• Off-Roading 101: Relevant low-tech and old-school off-roading tools


    With all the electronic aids that now come available with new four-wheel-drive (4WD) vehicles, off-roading has become more doable for almost anyone who wants to try the sport. Gone are the days when an off-road driver makes use of his innate skills and abilities, either to extricate himself from trouble or fix a mechanical issue, while in the middle of nowhere. Back in the days, real off-road drivers used pure bull-headed determination to get through obstacles. Let’s revisit these old ideas as well as the old equipment and hopefully pick up on them.

    A hi-lift jack, also known as a farmer’s jack, is an old vehicle jack that lifts the side of a vehicle higher than what a normal jack can do. It is very useful in getting a high-centered vehicle out of a rut, by lifting its lowest side out of the hole and by just kicking the jack to the side to get the vehicle unstranded. Caution and common sense are required in using this jack because it can cause harm to the unexperienced user.

    Meanwhile, the wheel-drum winch is a drum mounted on the front wheels, where a strong rope is wound around it while anchored to a firm tree. The actual spinning of the tires provides the pulling action necessary to get a vehicle out while being driven.

    Tire chains are chains wrapped around the tires of off-road vehicles to gain maximum traction in the most slippery of surfaces, like mud, snow and inclines. They are so effective that they will outperform the most aggressive mud-terrain tire in getting traction, even if the vehicle is equipped with differential locks on both front and rear axles. Proper knowledge and experience are required in using tire chains or it can result in brake-line damage.

    A bamboo rubber-hose fix is a tubular piece of bamboo cut to fit into a broken water hose. The broken or torn section of the waterhose is cut and the bamboo is used to fit and connect the two cut sections of the hose. Steel wire can be used to tighten the ends of the hose to prevent leaks.

    Old-school traction aids can be anything that you can stuff under a tire that gets lifted in the air, that results in minimal bite on the driving surface. Through stuffing, the tire gains more traction. It is essential, however, that whatever medium is used as stuffing, it has to be in firm contact with the tire in order for this to work. This situation usually happens to vehicles not equipped with a limited-slip-differential.

    Limited-slip-differentials (LSD) have been around for decades, but their effectiveness is minimal in the most difficult or slippery conditions. To maximize their effectiveness, vehicles must be equipped with a rear safety brake that is operated by a lever near the transmission shifter. The trick here is to flick the hand brake lever up and down quickly while the vehicle is moving on loose traction surface and induce the LSD to engage momentarily. As a result, both rear tires turn and gain traction. In some situations, the LSD will pass drive to the tire on the other side of the vehicle, giving it more traction. Proper use of the LSD requires an experienced driver, because it can slow down forward momentum and get one stranded. This skill also requires some knowledge on how a differential works.

    More chest-beating, Tarzan howling macho tips on how to overcome challenges and quick fix remedies in future articles. As always, happy trails.


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