When you own a Jeep, it’s hard to resist the urge to take your vehicle off-road. We bought our Jeep 4×4 to not only experience the Jeep brand lifestyle, but also to go places without the benefit of a paved road. Trail Rated Jeep brand vehicles offer that opportunity. So with the next series of articles, we’ll talk about some basic off-roading techniques and how you can safely enjoy your Jeep brand vehicle on the trail. Off-roading can involve many different types of obstacles, each one presenting different challenges for both the driver and the vehicle. Water fording and driving in mud are two obstacles that are fun and exciting if done properly and safely.
Knowing how to ford water and get through mud is a useful skill for every off-road driver. Almost every off-roading area in the United States (including the desert) will eventually have a place where you will need to cross a stream, ford a large water obstacle, or drive through mud. The two primary concerns for water and mud obstacles are safety and potential damage to your vehicle.
Water Obstacles: Crossing streams and water obstacles are fun and exciting! While you’ve probably seen drivers speed up and roar across a stream, it may not be the smartest thing to do in certain situations….especially through an unknown water obstacle. The first thing you’ll need to know is your own vehicle’s capability. It is important to check your owner’s manual to determine your vehicle’s maximum water fording depth. As an example, a 2010 Trail Rated Jeep Wrangler’s maximum water depth is 30 inches at speeds under 5 mph, and a 2009 Jeep Grand Cherokee is 20 inches for standing water and 9 inches for flowing water, both under 5 mph. If you don’t have your manual handy when you get to the water, a general rule of thumb is that water up to the bottom of the bumper is an acceptable depth to cross to avoid damage (but some models may be lower). Water that is too deep can cause damage to the engine, transmission, differentials, and electronics. Put your vehicle in 4WD Low, drive slowly, and be ready to back off if the water gets too deep. Watch for large rocks or holes that may appear as you cross. It’s also important to remember to keep moving at all times and not to stop mid-stream. Never cross a water obstacle without another vehicle to assist with recovery equipment if needed. After crossing, use your brakes lightly until they dry out. If necessary have your vehicle inspected to check for water in the differential or transmission.
Mud: Usually, if there is water present, there will also be mud. Mud can also take us by surprise as it can sometimes be camouflaged by other debris. Or….maybe you just want to go mudding! Either way, mud can be a fun challenge on an off-road trail. Unlike water (where you can sometimes see the depth), the depth of mud can be hard to judge. You can get seriously stuck in mud, so it’s essential to make sure you have recovery equipment and another vehicle close by to pull you out if needed. Do not proceed if there are no tracks on the other side of the mud hole. The important thing about mud is to make sure you’re in 4WD, avoid excessively spinning the tires, and KEEP MOVING. Beware of the middle of deep ruts where you could easily high-center. If you start to get bogged down, slightly turn your steering wheel from side to side to gain more traction while continuing forward momentum. Once you get back to civilization, use a pressure washer to clean the underside of your vehicle to get rid of excess weight and to prevent corrosion.
Water and mud can be fun and challenging off-roading obstacles. By keeping these tips in mind, you can enjoy your Trail Rated Jeep vehicle as it was meant to be used without compromising safety and without damaging your vehicle.