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You often hear folks talk about how you need 4WD for off-roading. And while that’s what I would recommend, off-roading with 2WD is possible. The task, of course, is being safe with your 2WD vehicle off-road. This requires some planning and preparation on your part. Let’s discuss a few things you need to think about when off-roading with 2WD.
Get the Right Tires
Off-roading with 2WD begins and ends with the tires on the rig. Obviously, if you have racing slicks on your rear-wheel-drive Tacoma, things are going to be difficult for you off-road. But, if you have some all-terrain tires or mud-terrain tires on there that have good tread and some chunkiness to them, your 2WD rig will be immediately more capable off-road. I personally love my Nitto Trail Grapplers, but to each his own. There are plenty of excellent options out there from Toyo, BF Goodrich, and others. Just invest in a quality tire, whether you go A/T or M/T.
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While you’re at it, get yourself a good-quality air compressor that allows you to deflate and re-inflate your tires as needed. When driving on sand, for example, airing down your tires will give you more tire surface area and increase grip. When you don’t have 4WD to rely on (and even when you do…) having maximum grip from your tires is paramount.
Add a Rear Diff Locker for Off-Roading With 2WD
A locked 2WD still isn’t as capable as a 4WD, but it will definitely help. By locking the rear differential, the wheels spin together and can help you get out of hairy situations in sand, mud, snow, and in other environments where one wheel might otherwise be uselessly spinning. Adding an air-powered rear diff lock can cost thousands of dollars, so it isn’t a mod for the faint of heart or wallet. It is nonetheless an option. Adding a mechanical differential is a cheaper route that won’t give you quite the same level of performance, but you might only need to spend $1,400 or $1,500 to get it done. You can also opt to buy a truck that already has a locking rear differential. For example, you might invest in a Tacoma TRD 2WD that has electronic lockers right from the factory.
- Can Only Afford Front or Rear Lockers? Here’s Which One to Go For
- How to Select the Right Tire Size for Your Overlanding Vehicle
Build a Great Rescue and Recovery Kit
Getting stuck is part of off-roading sometimes, so having a proper rescue and recovery kit is essential to off-roading with a 2WD vehicle – or any vehicle. In this article I outlined a bunch of safety and recovery products you should have in your kit, including:
- Traction boards
- Tow straps and a tree strap
- Heavy-duty jack
- A good shovel
- A winch (like my Warn Zeon 10 shown above)
- A radio
- A saw and hatchet
- A first aid kit
So, do all you can to equip your rig for not getting stuck, but in the event that you do, be sure you have the items you need to get unstuck, and without assistance if necessary.
Off-Roading with 2WD Requires Practice
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Like anything else in life, off-roading with 2WD requires that you spend some time practicing before you head out on the trail for real. Find yourself some sand, mud, wet grass, or snow, bring a friend and their rig along for the ride, and put your 2WD off-roader to the test. It’s important to see what your 2WD vehicle can do, and just as importantly, it’s necessary to see what you can do with your 2WD rig. It is far better to find out what your limitations and your vehicle’s limitations are when you’re a few miles from home in a muddy field rather than deep on a trail with no cell service and your rear wheels spinning helplessly. Use the advice outlined here to outfit your 2WD vehicle for off-road use, and you should be well on your way to enjoying some off-road time with your buddies!