Things to look for in Jeep before off-roading

Jeep Wrangler off-roading | Technical things you should check before going off-roading

Before you set out for off-roading or camping, you need to ensure you have some essentials, especially if you are gonna stay off the grid for a while.

Going jeep wrangler off-roading without such essentials, and you might find yourself stranded without any form of communication or something that can help you get out of the situation you are in.  

But these essentials are just but an aid to smoothen out your off-roading experience. Remember that it is your wrangler that you are driving, and it is the main thing you should start with even before you choose a trail or a destination you want to set out to.

Suppose you set out without having done an inspection on your wrangler. In that case, you might find yourself not reaching halfway to the destination.

things you should check before going off-roading on your jeep

Before you even budget for accessorizing your wrangler, you need to inspect what you already have. The following is a comprehensive list of what you should inspect.  

Engine 

The only way to know if your engine is in good condition is to test driving your wrangler while paying attention to the engine. The engine should start without any hesitations. Suppose it does not start immediately after ignition.

In that case, it indicates a faulty ignition module, a faulty ignition circuit, or bad spark plugs. If the engine runs, but you hear noises and vibrations coming from the engine, it indicates faulty motor mounts, loose or disconnected hoses, faulty timing belt, or a faulty fuel intake system.  

You do not have to wait for such signs so that you can start maintenance on your engine. As soon as you see the check engine light on your instrument cluster, it indicates a fault or something related to the engine, such as a faulty transmission system.

Such issues may affect your fuel economy, and you have to fill up your gas tank now and then, which translates to losses. Ignoring such issues might lead to permanent engine damage, and no one would want that.  

Air intake and air filter 

The air filter filters out the air that gets into your engine through the air intake system behind the grill. If the air filter is worn out, unfiltered air will get into the engine, and fuel does not mix well with unfiltered air.

This will cause the fuel consumption to increase, engine misfires, and loss of power, especially in high RPMs. A faulty air filter should be replaced immediately.  

If the air filter is dirty, lesser air gets to the engine as the dirt on the air filter blocks out the air passages on the air filter. You should clean or replace the air filter depending on how old it is. If it’s newer, you can clean it and if it’s old replace it with a new one.  

Suppose you are going on a trail with rivers and swamps. In that case, you can consider a snorkel that increases your wrangler’s wading depth since the air intake is higher on the roof than behind the grill.

Most heavy modifications are needed to install a snorkel. All you need is to cut an opening on the hood and modify the air filter box to accommodate the snorkel.  

Oil and oil leaks

It is recommended that you change the engine oil in your wrangler every 10,000 miles or change it yearly. However, when the check oil light on your instrument cluster comes on, it is an indicator that you should drain the oil and fill it with new oil.

The light might also come on if the oil pressure is low and you need to refill it Oil. But it is better to drain the oil and fill it with new oil regardless of the age of the oil.  

If you recently filled the oil and the check oil light comes on, you might have an oil leak. Check the dipstick between intervals after driving and check underneath your wrangler for oil spots.

Things to look for in Jeep before off-roading

If the oil level on the dipstick goes lower with every check, then you have an oil leak. Get the engine running and check around the engine with a torch to identify the oil leak source. If there are loose rubber seals or hoses, ensure you tighten them or replace them if worn out.  

Windshield washer 

To check your windshield fluid level, open the trunk and check the reservoir located on the wipers’ base near the firewall. The reservoir is clear, and you can check the fluid level.

If the fluid level is low or empty, you should refill it as the wipers won’t work. If it rains, you need the wipers, driving through snow or driving through rivers or swamps.  

Coolant 

The engine coolant protects the engine from overheating and lubricates moving parts in the engine from overheating. If the overheating light comes on, you need to add coolant to your engine.

To check the coolant level, open the radiator cap or check the markings on the side of the reservoir. These markings indicate the coolant level, and if the coolant level is on the empty mark, add in coolant, but if it is full, you are good to go.    

Battery  

Checking the battery level in your wrangler is important as the battery powers every electrical component in your wrangler. Using a voltmeter, measure the voltage, and if the voltage is around 12.6 volts, your battery is fully charged. Anything below that means you need to charge your battery or check your alternator.

If the voltage is above 12.9 volts, your battery has excess charge, and you need to drain it. You can do this by turning on the AC, sound system, or the lights.  

If you don’t have a voltmeter, turn on your headlights and dim them. Then revive your engine, and if the lights dim, even more, it indicates that your battery is low on charge.  

Tires and rims 

Your tires and rims should be in good condition, and you should ensure you have the right ones before setting out. You cannot go offroad in road tires as they have no traction offroad.

Get a set of offroad tires and before you put them on the wheels, ensure they have no cracks, and the treads are in good. Remember, you cannot use a coin to measure the treads on offroad tires as they are deeper than most standard tires.  

You can downgrade to steelies for the wheels as they are better offroad than wheels made from other materials. They rarely bend or crack and are easily repairable when they do. If you prefer not changing to steel wheels, ensure the ones you have on don’t have any bends or cracks as they will worsen when off-roading.   

Control arms and sway bar 

Take your wrangler for a short offroad trail and listen for rattling noises coming from the sway bays and the control arms on the front wheels when leaning and cornering. If the noises and vibrations are too much, you’ll need to grease the joints.  

Go underneath your wrangler with your torch and check for cracks on these parts. You’ll need to replace if there are cracks and if there is rust, remove the rust, then apply a rust protective solution as rust weakens the metal, which will lead to cracks and dents when stressed.   

Tie rod and drag link 

 The tie rod and drag link are responsible for steering. If they are faulty, you’ll notice noises and vibrations, especially when cornering at low speeds. A faulty tie road and drag link will also cause a misalignment on the front wheels.

Things to look for in Jeep before off-roading

This will cause uneven tire wear if not corrected. Ensure the tie road and drag link are corrected or replaced depending on the degree of faultiness.  

Driveshaft 

When driving your car and noises and vibrations are coming from underneath your wrangler, the driveshaft or the U-joints are faulty. You may also experience difficulty turning or shuddering when you accelerate.

The driveshaft rarely gets damaged, but when it does, it is mostly due to impact damage from an accident, or you drive your wrangler too hard over a high bump touching the driveshaft.

You can remove the U-joints and replace them with new ones if only the U-joints are damaged. If it’s the whole driveshaft, you need to replace it together with new U-joints.   

Differential fluids 

The differential fluid works just like the engine coolant by cooling and lubricating the internals of the differential. Suppose the fluid level in the differential is low.

In that case, you will hear clunking noises and vibrations coming from the differential case. It worsens when a burning smell comes from the differentials, indicating excess grinding on the internals.  

To check the differential oil level, dip your finger into the opening in the differential casing. If the bottom tip of your finger touches the oil, there is enough. If you don’t touch the oil, you should add more until it touches your fingertip.  

The Jeep Wrangler is very suitable for some mild off-roading when stock, but you can do some minor upgrades to it, which will enhance your off-roading experience by making your wrangler more capable of tackling heavier terrains.

Such modifications also come in handy in case of an emergency or when the terrain is too rough for your wrangler to handle. Such modifications include the following.  

Winch 

A winch helps pull your wrangler out of tricky situations such as mud pits, or you can also pull another vehicle out, provided that the weight of the vehicle you are pulling is within the maximum pulling limit of the winch.

The maximum pulling weight is important as not all winches have the same pulling weight, and when buying a winch, this is the first factor you should consider.  

Floodlights 

These are extra lights mounted on the bumper or on the roof of your wrangler. The factory headlights and optional fog lights are not enough, especially if you drive on non-lit trails and want to set camp for the night.

Apart from the bumper and the roof, they can also be mounted on the fenders and behind the side mirrors. However, before mounting such lights ensure, you know all the laws in your state that involve installing and using such lights.  

Communication 

Radio and signal antennas enable communication between other car owners that you are off-roading with and enable communication in areas with no signal. You are likely to find yourself in such areas when off-roading, and having a mobile phone won’t help.

If you need to split up or there is an emergency, you can use the radios to communicate with each other. Antennas increase the area where the radio signals can reach.  

Roof rack  

Installing a roof rack as a form of extra storage is a common thing among off-roaders. You can carry essential equipment such as toolboxes, cooking stoves, and you can even use it to mount a rooftop tent. Ensure you get a roof rack that aligns with the dimensions of your roof.  

Things to look for in Jeep before off-roading

However, suppose you carry a lot of stuff on the roof rack. You are raising the center of gravity which will destabilize your wrangler. This is a huge risk, especially when off-roading since you have to drive through rough terrain, which destabilizes your wrangler even more. 

MOLLE storage 

MOLLE storage on your wrangler can be used to store extra equipment such as air pressure pumps, spare tires, extra batteries, fuel canisters, and water canisters.

You can do without these if you had inspected your jeep prior, but accidents happen, and you might need to refuel or replace a tire. If you don’t have such equipment, you’ll probably get stranded if you don’t have other options.  

Conclusion 

You do not have to do expensive upgrades on your wrangler so that you can go off-roading as it is very capable from the factory. Some wrangler owners just add off-roading tires and other affordable upgrades, and they are ready to go.

Look for the most essential condition that your wrangler is in. check all the oil levels and the entire drivetrain. If something needs repair or replacing, do not undermine it as it can get worse and fail when off-roading.