Mechanical Sympathy / Damage Mitigation

(Click picture for a larger image.)
I vividly recall a beautiful morning in the sand dunes drinking my first cup of coffee while watching the sun poke its nose over the bank of clouds behind a 60 foot dune. An early four-wheeler was testing his new injection system nearby. As he went up a razorback, I could tell he had too much throttle. As he cleared the top, a trail of sand followed the jeep a good six feet above the crest. As razorbacks have a habit of doing, the drop off on the other side proved more extreme than the Jeeper expected. The resulting endo was disastrous for his weekend. Luckily, he walked away but the Jeep was another matter.

It goes without saying that a reliable vehicle is a must for four wheeling. Without a dependable 4WD vehicle, we literally could not participate in this exciting hobby. That dependability is affected by how well we maintain our vehicles and how we treat them off road.

Which brings me to “mechanical sympathy.” I know it sounds strange. After all, do you really have sympathy for your 4WD vehicle? You probably do, but just don’t call it that. Mechanical sympathy involves taking care of your vehicle and driving properly to mitigation possible damage so that the vehicle gets you back home.

Mechanical sympathy entails several facets. Here are the more important ones.

- Avoid reckless driving. Testosterone poisoning can be a big problem among four wheelers. When affected by this disease, we feel we need to prove ourselves by using excessive momentum to overcome lack of tractions, going air borne for the record, and trying highly risky obstacles. In addition to putting people at risk, that behavior is tough on vehicles (and the environment). The only thing to “prove” while off road is your ability to be a good ambassador for four wheeling. Save the hot dogging for the Xbox game back home.

- Be aware of the environment. Note the terrain around and below your vehicle. Listen for anything unusual. A slow pace allows you to properly place your tires (though a spotter is useful in some situations). You also have time to respond to changes in the environment. Roll down the windows, turn the radio off, turn the air conditioner off, and listen carefully. Your vehicle tells you a lot about how it feels and a good deal about the terrain.

With the windows down, I know immediately when there’s a new sound coming from the vehicle. Not every sound is a cause for concern. Some scraping under the vehicle is ok and won’t cause damage. If you hear scraping and feel resistance, however, stop, back out and recon before trying again – perhaps a few inches over.

- Maintain proper speed. Some four wheelers think that if a little bit of momentum is good, a lot more must be better. That’s simply not true. We want to drive as slowly as possible…the old adage is, “As slowly as possible but as fast as necessary.” Too much momentum—read that as “speed”—can be dangerous. It’s too easy to lose control. The terrain takes over control. It can flip you up a bank or off the deep end of a shelf road. High speed on bumpy terrain is tough on your vehicle, too.

- Keep up with maintenance. A properly maintained vehicle is less likely to break down—on the road or on the trails. Refer to your owner’s manual for regularly scheduled maintenance. “An ounce of prevention is better than a pound of cure,” as the old saying goes. Regular maintenance can mean the difference between a vehicle that survives the trails and one that doesn’t.

- Perform a full inspection of your vehicle. Before starting and after lunch are good times for a 360-degree inspection. (And, of course, before you get back on the highway.) Even after numerous trips with no issues, don’t stop the inspection regimen. Parts can break at any time. Plus, you become so familiar with your vehicle; it’s much easier to recognize a problem. A new sound or symptom is readily apparent because it is so unusual.

I recommend a complete inspection before every 4WD excursion. But inspections are crucial while four wheeling, as well. Look for drips or puddles, stuff hanging down, loose nuts and bolts and anything else out of place. Inspect the engine compartment, too. Anything out of place is really noticeable. Which is another reason to keep the engine bay clean.

“Mechanical sympathy” is a fancy term for a basic but important concept. Just as you (I hope!) take good care of your health, so should you take good care of your vehicle. Regular maintenance and sound driving habits will keep your vehicle at peak performance. And ensure that it’s ready to take you on those thrilling 4WD excursions.
# # #

Related Articles from Badlands Off-road Adventures

Did you miss the previous article?

Some Upcoming Events

(click on the link for details)

Badlands Off-Road Adventures on Bull Frog Trail in Johnson Valley
Photo by The Adventure Portal
(Click picture for a larger image.)
With just over a month before the Rubicon Trail trip, now is the time to sign up and make the commitment that this is the year you will "do the Con". You just have time to, schedule vacation, make those upgrades you need, and prepare for an epic trip. Check the schedule below to sign up for the Rubicon.

Summary of upcoming events.

Rubicon Trail Adventure August 15- 18, 2016

The Rubicon Trail

The Rubicon Trail is the stuff of legends. It is considered the Grand Daddy of trails. If your vehicle has a weakness, it will find it. Any serious four-wheeler needs to "Do the 'Con" at least once. There is no guarantee of avoiding vehicle damage. Even the most skilled driver can succumb to the fatigue of 12 unrelenting miles of rocks. Just bring a good attitude and the best prepared vehicle you can. This could be a once in a lifetime trip but a lifelong of bragging rights. More Details

You need to register now so you have time to prepare. Register directly at http://4x4training.com/calendar/calendar.php#Rubicon

Sand Clinic August 27, 2016

On Pismo Beach in California
Photo by Facebook Lisa
(Click picture for a larger image.)
If you have been waiting for the next Sand Driving Clinic, put it on your calendar for August 27th and sign up now. This day-long clinic will expose you to a variety of driving conditions and levels of difficulty. Driving on sand is challenging and different than dirt, so we’ll progress slowly as you learn the proper techniques. As your confidence grows, you will master increasingly more challenging dunes. Along the way you will be exposed to the beauty of SVRA and the thrill of the windswept dunes. This is a rare opportunity to cruise the only beach in California open to vehicles.
More details...

Register for the Sand Clinic using this link.


May 5, 2016 - ALL COLORS BACK in STOCK

Winching Recover Bandana
Click for higher resolution image
We now have all six colors of our winch bandana back in stock!

The Orange and Red went fast last time with blue not far behind so if you want a specific color order now while we have them all available.

The Bandana layout follows the “Vehicle Recovery Plan” with pathways to more detail. A unique section of the Bandana, gives the steps for a “Winch Rigging Check: Walk through” so that you verify every element of the rigging before you commit to the pull.

Stuff this in your recovery kit and you will always be ready.

Warning – the Bandana is not a substitute for proper training and use of quality equipment used within the bounds of their safe working load. We advise you to use the information provided in the Winching Recovery Bandana at your own risk. We cannot control the quality and specifications of the equipment used and the methods actually employed.

The original press release with larger graphics is on the website

Happy Hour It comes in many colors.
(Click picture for a larger image.)

Jack Covers

Have you ever broken a tire bead while 4- wheeling and found that the hi-lift jack was barely operational due to dust, dirt and mud packed into the operating mechanism? Not only is it frustrating but dangerous as well. Since most of us bolt our hi-lift on the outside of the vehicle, it is not uncommon to find the mechanism less than functional.

A simple boot over the working parts of the jack to protect it and keep it clean is an idea that has been around for a while. The current offerings have not been very successful. At TDS this week, I discovered a new product for the hi-lift jack cover that looks promising.

Adam Woods has built a better “mouse trap” which he market under the name www.jackcovers.com The new cover marries a neoprene inner liner with a marine grade vinyl shell on the outside. It has a heavy duty - #10 Marine grade zipper, treated for mildew and antimicrobial, and available in 20 + colors. Since the product covers a number of holes on the jack upright, Adam explained to me he analyzed which holes most of us use to mount a hi-lift and offers two sizes of the cover - 11" and 15”- to allow several mounting combinations.

I hope to see you on the trails!
Tom Severin, President
Badlands Off Road Adventures, Inc.
4-Wheel Drive School
Make it Fun. Keep it Safe.
If you find this information valuable, please pass it on to a friend. You can forward them the email. If you received a forwarded copy of this newsletter and would like to subscribe for yourself, go to: www.4x4training.com/contacts.html and follow the instructions to join our mail list.
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 2016, Badlands Off-Road Adventures, Inc.

Back | Phone 310-613-5473