Putting Your Jeep Through the Ultimate Test: The Beginner’s Guide to Off-Roading

Jeep enthusiasts have long known that this iconic vehicle is ideal for driving off the beaten path, but what if you have yet to test your off-roading mettle? Before taking your Jeep out for the ultimate spin around untamed land, be sure you’re prepared.

Off-Roading Terminology

Jeeps are designed for off-roading, but be sure to check your vehicle’s ground clearance before heading out. The 2015 Jeep Cherokee has an 8.7-inch ground clearance, which is more than enough for most off-roading excursions.

While driving across uneven surfaces, riverbeds, mud, rocks, or other terrain, you’ll need to have your Jeep in 4WD, but seasoned off-roaders get more specific than that.

All-purpose four-wheel drive is used in most off-roading instances (never 2WD), but whether you use high or low depends on the situation. The 4×4 low refers to a lower gear, which is useful in slower situations like rock crawling, while 4×4 high maintains the same gear ratio as that of 2WD.

Get a good feel for your Jeep before heading on an off-roading excursion. The best way to do this is to practice on some dirt or gravel roads while alternating between braking and accelerating. Learning your “wheel travel,” for example, or the maximum distance your wheel can move up and down, is essential for certain off-roading experiences.

Choosing the Right Location

Before planning any off-roading excursion, research locations. This might mean asking around to see if friends or family have any suggestions, since the best off-roading trails aren’t exactly advertised. If possible, pick a beginner-level trail your first time out that’s little more than a beaten path or a rocky trail. This will reduce your chances of getting into a predicament.

Some of the best terrain for beginners is grassland, dry dirt, and gravel. That might not seem too exciting, but you’re just getting started, so don’t push yourself beyond what’s comfortable. When you’re ready for intermediate terrain, head to the beach for a drive on the sand – just make sure vehicles are allowed.

Don’t Forget

Make sure that the weather is optimal before heading out. Make sure the gas tank is full, and pack essentials just in case you get stranded and end up having to camp overnight. The chances of this happening in a Jeep is unlikely, but it’s best to prepare for the worst. Beneficial items to have include your mobile phone, a first aid kit, maps, a spare tire, and a heavy-rated tow rope. A lift jack and shovel are also great to have if you get stuck.

As a general rule, it’s best not to ride alone. Even if you have an off-roading buddy, inform a friend or family member of your whereabouts before your off-roading adventure. Leave them with detailed information on where you’ll be driving that day in case you get stuck and lose all means of communication. Better safe than sorry.

Pulling off the perfect off-roading adventure takes planning and preparation, but the payoff is worth it. Once you’ve completed that first excursion, you’ll never look at your Jeep quite the same way again.


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