Tires are generally your number one problem driving off-road.
Tires, by their nature, take a lot of abuse while off road. Trails are anything but smooth. Stuff happens! A stick jams into the sidewall; a rock that is ideal to skip across a lake slices the sidewall like butter; or a decent size rock hiding behind the bush on a turn cuts the sidewall between the rock and the rim. The probability increases when you add into the mix a fatigued driver.
If this happens, try fixing the damaged tire. Meaning, don’t just automatically swap in the spare. Do that, and you’re left with no backup.
Many times, a punctured tread or minor sidewall puncture can be addressed quickly. One or two plugs solves the problem, allowing the trip to resume.
If you can’t fix the tire, you now have no backup should another tire be damaged.
Now you need your tire failure strategy! That is if you planned it before the trip.
Don’t leave home with bad tires. Period. You hit the trails with even one damaged tire, and you’re asking for trouble. You may complete your ride, but why start a trip risking a flat tire?
Pick your wheeling buddies on their vehicle’s lug pattern and tire size. In a worse case, you use can use their spare. In fact, wheel with other similar vehicles so you have other spare parts you might need.
If you know it will be difficult, remote, and you have had more that your share of problems, pack another spare, either on the rim or by itself. Store it on the top of your vehicle. You will then have two spare tires – more than enough for the typical 4WD trip.
Buy an inner tube that fits your vehicle’s tires. (Harbor Freight and other retailers carry them.) The tube is your deep, deep, back up line of defense.
Fix the tire
Try to fix the tire. Some minor cuts can be plugged, allowing the trip to continue without losing too much time. Use your plug kit; put a new valve stem in if was damaged, or reseat the bead. Use one of the spare lug nuts in your kit when you lose one in the sand changing tires. Incidentally, you know you can’t plug a sidewall. But, if it holds a plug on the trail at 7 mph, it is a reasonable expedient repair to get back to the highway. If a sidewall plug lets go at 70 mph, I don’t want to be riding with you! Related reading: Tire Problems shouldn’t Deflate Your Day
Can’t fix the tire? You have some decisions to make.
If you cannot fix the tire, put on the spare and head home or find the nearest tire store and replace the damaged tire. You’ll miss part and perhaps the rest of the trip, but you’ll also enjoy the peace of mind that comes with riding on good tires.
Don’t want to miss the rest of the trip? Agree on a meeting location and time frame. If the area is too remote or unknown to you, see if you can negotiate with the group to camp now and wait for you.
Now, better late the sorry, check the lug pattern and tire size of all the rigs. Maybe you will get lucky and discover that tires can be swapped between a 4-Runner and a Chevy pickup. Good chance you will not have any more problems but if so, you have access to another spare tire.
Always watch for obstacles
Four wheeling by its nature is tough on vehicles. As such it requires your undivided attention. While focused on the trail ahead make sure you’re watching for hazards that can damage your tires. We don’t experience flat tires in town as frequently as we used to (years and years ago).
Going off road is a different matter. You must be cognizant of the condition of the trail and surrounding areas. Any time you see an obstacle, slow down and try to steer around it if you can safely and responsibly. Resist the temptation to hit the gas and plow over or through it. You could damage more than just tires.
Sidewall issues, like any breakdown, require you to evaluate the situation and make a decision. Can you quickly solve the problem and continue on? Or do you put on your spare and plot the shortest route to a tire store?
The correct decision depends on the circumstances you’re facing. And each trip is unique. Spend some time before each excursion imagining how you’d handle a sidewall issue. Doing so will help make that decision easier, should the need arise.
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Did you miss the previous articles?
- 2019-01-16 How to Make Great Beef Jerky
- 2018-12-22 Understanding the Public Land Survey System
- 2018-11-18 Go Exploring
- 2018-10-28 The Forgotten Items!
- 2018-09-12 Pros and Cons of Four-Wheeling Alone
Some Upcoming Events (click on the link for details)
September 14 Getting Started Off-Road – LA area
September 15 Day 2 Getting Started Off-Road – LA area
September 21 Winching: Basic to Advanced – Mojave
September 28 Tire Repair & Hi-lift Mini Clinic – Hawthorne, CA
The 2019 schedule has been posted.
See the entire Schedule
San Rafael Swell Off Road Guide Book & Companion Map $35.50
If you want to order one: https://www.4x4training.com/w/product/san-rafael-swell-off-road-guide-book/
(Let me know if you would be interested in a trip to the Swell in April 2019.)
At almost 300 pages, “San Rafael Swell Off Road: A Trail Guide to 42 Destinations for Automobiles, 4WD Trucks & ATVs” is a guide to the in the San Rafael Swell area of Emery County. The desert area is ringed by small towns like Price, Green River and Castle Dale.
“Every chapter includes helpful advice for novice or experienced explorers of the area, such as, “Easy dirt road for high clearance automobile, although four-wheel drive is recommended to several sandy sections along the road. “according to Ed Helmick the author.
the San Rafael Swell area of south-central Utah. This is an area that provides approximately 2,000 square miles of fantastic scenery, fascinating history, and fun off-road adventures. The only paved roads in the San Rafael Swell are Interstate 70, which bisects the Swell in an east-west direction for 67 miles, and a spur of I-70 called the Moore Cutoff. The major difference between off-roading in the Moab area and the Swell area is fewer people, and the area is more remote in regard to the distances to small towns with services. Utah towns that ring the Swell are: Price, Green River, Hanksville, Cainsville, Emery, Castle Dale, Huntington, and Cleveland.
The companion map, the National Geographic San Rafael Swell (#712) comes as a package deal with your book order.
Wavian NATO Military Steel Jerry Can – 20L/5.3 Gallon $79.99
Order several cans now at:
Best to order these cans now. The warehouse has sold out every can they have 3 times this year due to natural disaster. People bought any color and any size just to have one right away. Half of the new supply shipped as soon as it came in due to a long waiting list. You don’t want to be caught without a gas can or forced to buy an inferior can that leaks.
Check out this fire test of the cans https://youtu.be/xG6x_BoGqNY
These are the real deal and are now legal again. These cans do not leak! They are the ones I recommend. However, the penalty we have to pay to get these cans again is that every can must come with a CARB approved spout. That adds about $30 dollars to the can. Still worth it. I have cans built during WWII that still hold gasoline and do not leak. (I am not that old. I bought them surplus.)
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.
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Copyright 2019, Badlands Off-Road Adventures, Inc.