Tire problems shouldn’t deflate your day

Last time we talked about tires: why they are prone to punctures and other problems and the type of tools you should store in your 4WD vehicle ( No Need to get Spun Out over your Tires ).

Now I’d like to discuss the more common tire-related problems you’re likely to face while off-road and how to fix them.

Lose a bead – Occurs quite often while making a hard turn on a soft surface. Because the tire is aired down, there isn’t enough internal pressure to keep the sidewalls from collapsing inwards.

You usually can reset the bead without removing the wheel from the vehicle. Jack up your vehicle and wipe away any dirt from the inside of the rim. Attach a compressor and begin airing up. Reach around the back of the tire and grab rubber. (You may need a buddy to help with this.) Pull the tire toward you so it can start holding air. Keep pulling and holding until the bead resets.

You don’t need a big blast of air to do this. A little ARB compressor, pumping out about 1.27 CFM, is sufficient. Be patient. This will take time, but eventually you will hear the bead pop into place. (Make sure no one’s fingers are in the way!) Lower the vehicle and put away your tools.

Puncture – A standard puncture is actually rather easy to repair. Everything you need is in the tire repair kit. (If you haven’t purchased one yet, I suggest you do so now. A good one is sold by Viking Off-Road – http://www.vikingoffroad.com/ . It is a very complete kit in a soft sided bag that will fit places those hard plastic ones don’t. )

First, lubricate the hole with some white grease using the probe tool provided. This will allow the plug, which is very sticky, to enter freely. Feed a plug through the eye of the plugging tool until it is about halfway through. Insert the eye of the tool into the hole. The plug will be folded over as it’s being fed into the hole, so you’re left with two ends sticking outside the tire. Leave about ¾” of the ends visible. Hold the collar against the tire as you pull out the plugging tool to keep the plug in place.

Trim off the excess, and apply some sand or dirt to the stubs. The stickiness attracts twigs, rocks and other debris which could pull the plug out.

One plug will work for punctures caused by nails, cactus needles and other thin items. If the hole is much larger, use two or more plugs.

Although the plugs are designed for punctures in the tread portion of the tire, they can be used to close a gash in the sidewall in a pinch. DO NOT attempt to drive on hard pavement with a plugged gash, however. The plug may not hold, and you could face a nasty blowout.

Break a bead – Amazing as it might sound, there are times when you need to break a bead. For example, you may have to replace the valve stem or clean a rim to stop a bead leak. Bead leaks are rather common while driving along ruts. The rim slides down the edge of a rut and jams dirt and pebbles into the bead.

Take the tire off the vehicle and lay it flat on the ground next to another vehicle. Pull the valve stem core so you’re not fighting the tire pressure. Set the foot of a Hi-lift jack on the tire just short of the rim. Begin jacking against the other vehicle. The weight of the vehicle pushing against the tire will cause the bead to pop.

Be patient with this process. Some tires need to be nearly flattened before the bead breaks. You can usually get by with jacking on just one side of the tire, though you may need to step on the other side to help it along.

Do not jack your disabled vehicle as part to this process. You will lift it slightly off the jack stands in place, causing a dangerous situation.

Another option is a pair of tyre plyers. Popular in Australia, hence the odd spelling, they allow you to break a bead without removing the wheel. I don’t carry one but when others had them they work fine.

Replace a valve stem – Remove the tire and break the front bead enough so you can reach the back of the valve stem. Cut the old one off. Don’t worry about the chunk that you drop in the rim; that won’t hurt anything.

Apply a dab of white grease on either the valve stem or hole in the rim, and feed the stem through. Use the multi-function valve core tool to pull the valve through. It’ll snap into place when seated properly. Do not use pliers for this, as you could ruin the valve stem. One end of the multi-function valve tool is threaded so it will grab the valve stem nicely.

You’ll note that in order to replace the valve stem you need to know how to both break and restore a tire bead. That’s why I discuss those skills first.

They, along with the others, are not difficult to learn or use. And they come in really handy when you face a flat out in the middle of nowhere. Study and practice these skills at home so your next off-road adventure isn’t deflated by a flat tire.

Ignition Keyed Padlock & Hi Lift Jackmate Debut at 2009 SEMA

SEMA was understandable smaller this year and I had a lot less time to spend at the show. (The company’s annual meeting required leaving Tuesday evening for North Dakota). Never the less, it was a good show and the “off-road nation” is still innovating. I enjoyed renewing old acquaintances and meeting new ones! Even with the short look around, a few products caught my eye. I am sure you will see these products and many more as the big 4×4 magazines crank up their stories about the show and all the goodies in the next few months.

Even with SEMA a bit smaller this year, there was an over whelming display of products and vehicles. I could have spent much more time, but that was all I had time for of the many products at SEMA this year.

One of the coolest things I saw was a padlock that can be keyed to the ignition key. You don’t have to carry extra keys with you. All the locks can be set to work on your ignition key. It fits Ford, GM and Chrysler (Jeep). When you first buy the lock , insert your ignition key into it and turn it half way. The lock will memorize the key pattern. From then on your ignition key can be used to unlock the padlock. This is a “once and done” process, so it cannot be rekey for another ignition later. BTW, I asked, and for now Toyota owners are out of luck. They do not have a system yet for Toyota keys. I have one on order, to test it!!!

This one appealed to me as a simple, clean solution when you only need a few strategically placed tie downs. The base is 1-3/4″ round with two counter sunk holes. It is made of anodized aluminum. The holes are 1″ on center and fit a #10 screw. You can just see the backing plate that is provided in the plastic bag. The plunger has a safe working load of 1,000 lbs and a break strength of 4000 lbs. when mounted vertical.
Network Enterprises
PO Box 930063
Wixom, MI 48393
800-690-0425 http://www.cargonets.com/

Rescue 42 was the 2009 SEMA winner for best new off-road product of the year This tool may look familiar. It was previously manufactured by Massdam. They have been impossible to get hold of until now. I heard Massdam quit manufacturing the tool but cannot find any info. While this will look familiar to many of you, Rescue 42 has re-acquired the patent on their unique accessory for the Hi –lift jack and made a few changes. If you look carefully at the picture you will see a new notch not in the prior versions of the product. The notch can be used to stretch chain link fence and serve double duty as a beer cap opener at the end of the day! It is available in 4 colors (red, black, green, silver) The Jack Mate® – Lift Jack Accessory is designed as a manual extrication & rescue tool. “The Jack Mate® replaces a standard lift jack’s limited capacity top clamp with a multipurpose attachment and is rated to the full capacity of the jack as a clamp, winch, spreader or a base. The Jack Mate® slides over either end of the jack bar and is attached with a quick-release pin. As a top clamp, the Jack Mate® dramatically increases the jack’s winching, clamping and crushing capabilities. As a replacement for the jack base, the Jack Mate® is engineered to “bite” into boards or logs to help prevent the jack from sinking in mud, sand, ice and snow. Updated features for 2009 include a super-grip, diamond plate top, wire fence pulling slots (and bottle opener), an easier pin for attaching the Jack Mate® to the jack, and quick release replacement pin for the jack’s base.


Tom’s Tips for Tranquil Tenting

OK, so the title of this column is a little cheesy. We’re in the dog days of summer, and my thinking cap has been chewed by my neighbor’s dog.

My suggestions are still good, so hang in there.

Camping is very popular with four-wheelers, and with some quality camping time left this year, I thought it would be a good time to revisit this topic. This isn’t Camping 101, however. Instead, I’d like to review some of the finer points of preparing for your trip.

The following suggestions are gleaned from years of experience in the outdoors. I think even veteran campers will find some of these useful. Let’s dig in.

• Freeze water bottles. They make great ice packs for your cooler, but also are a good source for cold water throughout the day. As you drink the melted run off, any water added will be kept chilled stretching your ice cold water to almost 2 bottles’ worth. You can also freeze meat in advance for longer trips

• If shopping for a tent, pick one that’s easy to set up. I like at least a three-season tent, which features snaps on the outside to hold the tent poles. No need to run the poles through those fabric tunnels and the hassle involved. Also, try to find one with a rain fly that extends all the way to the ground. That will keep out sand and dust better. Purchase a footprint for your tent. This protects the tent floor from rough ground you may encounter and adds a layer of insulation (although a thin one). Many manufacturers produce these, though a large tarp can work as well. This footprint also keeps the bottom of the tent clean, meaning less mess during take down. Practice setting it up before your trip! This includes practice putting up the tent at night with your headlamp! I know, sounds kinda dorky but I can’t tell you how many times we’ve had to set up in the dark.

• After setting up your tent, I suggest you tuck or fold the edges of the tarp under the tent to keep it from collecting rainwater and snow which is then funneled right under the tent.

• Position your tent so it faces downwind. That will help keep out dust and moisture. You can position your truck also to make a bit of a wind break. If you are in an area with lot of gnats/flies, face your tent door into the wind. The flying insects like to loiter in the lee of your tent!

• Tie a small rope on each tent stake (about a 1”- 2” loop). This will make it easier to pull up the stake in hard or frozen ground. If need be, you can cut or untie the rope and save the tent loops. (You can use a propane torch to thaw metal stakes that are frozen in the ground. Remove the tent first, of course.)

Speaking of cold, if your eggs are frozen in the morning, peel them like a hardboiled egg and melt them in a flying pan. Then enjoy scrambled eggs!

• I like to roll up my tent from the backside. That way I always know where the front door is for the next time.


Nights can get surprisingly chilly, especially in the mountains and desert. You won’t sleep well if you’re cold, and you shouldn’t get behind the wheel the next day if you haven’t had a good night’s rest.

• If you only have a 2-season bag, pack two sleeping bags or one sleeping bag and a blanket. Put the extra bag or blanket inside the main bag for warmth.

• Use a good insulator between the bag and the ground. When it is cold outside, the ground will serve as a gigantic heat sink and suck all of your warmth out. Some form of sleeping pad should be used both for insulation and comfort. I have found Therm-A-Rest air mattresses are great for camping. I still supplement the Therm-A-Rest up with a foam pad underneath.

• Synthetic materials dry out much better than down and can be compressed without as much loss in insulation as down. Cheaper too.

• If kids are part of the camping experience, a durable cotton cover on the bags can extend the life of your bag.

• Don’t forget to pull tomorrows’ clothes into your sleeping bag so that they are warm when you put them on in the morning!

• When you roll up your sleeping bag, put the head part in first. It will remain clean and dry.

• Store your sleeping bag open in a very large bag. Rolling it up compresses the fiber, causing it to lose some of its insulating capability. If you have access to a large dryer, tumble your sleeping bag for a few moments before leaving to fluff up the material.
Store your Therm-A-Rest fully open too. If you keep it compressed, it will not restore to its full thickness right away.

• Sleep uphill if there’s a slight grade to the land. It’s much more comfortable that way. If the grade has you feeling like you are going to roll off to one side, stuff tent bags, clothes, etc. under your sleeping bag at your hips and shoulders to create a berm.

• Your jacket makes a great pillow when rolled up or stuffed in the sleeping bag stuff bag.

• Don’t leave anything out over night. It may blow away, animals may get into it, or snow could cover it all up and you will not be able to find it. Stow it back in your vehicle or in the tent. An exception: Don’t store food in your tent or vehicle in bear country.

Now, get out there and enjoy the great outdoors!

PS – I would love to hear your tips! Send me an email.

A Laptop Is a Valuable Accessory For 4 Wheeling

Laptop computers are almost as popular as cell phones. They’re so compact, you can take one just about anywhere. But off road? Do you really want a laptop in your vehicle while you’re bouncing around the mountains and sand dunes?

“Having a PC with you is no longer a luxury,” says Dave Kupfer, a member of Outdoor Adventure USA and fellow ham radio operator. They’re now almost a necessity while you’re off road. Dave facilitated a very interesting discussion about laptops and 4-wheeling during a recent ham radio net. (The recording may be found at the OAUSA Web site www.oausa.net. Click the “On-Air Net Archive” button and choose “Offroad Notebook Computer.” The discussion starts around the 25-minute mark.

The most important reason for having a laptop computer with you is for navigation. If you haven’t planned well, of course, it’s easy to get lost. But even if you are familiar with the area, Dave says, you may spend an inordinate amount of time backtracking as you try to get home. “When you combine your computer with mapping programs, as well as a GPS unit,” Dave says, “you have the best of all these worlds.”

Dave uses National Geographic’s TOPO! mapping software. He says it allows him to draw his route, including all the roads and trials, then transfer the information to his GPS receiver. During the ride his laptop, which stays connected to the GPS receiver, provides continuous, real time tracking of his vehicle.

Your laptop is also a good place to store the user manuals and operating guides for all relevant equipment, including:

  • Your vehicle’s repair manuals
  • Communications equipment – Ham radio
  • GPS and APRS gear
  • Camera instructions
  • Off road equipment – Winch, Hi-lift

Many of these files are available as PDFs. Check manufacturers’ Web sites if the product didn’t include a CD with the necessary files.

Other useful information that can be loaded on your computer includes first aid/survival instructions and your favorite outdoor recipes.

Another OAUSA member suggests that you keep all those files on a memory stick. If there’s a problem with your laptop, you can use someone else’s. Good idea.

The laptop also comes in handy to download photos you take that day, thereby freeing up space in your camera’s memory chip.

Dave offers several suggestions regarding the laptop you’ll take off road.

  1. Buy a ruggedized or semi-ruggedized model. He’s had good luck with the Panasonic Toughbook®, but other similarly designed brands and models exist. These units, some of which are built to military specifications, are designed to handle the conditions that exist in the wilderness. They typically are built with a water-resistant and dustproof shell, and are designed to withstand the shock encountered while driving off road.
  2. Make sure the laptop can generate a bright screen. It can be difficult to read the details of a map on a sunny day.
  3. Mount the laptop securely. Jotto and RAM® make good mounts.
  4. Buy a screen holder so the screen isn’t flopping around while you’re in motion. A screen holder is a small arm (see photo) that stiffens the lid.
  5. The power source must be sufficient and appropriate for the laptop. Check the owner’s manual to see whether it’s best to use an inverter or go with straight DC power. Because laptops tend to draw a lot of power, you may get better results tapping directly into the vehicle battery.
  6. Have at least 4GB of RAM so the mapping software runs smoothly.

Chances are you carry a laptop computer with you all the time, including when you’re off road. By purchasing the right kind of laptop, and loading it with the appropriate software and files, you turn your computer into an integral piece of gear.

An Ounce of Prevention is Better Than a Pound of Pain

Remember the good old days when you could leave your bike outside overnight? Or your front door unlocked while you ran an errand? (Yes, I know I’m dating myself.) Sadly, those days are long gone. Theft is now a part of our lives. But we can minimize its occurrence.

Four wheelers already know that their vehicles are quite attractive to the wrong crowd. Yet it’s good to be reminded occasionally of the simple steps you can take to protect yourself and your property.

It always amazes me to read about a vehicle being stolen because the owner left the keys in the ignition. (And in some cases, left the engine running. Can you believe it?!) Needless to say, as you exit your vehicle, turn off your engine, grab the keys, and lock your doors.

Thieves can attack a vehicle in many ways. You need to be as resourceful to thwart any attempts. Let’s review some of the products out there that help you protect your vehicle and possessions.

Before, we go any further, it is important that you appreciate the impact when off-road of having everything “locked up”. The worst time to find that you forgot your special lug nut key is when you have a flat in the middle of the desert. Or discover that the lock to remove the hood latch is rusted beyond use.

When you start your off-road trip, remove all the locks. Cut them off if you have to (in town with access to a lock smith and lots of power tools). Avoid devices, when possible, that require the lock as an integral part of the design to remain fastened. Replace them with non locking straps, caps, etc for the duration of the trip. Take all your locks with you in case you need to stay overnight in town or abandon your vehicle.

The Club®: Very effective at keeping the steering wheel locked. Master Lock has a similar product that connects in four places on the steering wheel and is more difficult to be defeated by cutting the steering wheel. If you are looking for a quick, cheap solution, run a heavy chain through the steering wheel and around a seat leg. Secure with a big lock. This might just be the answer, when you have to leave the vehicle unexpectedly.





Engine disabling components:

If you own a Jeep or Chrysler brand, pull the ASD (automatic shutdown) relay. It’s quite accessible in most new vehicles. It is a lot easier if you install a hidden cut-off switch to the ASD relay. It disables everything –fuel pump, starter, battery. A quick search on the Internet will give you instructions on how to install these parts. If you can’t remember to throw the switch everytime, install a RFid Kill switch. It works off a “dongle” on your key ring which must be within 16” of the hidden antenna to allow the vehicle to start.http://enforcer.com.tw/vehicle/sli_760pp.htm


Hood locking mechanisms: J.C. Whitney (www.jcwhitney.com) and Savanna Jones (www.savannajones.com), among others, offer locking mechanisms for most vehicles. In use, I like the lock on the center safety catch. It can be left unlocked on the trail, for easy access under the hood. Locks on the outside hood latches, become part of the latch and must always be locked to hold down the hood.





Protect your gas: Some crooks like to pour sugar in the gas. Protect your tank with a locking gas cap. Keep the non-locking cap, though, and swap it in before you go off road.

Keep a hold of your doors: Jeep owners know that the doors are made to pop off easily. Make sure a thief doesn’t do the same with a door lock from Tuffy Products at http://www.tuffyproducts.com/p-240-165-jk-security-door-locker-2-door-model.aspx

You can bolt in some small pieces of angle iron inside the doors, at a 45 degree angle above the key locks. A Slim Jim will hit that on it’s way down and slide off instead of being able to work the lock.





Tie down External items:
Coolers, gas cans, and other items can be secured with a steel strap from Steelcore (www.steelcore.net). The strap is encased in fabric to protect your stuff and your vehicle’s finish.



Store your keys and cards:

HitchSafe (www.hitchsafe.com) makes a nifty device that attaches to your trailer hitch to hide your keys, credit cards, and other small valuables. Don’t use a hid-a-key. That is the first thing a thief looks for.





Bolt locker: Tuffy Products offers a really sturdy device for securing a winch or just about anything else you’d attach to your vehicle.



Other items to consider include:

Items stored internally should be secured to keep them from flying around. Even at off-road speeds a small tool can put a major league dent in your skull. Use a sturdy strap to secure those items.

Assorted small objects can go in a spare cooler or tackle box. Just remember to secure or bury that item as well.

Concerns about security must consider your personal safety as well. That topic alone can take up a column or two. But we can cover some basics here. First, always be aware of your surroundings: who is nearby, where possible escape routes are, and such. Consider taking a self-defense course where you can learn some simple moves that could get you out of a jam.

For weapons, consider a nonlethal approach first. Pepper spray is quite effective, yet doesn’t carry the legal consequences of a firearm. If you feel you must carry a firearm, be sure to get some training from a certified instructor first. Study the laws pertaining to the transport and possession of firearms, keeping in mind that the rules may be different on federal lands. And please think carefully before using a firearm. Once you pull that trigger, there’s no going back.

Overall, our world is a safe place. Following simple steps like those listed above will help keep you from being victimized. We know how that can spoil a weekend.


The Best Gifts For An Off- Roader

Still looking for a last minute gift? Here are some suggestions any 4-wheeler would love to receive. Prices do not reflect shipping. However, many companies are offering free shipping this holiday season.


Backcountry Adventures $16.99

Each book in the Trails and Adventures series is the most comprehensive guide available for its region. These volumes include meticulously detailed backcountry trail directions with integrated GPS coordinates and maps of each trail and region. Trail descriptions are vivid and color photos clearly depict each trail. Fascinating historical information with photos of ghost towns, mining camps, current towns and cities, as well as regional history, recount the days of the Wild West. These guides are essential tools for planning backcountry day trips and weekend getaways.



Handle-All Multi-Purpose Tool $156.99

The Hi-Lift Handle-All is a multi-functional tool consisting of a telescoping handle, 4 full-size implements (a shovel, sledge hammer, axe, and pick-axe), and a storage bag. This tool is compact and rugged, but still maintains full-size utility.



Hi-Lift Jack Off-Road Kit $64.99

Use the Off-Road Kit to turn your Hi-Lift Jack into an even more versatile tool. This kit keeps all of the needed parts for winching at arms reach. Turn your Hi-lift Jack into a “poor mans” winch!



Hi-Lift Jack Off-Road Base $38.99

The Off-Road Base from Hi-Lift makes the original power tool even more versatile! Convenient to use, easy to store. Rugged construction meets Hi-Lift Jack specifications for strength & durability. Use Hi-Lift Off-Road Base to alleviate jack sinkage on soft ground.



Handle-Keeper $11.99

Jack Handle isolator
No more annoying rattling handles
Secures the jack and handle in place
No more tape or bailing wire



Hi-lift Jack 48” $70.99

These jacks are a must for lifted vehicle owners. These jacks can be used for a number of uses besides changing just a tire.



Life Hammer $15.99

Life Hammer is the original tool of its kind. Mimicking the concept behind European Escape hammers for trains and buses, this tool answers the need for an escape tool tailored specifically for vehicle entrapment.



Daystar Winch Isolator $26.99

The Daystar Winch Isolator stops the rattles while giving you a practical place to secure your winch hook. Installation is as easy as 1, 2, 3! Simply disconnect your winch hook, run your cable through the isolator and reinstall your hook. You’re done!



Viking Synthetic Winchlines $277.55

Both steel and synthetic winchlines give a very small amount of stretch, the equivalent of less than 1% at breaking pressure. This tiny amount of stretch stores kinetic energy that is released when the line breaks. Since steel winchline is much heavier than synthetic winchline, the force of that stored energy is devastatingly powerful, particularly dangerous with people nearby. The synthetic line is so light and therefore stores less kinetic energy, which when released, the winchline virtually falls to the ground with a fraction of the force of steel.



ARB 9000 Ultra Light Snatch Block $99.95

20,000 Lb. Work Load Limit, 38,500 Lb. Breaking strength. You want the highest rated pulley block you can carry.



Viking Kinetic Recovery Ropes $95.79

Viking Braided Kinetic Recovery Ropes also called Kinetic Yanker Lines or Tow Lines are made from 100% Premium DuPontâ„¢ Nylon Double Braid. They offer over 30% stretch at break with a normal stretch of 10% to 20% when recovering or yanking a vehicle. With this kinetic energy built up in the rope the vehicle will get unstuck real quick. When choosing a Kinetic Recovery Rope size, you want the breaking strength to be five to seven times the weight of your vehicle especially when used for yanking. If you undersize your rope you risk breaking it, and if you oversize your rope you will not get the full benefit of the kinetic energy.



Pull-Pal Winch Anchor $289.95

The Pull-Pal, a well-engineered anchoring tool, is both portable and well-suited for a wide range of environments. Intended as a tool for winching through sand and mud, Pull-Pal’s design relies on useful rules of physics. Its hefty plow blade sets firmly and safely into sand, clay, mud, hardpan soil and snow.



Satellite Personal Outdoor Tracker (SPOT) $149.99

Satellite Personal Outdoor Tracker (SPOT) $149.99 If your outdoor adventures take you to remote areas, the Satellite Personal Outdoor Tracker (SPOT) could be a lifesaver. It’s the world’s first satellite messenger capable of sending alerts to family, friends or a 911 center.



Adventure Medical First Aid Kits $39.99

You should never go afield without a good first aid kit. These kits offer just about everything you’d need to cover any situation thrown your way. These kits were designed by a Wilderness First Responder Instructor.



Motorola Two-Way FRS / GMRS Radios $89.99

Talk with other radio users up to 28 miles away, in good conditions, with no roaming charges or overuse fees. Same Area Message Encoding (S.A.M.E.) filters out weather alerts from distant locations and only advises you of weather and emergency information for the specific area you are in. Radio has 22 channels and 121 privacy codes for up to 2,662 communication options. It also has 11 NOAA weather radio channels, iVOX hands-free communication, a Quiet Talkâ„¢ interruption feature, digital signal processing, vibrating call alert and replacement faceplates. Comes with two radios, one dual drop-in charger, one charging adapter and two battery packs. Can also be powered by three AA batteries.



Off-Road Tire Plug Kit $39.99

Off Road Tire Plug Kit” is the only one that has everything! Don’t get caught on the trail without one. Easy 3-Step Process That Plugs Tires To Get You Back Home!

(310) 715-1356


Receiver D-Ring Bracket $44.99

Receiver D-Ring Bracket $44.99 The “Ultimate Shackle Block” patented design allows you to pull the shackle in any direction without binding the shackle & DOUBLES AS A CONVENTIONAL TRAILER HITCH. The block is precision made in USA with certified steel.

(310) 715-1356

¾” Screw Pin D-Ring $13.99

3/4 D-ring Shackle 4 3/4 ton working load 5 to 1 safety rating yellow zinc. You never have enough D-Rings when rigging a recovery. Everyone needs a minimum of 6.

(310) 715-1356


Recovery Strap $45.00

The Ultimate “Recovery STRAP” is 30 feet long, made out of 2″ wide material and has an abrasive covering over the loops. Made in USA

(310) 715-1356


Trail head Automatic Deflators $59.95

TRAILHEAD Automatic Tire Deflators will automatically reduce the air pressure in a tire to a predetermined level and stop, preventing any further loss of air from the tire. They will function properly whether your vehicle is stationary or traveling at speeds of 20 mph or less.

Place an order



Badlands Off-Road Adventure Gift Certificate $200

Purchase a gift certificate to be used for an event, clinic, and adventures. You can also register for the specific event, clinic, or adventure you wish to give as a gift. If you are not sure what date will work, make your best pick. We will happily adjust it, if necessary.


I hope to see you on the trails!

Products of SEMA 2008

I attended the 2008 SEMA Show in Vegas again this year. SEMA is the Specialty Equipment Manufacture Association and deals with all and any aftermarket Automotive products. The show is huge. There are 11 sections that take up every bit of the Vegas convention center. This is a business to business show and no products are sold over the counter contrary to Pomona Off-Road Expo which is a consumer show. The vendors want to show off their new products and discuss plans, promotions, etc. with buyers.

I spent the entire day just in the Off-Road section. I grabbed a few snap shots of products that caught my eye.

 New Hi-lift tie downsNew Hi-lift tie downsNew Hi-lift tie downs

Hi-lift has a new product to secure your Hi-lift to a rack or bar. It was designed to clamp around a square bar or a round pipe of various sizes. It will clamp onto round bars from 1″ to 3″ in diameter. This is accomplished by two product sets. The small one covers 1″-2″ and the large set covers 2″ – 3″.

New Hi-lift protectorNew Hi-lift protector

Hi-lift will have a new neoprene jack cover on the market in Jan 2009. This little sleeve covers just the working part of the jack head to keep dust and grim out. A few weeks ago, a trail ride I participated in discarded 5 hi-lift jacks before they found one that worked. Many of the others had too much dirt and dust in the head. This sleeve appears to be a must have for anyone who carries their Hi-lift attached to the outside of the vehicle. The cover is a tight fit to keep out dirt. It can be machine washed and dries quickly.


 Cable Lock

Security can be an issue with all the items that you tie, hang and bolt to the outside of the vehicle. Trimax offers a number of multi-use cable locks to ensure your stuff stays in place. You can get them in various tightness and length. Some you provide your own lock, for others it is integrated. Pictured is the 72″ Gladiator Ironclad Cable.

I recommend before you leave town, you remove all your pad-a-locks and security devises. If you can’t remove them at least make sure the mechanism works and you have the key. (Sometimes the pad-a-lock is the latch!). This goes for any lug nut key you have. Take along anything you removed. You may need to lock everything down again at a hotel or for a visit in town for resupply. You will save a lot of grief in a remote location when the lock doesn’t work or you forgot the key.


Hitch SafeHitch Safe





I thought this was a clever idea. It turns your trailer receiver into a small safe. There is just enough room for a key, credit card, and maybe a few bills. Just the thing if you need to leave your vehicle for a while in town. I recommend you remove the draw when you go off road. It is not water tight and if you smash the locks you may have a time getting it open. Naturally it is called the Hitch Safe!


 Clamptite ToolClamptite ToolClamptite Tool

The Clamptite tool provides a means for tightening wires wrapped around an object and then locking them in place The tool can be used with various sized wire – even a coat hanger.


These are a few of the many exciting items at the show. I have not used or tested any of them. I look forward to doing so to see if they are as useful as suspected.
I hope to see you on the trails!

New Products Off-Road Expo Pomona 2008

I attended the Pomona Off-Road Expo at the Fairplex this past weekend. I enjoyed talking to all the vendors and looking at some of the new products. I hope you were able to attend also. There were a few products that caught my eye that I wanted to share with you.

What is It?

Daystar has a new product that will be officially released at SEMA in November. These little plastic clips will keep your clevis from rattling if you drive around with your clevis attached to the bumper. I doubt You will find it on the web site yet. Look for it in your favorite off-road store later this year.



Mount for Hi-lift Jack Base

I generally do not carry my hi-lift jack base except when I plan to do a demo. It is difficult to pack and store. And yet the Hi-lift Jack base is really the best solution for a strong solid base. This is a prototype that will soon be on the market. This may well solve that problem. It can be bolted to any flat surface.

Phone: 520-579-2079


Nozzle Key

In order to fill your 5 gallon jerry can all the way up (at least in California) you have to hold back the front of the nozzle for the last 1 and half or 2 gallons. This tool frees your other hand and allows you more control over the process. Just slip one of these over the nozzle to hold it back.

Phone: 520-579-2079


Jeep JK Trail Table

This is a very useful table now that Jeeps no longer have drop down tail gates. This one is designed for the New JK Wrangler but Mel says it will work on the early TJ’s with the flat inside tail gate.

It can be mounted 3 ways. Mel said it will support 180 pounds or more.

Phone: 714-870-5515

The next show I will attend is the SEMA Show in Las Vegas in early November. Let me know what stuff you are interested in having me look for. I can’t promise anything but it might happen if I know in advance!

Get Layered Before The Big One Hits

We Californians are becoming acclimated to disaster planning. We have to. We live under the threat of an earthquake 24 hours a day. A major disaster can strike anywhere, however, so it pays to be prepared – With so much to consider and so many possible scenarios, where do you begin?

It’s actually a lot simpler than you think if you use what I call the layering method. Each “layer” represents something that can hold survival tools, equipment, and supplies. The nature of the layer determines what you are able to access in an emergency.

First, let’s review the basic 10 survival items.

They include:

  1. Matches/fire starter
  2. Knife
  3. Flashlight
  4. Map
  5. Compass
  6. Whistle
  7. Water
  8. First Aid Kit
  9. Extra Food
  10. Extra Clothing
  11. Toilet Paper( maybe the 11th essential!)

These basic items come from some general categories. So when presented with the opportunity to go beyond the basics, use these categories to help you think about your emergency tools and supply needs.


  1. Communications
  2. Signaling
  3. Shelter
  4. Safety
  5. Food/water
  6. Clothing
  7. Navigation
  8. Waste disposal
  9. Entertainment

Now you can begin the layering process. In each case you’ll want to include as many of the basic survival items as you can. Space permitting, you may heavy up in certain items.

The outermost layer is your location during the day and at night. Chances are you are at work, in a school, or at home. Consider which of the basic survival items you can reasonably obtain and have available. This layer offers the most amount of room, so feel free to load up in each category, such as food/water, clothing, and shelter (such as a tent and sleeping bags). You should also consider purchasing a chain saw, generator, and, if you don’t have one already, a portable stove or other cooking utensil.

The next layer is your primary vehicle, which should carry you for three to five days. You have a fair amount of room for extra clothing, water and food, as well items for shelter. A compact tent and sleeping bag are ideal. You also have room for extra important electronics, such as communications equipment (CB radio, amateur radio gear, satellite phone), a GPS receiver, and extra battery packs if possible. (Check them periodically to make sure they’re charged.). Electronic gadgets are fine as long as you account for the batteries. I also like to include some books, magazines, and other reading material to help get through extended lulls. Once you have attended to any injuries, you mental status will be the most important factor in your survival.

If you need to abandon your vehicle, you’ll reach for your next layer, a go bag. Often just a gym bag or backpack, the go bag can’t carry as much, so you need to be smart about packing. Try to account for most of the categories, but adapt for the smaller space. For example, your shelter may be an Xscape Safe™ Blanket. Food may consist of energy bars and a few other dried items. Avoid salty food if you can, as that will only make you thirsty. If you can’t pack a water bottle, consider a baggie to carry food or water you may find.

Think of your laptop case, briefcase, or purse as a mini Go bag. Make sure to stock it with the basic ten items. You are likely to have one of these wherever you go.

The next layer is your outerwear. If you lose your go bag, you’ll need some basic supplies to get you through the day. Whether you typically wear a business overcoat or a leisure jacket, you’ll have a number of pockets at your disposal. Put them to good use.

Matches (either the waterproof kind or a book inside a waterproof container) are a must. Other important items include a penlight, compass, whistle, bandages, and candy bars. You probably carry your cell phone anyway, but if not, be prepared to grab that.

Your clothing represents the final—that is, innermost—layer. At a minimum, make sure you carry what I consider the top three items: matches, flashlight, and a knife. How much you carry, of course, depends on what type of clothing you typically wear. Cargo pants offer lots of pockets that can be packed with important items.
Review the categories above, and be creative. Signaling, for example, can be done with a small mirror, a money clip, or even a belt buckle. You’ll also have room for some bandages and handi-wipes; keep some with you at all times.

No one likes to think about disasters, but unfortunately they are a part of our lives. This layering process will help you and your family to prepare should a major incident occur. Use the layering process whenever you enjoy the outdoors as well!

Urban Disasters No Match For A Prepared 4-Wheeler

In previous columns I’ve discussed how to prepare your vehicle for driving off-road, and offered a number of safety suggestions for you and your passengers. The goal, of course, is to make sure you are properly prepared for your trip and ready for most contingencies.

In honor of National Preparedness Month, I’d like to revisit the issue of preparedness but take more of a “big picture” approach.

It’s too easy to become complacent in our lives. We’re not faced with daily calamities and crises like you see in other parts of the world. We California residents are somewhat more in tune because we’re always under the threat of an earthquake, and we frequently deal with major events such as wildfires. But it’s still easy to take our relatively calm lifestyle for granted.

Disaster can strike in a heartbeat. Will you know what to do when it does? How will you and your family react? Where will you go? These and many other questions will be blazing through your mind. Unfortunately, that is not the time to be asking questions. Instead, you must act, and act fast. How you respond when disaster strikes is directly related to how well you and your family have prepared.

The Red Cross www.redcross.org and FEMA www.fema.gov provide a wealth of information on how to prepare for emergencies. The key is to take action now. Merely thinking about it won’t do any good.

The interesting thing about 4-wheelers is to begin with they often are pretty well prepared. Their vehicles are well stocked with the necessary tools and materials, and many have what I call a survival mindset. We’re accustomed to being out among the elements, and can manage fairly well for a short period of time.

The problem is the planning we do is just for the particular outdoor trip, which may last a few days at most. We don’t give much thought to how to handle a major urban crisis.

Reviewing the Red Cross and FEMA sites will give you some great ideas. The next step is to put those thoughts into action. Don’t worry about accomplishing everything in one day. Some of these steps, like developing a plan, take time. What’s important is that you do something now.

Use the “Swiss cheese” approach. When faced with a large, daunting task or problem, tackle the small matters you know you can accomplish. Over time you will punch enough holes in the main problem so that it looks like Swiss cheese and will fall apart on it own.

Complete two actions today.

First, develop your emergency contact list. This should be comprised of a friend or family member in another state. (A son in Michigan is on my list.) Sometimes only a long-distance call will go through. Just as you program your ICE (In Case of Emergency) numbers into your cell phone, you also select an individual to contact in the event of a major disaster. Make sure your family members know the contact person’s name and number. This person can relay messages for family members. During an emergency, and if you have the time, let your contact know where you are going should you have to evacuate.

Second, establish two meeting places for your family. One should be just outside the house. This is especially critical during a fire. Too many people have perished because they ran back into their homes, not knowing that their loved ones were safely outside.

The second location should be in your community, and is used in the event of a larger-scale disaster. Recently I successfully tested my ability, using ham radio, to contact my wife while she was in the parking lot at work. For us that parking lot is an ideal location, because it is local, sits on a hill, and there’s a good chance at least one of us will be there.

OK, if you want one more simple action for today, jump on the FEMA site, click on the Plan Ahead tab, and print the suggestions listed under “Protect Your Family.”

I also suggest that you keep your gas tank at least half full at all times, and create a Go-bag. Containing food, water, and other essentials, your Go-bag can help you survive on your own for several days. Backpacks with multiple pockets make really good Go-bags. Some people keep these in their homes; others store theirs in the vehicle. Either way, the Go Bag is essential for preparedness planning when you must leave immediately.

You may also consider brushing up on your driving skills. Sign up for one or more off-road driving courses (such as a Rocks Clinic or the Basic Course), or an advanced course (Winching, for example), so you are better prepared to drive over broken streets, downed telephone poles, other debris, and climb curbs to skirt problems.

The Go-bag, along with the supplies and materials already on hand and the skills you bring to the table, turns your 4WD vehicle into what I like to call a Mobile Disaster Preparedness unit. Just what you need in a time of crisis.

Emergency preparedness isn’t the most pleasant topic. We wish we didn’t have to even think about this. But disasters are a part of life. By preparing properly now you give yourself and your family a fighting chance should the unthinkable occur.

Pack A Fire Extinguisher So You Don’t Get Burned

Four-wheelers are good about packing their vehicles with tools, tow straps, winch, food, water – you name it; they include it.

One piece of equipment that often gets overlooked, however, happens to be one of the more critical items: a fire extinguisher. Remember that a fire could occur inside or outside your vehicle. Ever wonder what you’d do if your campfire or stove got out of hand? Or if your engine compartment started smoking? You may never experience a fire–and I hope you don’t–but if you do, you’ll be thankful you packed an extinguisher. Many smaller fires can be snuffed out quickly and safely.

Extinguishers come in many sizes. I’ve found the 3 lb. size adequate for vehicles. Buy two high-quality refillable models. You’ll spend a few extra dollars, but it’ll be worth it. Think of a fire extinguisher as an insurance policy. You don’t want to cut corners there.

Mount one on the passenger side of the transmission tunnel. The other should be mounted in a visible spot on or near the back gate. The key here is that it is accessible. Too many people mount or place their extinguishers under boxes or other stuff in the back. It won’t do you any good if you can’t grab it quickly.

Another good spot, especially on smaller vehicles, is on the roll bar. Regardless of where you mount the extinguishers, make sure to review their locations and use with your passengers before departing.

Fire extinguishers come in a variety of types depending on their use. We’ll review only the more common ones here. (For more information, go to www.tvfr.com/dept/fm/extinguishers/index.html.) I’d like to thank my friends at Outdoor Adventure USA (www.oausa.net) for all their helpful comments.

Dry chemical – The most popular form for personal use, these are given a letter rating depending on the type of fire they are designed for. Make sure your extinguisher is rated ABC. That way it can be used on all types of fires, including fuel and electrical.

Advantages: They are easy to operate and will work on all types of fires, if you select the proper model.

Disadvantages: Once discharged, even for a short burst, they must be recharged. The pressure drops and you’ve lost a certain amount of chemical.

The nozzle can clog over time, rendering it useless (especially if you’ve discharged some chemical). Inspect the extinguisher regularly for obvious signs of clogging, but also take it in to an appropriate facility for inspection at least once a year. Make sure to keep the tag on the bottle so you know when it was last inspected.

Finally, the dry chemical is rather corrosive, and may harm sensitive electronic equipment. Make sure you thoroughly clean anything that has been hit with the chemical.

Halon – A very effective agent, but production has been banned due to its effect on the ozone layer. With only limited supplies left, halon extinguishers are becoming harder to find and more expensive.

Advantage: Said to be great on suppressing fires. Because it’s a gas, it leaves no residue.

Disadvantages: Expensive and difficult to find, and it disperses easily in windy conditions. Best used in enclosed spaces.

Halotron® – Marketed as a safer alternative to halon, this gas is said to be very effective in outdoor applications.

Advantage: Leaves no residue.

Disadvantages: Apparently geared more toward industrial applications, Halotron extinguishers aren’t as readily available. May be more expensive, too.

CO2 – A colorless, odorless gas, CO2 works by smothering the fire. Literally taking away the oxygen.

Advantages: Fairly effective in enclosed spaces and doesn’t leave a residue.

Disadvantage: Be careful when using, as the CO2 can affect you as well.

Final note: If you have mag wheels, DO NOT spray water on them should they start burning. You’ll cause an explosion. Use a Class D extinguisher if you have one, or let the fire department handle it. You can find more information on Class D extinguishers on the Web page mentioned above or through a quick Web search.

As you can see, an ABC-rated dry chemical extinguisher is probably your best bet. But what’s most important is that have extinguishers aboard. Inspect your vehicle now and install an extinguisher if you don’t already have one

Winch Extraction

Very close to the edge.

Initial Assessment – Not someone we knew.

It was a wet Sunday in March. From time to time snow squalls would blow through coating the vehicles but melting as soon as it toughed the ground. Occasionally the sun would peek out. Normally hard-baked clay trails with traction like slick rock had become slick and greasy. I had been picking the more sandy trails for my class of new enthusiasts. It was about 3:45 PM and I had just shifted to 2WD in preparation to lead the beginning class out of the Park when the last vehicle in our group was intercepted by a vehicle looking for help. A Toyota land cruiser had flipped over. Fortunately no one was injured.


On inspection, what appears to have happened is the individual was descending a steep hill. It was very muddy, kind of slick and had one significant left turn. He probably was trying to slow the vehicle down and locked the wheels up, which created understeer. As a result he did not make the left hand turn the road required. The right-side, front-wheel went up on the bank and flipped the vehicle completely over. The vehicle came to rest just inches from the left hand edge. Another few inches would have resulted in tumbling several hundred feet down through the brush. Everyone was wearing their seat belt – except the dog. The dog at one minute was standing on the seat and the next he was walking on the roof. They were able to roll down the windows and climb out.

The recovery required a two-step process

Anchor the rear so it will not swing out

Taking the slack up with the Hi-lift jack

There wasn’t room to actually flip it over where it landed. At best we could have put it on its side before the wheels would touch the opposite bank and prevent it from landing back onto it wheels. We needed to pull the vehicle down hill 10-15 feet. Given its precarious position, right on the edge of the bank, the concern was that it would act like a pendulum on the end of the winch line and swing it off the bank. Therefore, we attached a strap from a tree on the bank to the rear corner of the frame. A Hi-Lift jack was used to take the slack out of the line. When the winch pulled the vehicle forward, the rear of the vehicle was pulled into the center of the road. Once the vehicle had been pulled down hill to a wider spot in the road, we were able to re-rig and flip it over on to its wheels. In the re-rigging, the closest substantial tree was over 50 feet up the side of the bank which necessitating using a synthetic extension rope. We attached it to the tree with a strap and clevis, dropping its full 50 feet down to another clevis with a pulley. Then the winch was spooled-out from the vehicle through the pulley block to a chain that was attached to the center of the far frame about where the cross member is attached. If we had pulled straight across the frame there is a chance that the vehicle would have only slide sideways on the roof. Therefore a “stiff leg” was placed against the near frame rail standing upright with the winch cable passing over the top of it. The board used was a roughly two feet long 2×8. The stiff leg had the effect of forcing the winch line to create downward force on the side opposite the attachment point and upward force at the attachment point which started the vehicle rolling over. At some point as the vehicle rolled to its right, the winch line became straight with the pulley block and the stiff leg fell out. The winch continued pulling until gravity took over and the vehicle fell back on its wheels. The winch line prevented the vehicle from rolling down the hill. After cleaning up the spilled fluids, we used a tow strap to pull the vehicle out to the pavement.

You can see the winch line rigging on the hillside

Analysis of the chain of events

A long day of wheeling with everything working well, can lead to over confidence. He had been doing relatively well all day. The vehicle had good mud terrain tires and the vehicle was performing very well in the slippery mud. He may have become over confident and came into the rather steep down hill faster then he should have. When it started to slide, he panicked and braked causing it to go into a skid in an understeer situation. What he needed to do was stay off the brakes and power up a bit to give him control and turn into the slide. By powering up a bit and he would have had steerage and he would have been able to make the left. However, given the conditions probably the last thing he wanted to do was go faster down a steep, slippery hill. One thing they did right was wearing their seat belts. This was a good solid vehicle. It had good tires. Every one was calm, and sober, so drugs and alcohol played no role in it.


You need to learn how to react to off-road situations. Your natural instincts are quite often wrong. In this case, it meant staying off the brakes and adding a slight bit of power.

A lot of the bad things happen at the end of the day when you are tired or over-confident. Being tired or over confident results in a lack of focus needed off-road. Head home or back to camp early when wheeling in intense conditions.

Before winching, consider the results of the placement of the disabled vehicle. Are you likely to create a more difficult situation? If it slides off the bank, will it pull your vehicle with it? Can you control the vehicles movement when it is back on its wheels? Make sure the emergency brake is set and the vehicle is in park or in gear so it will not roll once back on its wheels.