Are You Ready to go Off-Roading?
by; FlexBilt staff writer
Sept. 17, 2020 Updated 5-17-2021
A Few Popular Off-Roading Frequently asked Questions:
To start, FlexBilt feels it is important to cover some of the more popular questions when it comes to off-roading in your truck, Jeep, or SUV. Of all the wild adventures you will experience in your lifted, tricked-out vehicle, you won't find anything more fun than an off-road trail or rock climb in your beloved 4x4! When you take your off-road vehicle to your first challenging terrain area, you will most certainly ask "why did it take me so long to get out here!" Whether it's just an old dusty or muddy trail, rocky/boulder galore terrain, an awesome sandy desert, a creek/river trail, or through a traditional open field, all terrains possess their own memorable stamp and different levels of challenges. Most importantly, all of these different terrains provide good old-fashion memorable fun. Always remember why you bought what you did! It wasn't just for the cool look you created or the screaming confidence it gives you when you're behind the wheel. It was for the memories off-roading creates without a doubt every time you pull off onto a trail!
As off-roading gets more popular across the U.S., FlexBilt Customs continues to enjoy testing all of our products BEFORE we put them on our shelves to sell to our customers. What's different about us over other custom shops? We offer both an economical option with most of our accessories to the top of the line. So, no matter if you are a high school or college student with no salary to a thriving entrepreneur with a nice salary, we have you covered!
We encourage our clients to do their own homework regarding both brands and performance. Some of the best feedback or insights you will receive is through customer reviews, feedback, and surveys from others who have "been there and done that" with some of the off-road upgrades you are thinking of going with on your truck or Jeep. From every custom built we meticulously put together, it is very important for us to organize local car shows, off-roading events, and a few races that allows FlexBilt to get in front of our customers to be able to answer questions and compare notes. It has been incredible being able to play, test, and build our off-roading custom gems in Alabama - home of some of the best off-roading trails that exist throughout the southeast. We are experts in taking advantage of what God has given us in the terrain, mountains, water, and good ole' southern MUD that, ultimately, represents our playground! Our customers always have a lot of questions and most of them drive us to be the off-road custom build company we strive to be.
What do you need on your off-road vehicle?
All of the top off-road brands come off of their respective assembly lines ready to go and conquer most of the basic off-road trails. Small to medium-sized rocks, a few mud puddles, and a pot-hole here and there would all be defined as basic obstacles on the most elementary "off-road" trails. Whether your off-road vehicle is a Ford, Chevrolet, GMC, Dodge, Jeep, Toyota, Nissan, or even a Hummer, what comes off an assembly line is a well-thought out engineered machine that was meticulously put together to perform at a predetermined level. Many of these world-known brands are primed for average off-road performance. Depending on your vehicle's assembly option from the manufacturer coupled with the level of trails you want to conquer will ultimately define what lift kit, suspension, tires, wheels, hydraulic and more upgrades you will need to consider. To boost your performance the right way will come down to the higher-ranked brands you go with on the modifications you make to your off-road vehicle. One of the most popular upgrade is additional ground clearance via 2" to 10"+ lift kits. Sturdier and bigger tires and wheels for better dig and grip are right behind the lift kit being put on your truck or Jeep. Brighter and wider coverage off-road light bars and other lighting accessories makes the trails at night light up like never before. Suspension and shock upgrades with hydraulic options grow in popularity year over year. Again, how extensive you go with your upgrades and modifications depends on your overall style and the level of difficulty in the trails you plan to conquer.
How to get "Trail Ready"?
It is absolutely critical before driving on any level or grade of trails that you go through a pre-trail ride checklist to make sure your 4x4 truck, Jeep, or SUV is trail-ready to safely ride off-road. So what is "trail-ready." Depending on the level of trails you decide to take on should drive you to the level of how in-depth you should go in getting your ride ready. Most full-service auto repair or custom shops like FlexBilt will look over your truck or Jeep's tire's, lift, suspension, winch, lighting, and the engine fluid levels. Tire rotation and getting an alignment before hitting the trails is always recommended. Seasoned & experienced off-road groups will sometimes look over each others vehicles and look for things an owner might miss. Everything from loose suspension components to making sure your battery is securely fastened to any fluid leaks around the top & lower radiator hose, water pump, or the power-steering pump. Once you have everything checked out, you are ready to take on some of the most challenging off-roading trails from Alabama to California!
What are the most common off-road terrain in North America?
This a very popular question but is extremely broad. Depending on which region you are and what your appetite is (sand, mud, rock, etc.), always defines the type of terrain you will face. Out west, the terrain tends to be rocky, sandy, or packed/dry dusty dirt. Steep mountains with loose rocks/boulders are a very popular west coast terrain especially with the Jeep and Raptor crowds. You can almost classify terrain by state with Florida being the swampy wetland state that tends to be very flat and fast. Or, head a few states north on the east coast and you will see mountainous terrain that has some of the more challenging trails in the U.S. Terrain that is always fun are the snow-covered mountains to the tumble weed west Texas trails to the sandy beaches in the panhandle of Florida. In Alabama, you’re likely to find sandy beaches just outside of Mobile to rocky mountain terrain just east of Huntsville. The bottom line, off-roading in the U.S. is second to no other country in this world!
What is rock crawling and why has it become so popular?
If you want to cover slow, meticulous, and skillful negotiated off-roading, then you must be talking about rock crawling. This category is going crazy right now with the number of people wanting to equip their truck or Jeep just for rock crawling. The word "crawling" is in the title for a reason. This isn't a Ford Raptor or bad-a GMC going 50 MPH over a high sand dune. It IS about going over huge boulders and obstacles slowly and carefully with the objective of getting to the other side “crawling” to get there. Some of your most experienced off-road drivers are also your top rock crawlers. Today, there are clubs, teams, and groups of rock crawlers all over the United States. A lot of the Jeeps that are strictly equipped to rock crawl are some of the most sophisticated and decked-out off-road vehicles in the world. Combinations of the perfect lift/clearance, suspension, and tire/wheels that are put together to take on rock/boulder combinations for a reason. Rock crawling vehicle are often equipped with off-road rock rails, skid plates, or sometimes called rock sliders, that protect the vehicles frame in-between the front and rear wheels and also protects your exhaust, transfer case, and fuel tank & components. Rock crawling is clearly the new sport in conquering off-road terrain with its skillful and patient navigation and maneuvering versus the power, speed, and mud-slinging off-roading that most people associate with. Using very little of your throttle, rock crawling is a technique that is all about low 4WD gear and using your brake more than the gas!
What are some common off-roading accidents Jeeps and trucks experience?
Even some of the more basic off-roading conditions can present challenges to those behind the wheel. Most off-road accidents occur from inexperienced drivers going too fast and losing control on terrain that shifts, slides, gives-away and moves around the vehicle. If the drivers are not super careful and want to show-off, it can quickly end badly for the vehicle and the driver. Of course, different elements of danger coupled with driver testosterone creates a lethal combination in which risk goes against a very unrealistic off-road condition. A lot of successful off-roading experience come from patient and mature drivers that take their time in getting used to the terrain conditions and know where the challenges are. Safety must be a part of every off-road driver and accepting his/her capabilities (personal as well as the vehicle). The most common incidents you might see while out on the trails across North America will definitely include broken glass, flat tires, broken axles, blocked air filters, dents galore, and fuel tank empty. The most alarming you may encounter on the trails could also include tipped over lifted Jeeps or trucks. However, the number one incident is getting stuck. Almost every off-road vehicle that doesn't invest in a winch ends up regretting it. But, most vehicles equipped with a winch always seems to be willing to help those who don't have one while on the trails. One of the best winches in the business is a Warn winch. You will almost always see Warn on the front of every decked out Jeep or truck on the trails. In case you due run into trouble and have an off-road incident, it is important to pack extra water and snacks that will buy you time until help arrives.
What are some general off-roading safety rules to know?
Whatever state you are off-roading in, please take the time to check on who owns the land (state, federal, private) and what rules and regulations apply. You can get into trouble by just rolling onto someone's property and start drifting around every corner. Trespassing, in many states, can lead to your arrest so don't take it lightly. The Top 5 safety rules that every off-roading should have memorized:
RESEARCH and FAMILAIRIZE: Get to know the off-road trail before going on a run of more than 10 minutes. Most states have maps available online of their state and federal land that have open trails for vehicles. Note that some maps are for walking/hiking only or mountain bikes.
GPS and REAL MAPS: Make sure you have a GPS device and actual "old-school" physical maps to help you find your way. Physical maps do not need batteries, Internet access, or a smart phone app!
BUDDY SYSTEM: By using the buddy system when off-roading, you will always have a capable person with you in case you get lost, stuck, break-down, or have an accident. It is always good before leaving to go off-roading, to tell someone who is not going with you where you are specifically going.
KNOW YOUR CAPABILITIES: This rule might sound repetitive or obvious but it is often the one that causes the most trouble. Over and over, we see incapable vehicles on very tough terrain that are simply not built to handle what they are trying to conquer. Choosing the right vehicle for the type of terrain you will be spinning your wheels on is very important. Just getting very FAMILIAR with your off-road truck or Jeep's capability will make the trip so much more fun vs. spending most of your time trying to get out of an unsafe situation or jam. Knowing what you can go over, clear, and truly understanding the terrain (packed well or super loose), will keep you safe and sound. Last, understand both your transmission and tires can handle is also super important. Going to a custom shop, like FlexBilt Customs in Alabama, and letting the shop do a complete off-road prep and assessment will certainly assist in how much fun you have vs. stress.
EMERGENCY KIT - The bare essentials are a must while off-roading in your favorite custom Jeep or truck. It is imperative to have an off-road emergency kit that contains spares of important suspension parts that might fail, a thorough first-aid kit, tools, extra water, food, clothing, and a close by fire extinguisher on one of your roll-bars. If you have special medical needs, having some of your backup medication(s) (in case you end up having to spend the night on the trails), matches, quick-light kindling, flashlight with good batteries, and even a change of clothes is always smart.
What is always true is the fun you and your friends will have before, during, and after any off-road adventure. Having the right equipment, vehicle, and experience equates to memories that will never be forgotten! Send us stories, pictures, and videos of your trips for a chance to win $100 gift certificates that are given away monthly. Click HERE.