com.

The best mitigating factor is driving experience. As you gain experience, you learn how to read a trail and how best to address or avoid an obstacle.

Avoiding obstacles not always best idea

You may wonder: Why not avoid obstacles all the time? Surprisingly, thatís not always the best advice.

Every trail has some sort of hazard. You can start on a mild trail, and then find yourself facing an obstacle that you canít avoid. You may not be able to drive around it or back up. Perhaps conditions on the trail behind you have changed.

Other times a driver tries to drive around a rock and ends up off-camber. The vehicle is on a bit of a slope with its wheels spinning. The driver is stuck. Plus, the vehicle drifts when spinning the wheels and slides against the rock; now thereís no way to avoid damage.

In this case the better path wouldíve been to pick a good, clean sight line up and over the rock. The vehicle would have been level and had traction on all four wheels.

Itís good for you to learn how to drive through these conditions. If you can go around something safely, thatís fine. Sometimes, though, the safest route is up and over the obstacle. It takes experience to make that call.

How to avoid damaging a new car

Buy a used car. Yep, thatís right. Keep the nice one at home, and take the other one off road.

However, I think by now you can see that even a new vehicle has its place on the back roads. Plus, you may not be able to afford another vehicle. Donít deny yourself the fun and excitement of four-wheeling just because your vehicle is in pristine shape.

Follow the suggestions Iíve listed here, and you can enjoy the great outdoors.


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Barstow to Vegas Aka Mojave Road - October 28


Mojave Road

STILL TIME TO GO ON THIS TRIP!

On this trip we run the Mojave Road starting near Barstow and end up on the Colorado River about 95 miles south of Vegas. This is the way Miners traveling from LA made their way to the gold fields. Traveling the Mojave Road isn't a picnic but it is a great family style 4-Wheel drive trip / Expedition. It's a 3-day excursion, best made in convoy with other 4-wheelers. The Mojave Road was a main wagon trail for many years between the Beale wagon road in AZ and the West Coast. The terrain is mostly desert; some hills over the various mountain ranges; a dry lake; water crossings; canyons; and areas of soft sand. More Details

You can register at Barstow to Vegas Aka Mojave Road Registration

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T&T Rail Road Adventure in November


Death Valley

Our goal is to cross through Johnson Valley, enjoying what it has to offer, and making our way North along the old Tonopah & Tidewater (T&T) Rail Road bed to the Rasor OHV, Afton Canyon and the western edge of the Mojave Preserve. On the way we will skirt the Rodman Mountain Wilderness and cross I-40. This adventure is 2 days of scenic, historical, light wheeling and a night ( 2 if you prefer) of primitive camping under the stars. We can plan a Dutch Oven pot luck for our evening meal.
Check out the details and sign up on the website: http://www.4x4training.com/Adventures/TTRailroad.html


You can register directly at http://www.4x4training.com/calendar/calendar.php#TTRailroad


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Getting Started Off-road driving Clinic November12


Getting Started Off-Road Clinic

The clinic is held in Hungry Valley State Vehicle Recreation Area near Gorman CA. This clinic is specifically designed to meet the needs of novice off-highway drivers or someone with a bit of experience who is looking for a more complete understanding. This is a one-day session. The session includes classroom and behind-the-wheel instruction. More Details...


You can register directly here


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Advanced Beginner Clinic November 13


Advanced Beginner Clinic Example

The clinic is held in the El Paso Mountains near Mojave CA. The goal is to help you get a "better feel" for tire placement and to visualize the obstacles as they move into your blind zone. You will gain more behind the wheel experience combined with picking lines. The difficulty level is one step higher than the basic class and you can expect some pin striping. More Details...


You can register directly here


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Tread Trainer Clinic January 7, 2012


Tread Class Example

There is a Tread Lightly! Tread Trainer Clinic Jan 7, 2012. This year it will be held in Anaheim. You are encouraged to sign up for the Tread Lightly! Tread Trainer Certification Clinic. This is a one day course. There is a minimal fee of $25 to cover class materials and handouts. It requires a commitment to teaching and spreading the word about Tread Lightly! Principles and outdoor ethics.

You can find out more details on line at http://www.4x4training.com/TrainingClinics/Tread.html .

And register on line at http://4x4training.com/calendar/calendar.php#Tread.

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I hope to see you on the trails!
Tom Severin, President
Badlands Off Road Adventures,Inc.
4-Wheel Drive School
310-613-5473
http://www.4x4training.com
Make it Fun. Keep it Safe.
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Want To Use This Article In Your Magazine, E-Zine, Club Newsletter Or Web Site? You are welcome to use it anytime, just be sure to include the following author/copyright information: Tom Severin, 4x4 Coach, teaches 4WD owners how to confidently and safely use their vehicles to the fullest extent in difficult terrain and adverse driving conditions. Visit www.4x4training.com to develop or improve your driving skill.

Copyright 2011, Badlands Off-Road Adventures, Inc.





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