The internet is a double edged sword when it comes to finding tips and tricks for off roading. On one hand, you can find a library’s worth of articles and posts about 4×4 vehicles, how to drive off-road, etc. The problem is, unlike a library, non-fiction isn’t clearly sorted from fiction. To help you sort through it a little easier, here are some common 4×4 myths and the truth behind them.
Myth: Grade 8 Bolts Break, But Grade 5 Bolts Stretch
This makes very little sense, so it seems appropriate to kick this one out the door first. The theory is that since the grade 8 bolt has a higher tensile strength, it becomes brittle. Higher grade strengths mean more strength, resistance to fatigue, and that they can be torqued to higher values for more clamping force. Grade 8 bolts are also 50% stronger than grade 5 bolts, so the theory that the grade 5 will adapt to stress is a little absurd.
Myth: High Pressure In Tires Cut Through Mud
The myth is that putting more air in your tires will improve traction in mud because of the sidewall bulge. Increasing the air in your tires won’t make the sidewalls inflate by very much. In fact, the amount of air it would take to make them push out with any significance would probably just make your tire bust first. Not to mention, on most tires, you don’t want the sidewall to make contact. If you want more traction, get a wider tire.
Myth: You Should Never Brake Going Downhill
The ‘logic’ is that if you ever hit the brakes, you’re going to uncontrollably slide. Think of going down a hill with loose mud, dirt, gravel, etc. the same as you would driving in the rain. If you gain too much speed, you’re bound for disaster, so how do you slow it down? Brake! While you certainly don’t want to slam on the brakes, a controlled, panic-free touch of the brake pedal will do more good than bad if you’re gaining too much speed going downhill.
Myth: Descend in Neutral
Some people think if first is too high, they should put it in neutral to descend. Don’t do it! Descending in neutral removes all engine braking power, increases the chances of a lock up, and throws off the weight balance of the vehicle. What happens from there won’t be pretty!
Myth: You Need a Lot of Horsepower to Off-Road
Many think that more horsepower is better. This is probably the biggest off-roading myth. More horsepower doesn’t improve the off-roading qualities of any vehicle — it can actually make off-roading more difficult and dangerous. Torque is your friend. It might not win drag races, but it’ll get you through the mud better than horsepower ever will.
NOTE: Torque and horsepower aren’t mutually exclusive…but if you’re trying to make your Jeep (or whatever) perform better, look for accessories/add-ons that increase torque.
Myth: 4-Wheel Drive Is Magic
It sounds like a great idea to keep the 4×4 on 24/7/365. While four-wheel drive is amazing, it doesn’t always need to be on. In fact, having it on while driving over ice is going to cause you to spin, and having it on in deep sand can often cause your vehicle to “dig in.” 4×4 also creates a false sense of security, leading some drivers to take risks they shouldn’t.
It sounds obvious, but it’s worth repeating: A 4WD system is only as good as the driver. It can’t correct for poor decisions.
Myth: Leaf Springs Are Better Than Coil-Overs
A huge suspension myth is that leaf springs are needed for big trucks or hauling. With the advances in coil springs, this isn’t true. Leaf springs are just fine for most off-road uses, at least when they’re properly sized and configured.
Don’t let any of these myths fool you (though we admit there may be a few exceptions out there, of course). Use your 4×4 operating manual and contact us with any questions on your setup and which upgrades are going to make the most difference. Also, try to avoid taking advice from unqualified strangers on the Internet.