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Off-Road Driving Info Sheet and FAQ

Version 1.2 - Print date: Sunday March 31, 1997 Full release - First begun Friday July 26, 1996
Compiled by Mike Graham

1 Why an ORDFAQ?

2 Where to get it

3 Lawyer Drivel

4 Sharing the blame

5 Future Plans

6 What can you do to help?

7 History

8 Vehicle Familiarization

9 Safety Check

10 Safety Gear

10.1 Minimum Gear

10.2 Remote Gear

11 Trail Ettiquette

11.1 General tips on Treading Lightly

11.2 Rocks

11.3 Forest

11.4 Right Of Way

12 General OR Driving Hints

13 Getting Unstuck

13.1 Winches

13.2 Winch Alternatives

13.3 Traction Pads

13.4 Jack Tricks

13.5 Slingshot Extraction

14 To Spot, or Not To Spot? The battle rages

15 Obstacles

15.1 A note regarding obstacles

15.2 Steep Climbs

15.3 Steep Decents

15.4 Stalling on a Steep Grade

15.5 Water Crossings

15.6 Deep Mud/Snow

16 Mud

17 What if? Dealing with emergencies

17.1 Lost!

17.2 Stranded!

18 Supplies

18.1 What's the big deal about a Hi-Lift jack?

18.2 Do I really need a tow rope if I'm driving alone?

18.3 What kind of fire extinguisher do I need?

18.4 Which Winch is Winchiest?

18.4.1 PTO Winches

18.4.2 Electric Winches

18.4.3 Hydraulic Winches

1 Why an ORDFAQ?

At the time  that  I  purchased  my LandCruiser, My off-road experience had
been limited to dirtbikes.  I knew that there  were  significant   differences
between  off-roading on a dirtbike, and off-roading on  four  wheels,   but  I
couldn't find a source for hints on how to get up  that  gravel  wash without
spinning back down again, or how to cross a slope of  tuff  without  holing a
tire.  This FAQ is an attempt to rectify that situation.
  Why not just have this information in the  standard  Off-road  FAQ?    Well,
it's just not there, now, and besides, I felt that  compiling  this FAQ would
help me learn about off-roading on four wheels.  It has.
  Note, please, that this FAQ is not intended to be the be-all and end-all of
Off-road  information.  Many aspects of off-road  driving  simply   cannot  be
learned from the printed page, but rather must be learned from  the untrodden
path itself.

2 Where to get it

The  ORDFAQ  is  available for download   through  the  world  wide  web  by
connecting to:

The above mentioned  web  page  also   has  an on-line version of the ORDFAQ
which allows you to scroll through it on-line.

3 Lawyer Drivel

Here we go.

  There  is  no  guarantee,  expressed  or implied, that this information  is
either useful, or accurate, or both.    It  is merely the personal opinion of
the  applicable author.  Use it at your own risk.  I  could  be   a  psychotic
delusional who delights in the thought  that  other people are going to wreck
their trucks trying to follow my advice.  Use your  own  discretion, and go
slow until you know what you're  doing,  then  you can assess the risks for

  This collection of information is copyrighted by myself, Mike Graham.    You
can look at it, share  it, collect it and trade it with your friends, but you
can't  try  to  sell  it,  or  make  money  off   of  it without my  expressed

4 Sharing the blame

The following have contributed (officially, or unofficially):

    -  Chris Siano <>
    -  Jim Hassi <>
    -  Dean Waters <>
    -  John Donovan <>
    -  Timothy W. Welden <>
    -  Guy Hammer <>
    -  Dave Dannenberg <>
    -  Chase Gregory <>
    -  Greg Spangler <>
    -  Kendra Cook <>
    -  Mark Whatley <>
    -  Dmitry Struve <>
    -  Christian Falzon <>
    -  Runar Sigurjonsson <>

5 Future Plans

I didn't deal with anything mechanical,  really,   but I'd like to see hints
on common trail-side repairs and jury-rigs.

  Ultimately  I'd  like  to see a section of the ORDFAQ   dedicated  to  trail
problems.  For instance, if you were planning on running a popular trail, you
would check the listing in  the  ORDFAQ  and  find  out whether it would be a
really  good idea to take an extra spare tire, or iron rods  to  use   as  a
winch anchor.   It's a way to share knowledge.  Also, I'd like information on
whether full-size vehicles can make it through, or only  'Zukis  and   chopped

6 What can you do to help?

Point-form trail  reports  would  be   nice.  If you know a trail that isn't
listed  in  the  FAQ  yet  (or  if  you know   information  missing  from  the
description in  the  FAQ)  then  let  me  know!  Here's a list of headings to
choose from to fill in for trail info:

     Trail Name:    Whatever the standard name is (or names are)

     Location:      City/area/country other info to help (like 5  miles north
                    on the I-5 from Hampton,  Conn or something). If you know
                    the coordinates of  the  trailhead (for the guys with GPS
                    equipment) then please add it.

     Difficulty Rating:
                    Specify also, what the rating base is  (Rubicon? Alaska?)
                    and preferably also give a general description.

     Scenery Rating:
                    Just a number from 1 to 10 describing how scenic you feel
                    the trail is.    Some highly technical forest trails have
                    nearly zero scenery, and that's fine if you're just after
                    a challenge, but if a person is looking for a  nice view,
                    they should be able to find one.

     Restrictions:  Short wheel base only?  Skinny trucks only?  Summer only?
                    Lockers only?  Winch a must-have?

     General Terrain:
                    Just a vague  bit  of  info  to let people know what they
                    might be getting themselves into. Like 'Desert and scrub,
                    some rocks, but nothing serious.'

     Special Problems:
                    Real easy to hole a tire?  Deep water crossing?

     Overall Impression:
                    Did you enjoy the trail?  Was it too relentless, too much
                    easy driving between hideous obstacles?

  In addition I really need info on taking  automatic  transmissions off-road
(is  the compression braking sufficient to take you down a hill?) and info on
obstacles that I'm not familiar with (sand, cane, tricks for bog/muskeg etc.)
  I need suggestions  for  the  'Trail  Etiquette' section.   That's a section
that I never  even  thought of, yet it is very important.  I just tossed it
together  prior  to  posting 0.00b (turns out 0.00a only went to list members
who are set up as 'realtime').  Any input is appreciated.

7 History

-  0.00a 8/26/96
       First Pre-release to the Off-Road list.

    -  0.00b 8/29/96
       Second Pre-release.    This   release  added  the  'Trail Etiquette'
       section,  and  the  'Getting   Unstuck'  section.    Many other  little
       upgrades, as evidenced by the number of additions to the  'Sharing the
       Blame' section.

    -  0.00c 9/05/96
       Third Pre-release.  I'm  not  getting as much feedback as I'd like,
       so I'm sticking with pre-releases for now.    No  one  has  mentioned a
       desire to write an article on driving in specific conditions (snow/mud
       whatever) and I'd like to have those articles done   before  I  release
       1.00.  This  version  has  had   the  section on winches added, and the
       'Etiquette' section increased.     Several  valuable  additions  to the
       'obstacles' section, as well.

    -  1.00  9/19/96
       First official release.  It doesn't have all that I want in it, but
       it's  time  to  put it in long pants.     I've  added  the  section  on
       slingshot extractions, and expanded the  Mud   section  (thanks  to the
       Great  Lake Extraction of '96) as well as some info on using a Hi-Lift
       jack for extractions (which I am now an expert at 8-/)

    -  1.01  10/21/96
       A slew of  new info has come in in the form of an excellent article
       on water crossings  by  Runar   Sigurjonsson.    Additional information
       dealing with automatic transmissions and CB antennas crept  in  when I
       wasn't looking.

    -  1.2
       Lots of slippery-conditions  info.  Now   that winter is  here, I am
       doing  a  lot  of  testing   regarding  driving  on slick surfaces. The
       underlying  format  of   the   FAQ  has   been  changed.   Instead   of
       using a  word processor  as has  been the  case in  the past, I am now
       editing it directly in  the text version.    A bit simpler in  the long

8 Vehicle Familiarization

Before you can  safely point your wheels at the great beyond you need to be
familiar with your vehicle, and take some precautions.
  What  is your ground clearance?  How big a rock can you drive over   without
worrying about it hitting something tender, like a gas tank?
  Is everything strapped  down?  If you roll, you don't want to get smoked in
the  head by your toolbox.  Is the battery restrained?  If the battery   jumps
out of  its  housing  it  can  short  against  the   hood,  or  another engine
component, causing big grief.
  What is  your  approach  angle?   If your bumper hits the slope before your
wheels do you'll have to come at it from an angle.
  Similarly,  what is your departure angle?  If  you  exceed   your  departure
angle then your rear bumper will hang up  on  the  hill  and your rear wheels
will leave the ground.
  Where are your differentials?  Drivers side?    In  the   middle?    This is
important to consider when you're going over obstacles.
  Can your engine run at an angle?  If it's carbuerated,  a  steep   grade can
drown it post haste.  Fuel injected vehicles generally  handle  steep   grades
better.  Diesels and cylinder-injected gas trucks can pretty much  run upside
down without dying.
  Does your vehicle have a high center of gravity, making it more susceptible
to tipping and rolling?  Most jeep-like vehicles share this fault  to various
  Do you  have  full  wheel  travel without hitting the fenders?   If you have
monster  meats  on  your truck, it's quite possible that before the axle hits
the bump-stop the  tire hits the fender.  Jack up one front wheel high enough
for the axle to hit the bump-stop and run your hand around the tire to see if
it's hitting anything.    Now turn the wheel full to the left and check.   Now
turn  it  to  the right.  If it hits anything then you have to decide whether
you want to tear up  your tires or not by doing serious off-roading.  Check a
rear wheel, too.
  Does your vehicle have a big, long 6' whip antenna that's going to injure a
bystander or  spotter?    Long  whip  antennas  aren't even allowed on some
trails due to the damage to the environment that they can inflict.

9 Safety Check

Now is the time to consider whether any of your fluids are low.  Got enough
power steering fluid?  Enough oil?  Enough  coolant?    How   about windshield
washer  fluid?    Have your brakes been checked fairly recently, or might you
need to  replace  the  pads/shoes?   If you're traveling in a group at night,
it's worth checking your taillights.  Even alone at night you want headlights
and reversing lights that work.

10 Safety Gear

The amount of safety gear that you need  will   depend  on  several factors.
The first is how hard-core the  off-roading  is that you're doing, the second
is how remote an area  you're going to, and the third is based on the climate
of the area you're going to.
  When I'm just booting around in my back field I  don't  bother taking much.
If I get stuck or broke, I just walk back home  and  get  the   tractor.   If,
however,  I was doing a four-day solo enduro through Death Valley, I would be
taking significant precautions.
  If you're traveling as one vehicle in a party, then the danger is obviously
not so acute.  You can get a lift back home with someone else  and  come back
with spare parts later  (hoping  against hope that no unscrupulous type finds
your truck in the meantime).

10.1 Minimum Gear

This is the stuff that should be kept in the truck at all times.  Add to it
when you're doing more serious off-roading.

    -  Spare tire

    -  Jack and handle (stock jack is fine)

    -  Lug wrench that FITS.  (been there, done that, didn't like it.)

    -  Blanket

    -  Fire extinguisher (1A/5BC or other approved for auto)

10.2 Remote Gear

If you're going  back  of  beyond   (especially by yourself) then you really
should  take precautions.  Any mechanical breakdown that  you  can't   fix  or
jury-rig  could  leave  you  stranded.    Don't   scrimp on  the  navigational
equipment  if  it's  unfamiliar  turf;  you  can't   always  count on your St.
Christopher medallion to get you home on time. 8-)

    -  First Aid kit AND THE KNOWLEDGE TO USE IT!

    -  Do  yourself  a  favor  and  take   along  some  food  and   water  for
       emergencies, and waterproof lifeboat matches.

    -  Tire irons and an inner tube or an extra spare.

    -  Compressor or manual tire pump

    -  2 Gallons of water for the rad (or a filter  to   strain groundwater if
       it's available)

    -  1 Gallon of engine oil

    -  5 Gallons of spare gas/diesel in a jerry can

    -  Appropriate manuals for the vehicle to aid in trail-side repairs

    -  A  CLEAR  understanding  of where you're going, or at least how to get

    -  Navigation gear (map&compass, GPS, local guide, whatever)

    -  Replace regular jack with a Hi-Lift jack (or Jack-all) 48" min.

    -  Jack pad sufficient for the vehicle's size and terrain traveled

    -  If using a  Hi-Lift as a winch, you need blocks to keep the truck from
       rolling backwards during the 'taking in the slack' phases.

    -  A tow-rope is still a good idea, even alone.

11 Trail Ettiquette

In this day of trail closures  and  EPA   pressures, it is more crucial than
ever to tread lightly.  To this end, I have assembled some guidelines divided
by terrain type.

11.1 General tips on Treading Lightly

None of us want to see our trails closed down.     Few of us want to see our
environment destroyed, either.  It is the duty of all off-roaders to consider
the  ramifications of leaving a beer can, or shredded spare tire lying on the
trail.  Would you want a news crew with their cameras catching your garbage
and  suggesting  that  all  off-roaders  are   insensitive  to environmental
issues?  It  has  happened before, and it will happen again.  Don't let it be
your mess.

  To contact  the  groups  dedicated  to  keeping  our trails open, see these

  Tread Lightly:

  United Four Wheel Drive Association:

  BlueRibbon Coalition:
     Site is under construction.  You can get information at

    -  Don't spin your tires.

    -  Don't  run  more aggressive tires than you  need   (lugs  chew  up  the

    -  Don't litter (cigarette packs, drink cans, oil containers, etc.)

    -  Don't play obnoxiously loud music when others are around.

    -  Don't blaze a new trail; stay on the established path.

    -  Always use a tree strap when using a tree as an anchor.

11.2 Rocks

-  If you need to pile stones up to get over an   obstacle,  then  put the
       stones back where you found them afterwards.

    -  Don't  leave oil spills, shredded tires, or  other   materials  on  the
       trail.  Clean it up and pack it out.

    -  Try not to scrape up the rocks.

11.3 Forest

-  Don't cut down trees, and try not to tear branches off while driving.

    -  Your vision is limited by the trees; don't  go   flying  around  a bend
       only to smash into a disabled vehicle, or run over a hiker.

    -  Keep  to  the  trail.  If the mud is too deep to get through, then you
       shouldn't be on  the trail in the first place.   If everyone cuts a new
       set of ruts, the trail starts to look like a battlefield.  Use a winch
       to get through.

11.4 Right Of Way

The  right  of  way  on  a   trail  is  basically  like  that on the  ocean.
Generally,  everyone  just  stays out of everyone else's way.    Pass  on  the
right, veer right in head-to-head situations, etc.  If there's only  room for
one vehicle at a time, then channel rules take over and the more maneuverable
vehicle should make way.  If it's a situation where only one vehicle can pass
at  a  time,  then the drivers must decide amongst themselves who goes first.
Usually this amounts to just a 'waving through', but sometimes it  requires a
bit of discussion on foot.
  In the event that you find  yourself  head-to-head with someone on a single
line, so that one person has to back up or move aside to let the  other pass,
the more capable vehicle should get out  of  the  way,  as  the   less capable
vehicle might not be able to make it back on the trail.
  Sometimes  these rules don't work so well; if the guy driving a stock Sammy
knows his stuff he can easily  outmaneuver  a modified Jeep driven by someone
who isn't really  familiar  with  off-road  situations.  The primary thing to
remember  is  that  bad things happen when people don't know what's going on;
make sure there  is  clear  communication,  and the other driver knows that
it's your turn to go.
  When two vehicles meet on a grade, the vehicle  traveling  uphill  should
have the right  of  way, as it is much more difficult to get going again when
you're pointing uphill as opposed to downhill, and backing up uphill is safer
than  backing up downhill (as long as it's done smoothly so as not to  stress
the front axle).
  When two vehicle  meet head to  head, they may  need to pass   on the left.
When there is  a sharp shoulder  dropping to a  deep ditch, for   instance, you
need to drive  with the drop  at the driver's  side so that  you can see  more
clearly where the edge is.
  Again, these 'right of way' rules are general at best!  Unless both parties
know  what's  going  on,  and  accident  can  happen.    Make  sure  there  is
communication.  If needed, get  out of the truck and chat for a while.   Maybe
the rules have to be bent to avoid a truck being bent. You can't just chug on
assuming that the other truck will move just because you are supposed to have
the right of way.

12 General OR Driving Hints

Friction is your friend.  With friction, you can move.  Without it, you are
  There are two kinds of friction;  static,  and dynamic.  Static friction is
the kind you have when your wheel  surface  is  not  moving   relative  to the
surface  you  are  driving  on  (i.e.  when  you are not skidding).   Dynamic
friction is what you have when you are skidding.   Static  friction is much
more  powerful  than  dynamic friction.  It is for this reason that threshold
braking  will  stop  you quicker than just stomping on the  brake   pedal  and
skidding to a stop.  So the key in the vast majority of situations is  to try
very hard not to spin your wheels.

  Don't  drive  with  your thumbs wrapped around the steering wheel.   Even if
you have power steering it's possible for the wheels to fall  into  a  rut or
something that will crank the steering wheel to one side, and  possibly break
a thumb.  Nasty.

  Driving off-road isn't like  driving  on-road; you can't just choose a line
and insist upon it; the truck will let you know what it wants to do.  Keep it
more or less  where  you  want  to  be  and  just 'suggest' directions to it.
Anyone who rides a horse knows what I'm talking about.

  "Drive as slowly as possible, and as fast as necessary." Andy Philpot

  Don't straddle rocks or they'll smoke your diffs; ride the wheels over them
to raise everything out of harm's way.

  Ditches and ridges should be crossed at an angle (like railroad  tracks) to
keep you from getting bogged down  when  both  front or back wheels drop into
the ditch.

  Be wary of water crossings.  What you don't know can  hurt   you.  See the
section on water crossings below.

  Airing  down your tires to 15psi or so will increase your contact patch and
increase friction.  Don't do it unless you have some  way  to re-inflate your
tires,  though.    In some technical rock-crawling situations people will air
down to next to nothing  (2 pounds or so), but I wouldn't advise this for the
uninitiated as you could blow a bead.

  Maintaining speed on  bumpy  terrain  can  be  very   difficult  because the
pitching of the truck throws your foot (via  momentum)  into  the  gas pedal,
causing the truck to surge, causing more momentum, causing your foot to get
thrown  harder  into  the gas pedal... It's ugly.  There   are  two  regular
solutions: the good way, and  the  sort-of-works-most-of-the-time  way.    The
good way is to have  a hand throttle.  A hand throttle will keep your vehicle
moving  as  smoothly  as possible.  The other way is to keep the side of your
foot planted against the  transmission  mound,  operating  the gas pedal only
with  the ball of the foot.  This keeps your foot planted,  so  it   can't  go
flailing into the gas pedal.  At least, not as much.

  If  you  drive  a late-model truck with air conditioning, it might be worth
shutting  the  AC off when you're in a tight crawling situation,  as   the  AC
compressor  will  kick in at odd moments and cause the idle  speed  to   jump,
which is at best a pain, and at worst could pitch you off  of  your  line and
drop you on a rock.

Some hints from Chris Siano:
     Driving  posture  is  something  I've   never  seen   printed  fully
     Things like, seat up, sit a little closer to  the   steering  wheel,
     thumbs out of the  wheel,  foot resting on the transmission hump to
     keep vehicle from surging as it bounces over the trail.   Seat belt!

     Prepare  for  getting  stuck.  If you and your buddy are going out,
     and you have an old  CJ and he has a Cummins Dodge, there is no way
     you are going to pull his truck out of bumper deep mud.   Therefore,
     don't  get into bumper deep mud.  If the strap is 30' long and  the
     mud is 200', there is no way you can pull anyone out of the middle.
     I guess, the best way to sum it up is to be sure to look before you
     leap.   It  only  takes  one big stuck and a 4x4 wrecker or tractor
     extraction to realize how important this is.

     Lastly, a new driver really needs to know the size of  his vehicle.
     If you don't know where the  tires  are,  you can't put them on the
     rocks.   Only takes an hour in an empty parking lot with some cones
     to learn how wide your rig is, and how tight you can turn it.   This
     is especially useful in full size trucks as you can't  see anything
     on  the  passenger  front any closer than about 10 feet away.  This
     time spent can  easily save lots of time and $$ in damages to a new

  This point about knowing  where your tires are  is very important.    Most
people use  points on  their hood  to estimate  where their   tires are.  This
works fine as  long as your  head is always  in more or  less the same place.
This means you  should have a  standard off-road seat  location and seat-back
angle and stick  to it.   With your head  in the same   place all the  time,
you'll be able to judge your tire location much more effectively.

13 Getting Unstuck

Everyone gets stuck.  You ever seen a tank winch?   Well I have.  Even  they
get stuck.  So how do you get unstuck?  Lots of ways.

13.1 Winches

The easiest, fastest way most of the time is to  use   a  winch.    See  the
section in the FAQ on "Which Winch Is Winchiest?" for info  on  the   pros and
cons on the different types.

  With a winch, a snatch block (a pulley with a hook on it), a tree strap (to
keep from maiming  the  local  flora),  and  SOME LEATHER GLOVES, you can get
yourself out pretty quick from just about anything.
  Normally  you just need to single-line your way out.  Just switch the winch
to freewheel, pull out the line to the nearest big tree, throw the tree strap
around it, hook up, and pull yourself out.  If the winch stalls, then hook in
the  snatch block (when using a snatch block, hook the end of the winch  line
to your tow hook, not to the winch  mounting  itself,  or  you might tear the
winch right off your truck).
  If you're winching someone else  out  of  the  mud,  and   your  truck keeps
skidding towards the  vehicle  you're  winching,  then you need to either put
good-sized blocks under the  wheels  (like SureClaws) or attach your truck to
an  anchor  (like  a tree) but connect the line from the anchor to the end of
your  vehicle that has the winch on it, otherwise you might end up physically
stretching or twisting your truck frame.  Bad stuff.
  If you keep  stalling the winch, even with a snatch block, then you have to
reduce the workload.  Try putting chunks of wood in front  of  the   wheels to
act like ramps  to  keep the wheels from plowing deep furrows in the mud.   If
you're winching over rocks, then try  piling  up smaller rocks to make ramps.
Hopefully you won't have to unload your truck.
  If you've had trouble with your winch not being powerful enough  (i.e. your
wife gave you a 3000pound winch for Christmas  and  it's  the  first official
acknowledgment of off-roading she's ever made and you just  know  that   you
can't  take  it  back) then a last-resort possibility is to have extra snatch
blocks.  With three snatch blocks you can set up a block and tackle that will
give your winch 4X its  normal power.  This is  good,  unless   the   tow hook
to  which  you  attached  the  block  and  tackle   can't  handle it and tears
itself off the truck.  Then it's bad.  In addition, you won't have more   than
about 20  feet of  pulling capability,  because the  wire will   be doubled up
around the pulleys so  many times.  Whenever   you  are    using  a   winch of
any variety it pays to lay a  coat, sleeping bag,  or  other  largish,    soft
object over the line, so that if the line snaps it will be less likely to  be
really dangerous.

13.2 Winch Alternatives

There are several things out there that aren't winches, but are supposed to
do the same job.  One is a Hi-Lift jack (HLJ) or similar jack, and another is
a come-along ratchet  hoist.   An HLJ is meant to be able to pull 7000 pounds
or so (says  the weight rating on the box) and the mechanical advantage is so
high that it doesn't feel too scary to use it.  If you're using an HLJ as a
winch then lay the jack right on the ground with the handle pointing upwards,
that way you can put a foot or something on  the end of the i-beam to keep it
from lifting when you're trying to lever the jack handle.
  A come-along is a different animal,  indeed.    It has a short handle (less
than  a foot long) and gives you  significantly  less  mechanical   advantage.
They  are usually rated only a few thousand  pounds  when   double-lined  (i.e
while  using  a snatch block).  They way they creak and  groan   while  you're
using them, standing 10 inches away  from  the  thinnest cable ever seen on a
winch-like  object scares me to death.  I don't like them, but they can   save
you if  you  have  nothing  else.  Definitely use the coat trick when dealing
with these.  Due to the short length of them, they don't stay parallel to the
line of force very well, so  it's  very  frustrating to use them (they wobble
and  pitch  when  you're trying to work the lever).  I don't like them, but I
must admit that I have one in my pickup truck.   Just in case.  I keep an HLJ
in my 'cruiser, so I don't need one in that.  The one benefit of a come-along
over an HLJ  is  that the come-along will pull for 20 feet or so, whereas the
HLJ will pull  for  less than 4' at a time (limited by bar length; could also
be 3' or 5' depending on jack model).  To use  an  HLJ  as  a   winch requires
blocks, or some other way to keep the truck from  losing  ground while you're
resetting the jack.  To be  fair, there are some come-along models  out there
that are pretty  tough.  If  you get one  that's rated to  4000 pounds or so,
then it should be able  to actually pull you out  of a bad situation. If   you
plan to use an HLJ as a  winch alternative, then make sure you have  hardware
on  hand  to  do  it;  you  can't  thread  a   3"  wide  tow strap through the
little hole in the jack.  Get a clevis that fits.

13.3 Traction Pads

Those ladder-like things for ice and snow can be a blessing, or a curse.  A
couple of those  beneath your wheels will usually get you going again.  For a
couple of feet.  Then you have to stop and pick them  up.    If   you're using
these, put it in granny low, let the  engine  just  idle,  and feather in the
clutch.  You don't want  to  spin  the  wheels  on these things because it is
possible to send them flying into  whatever  is in their path (other vehicle,
the underside of your vehicle, you...)
  Regular ladder-type pads  don't  work  in  mud (they just sink) but they're
great on ice  and slicked snow.  For mud you need something with a semi-solid
surface that will stay on top of the mud.  You might think that  an  old ski-
doo track  would  be  great.    They  almost are.   In shallow stuff they work
great, but in really deep stuff they let the tire push  them  down,  and your
truck just ends up having to drive 'uphill' against the mud.  They still work,
but not as well.
  The ultimate traction  aid is a  pair of 15'  2x10s.  Jack   up each side of
the vehicle and put  the boards under both  wheels on each side  and you can
get out of just about anything.  Tough to transport, though. 8-)

13.4 Jack Tricks

With a jack that will lift at least a corner of your vehicle 6" or so (even
a  stock jack will do it) you can lift the wheel and stuff traction  material
under it.  Floor  mats.    Rocks.    Sand.     Dead  branches.  Kitty  Litter.
Irritating relatives.  Anything.  Lower the wheel  again,  and   do  the other
side (or all four corners) and you should be able to get going.

13.5 Slingshot Extraction

I  wasn't sure whether to include this because   the  potential  for  tragic
results  are  great,  indeed.    Still,  as  long as you understand that  you
really have to be careful doing this, and understand  the  risks   involved,
then it might get you out when nothing else will.

[Christian Falzon writes:]

     First a disclaimer:
     This  technique  may  be EXTREMELY dangerous if not done properly (
     maybe that's why  no one mentions it ) - so make sure you know what
     you're doing. My description here is only a rough guide,   the exact
     technique, rope type, etc. are up to your judgement  -   though  I'm
     sure that many others will  contribute  such   information.  It also
     needs considerable skill to be done safely.

     The technique is snatch pulling  and is (in principle) very simple.
     You need:

        1.  A  very  stretchy   rope.  This  should be about 2 inches  in
            diameter and made of nylon.

        2.  A  bogged  down  or stuck vehicle (you wouldn't be trying to
            pull it out if you didn't have that :)

        3.  A vehicle which is NOT bogged down and has at least  25 feet
            of clear ground on which to accelerate.

        4.  VERY ROBUST tow points on both vehicles.

     When to use it:
     This  technique should only be used as a last resort - it is to  my
     knowledge the most powerful way of pulling a vehicle loose - except
     for using an Abrahams tank or a Sikorski  Sky  Crane. Unfortunately
     it  is  probably  also  the  most   dangerous  and  I have seen some
     incidents which could have had a very nasty ending  if   it  weren't
     for tons of luck. The pulling force that you can generate   (if done
     properly) far exceeds that of any winch or  conventional   pulling -
     even if the towing vehicle is on very slippery ground.

     Basically all you do is

        1.  Fasten the rope between  the   two  vehicles,  just as if you
            were going to tow.

        2.  Back  up  the  mobile   vehicle  as close as possible to  the
            bogged one. Make sure that the rope is laid  out  neatly  on
            the ground and cannot get tangled or caught in anything

        3.  Make every bystander get the heck out of the way -  AT LEAST
            twice as far as the length of the rope

        4.  The  bogged/disabled/stuck   vehicle  should  be  started  if
            possible (and should contain a driver :-)

        5.  The towing vehicle accelerates forward - do not overdo it.

        6.  The  slack in the rope will be taken  up,  but  the  vehicle
            should continue accelerating.  At  the same time as the rope
            comes under tension,   the  bogged vehicle should do its best
            to move as well.

        7.  As the vehicle keeps moving forward, the tension on the rope
            increases more and more, in  the  process  slowing  it down.
            This deceleration can be very rapid and a driver not wearing
            a seatbelt will almost certainly smash into the windscreen.

        8.  Hopefully the tension in the rope will be enough to pull the
            other vehicle loose.   In  any event, once the towing vehicle
            stops moving forward, the tension  in  the  rope  will start
            accelerating it    backwards  with  great  force.  The driver
            should be prepared for this and immediately press the clutch
            and use the brakes. The vehicle should then be eased back on
            the brakes until there is no longer tension.

        9.  If  this  doesn't  work   just  back up again and repeat  the
            snatch  pull   with  a  heavier  right  foot  until  you  are

     IMPORTANT tips that may keep you and others alive:

        1.  The drivers in the  two   vehicles  MUST  MUST MUST MUST wear
            seat belts and certified crash helmets.

        2.  The towing points on both   vehicles must be VERY robust. The
            force generated by snatch  pulling  can  be  of the order of
            several  tons - up to about four times  the  weight  of  the
            towing vehicle (even if only for a few seconds). If  you are
            not sure about   the  strength  of  the  tow  points  you are
            inviting disaster.

        3.  The rope should be tied directly to the towing  point  -  NO
            metal fittings such as eyes or shackles may be used.

        4.  The vehicles must both have roll cages (real ones not chrome

        5.  Everybody  else (spectators photographers and whoever)  MUST
            stay at a distance of at least twice the length of  the rope
            being used. If   anybody  insists on staying (perhaps to take
            photos or something) DO NOT PROCEED until he gets out of the
            way or you are sure that he's Bill Gates.

        6.  Use  decent knots to tie the rope. The  knot  should  be  as
            small  as   possible  -  consult  some  good  seaman or  rock
            climbing  junkie   for  the best knot to use. It is important
            that the knot be as small as possible.

        7.  If at all possible avoid snatch towing a small light vehicle
            (eg. a Sammy) with a much heavier vehicle (i.e. anything :-)

        8.  Make  sure that the towing point does  not  have  any  sharp
            edges that may cut the rope

        9.  DO NOT use a rope which does not stretch - AVOID AVOID AVOID
            chains, steel ropes,   Kevlar, Carbon fibre,  'pre-tensioned'
            or  non-synthetic   ropes.  The  rope  should be Nylon  or  a
            similar material   which  can  stretch  to  almost  twice its
            length without breaking and must have a breaking strength in
            excess of 25 tons.

     So what exactly is so dangerous about it?
     What we  are  doing  here  is  changing   the momentum of the towing
     vehicle into energy stored in the  tow  rope. Its like we are using
     the towing trucks engine to 'wind-up' the rope.  What this means is
     that all the energy  that  your  fire-breathing   V8 has produced in
     those seconds of acceleration is now STORED IN THE ROPE ready to be
     released at an instant if something goes wrong. What we want is for
     that energy to pull the bogged vehicle out of its mud-hole but what
     if it doesn't do it?
     The main dangers in order of magnitude are:

        1.  The  worst  that  can   happen  is that the towing point  (or
            indeed a chunk of chassis) of one of the vehicles  gets torn
            off.  If this happens, the piece torn  off  will  shoot  off
            (accelerated by tons of tension  in the rope) and can easily
            reach speeds of almost   500mph  (yes  five hundred miles per
            hour)  depending   on  the size of the chunk extracted. I can
            leave it to your imagination what happens if said chunk hits

        2.  If too much force is used at once, the   bogged  vehicle  may
            come loose with the rope  still having lots of stored energy
            to spare. This stored energy then makes your newly de-bogged
            vehicle accelerate   faster  than  an  F-15  on  steroids and
            literally go airborne and come  crashing  down  (most likely
            onto  the   towing  vehicle  -  been  there  done that).  The
            important  thing   is  that  you  always  start   gently  and
            GRADUALLY use more force at each attempt.

        3.  The  rope may break. This usually happens  where  it  is  in
            contact with the tow point. This results in a missile launch
            similar to when the tow point breaks except  that  this time
            only the rope is flying. That  is  why the knot should be as
            small as possible.   A  messy multiple knot will easily smash
            through  a   steel  body panel at that speed. The smaller the
            knot, the less the damage it will cause.  Having  said that,
            even the rope itself can be lethal but you  have  made  sure
            that everybody is far away.  The drivers of the vehicles are
            not  normally   in  danger since the rope will get tangled in
            the vehicle and also lose most of its energy before reaching
            the driver. One   may  still get injured if extremely unlucky

     Horror stories:
     I have seen two  near  accidents  caused  by improper snatch towing
     which could have had a very nasty ending.

     The first instance involved two Land-Rovers about six years ago. No
     amount of winching would make  the bogged landy budge. Also digging
     was impossible as the mud  was too fluid and Hi-Lifting impossible.
     So they went for snatch pulling. Even the most violent acceleration
     brought no results. They  then  decided to use two ropes (to double
     the length) with the result that the towing Landy reached speeds in
     excess of 40mph!! before the rope  slack  was taken up. Just as the
     Landy started to loose the battle against the increasing tension of
     the rope an appalling impact and what sounded like a rifle shot was
     heard. The tow rope seemed to have vanished. What had   happened was
     that the towing point of the stricken Landy was pulled right out of
     the  chassis and catapulted at awesome  speed   towards  the  towing
     landy. It went  right  through  the  rear   door,  the  bulkhead and
     through the front windscreen, scattering bits of glass and aluminum
     all over the place.  The  towing point had actually passed within a
     few inches of  the  drivers  head!!  He   was wearing a helmet but I
     doubt what protection that  can  afford  against   a 6 lb supersonic
     So  what  did they do wrong? The worst thing was to   use  too  much
     force without thought about the  consequences.  One   must  stop and
     think about an alternative before just applying more and more brute
     The other incident  involved  a Land-rover de-bogging a Sammy. What
     happened this time was  simply  that  maximum   brute force was used
     right away. The Landrover accelerated about 20 feet to approx 20Mph
     before  the  rope  started  tensioning.   All of a sudden the  Sammy
     catapulted out of the ground flew  a  distance of about 25 feet and
     came  crashing  into  the roof of the Landy just above the level of
     the tailgate. The only thing that prevented the driver of the Landy
     from getting killed  was  the substantial rollcage. What went wrong
     here was very simply  that  maximum  brute   force was applied first
     time. There was probably four times  as  much energy in the rope as
     was needed to debog the 'Zuki.

     The moral of it all: snatch towing is  a  great   way  of recovering
     otherwise  unrecoverable  vehicles.  I  have   seen  many  otherwise
     unrecoverable vehicles (even my mog) recovered  by   snatch pulling.
     If done with  care, it is safe but if not can be lethal. Always try
     winching, HiLifting and digging before snatch pulling.

     [ How's that for an explanation? ]

  So  we've heard what the process can do, and we've heard a whole lot   about
what can go  wrong.   Bottom line?  If nothing else works, this might, but be
darn careful if you try  it.  It's really not that scary at low speeds (10mph
max).  Here  is  a table supplied by Guy Hammer that tells you how much force
can be exerted by various weights of vehicles at various speeds:

     Vehicle/Snatch-strap load impact (in ft./lbs. energy)

     Speed                     Vehicle Weight (lbs)
     (mph) 3,000    4,000     5,000      6,000     7,000
     5     2,506    3,341      4,177     5,012     5,847
     10    10,024   13,365     16,707    20,048    23,389
     15    22,554   30,072     37,590    45,108    52,626
     20    40,096   53,462     66,827    80,192    93,558
     30    90,216   120,289    150,361   180,435   210,505
     50    250,604  334,135   417,669    501,207   584,736

     Strap capacities:

     2" - 18,000
     4" - 36,000
     6" - 54,000

     12"- 108,000

     Note:  The  tow  hooks I have seen for sale are only rated for
     10,000 lbs. As best have I have been able  to   determine,  the
     two 1/2" bolts  that  hold  them  to your frame could break at
     14,000-15000  lbs.  Having  a tow hook imbedded in the back of
     your truck (or skull)  could  ruin your entire day! (And no, I
     don't know anyone crazy enough to  hit  the end of a 12" strap
     at 50 MPH!)

  From this we  can  see that a 3,000 pound vehicle at only 10 miles per hour
can apply more power than most of the electric winches on the market.  A very
powerful tug, indeed.  High speeds make for  a  tremendous  amount   of power.
Always always always start with small tugs at low speeds.    There's no sense
in  tearing  the  towing points right off of the vehicles.     The  previously
mentioned tug by the 3,000 pound vehicle at 10mph will apply as much force as
the stock towing points in many new vehicles are designed  to  take (the wire
loop tow points found on many newer vehicles are an example).

  The reality of  the  situation  is  that  many people use snatch pulling as
their primary  method  of  extraction,  and think nothing of it.   It can be
safe if done  properly at reasonable  speeds.  I  use snatch pulling   to pull
people out of ditches.  When you're using it, don't be in a hurry to use more
power; use a  whole bunch of  small pulls rather  than a huge  brute tug.   I
pulled a minivan from the  bottom of a 6' ditch  while I was on glare  ice by
using small tugs, and  lots of them.   I gained maybe an  inch each tug.   It
adds up, and eventually he came out.   Try to get a rhythm going so that   you
aren't in gear when you hit the end of the strap; rather start going and  let
the inertia  of the  vehicle pull  you forward,  then you  will recoil on the
strap and you can just stay in a forward gear and use the clutch to  'bounce'
on the end of the  strap.  If I had  to shift into reverse for  every tug I'd
still be tugging away at the guy I pulled out of the ditch last night.

14 To Spot, or Not To Spot? The battle rages

Every pastime has to have a major bone of contention or   two,  and  this is
one of the biggest in the  off-road  arena.   Some people love spotters, some
people hate spotters, some people don't know what a spotter is.
  A  spotter is someone who is outside of the vehicle, and is supposed to   be
seeing  things  that  you can't see from your vantage point behind the wheel,
and  passing the information on to you, so that you can make more intelligent
decisions during intense rock-crawling.
  In my dirtbike background, there is  no  such  thing as spotters.   When you
can see all of your tires, why the heck would you  want  someone  telling you
how to drive?
  With big vehicles, it's a bit different, as evidenced by the following:

   Chris wrote:
   Don't  forget  about  using a spotter.  Only ONE spotter, any more, and
   you  might  as  well not use any.  Trust the spotter, he or she can see
   things you can't.  In many cases, a good spotter is better than a great

   Dean wrote:
   Am I the  only  one out there that doesn't like to use a spotter? It is
   very  rare that I will watch or would like a spotter. I much prefer   to
   use my own judgement as I know my vehicle better than most spotters. If
   I need help or an extra eye on the other side then I will ask for it at
   that point.
   Otherwise  I  would  rather they just shutup and let me   do  my  thing.
   Maybe I have just seen too many BAD spotters. :-)

   Jim wrote:
   Learning how to wheel I always found spotters helpful. Now that  I have
   experience, here are my two basic rules on spotters:

       1. Use spotters you know, preferably people who drive   a  rig  like
   yours, and set up as much the same as possible. I pretty much trust the
   other drivers in my Cruiser club.

       2. Someone said yesterday that they walk the   trail  twice (terrain
   then  placement).  I  like to walk it up (its almost   always  uphill  -
   harder obstacles, and I can't see over my hood), then walk it back down
   with my spotter  saying  'I want to put the tire here, or I want to end
   up here'. That way we have a game plan.

  This is, of course, a nice,  mannered  discussion of the relative merits of
spotters.    You  usually see a flaming  row  about   issues  like  this  (and
clutches, and auto trannies, etc. etc.) but this still gets the  point across
that there are different opinions out there.

  So what do I think?  I've gotten myself into some  scrapes  that   a spotter
could have helped me avoid.  I have not yet gotten into a scrape because of
bad  advice  from  a  spotter,  so  on  the  whole   they  seem like a  useful
institution.  That being said, however, I would still rather do without them.
I tend to be a solitary in my hobbies; I drive off in a random  direction for
a couple weeks  of  rough camping, and my rig is really intended to get me to
and from potential camping/climbing spots, more so than it is just  an outlet
for a rock-crawling addiction.  I also feel that  using  spotters   frequently
might  be  habit-forming;  and in a  situation  where  there   is  no  spotter
available you might  do  a worse job of it because of your anxiety due to not
having your crutch.  Still, when you're doing highly technical rock-crawling,
you don't have much choice but to use a spotter.  I put it in  the 'necessary
evil' category.
  If I pull a bonehead move because of my poor judgement, and wreck my rig, I
have only myself  to  blame.  I'm not sure I'd trust myself to be rational if
someone  else  was  responsible  for  the   destruction  of the  $300  water
separator on my 'Cruiser.

  From my point of view, my rig is my transportation.  If I have to  walk the
trail twice to  be able to run my rig over it, then it isn't transportation
at all, rather it is a chore; it's costing me more work than it's saving.

  Your mileage may differ.

  Pardon me while I install the Halon cylinder next to my e-mail basket...

15 Obstacles

15.1 A note regarding obstacles

If you take nothing else away with you from this FAQ, take this:

     "There is no more dangerous obstacle than the obstacle unseen."

  Driving through long grass  should  be done slowly.  Driving through very
long grass should be done very slowly.

  Any time you can't see what you're driving on is a good time to drive slow.
Through water, mud, grass, willow, reeds, etc.

  Water could hide a rock, a sharp stick, a broken bottle, anything.

  I know a person who  once grazed a fire hydrant in long grass.  It turned
out a company had started building a subdivision, but lost their  funding, so
there were fire hydrants and curbs,  but  nothing  else, and it had all grown
over.    There could be an old lean-to, or a junked VW sitting in   that  long
grass.   You could hit a young deer, or other animal.  Until you've   explored
the territory, go slow.

15.2 Steep Climbs

The natural reaction of the inexperienced faced with   a  steep  hill,  or a
not-so-steep, but slippery hill to climb  is  to  put the truck in granny low
and stomp on the gas.  This, is not the way to do it.
  There  are two forces that can get you over a hill: momentum, and friction.
For  small hills and bumps, you can safely rely on momentum to get you  over,
but for anything  steep  and bigger than 10 or 15 feet, you have to rely at
least partially on friction.
  You need to have the truck in as high a gear as possible in order to reduce
the  chances of the wheels spinning.  In granny-low, you'll just spin out and
slide  down  (unless you can idle up the hill).  Try the hill first   in  your
middle gear (2nd for 3-speeds, 3 for 5-speeds) and see what happens.
  If you do start to spin out,  ease  off  the  throttle,   and  hopefully the
wheels will grab again.  If the  wheels  don't  grab   again,  then  hit the
brakes  and clutch to hold yourself steady, shift into reverse, and let go of
all pedals.  Let the engine do the  braking.    DON'T   use the brakes going
down  a  hill, or you will likely lose static friction and  you  might   start
sliding down, turn sideways, and roll.  That is a very-bad-case scenario, but
it has happened.  If you didn't make it up, try again in a higher gear.
  Do not try to change gears on a steep hill.
  Short steep hills can be mentally unsettling, because you lose track of the
ground.  All you can see over your hood is sky.    You  must   pick  your line
before you start the climb, and hope you stay on it.
  You  should start climbs head-on, so that both  wheels  start   climbing  at
once.  This dramatically reduces the  chance  of a roll.  Sometimes, however,
you just  can't  start  head  on,  because  your approach angle isn't great
enough.  In these cases  you should approach the hill at a 45 degree angle or
so  (more  if necessary) and as soon as the tire closer to the hill   has  a
bite on it, crank the wheels into the hill so that you will turn up the hill.
You want to avoid having one side of the vehicle higher than the other.
  You should avoid backing up a steep hill.  It puts a lot of  stress   on the
front axle, and specifically  the  birfield  joints  (found in Land Cruisers,
etc.).  It's not too hard to break a birfield backing up a steep hill  if you
goose  the  throttle,  especially if you have a front locker, and then you're
stuck.  If you must back up a steep hill, do it smoothly.

15.3 Steep Decents

These can  be  easy  or  hard.     The rule against using brakes on a decent
applies here.  Use compression braking  only.    If the surface is firm, just
steep, then select granny low,  and go down.  Don't  touch  those   brakes  if
you can help  it.  If  you must, then  keep the clutch  engaged, that way you
can't lock the wheels.   If the surface isn't  firm, then the selection   of a
gear becomes more tricky.  Too low a gear might not let the wheels turn  fast
enough  to  maintain   static  friction,  but  too   high a gear will have you
careening down the hill  faster than you want  to go.  Your  best bet usually
(experience will teach) is to go with  granny low, and keep your mitt on  the
hand throttle.  If  you start to skid  forward, yard on the  hand throttle to
increase wheel speed and regain traction.  If you don't have a hand  throttle
then be  very careful   with the gas  pedal,  as you don't want your  foot to
bounce into the gas and  get you going faster than prudence dictates.    Don't
try to change  gears going down  a hill.   If the situation    starts  looking
grim half way  down a hill,  and you just  can't keep the   wheels  spinning
fast   enough  to  maintain  static  friction,  then   you may have to use the
clutch.  If there  is open space at  the bottom of the  hill (so   you're  not
going to smack  a tree or  something) then pushing  the clutch    won't  cause
you much grief  if the surface   is  relatively   smooth.   Remember,  though,
that high  speeds  on rough surfaces are  dangerous, and the vibration    will
cause the whole world to blur at the edges, and you won't  be able  to    tell
where you're going.   If you lose  your line down  the hill, you   might hit a
bump, the wheels  might bounce to  one side, the  truck could end  up turning
sharply, and  you could  roll down  the hill.   Slow is   better.  The general
rule with hills is "Straight  up,  and straight down."  Turning on a  hill is
to be avoided where possible.

15.4 Stalling on a Steep Grade

This is a definite hassle.  It never occurred to me to put this section in,
being blessed with  an injected diesel that will run upside down if I want it
do,  but some carburetors don't like steep grades, and may very well stall on
longer ones.  Here's what to do.

     [From the nimble fingers of Guy Hammer comes:]
     Allright, I have a manual transmission, power brakes,  and   my carb
     likes  to flood out on steep angles. I'm perched way up on the side
     of this hill with both feet occupied with clutch and brake, and the
     engine is dead. NOW WHAT??!

     Number one priority is not to  lose  the power assist in the brakes
     at this point. Do NOT pump  or  release  the brakes. If you do, and
     exhaust the reserve capacity of the power booster you won't be able
     to hold your rig from rolling back even if you  use   both feet! The
     parking brake won't hold it either!

     [Ed.  note:  Guy  is about to get into a discussion  about  how  to
     coerce a sticky gearbox into shifting into reverse.  Most gearboxes
     aren't going to  need  this  kind  of treatment, but you should try
     shutting off your truck  on  a SMALL hill to simulate this stalled-
     climb situation and see if yours is the sticky kind (like a T18).]

     Number  two priority is to get the trans in reverse. If it won't go
     just  keep stirring the stick between  various   forward  gears  and
     reverse until you get it to drop in. If that doesn't  work, release
     the clutch (NOT the brake) and bump the starter  while   pulling  it
     into reverse. Once  in  reverse  NOW  you can release the brake. If
     your  rig doesn't have low enough gears to hold you on the hill, at
     least  the engine turning will help rebuild  vacuum   in  the  brake
     booster. If the gears DO hold you, hit the starter and back on down
     the hill. At this point if  the  engine restarts, fine, just let it
     idle you down.

     If  you get crossed up backing down the hill you may have no choice
     but to try and re-start the engine and try to  pull   forward a bit.
     Stop  the  rig  by releasing the starter (or with the brakes if the
     gears won't hold it.  BE  CAREFUL with the brakes!) With the clutch
     and brakes applied, shift into whatever forward gear works best for
     climbing in your rig. At this point it's useful to know the "racers
     three-step".  Left  foot  on clutch, right toe on brake, right heel
     mashing  gas.  (on  my rig anyway.) If you can get   the  engine  to
     catch, that's half  the  battle.  Rev  it   a few times to clear the
     flooding as much  as  possible, and then simultaneously release the
     brake and clutch, mash the gas, cross your fingers  and   hold  your
     breath. (might want to practice this before you get caught on Lions
     Back ;) With luck this  might buy you a few feet or even get you on
     up and over the hill.

     [Here endeth the lesson.]
  Basically  what you're doing is letting the  compression  of   your  stalled
engine act as a brake to slow your journey down the hill.  Because the engine
is physically being turned  over  (though it isn't actually running) you will
get some power back in your brakes (because the pump is  running).     You can
now use your brakes to slow your descent.

  The second-to-last-ditch attempt  thing  to  try  is to leave your truck in
first  gear,  ignore the brakes, and use the clutch as a brake.  There   is  a
built-in psychological aspect to this, because you're used to pushing  in the
clutch  to stop, and in this case you need to let go  of  the   clutch  to
stop.    Irritating  little problem.  As long as you are in 4WD you will have
four wheel braking using this method, so it  will  hold  you  on the hill, as
long as there is traction.  Hard on the clutch, though.

  If you are 10 feet away from the crest of the hill then you  might  want to
try the absolute-last-ditch thing, and that is to put the truck in first gear
and  let the starter drive you up the hill.  This isn't inordinately hard   on
the starter as long as you don't run it for longer than 10 or 15 seconds at a
time.    When the 10-15 seconds is up, just shut off the key and  the   engine
will hold the truck steady (because you're not  touching  the  clutch   or the
brakes).    After you give the starter a good 5 minutes to cool, then   do  it
again.  Sooner or later either your battery will be dead, or you'll be at the
top  of  the hill.  This only works on an oldish truck that doesn't   have  an
interlock that keeps you from working the starter with the truck in gear.

  It has been suggested to me that you shouldn't get out of your truck on a
steep  grade  unless your seatbelts are of the type that can  be   pulled  out
again on a  grade  (many lock on a grade, and once it retracts you can't pull
it  out  again  until  the  truck is on level ground).  Land Cruisers  of  my
vintage  suffer  this  'feature', and it's a pain.  The best you can do is to
try  to use something like the vise grips from the toolbox (if you can  reach
it with your belt on) to keep the belt from retracting when you take it off.

15.5 Water Crossings

This  section  has  been  replaced   by  an  article by  Runar  Sigurjonsson
(apologies for the lack of punctuation).  The article was written by him, but
it was heavily edited by myself as English  is  not  Runar's  first language.
Anything in square brackets is an addition by myself.

     This is the way we cross the glacial rivers [in Iceland]   and maybe
     this does not fit into what you were thinking about.  Those glacial
     rivers  change  regularly,  they can be passable in the morning but
     not in the  afternoon  [due  to  meltwater, caused by the sun], but
     then maybe in a different place.....:-(

     Crossing rivers.

     Rivers and your truck:
       Water is one of your truck's biggest enemies.   If water gets into
     a gasoline engine, it will be greatly damaged.  If water   gets into
     a Diesel engine it will be destroyed.  The two most important parts
     to protect are  the  air-intake and the electronic ignition system.
     The ignition system in  newer  vehicles  is   usually very tight and
     need  not be worried about.  In older vehicles it can help to spray
     some water-repelling  sprays, but they often make the ignition very
       The air-intake is the route water  can  get into your engine.  If
     that happens, you are in deep [trouble]. If you are lucky   you only
     need  to  dry  your engine, if not, start looking for a new engine.
     In newer vehicles the air is usually fed in from two places, inside
     the front  fender and from around the exhaust-pipes.   The fender is
     well protected from splashes but  if you drive to fast   the vehicle
will make  a wave  in front  and raise  the water  level inside the
     The best place for a air-intake  is on the roof or feeding   the air
     through the firewall from inside the truck.
       The weight  of your  truck has  big effect  on its river crossing
     abilities and the height  up under the body  also.   As soon  as the
     body goes into the water the weight that is sitting on the tires is
     greatly  reduced,  making  it  easier   for  the current to push the
     vehicle its way.   For example if  your vehicle weighs  3300 pounds
     and the body-tub is 7x5 feet  and it sinks one foot into   water the
     weight on  the tires  is reduced  to only   1220 pounds [assuming no
     leakage of water into the tub].
       No precautions need to be taken for the exhaust system, there  is
     no  way water can  get past  the exhaust [as   long as the engine is

     Where to cross:
       In general it is best to  cross  where   the river is wide and has
     adequate current.  Adequate current means that it is not as deep as
     where there is less current, and  it  also means that the bottom is
     more solid.  [ If the river is a consistent 13 feet across, and one
     area has a faster current than another area, then  that   area  with
     the faster current is shallower.]
       The current carries with it mud and sand that it puts   down where
     the current drops and that makes the bottom soft and dangerous.
       Never cross  in  a  place  that cannot be waded.  If the place is
     unknown to the driver he should examine it by wading  over himself.
     He needs to  check how deep it is, how fast the current is, and how
     [firm] the bottom is.  To wade in a safe  manner   the person should
     have  a  stick (the heavier the better)  and   face  up  the  river,
     leaning on the stick, with slightly bent knees.  This gives him the
     best  stability.  He should be tied to a rope that one person holds
     onto on the riverbank. It is very important  that  the   end  of the
     rope that  is  on  the  riverbank, is not tied to anything.  If the
     person wading should fall, the one on the bank should run   down the
     river at the same speed as the victim is floating  and   pull him to
     the riverbank.  This way the effect of the  current   is  eliminated
     and  very  little  force  is  needed   to  pull  the  victim to  the
     riverbank, your ten year old is probably strong enough for it.    If
     the end on the riverbank is tied to something the current will push
     the victim down into the river possibly drowning the victim.

       [ Ed. note:    I've  had  a   long discussion with Runar about the
     'running  down the bank' point because on  this   continent  we  are
     blessed  with  those  tall green things with bark that make running
     down the riverbank quite  difficult  on  occasion.    My opinion has
     always been that the rope tied to you should be tied on the bank as
     well, but Runar has convinced me that even with the rope   tied high
     under your armpits you will plane down into the river if the rope
     goes taut.  I'm not sure where this  leaves  us.     If there are no
     trees on the riverbank to impede running or snag the rope, then his
     method is by far the best, but in a forest probably the best method
     would be to have the person on the  bank  hold  on   to the rope and
     feed it out as necessary so  that  there  is a line between you but
     there is little or no tension.  It's a tough question, with no good
     answer. ]

       Seeing  another vehicle cross is often enough   to  see  where  to
     cross, but  remember  that  it  is often not best to go over at the
     same place in both directions.
       NEVER go over a big river without a buddy four wheeler in his/her

     Driving over:
       If the river is only hub deep there is usually   no  danger.  Just
     cross in a slow manner, and  remember  that it could suddenly get a
     lot deeper.
       Always drive in 1st-gear 4-wheeldrive low range (remember to lock
     the hubs) and be in that gear before you get into the river because
     shifting gears in a river is an emergency only.  When you press the
     clutch pedal down,  water  can possibly get between the clutch-disk
     and the flywheel making it impossible to engage again.
       Drive slowly (1st-low at  1500-2000  rpm)   over  and try to drive
     down the river.  That way the current will help to push the vehicle
     across and a  wave will not be generated in front.  If you drive up
     against  the  current  a big wave will be in front   adding  to  the
     chance  of taking water into the air-intake.     Besides  that  your
     vehicle may simply not have the power or traction to go  up against
     the current (even if you have a 454).

       In most cases the current will  try  to push the vehicle down the
     river  and the rear end will be pushed faster.  Be prepared to turn
     the front wheels in the direction  of  the "slide", as you would in
     other  circumstances.  If that is not  enough,   accelerate  so  the
     front tires can  keep up with the rear tires.  If that is still not
     enough (you should not  have  chosen  this   place!) and the vehicle
     turns, facing upstream, put it in reverse and try to reverse   up to
     either bank.
       Going forward is not an option in such circumstances.
       Turn the headlights off.  The sudden cooling of them  can destroy
     the bulbs.
       Tying a rope  to  the hitch is a smart move.  If things go in the
     worst way, it makes a rescue a lot easier.
       Want to learn more?  Take your mountain bike to a innocent, about
     knee deep river and experiment.  That way  you   will  get  a better
     understanding  of  all  the forces that  the   river  puts  on  your

     In case of an emergency:
       Like I said  before  NEVER  cross   a big river without some spare
     truck on the bank.  If your vehicle stops halfway across   and can't
     get  any farther the first thing to do is to get the people to  dry
     land.   NEVER jump off of the truck on the upstream side, since the
     current can push you down under the truck and you could   easily get
     stuck on some stuff in the frame and  then  nothing   can  save you.
     Try to get a rope to the  shore  and  have   the  people  there pull
     everyone over.

     To dry an engine:
       If your engine stalls from water,  don't   try to start it as that
     could  make things worse.  Have it pulled to dry land and then open
     the air cleaner.  If there  is  water  in it chances are that water
     got all the way into the engine block. If not, this is probably the
     blame  of wet ignition.  If water is in the air cleaner, remove the
     filter and all  the spark plugs.  Then try to start the engine.  It
     will of course not run but the water inside will  be   pushed out of
     the spark plug holes.  If  it  doesn't  turn or turns with an awful
     sound, you are facing a big repair  bill  or  the   need  for  a new
       Also  check all lubricants for water.  If   water  gets  into  the
     engine oil and you don't have any replacement oil, wait for an hour
     or  so or until the oil and the water has separated, with the water
     lowest in the pan.  Loosen the drain plug until the water flows out
     and  when  oil  starts coming out, too, tighten it again.  Drive to
     the NEXT service station and have all lubricants changed.

[ End of article ]

  Runar's article is quite complete,  and pretty much overwrites everything I
wrote previously.  There are still a couple of points that I'd like to make:

  Generally speaking, driving  through  water  no  higher than the top of the
wheel rim is not a big problem, and just about any  4x4  will  do  it   if the
bottom surface is reasonably firm  (packed  sand,  smooth-grade   rocks, etc).
Any deeper than this, and you have to consider what will  get  dunked.    Will
you  get water in your differentials?  Will your radiator fan get purchase on
the  water and claw its way into the radiator?  Will you douse an   electrical
component that  won't  like  it?  If you get the vehicle's computer wet it is
game over!  You will need a new computer ($$!), and a tow home.
  Even  if  you  can  see  the  bottom  of the water, you should  investigate
carefully  where you're going to cross.  Some  slow-moving  streams   have  an
incredibly thick layer of crud on the bottom, something which  Runar wouldn't
have ever seen before (rivers in Iceland are pretty much all glacial, so they
have strong currents, so no heavy mud layer) and what  looks  like the bottom
of the stream might be just the top of a 3 foot deep layer of  stinking ooze.
A  fast-moving  stream  is more reliable; the speed of the water carries soft
stuff away.  A sandy  wash can usually be trusted as long as the sand surface
is rippled (indicating currents at work).    If  the sand is smooth, it might
just  be  the  underwater equivalent of 'quicksand', and a good poking with a
pole is  in order  to check  the situation  out.   If you   see pebbles on the
surface of the river bottom  then you are pretty safe  driving on it.  If   it
was quickstuff  down there,  then the  pebbles would  sink.    Don't count  on
your vehicle being able  to pull itself out  if your front wheels  fall off a
shelf  into  deeper  water.   Unless  you  have  a   winch  on the back of the
vehicle, you're in trouble.

  Point hints:

    -  Be very careful of stream deltas (where they  empty   into  a  lake) as
       they  are often clogged deep with mud, and it's a wider area to cross.
       In cases other than deltas, wider is often better because it indicates
       a shallower section, but deltas are to be avoided!

    -  Consider the firmness of the banks of the  stream.     Are  they steep?
       Will they slide under the weight of the truck?   Will  you  be  able to
       climb the other side?

    -  Don't  blindly trust an assumed fording point  where   a  logging  road
       crosses it; the road might have been used only by skidders, which have
       huge 60" chevron-tread tractor tires on them.

There  has been some spirited debate regarding the  question  of   whether  to
cross a fast  river at a downstream angle as Runar suggests, or whether to go
straight across.  I have done significant mental exploration of the situation
with my old physics  and  hydrodynamics  texts,  and done various experiments
with model vehicles and moving water.  What I have found out is this:

    -  This is not an issue unless the current is fast (at least 3mph/5kmh or

    -  In  water  that  doesn't reach the  level   of  the  differential,  the
       difference is very insignificant.

    -  In water that reaches the axles  and  differential but not the body of
       the vehicle it is slightly better to be headed downstream.

    -  In  water  that  reaches  up  to   the  body  of  the  vehicle   it  is
       significantly better to be pointing downstream.

Since water has the disturbing tendency  to  get deeper when you least expect
it, you might as well cross rivers on a downstream tack.

This whole  argument  is  pointless  if there is only one exit point from the
river (due to trees or a steep bank).

When you reach the riverbank and it starts to get steep, you need to turn the
wheels  into  the  slope  so  that  you  climb  it   straight  up, as per  the
instructions under "Steep Climbs".

15.6 Deep Mud/Snow

When  faced with deep mud or snow, you might find yourself bogging down and
making little progress.  A rapid  swinging  of the steering wheel (by placing
one hand at the 12 o'clock position and swinging it from  'knee  to  knee' it
will  help you move forwards.  This works by giving the front wheels purchase
on the sides of any ruts you might be in.  This  only  works,  of   course, if
your truck has front wheel drive or four wheel drive engaged.
  The consensus on the list is  that  although  in theory it should also work
when reversing,  the  added  stress  on  the  front drivetrain, and the added
possibility of the wheels catching hard and shooting you in a  direction that
you don't want to go, make this a 'last resort' method when in reverse.

  Well, I was just stuck in some nasty frame-deep lake-bottom mud, and what I
did (and it worked, praise be!) was  to  crank  the  steering   wheel  left to
right,  but all the way to the steering limiters, while the truck was in  low
reverse idling backwards.    I  would  change  from left to right whenever it
stopped moving.   Every  now and then it would 'hook up' and I would just let
it  move in whatever direction it could get traction in.  Obviously there are
situations  where that method isn't a good one; for instance if you are on  a
lakeshore  and you know that going towards the lake is just not a good  idea,
then you might try going full turn, back to center, and back to the full turn
always pointing away from the lake.

  Try to  make small  corrections with  the wheel,  rather than large ones.
As soon as  you get the  wheels points more  than 5 degrees  or so off center
they will  start to  just churn  and not  help in  moving forward.  The front
wheels act as rudders in the deep  stuff, but if you don't have the  power to
push forward then you're lost.  If  you start to slip and lose traction,   and
end up  coming to  a halt,  try straightening  your wheels  and rocking a bit
(just put it  in reverse and  use the clutch  to alternate between   power and
neutral  until   you  get   a  good   rocking   going),   then  try   to scoot
backwards enough to get  some room  to  accelerate forwards again,   and  keep
the  wheels straight.

16 Mud

Mud  is  everywhere.   Some love it, some hate it.  Some love to get dirty,
others hate  having  to  spend  $10 at the coin-op to get the black, stinking
swamp  ooze off of their truck.  No matter which camp you inhabit, you   might
find yourself  hub-deep  in  the  sticky stuff some day, so a few hints might
come in handy.
  Unless  you  have  well separated lugs, mud can be impossible to deal with.
Regular  'all  terrain' tires will just fill with mud and give  you   all  the
traction of a racing slick.   You need a tire that satisfies the M+S (Mud and
Snow) designation for self-cleaning lugs.  Not every M+S tire will self-clean
in the sticky stuff; it's  got to have a good, wide lug spacing (like 1/2" or
more) to clean properly.
  Mud can be  sneaky.   Sometimes you're on top of it and don't even know it.
There's  a story that Mike Taylor related in the first newsletter of the True
North Toyota Land Cruisers.  This story illustrates so  well  several   things
that you should not do, that I feel that it was destined to be added to the
FAQ,  and  I'm sure Mike will agree (once he finds out that I used  it,   that
is!). 8-)

     I had my first good stuck the other day;  I  went   fishing  with my
     dad and we were trying different streams in the  Jock   river  area.
     As I was starting to cross a  grassy  field  to   get  to  one small
     creek, the back wheels spun.  I got out to look; the grass was wet,
     but no worse than that.  As a precaution, I locked the hubs and put
     the machine  in  4-low.    With one touch of the gas, I was sitting
     frame-deep in gumbo; brown, sticky, the worst.  There   I  was,  hi-
     lift  at  home,  no shovel, my Warn 8274 8000lb winch sittin' in my
     garage  DOIN' ME NO GOOD AT ALL.  My new rod and reel with  4-pound
     test wasn't an option.   Fortunately, a neighboring farmer towed me
     out with his tractor.  [snip]

  Now we get  to critique Mike's driving.  Easy to do from this armchair. 8-)
Now, as soon as the wheels slipped, he got out to  check  out  the situation.
Very good.  Many people  would  have  just  stomped  on the gas.  The driving
error was using  so low a  gear with too  much throttle.   Mike's truck is  a
diesel 'cruiser with a granny low of about 55:1. If you so much as  breathe
on the gas  from a stop  in that gear  you will dig  down fast.    Now the non
driving related error: he had no  unstucking gear.  So what should  Mike have
done?  Well, definitely lock the hubs,  and switch to 4WD, but use as  high a
gear  as  you  can  start  in  easily  (3rd gear, in Mike's case) and feather
  in the clutch  without touching the  throttle.  Now,  Mike didn't have  any
indication that he was on quicksod,  but when I suspect that wheel-spin  will
be tragic  and I  have to  start from  speed zero,  I will use the hill-trick
of shutting off  the truck, putting  it in the  second lowest gear,   and then
without touching the gas  just turn the key  to start it.   The starter motor
will drive you smoothly  for 5-10 feet before  the engine starts.    Since the
starter motor doesn't  have all that  much power you  won't spin the   wheels.
This only works if your truck  doesn't have an interlock that keeps  you from
starting it in gear.

17 Ice

Ice gives you  little or no  traction, no matter   what kind of  tires you
have.   If you're  on slick  ice, then  all you  can do   is plan ahead.  Give
yourself lots of  time to slow  down.  Stop  at the crests  of hills to check
out the situation.  Is there a  rut that might grab your tires and  throw you
into the  trees?   Studs will  perk your  tires up  incredibly on  ice, but
they're not legal in all  areas.  Chains don't have  as much of an effect   on
ice unless they're specifically made to grip ice.

18 Slippery Stops

Compression braking  is the  way to  go, here.   Keep the  vehicle in  gear
during the stop, and it won't be able to lock the wheels.  You'll have to use
the clutch before  the engine stalls,  of course, but  you can get   down to a
very slow speed before you have to rely on the brakes alone.

19 What if? Dealing with emergencies.

Let me start off by saying that this  is  not   intended  to be a survival
article.  There are way too many books  on  that  subject   already.  What I'm
going to do is give you some hints on making it easier to be found.  In other
words, rather than instruction on snaring rabbits while waiting to  be found,
I'm going to  tell  you how to make it easier for the Search And Rescue (SAR)
boys and girls to find you faster.

  Rule  #1 is to let someone know where you're going.  If  you   get  lost  or
stranded,  it  really  sucks to not know whether anyone is  looking   or  not.
Having people actively looking for you greatly increases your chance of being
found.  Using your credit card to buy  gas  is  a  good   thing,  as  then the
searchers  can find out where you last fueled up, and that might give them  a
clue as to where you are.  Best is to phone home every time you fill up.

  Rule #2  is  to  listen  to  the  weather forecast for the area you will be
travelling in.  If there's bad weather coming you might want to postpone your
trip, or at least take precautions.

  Rule #3 is to always have emergency equipment  suitable  for  the   area you
will  be travelling in.  You don't need bug juice in midwinter in the   Yukon,
but you'd better have your shovel.  See the lists of expedition gear above.

  Rule #4 is to have good navigational gear so you won't  get  lost   in the
first place.  If it's too late to avoid it, keep reading.

19.1 Lost!

Lost is more a state of mind than a state  of   body.  The first thing to do
(and I mean the FIRST thing) is to sit down.  Sit down and mellow out.  Don't
drive.  Don't walk.  Don't run.  Sit down.  If  you're   in  the  truck then
shut it off and wait.  For half and hour or so.  When you realize you're lost
your brain starts doing backflips and your glands start  pumping  out   enough
epinephrine to put a yak into a coma, and if you give in to the fear you will
run... and run... and run... until you are  totally  exhausted  and   well and
truly lost!

  So mellow out until you can think clearly.  Sometimes this is all it takes.
You will suddenly  realize where you went wrong and will be able to find your
way back easily.  No matter how certain you are that  you  know  where you're
going at this point, leave a trail so that you can get back to this location.
This  location  is  where you realized  you were lost, so it must be close to
where you need to be to be found.  If you can stay in  this  location, you'll
probably get found faster.

  If  you're  hopelessly  lost, then you might as well be stranded, so follow
the advice in that subsection.

19.2 Stranded!

The  vehicle  is  inoperable.  There is no  way  it's  going  to  take  you
anywhere.  A wheel fell off or something.  Now you need to be found.

  Do you have a cell phone or CB/shortwave transmitter?  If so, call for help
(as  long  as  you  have  battery  power).  If not, there are  still  several

  First off, calm down.  A  human  being in reasonable physical condition can
survive for a month with no food, as long as they have water.    Do   you have
water?   Even if you don't, you can still live for a  week  or   more,  though
you'll be in a bad way by the fifth day or so.  Do not drink radiator water
if it has antifreeze in it!  It'll crash your kidneys and leave you in  a bad
way.    Unless  you want a (brief) lifetime of dialysis, don't do it.   If you
don't  have  water,  then  don't  eat,  as  digestion will use up your  water
reserves.  From personal experience I  know  that the second day without food
is the worst.  After that it's not too bad.  Just relax and don't think about

  Conserve your energy.  Rest.  Food in the wilderness is fairly low calorie,
and won't be keeping you up as well as you think it is.    For   instance, say
you were on  a  fishing trip and you're stranded next to a trout stream.   You
have your fishing tackle and pole, and you are pulling 6 one and a half pound
trout out of the stream every day.  You think you're  eating  pretty   good (6
pounds of trout a day, after they're cleaned).  In  reality,  those trout are
only providing about  250  calories  each,  so you're only getting about 1500
calories a day.   An active man breaking trail in the woods needs more like

4000 calories to remain at a normal energy level. The bottom line is to

conserve energy.  Catch the  fish,  but   don't  go  jogging.  By the way, you
don't  have  to worry about scurvy or any kind of vitamin  deficiency   for  a
loooong time, so don't bother getting  yourself  in  a pucker about them.   If
you're in the bush that long, scurvy will be the least of your worries.

  In cases where people  'disappear'  in their vehicles the vehicle itself is
usually found in just a few days after the search begins.  What this means is
that you want to stay with the vehicle.  As long as someone knew more or less
where you were going, and when you expected to be back, you shouldn't have to
wait more than a week  before  you're  found.    The vehicle is not a perfect
shelter, but it will cut  the wind.  In extreme heat (30C plus) don't stay in
the truck, but rather under it.  That way you will get shade, and you won't
be in the oven that is your truck.  If  you have blankets then you can make a
lean-to tent against your vehicle to provide shade.  Don't exert  yourself in
the heat.  Try not to sweat, you will waste water.  Move slow.     Don't talk.
Suck  on a pebble to keep from mouth-breathing.  In extreme cold (colder than
about -20C) the vehicle won't help you any insulation-wise, but it  will keep
the wind off of you, and if you lie on  the  bench  seat (if you have a bench
seat)  and pile your blankets on top of you (loose, not tight) then you  will
be warm enough to live,  as long as you have food to keep the furnace stoked.
If you know how to build a snow  shelter,  then  I'll  leave  it   up  to your
discretion whether to use one or not.  Don't sweat.  Don't get wet.

  If you have to leave the vehicle (it's in an avalanche area, or you're just
going to try to scare up some cattail rhizomes to eat) leave a note.   If you
don't have paper, then you can write it  in  dirt  sprinkled  on the seat, or
some  other method can be employed.  Make sure the wind won't blow your   note
away.  And blaze a trail.  Just break the  tops  of  bushes as you go so that
they  point back towards camp.  Using this technique you shouldn't be able to
lose track of the vehicle, and if searchers find one  of  your blazes they'll
be able to find your camp.

  In  the interest of being seen from the air you should have the vehicle   as
conspicuous as possible.  Parked in the middle of an open area, for instance.
If the top of the vehicle is dark  then  a  light-coloured  tarp will help it
remain  visible (unless you're on snow, of course, in which case you want the
top dark, and keep clearing the snow off of it).

  The international distress signal is a group of three.  Three blasts on the
horn, three gunshots, three columns of smoke, whatever.  In a wooded area you
just build up a punky fire with rotten wood and  green  vegetation (or forest
loam, or engine  oil) and wait.   You can burn  a tire, and  it will smoke  a
lot,  but  it  burns  really  hot,  so  don't   just  toss your spare on the
coals next to your lean-to;  give it some room.   It's a good idea to   have a
fire set  up under  a tarp  or other  rain-proof covering  that you don't use
unless you see a plane, then you can quickly build a fire that the pilot  can
see, and  he won't  be gone  by the  time it's  going.   Mirrors are excellent
signals  in  the  daytime.   A  mirror  can   reflect  light  for a staggering
distance.  You have several mirrors on your truck, so make use of them,  even
if you have to tear them off to use them.

  In the usual 'backwoods' places of today (not including the  deep interiors
of the  far  north  of  Canada and Alaska, and the Australian outback) if you
build a smoky fire by day, and a  bright  fire  by  night, you're pretty much
guaranteed to be found within a week.

20 Supplies

20.1 What's the big deal about a Hi-Lift jack?

A Hi-Lift jack (HLJ) or equivalent (Jack-all, etc.) does far more than just
lift a corner of your truck to change a tire.  An HLJ can be used (tediously)
as a winch, but it's main feature is its ability  to  pivot  an  end   of  the
vehicle from point to point.
  If you jack up the front end of a vehicle from the center of the  bumper so
that both front  wheels  are off the ground, you can push that end of the car
over to one side, thereby moving the front  wheels  a  couple  of feet to one
side,  and  effectively turning the vehicle 20 degrees or so.   Can   be  very
handy because it's faster to pivot the front  or  rear  wheels  out of a deep
hole than it is to winch it using the HLJ.
  The situation where pivoting with the HLJ becomes really  crucial  is   when
you get yourself in over your head on a boulder problem.    It's   happened to
everyone.  You see a line that looks doable.   You  start  moving   in.    You
miscalculated.  All of a sudden your rig is belly down on a rock, and all the
fancy driving in  the  world isn't going to get your truck out of there.   You
just want to be home.  In bed.  With the covers over your head.
  Using a winch in this situation will just cause major scrape-damage  to the
underbelly and potentially rip brake lines, fuel lines, etc.  The thing to do
is to use  your handy-dandy HLJ to lift the front (or back, depending on your
lie)  off of the obstruction and slowly inch it over.  You have two   choices:
either crank it real high  and  push  it  over,  hoping that it won't land on
anything tender, or you can crank it up, push it over a foot or two  (but not
so much  that  it  overbalances  and falls) and lower it slowly onto the rock
again, repeating until you're far enough over that you know for sure that you
can pivot it fully without maiming your truck.
  It's irritating.    It's  tedious.   It's the only game in town, unless you
have a friend with a cargo helicopter.
  Using the same general technique you can lift a wheel back onto a rock that
it slipped off of to re-establish your line.
  Additionally, a Hi-Lift brand jack can have a top jaw  added  that makes it
look like a giant woodworker's bar clamp.    It  will  inflict   many  tons of
crushing  pressure;   just  the  thing  for   straightening  bent  frames  and
suspension  parts  (if  you can get in there.. the irritating thing is that
you can't do this with the vehicle jacked up, obviously.. unless you have two
  Some people claim success with moving a vehicle forwards or  backwards with
a  HLJ  using  the  pivot  method.   I advise strongly against this,  as  the
potential for damage (due to the jack beam  hitting  something)  is   just too
  Be careful  using  the  pivot  method to move your truck around by the back
bumper  if  you  have bumperettes.  If you don't have a free arc to swing the
jack beam in, the method won't work.  Jacking from  the  bumperettes can be
done, and I have had to do it, but it worried me, and one of them bent.  If
you have the option, don't use the bumperette as a jacking point.
  Keep your Hi-Lift oiled.  I have been warned that they can get 'sticky' and
not work properly (it sucks  to get your truck jacked up only to find out you
can't get it back down again).  I had this happen to  me  in  the   Great Lake
Extraction of '96, and it  was  annoying.    When  the   jack  doesn't operate
smoothly it's just another thing to worry about when you really need to focus
on other things.

20.2 Do I really need a tow rope if I'm driving alone?

It's a good idea.  You might need it to keep your truck from sliding down a
cliff if you  drop  a wheel off, and you'll need one to use your Hi-Lift jack
as a winch, or if  your regular winch cable isn't long enough to reach a good
anchor.  There is also the ever-popular 'sloped trail washout crossing' which
requires a tow rope or two.  It's a good  idea  to  use  a   safety  rope when
crossing unknown rivers that might get deep in the middle.

20.3 What kind of fire extinguisher do I need?

Automotive fire extinguisher  chemicals  vary   in  composition.   Normally,
extinguishers have three different chemicals  referred to by the letters 'A',
'B'  and  'C' for ordinary fires (wood,  and  other  'dry'   things  burning),
flammable  liquid  fires,  and electrical fires respectively.  Now, the right
extinguisher for any given situation depends on what is burning.  In a car,
a fire is usually started by an electrical problem ('C') but if you do end up
with oil or gasoline burning ('B') then that's  something  that  needs   to be
dealt with VERY quickly.  If,  however,  the  seats or carpet is burning, you
need 'A'.  It isn't practical  to  have three different extinguishers, so the
manufacturers  use   custom  chemicals   that  effect    various  ratios   for
different  purposes.   The  most  common  automotive   ratio  seems  to  be  a

1A/5BC mix, or thereabouts. That means that six pounds of the

chemical  used  in   the   extinguisher  will   extinguish  as  much    burning
material  as  1  pound  of  a  dedicated  'A'   chemical,  and 2.5 pounds each
of  dedicated  'B'  and  'C'   chemicals.   Gives   you  a  'broad   spectrum'
approach.   You  can  buy  either  disposable   extinguishers,  or refillable.
  Disposables  are  inexpensive,  and  in  a  situation   where  you  may well
never  use  your  extinguisher,  it's  a  satisfactory   selection  as long as
the  disposable  unit  holds  at  least  a  pound of chemical.  Two pounds is
better.   The  drawback  to  the  disposable  units   is  that  over  time all
extinguishers lose pressure, and you  can't just 'top up' a  disposable unit.
You have  to buy  a new  one.   Keep in  mind that   disposables generally are
  filled with  a dry  chemical, so  when you  use it  you will  end up with a
car full  of white  crud everywhere.   Better than  losing the   car, but  gas
extinguishers  (such  as  Halon)  don't  have  this problem.   Halon, however,
acts like CFCs  in their attack  of the ozone  layer.  So  if you might never
  use it,  why have  it?   Just in  case you're  one of   those unlucky  souls
who does  need it.   My cousin's  car just  burned down   around him about a
month  ago.   He  didn't  have  an  extinguisher.    This  wasn't  an  ancient
clunker, it  was a  decent, certified  car.   It went  up so fast he couldn't
do  anything  to  save  it.   I  gave  him   an  earful  for  not  having   an
extinguisher,  because   he  should   know  better.     He's  a   professional

     Here's more vehicular fire-fighting hints from Chris Siano:

     1)When  putting out an engine fire, DO NOT  open   the  hood.  Spray
     through  the  radiator,  or from a wheelwell, or (if possible) from
     below the front bumper.  Opening the hood simply allows air to flow
     and the fire may flare up directly into your face.

     2) Hot batteries can explode.  There is no way to tell if a battery
     is shorted or damaged without raising the hood, and you   don't want
     to do that (see (1) above).  While  fighting  the   fire,  avoid the
     general area around the battery.  Do not face  into   the  radiator,
     and  otherwise  try  to keep your face away as you spray into other
     areas.  You may not be as effective in stopping the fire, but it is
     better than getting a face full of hot battery acid.  Even when the
     fire  is  out,  be very cautious of the battery.    A  warm  battery
     releases hydrogen gas, the slightest spark can cause trouble.   This
     is especially important if you need to disconnect  the   battery for
     any reason.  A battery switch can be a wise investment.

     3) Modern Catalytic converters can easily reach 600 or more degrees
     Farenheit.  Parking, stopping, and even driving over high grass can
     ignite it.  Be very cautious.

  This  same phenomenon (grass-induced spontaneous combustion) was   mentioned
to  me  by Henry Cubillan.  It's a wise move to check for dry  grass   stuffed
around the engine block every half hour or so when driving in deep grass.

20.4 Which Winch is Winchiest?

This  is  another  religious debate.   The  question  is  not  one  of  size
(astonishingly enough) as the established  requirement is 1.5 times the gross
weight of the vehicle.   So  my  BJ42  with  its slightly over 5000 pound GVW
would  need  a  bit over 7500 pounds, so I'd go  with  an   8000  pound  winch
(unless, of course, I saw a good deal on a 9000 or 10000).
  Many people feel that bigger is better, though.  A 10000 pound winch will
generally use less energy pulling 7000 pounds than a 7000 pound winch will.
  The question, though,  is  which  kind  of winch?   Electric or hydraulic?
PTO?  Planetary gears or worm gears?
  In general, you want a winch that's strong enough to pull your truck out of
the mud, and you want one with the options that you feel are worth the money.
Some common options are:

    -  Remote (wired, or wireless) so you  can  stand   out of the path of any
       broken cable etc. and you can get a better view of what's going on.

    -  Freewheeling.    This  is  the   ability  of  the winch to be put  into
       'neutral' so  you  can  pull  out the cable you need and don't have to
       wait for the winch to slowly unspool it.

    -  Roller  fairlead.   By  default  many   winches  come  with  a   hawse
   fairlead,  which  is  just  a  slot  cut   in  a  sheet  of  metal.   A
   roller  fairlead  has  steel  rollers  that   don't  cause the cable as
   much  grief,  so   the  cable  lasts    longer  and  doesn't   get   as
   hand-maimingly frayed.

-  Gears?   Worm gears  are slow,  but they  have the   benefit of  having
   reliable built-in braking; there is  no worry of the winch  giving way
   and letting  cable unspool  under load.   Planetary gears   are faster,
   but  they  don't  have  the  inherent  braking properties.  Auxilliary
   brakes are installed in these winches  to overcome this lack.  All   in
   all, planetary gears look like the choice of champions.

20.4.1 PTO Winches

The ultimate grunt  winch.    Nothing   will  out-pull a PTO winch.  They're
tough, they're reliable, and they'll pull a barn off of  its  foundations.   A
PTO winch can run faster than an  electric  or  hydraulic  (over   a  foot per
second), because you can put the truck into whatever gear you  want.     A PTO
winch  can  run  all day without a problem (as long as you have enough gas in
your truck 8-)
  The  bad  part  is that they're heavy, they're dear as   diamonds  from  the
dealer, and they only work  if the engine is running.  If you stall and can't
get the vehicle  re-started, you're out of luck.  PTO winches also tend to be
somewhat spartan; no  remote,  no  other  'goodies'.     Many  don't freewheel
(unless there's a dog-clutch on the winch itself, which means getting  out of
the cab and walking over to the winch).  In theory, you can run  a  PTO winch
off of the starter motor if the truck stalls.  Might be worth a try.
  Before  plunking  down  good money for that aged PTO winch at the wreckers,
made darn sure that you can get parts for it.  According to my Toyota dealer,
there are no spare parts available  for  their  PTO winches.   Make sure you
can get them for the winch that you want to buy.

20.4.2 Electric Winches

The most common solution.  These run off of your battery,  so  you  need to
have a pretty  serious battery if you want to have full power from your winch
(good sized winches have a draw of  around  400  amps).     You  operate these
winches with the engine running, otherwise you'll just drain the battery that
much faster, and you might  not be able to get the truck started again.  Even
with the engine idling you can't run them for long, as  alternators generally
supply  between  50 and 100 amps (though alternators of up to  250   amps  are
available for some trucks for welding applications, etc).       These  are the
heaviest winches, so you might need to upgrade your front shock  absorbers to
compensate.  Make  sure  that  the  solenoids are protected from moisture; if
they get wet your winch won't work until they dry.  If the solenoids stay dry
(they  can be installed remotely in the cab) then an electric winch will work
under water.
  An  electric  winch  with  a  permanent  magnet   motor has much less of  an
appetite  for  power  than  a  series-wound  motor,   but  has the drawback of
overheating easily.  If you plan on being the 'winch guy'  in  the   group and
pulling everybody else up, you had better get a series-wound motor.

20.4.3 Hydraulic Winches

Possibly the  best  solution  for   most of us.  There are two general types
available; the variety that runs from the hydraulic pressure  in  the   power-
steering pump, and the type that runs from a separate,  dedicated  pump.   The
former  is  cheaper,  the latter is better.  Hydraulic winches are strong and
light, and are sort of a middle-ground between electric and PTO winches.  You
can  get  hydraulic  winches with remotes,  though  many  of   them  can  only
freewheel when you turn the handle on the winch itself.  They run cool, and
most have a 100% duty cycle.  Decent hydro winches have a great appetite for
power.  Running a hydro pump hard enough and fast enough to power a winch
pulling in 8000 pounds at 36 feet per minute (way faster than electric
winches) takes about 20 horsepower.  You can't run this serious a pump off
of the crank with a belt.  The belt will slip.  You can try using a double
belt, but generally the hydraulics are set up with the pump being powered
directly from the crank (via a direct coupling) or via the PTO drivegear on
the idler shaft of the transfer case (if you have a PTO drivegear). 
Hydraulic cost a lot to set up, but I think they're worth it.



Back to Cheap Tricks



Jeep Project CJ-7

An ongoing Budgeted Rebuild/Build up of a Rock Crawling Machine.

All Terrain 
Mud Terrain
Tire Reviews & Info

All Terrain
AT Tire Reviews

Mud Terrain
MT Tire Reviews



Ramp Travel Index
RTI / Ramp Travel Index What it is and how to calculate it, with and without the ramp.

Offroad Tire Info
P-Metric Tire Sizes Conversion to Inches
Tire Terminology
Wheel Terminology
How to Pick the Right
Tires for your Truck
Truck Tire Info
Tires - What Hits What Fits
All Terrain  Mud Terrain
Tire Reviews & Info
Mud Terrain MT Tire Reviews
All Terrain AT Tire Reviews
Super Swamper Bogger
Super Swamper SSR
Super Swamper SX
Super Swamper Vortrac
Interco IROK TSL
Super Swamper LTB
Super Swamper TSL
Super Swamper TSL Radial
Super Swamper Narrow
Interco SS-M16 Swamper
Thornbird TSl Radial
Thornbird TSl Bias
Thornbird TSL
Parnelli Jone Dirt Grip
BFGoodrich Krawler
BFGoodrich MT T/A KM
BFGoodrich MT T/A KM2
BFGoodrich AT TA KO
BFGoodrich Mud King XT
Bridgestone Dueler MT
Cooper Discoverer ST
Cooper Discoverer STT
Cooper Discoverer ST/C
Federal Couragia MT
Firestone Destination AT
Firestone Destination MT
General Grabber MT
General Grabber AT2
Green Diamond Icelander
Ground Hawg Mud Tire
Hankook Dynapro MT
Hankook Dynamic MT RT01
Hercules Terra Trac MT
Hercules Trail Digger MT
Kelly-Springfield Safari DTR
Kelly-Springfield Safari MSR
Kumho Road Venture MT
Kumho Road Venture KL71
Kumho Road Venture AT
Dick Cepek Mud Country
Dick Cepek F-C II
Dick Cepek Fun Country II
Dick Cepek Fun Country Nylon
Dick Cepek Fun Country Kevlar
Mastercraft Courser MT
Mastercraft Courser HTR
Mastercraft Courser HTR Plus
Maxxis BigHorn Radial
Maxxis Creepy Crawler
Maxxis Trepador
Maxxis Buckshot Mudder
Maxxis MA-SW
Maxxis M-8080 Mudzilla
Maxxis MT-754 Buckshot
Maxxis MT-753 Bravo
Maxxis MA-751 Bravo
Maxxis MA-S2 Marauder II
Maxxis MA-S1 Marauder
Maxxis MT-762 BigHorn
Nitto Mud Grappler
Nitto Terra Grappler
Nitto Dura Grappler
Nitto Dune Grappler
Nokian Vatiiva MT
Pit Bull Rocker Extreme
Pit Bull Maddog
Pit Bull Growler
Goodyear Wrangler MT/R
Pro Comp Xterrain
Pro Comp All Terrain
Pro Comp Mud Terrain
Pro Comp Xtreme AT
Pro Comp Xtreme MT
Toyo Open Country MT
TrXus Mud Terrain
TrXus STS All Terrain
Michelin LTX A/T²
Michelin LTX AT2 Press
Michelin LTX AT2
Mickey Thompson MTZ
Mickey Thompson MTX
Mickey Thompson Baja Claw Radial
Mickey Thompson Baja Claw Bias
Mickey Thompson Baja Crusher
Mickey Thompson Baja ATZ Radial SLT
Competition Claw
Dunlop Mud Rover
Federal Couragia M/T
Nitto Dura Grappler
Yokohama Geolandar
Dick Cepek's 2008 F-250 Super Duty Project Vehicle – Project CRUSHER
Mud Tire Reviews
Product Reviews
Tire Reviews
ATV Tire Index
Carlisle 489 Titan
Dunlop Quadmax
Dunlop Quadmax Sport
Quadmax Sport Development
Highlifter Outlaw
ITP Holeshot
ITP Holeshot MX
ITP Holeshot ATR
ITP Holeshot XC
ITP Holeshot XCR
ITP Holeshot MXR
ITP Holeshot XCT
ITP Mud Lite
ITP Mud Lite XTR
ITP Sandstar
Kenda K538 Executioner
Tubeless Bearclaw K299
Kenda Klaw K532
Kenda Klaw K533
Kenda K534 Sand Gecko
Maxxis M961/M962 Mud Bug
Maxxis Rooster Paddle Tire
Maxxis M917/M918 Bighorn
Maxxis M966 Mudzilla
Super Swamper TSL ATV
Super Swamper TSL Vampire
Super Swamper Vampire EDL
Swamp Lite ATV Tires
ATV Tire Mounting
ATV / Quad Links
Quad Tire Reviews Index


Off-Road Lights
by LightForce Product Review / Installation.
from Off-Road Lights


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Ultra-Cool Hand Throttle for Free!

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The Exploding Clutch

Radiator Protection using 6 bucks worth of material

Cracked Under Pressure - Fixing a smashed fingernail

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Home-built Saginaw Gearbox Brace for the cost of lunch!

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Home-built Serious Skid-Plate protection for the Oil Pan for under 20 bucks!