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How to Avoid Vehicle Damage When Off-Road

 photo by Robin Skjoldborg via iStock

It’s every overlander’s worst nightmare: you are on a sick trail and suddenly a fun obstacle appears. You give it a shot, and something breaks miles away from any paved road. 

While that is certainly a situation no adventurer ever enjoys, tough obstacles are not the only thing that can lead to breakages. 

Poor vehicle maintenance and aggressive driving can also have a huge effect. 

In today’s article, we’ll look at how to avoid vehicle damage to ensure every overland trail you come across is tackled successfully.

How Does Damage Usually Occur?

Flying SUV

 photo by MousePotato via iStock

The worst of mechanical failures off-road are mostly an outcome of sudden load. 

For example, when one wheel is spinning freely in the air and it suddenly comes down and contacts the ground while spinning, you stand a great chance of breaking a CV axle. 

Impacts on big rocks or steps can also lead to bent steering rack ends or ball joints. 

The list of ways one can break something off-road is endless. However, breaking down off-road is not just a result of tackling obstacles

It can be something as simple as overheating or your clutch master cylinder deciding it does not want to function anymore.

What matters here isn’t the type of breakdown, but how to avoid vehicle damage in the first place.

How to Avoid Vehicle Damage: Minimize the Chances of Mechanical Failure

SUV Tire

 photo by molchanovdmitry via iStock

To be clear, there is no way to 100% eliminate the chances of having mechanical issues when off-road. However, you can drastically minimize them. 

Let’s start with breakages that can occur through a difficult obstacle. Avoiding damage here is as simple as having mechanical sympathy and adequate knowledge of mechanics.

Anyone who knows even the basics will be able to understand that going full throttle on a hill you didn’t manage to drive for the 4th time in a row probably won’t end well. 

Understanding where to back off the throttle is also important in situations such as the wheel lift example mentioned above. Backing off the throttle when you feel the truck coming back down again can save your CV axles.

SUV tire in the mud

 photo by EkaterinaZakharova via iStock

Assessing an obstacle before you drive it can also help to avoid vehicle damage. For example, you might navigate around any big rocks that may have presented issues or may pick a line that is far easier and less stressful for the vehicle. 

Being mindful of the condition of the road ahead is also crucial as driving too fast on corrugations can shake your truck to pieces. Also, unknown roads can have hidden ditches or holes and if you hit them too quickly, you do stand a chance of vehicle damage. 

Keep Up With Maintenance

Mechanic

 photo by golubovy via iStock

Other than being aware of your driving habits, having mechanical sympathy, and assessing the track ahead, the simplest tip on how to avoid vehicle damage is by doing preventative maintenance. 

I am sure you have heard this phrase plenty of times, but that is for good reason. Replacing something before it breaks can save your day and a lot of money on off-road towing bills. 

Rotors

 photo by sefa ozel via iStock

Before heading out on a big trip, take your truck to a mechanic and ask them to go over everything. Any part that looks to be on its way out must be replaced. 

After that, ensure that all fluids and filters are replaced with new ones and your vehicle will be more than ready to tackle the adventure that awaits. 

How to Avoid Vehicle Damage: Stay Sharp!

SUV on a tow truck

 photo by kozmoat98 via iStock

In most cases, vehicles fail due to lack of maintenance or abuse, or even both. 

A maintained vehicle with a cautious driver will very rarely fail and if you want to tackle every large trip successfully, you will need to adopt the same mindset. Stay sharp, keep up with maintenance, and use common sense – it will get you a long way!

What do you think? Are there any other ways one can prevent damage when off-road? 

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