HOW TO TRUCK: How to Off-Road

Trucks are great for hauling around your toys. But some times the best toy of all, is your truck. In the latest installment of our How to Truck series, we’ll run through what you need to know to go off-roading.

Step 1: Get the Proper Gear

Heading off the beaten path? Make sure you pack all of the essential gear before you leave. If you don’t you may end up stranded in the middle of nowhere with nothing to help you.

You’re going to want to bring a basic tool kit, a spare tire, a shovel, a tow rope or chain, a first aid kit, a cellphone, a full tank of gas and a friend. Some snacks and water also wouldn’t be a bad idea.

These are just the basics, but if you’re planning a long off-road adventure, we’d also recommend a high-lift jack and a vehicle mounted winch, both of which can help you get unstuck from some serious situations.

Remember, the most important part of off-roading is being prepared.

Step 2: Know Your Vehicle’s Limits

Like with towing, knowing the capabilities and limits of your vehicle will give you a good sense for what kind of obstacles you can take on.

In our case, this TRD Off-Road Tundra is fit with selectable four-wheel drive, low range, Michelin LTX A/T2 tires, trail-tuned Bilstein shock
s, an engine skid plate, fuel tank skid 
plate and front tow hooks. It has 10.6-inches of ground clearance, an approach angle of 26 degrees and a departure of angle of 16 degrees thanks to the hitch.

Toyota also fits this truck with two systems which it says will help off-road. First is A-TRAC, which is a 4WD traction control system that uses the 4-channel ABS to control power flow to the front and rear wheels, all without cutting throttle input, to help make traction.

Second, and standard on all Tundras, is an Auto LSD that works almost like a traditional limited-slip differential, but instead of controlling slip mechanically, Auto LSD applies brakes individually to wheels with no traction. This helps give you control and distributes power where it’s most effective.


Step 3: When in Doubt, Get out & Check it Out

If you’re not sure about something, always get out and check it out first. This can give you new perspective and help you to minimize risk. If you’re with a friend, have them watch as you creep through an obstacle.

Step 4: How to Climb Hills

One of the basic off-road obstacles is the hill climb, but it can be tricky. First, plan your route to make sure you’re not going over any obstacles that you can’t manage.

The most important rule is to always try and stay straight on the hill. Side hilling can result in a rollover, and you don’t want to test your roof strength.

You’ll need to know how much traction you have. This can be done by trying to creep up the hill on the first attempt. If you have nothing but slippage, getting some speed may help to tackle the hill.

Being gentle with the throttle and brake is an important way to stay safe off-road. Quick stabs on either pedal can cause you to lose control, which may end up sending you into the nearest tree or rock.


Step 5: How to Cross Water

Crossing water can also be a common occurrence off-road, plus it’s just damn fun.

Like with all off-road maneuvers, the first thing you’ll want to do is get out and assess the crossing. You need to know how deep the water is, to make sure you can take it. It’s also important to know where you air breather is and to make sure the level of the water never gets higher than the breather.

If your engine sucks in water, you’re going to have a bad time. While the breather is the most important component to keep above the water, it’s also a good idea to note where the breather is for the differentials, transfer case and transmission, as these can also take on water. The location of electronics under the hood, like the starter and alternator, should also be noted.

Enter the water slowly, so that you don’t create a large wave or splash. Slowly proceed into the river or stream, being mindful of the depth of the water always.

Continue at a slow but even pace. A bow wave will form in front of your truck, which is best to keep roughly 3 to 5 feet in front of your vehicle.

As you reach the other side, slow down and allow the wave to hit shore and splash back without hitting your truck. Then, proceed up the bank.


Step 6: Ditches and Logs

The same rule applies for crossing ditches in the ground or overground obstacles like logs. Always approach these at a 45-degree angle if possible.

Coming at these challenges from an angle means that your truck will cross them one wheel at a time, leaving the maximum amount of wheels on the ground for necessary traction.

And that’s how you take your truck off-road.

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