Off-Roading Basics Part 4: Water and Mud May 22, 2014

off-roading-basics-mud-water-header Don’t deny it, ever since you were a kid you liked jumping in puddles and tromping through mud. It’s ok, we’re the same way, too. Off-roaders tend to not only try to avoid water and mud, but instead they seek it out and try to make the biggest mess possible. If you’re on a trail and see some water or mud, it’s a no-brainer that you’re going to go into it, but without a little knowledge and a few tips, your day could end there with a stuck truck or a submarine for a 4x4. The major issues with water and mud when you’re off-roading are safety for you and potential damage to your truck. Neither of these sound fun, so check out the tips and information below and go have some fun.


Driving on the trail is pretty fun, but crossing a stream or other water obstacle can be a real blast. Commercials for off-road trucks and 4x4s show trucks blasting through standing water so it sprays in every direction and while this looks like a lot of fun, if the body of water is new to you, you could be risking not only the safety of your truck, but your life as well. off-roading-basics-mud-water-crossing Water Depth - First things first, you need to learn about your truck or SUV. If you have a stock air box or aftermarket air intake in your engine compartment, you need to know how high this is off the ground, as that’s the extreme highest water you can cross. If you suck water into your engine you’ll do what’s called “hydro-locking” your engine. This means your engine tries to compress water that’s sucked in with air and since water can’t be compressed, it destroys your engine. A good general rule to follow is that water should always be below the bottom of your bumper. Unless you want water inside your truck, the rules should also include the bottom of your doorsills if your bumper is higher, too. Speed – Most trucks and SUVs recommend crossing water at no more than 5 MPH, which is a very good rule to follow for the first time you cross any water, even if you’ve been through it before that day. After the initial check run, you can increase your speed to a safe amount that’s still fun. off-roading-basics-mud-water-cross-over You shouldn’t drop below 5 MPH and NEVER stop moving in water. Stopping can make you lose traction and if you’re in running water, can easily wash you away. After the crossing, use your brakes lightly a few times to dry them off. Fast, hard braking right out of water can lead to mushy, unresponsive brakes. Safety Tips – When crossing water that’s unfamiliar it’s necessary to either walk it or drive it as slowly as possible at first to verify it’s depth and speed, if it’s running water. Setting your truck into 4WD Low is a good idea, as you don’t know what you might encounter in the water.


Where there’s water there’s probably mud. Unlike water, mud is harder to gauge depth and it’s much easier to hide on the trail, which means you’re far more likely to get stuck in mud than just about anything else. Driving through a muddy trail is one of the most fun aspects of off-roading, but some safety tips need to be followed to make sure you can get out safely and not hurt yourself or your truck. off-roading basics mud tracks (Photo courtesy of flickr) Warning Signs – When you come across a particularly muddy part of the trail, have a look around before proceeding. If you see tracks heading into the mud but none leaving the other side, it’s probably a good idea to find another way down the trail. This means that multiple people tried to cross the mud and nobody succeeded. Keep Moving – The best possible tip you can follow when mudding is to keep moving. Make sure you’re in 4WD before getting started and lock differentials if possible, and don’t stop moving until you’re on the other side. With this tip, make sure you don’t spin your tires too much, as this can wear away mud and get you stuck easily. off-roading basics mud ruts (Photo courtesy of flickr) Beware the Ruts – Depending on how worn the trail you’re on is, you may run into the issue of deep ruts going through mud. Be careful here, as deep ruts can high-center your truck, which will get you stuck pretty quickly. Gaining Traction – If you feel yourself starting to lose traction, start turning your wheel slightly from left to right. This motion will help you to get more traction while still keeping good forward momentum.   By following these tips, you should be able to get out there and hit water and mud without issue and have a lot of fun doing it. Make sure to clean your truck after a day on the trail so you get rid of the excess weight from the mud and so you can check your truck out for any hidden issues.

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