After a day out playing on the hills and trails, heading home to relax may be the first thing on your mind - but don’t do it! Before hitting the highway, anyone who’s been doing more than just driving minor trails needs to stop long enough to check out that prized off-road truck and make sure it is road worthy.
Off roading is rough and it’s easy to damage important equipment and vital parts like those add-on steel bumpers that could lead to a dangerous situation if undiscovered. Make sure your truck is ready for the ride home by pulling over before leaving the trail and giving it a once-over to check for damage in the most likely areas.
Inspect the Brake Lines
The whole braking system gets a rough workout when out trail riding, even more so when hill climbing. Considering this, it’s essential to go around the truck and inspect all brake lines for kinks, nicks, leaks, and any other obvious damage. Clean away any weeds or brush that may be caught in the steel bumpers or any lower areas, then make sure everything looks to be in the same starting-out condition.
Brake lines are also wear items that do eventually deteriorate and need to be replaced with hard use, so it’s essential to check them after each outing and before driving onto the highway. Leaks or other damage could result in a dangerous failure when you go to put your foot down and get no response from the brakes.
Check the Steering and Suspension Systems
The next critical areas to check for damage before heading home are the steering system and suspension. Damage to either could cause a deadly accident if parts come loose while the vehicle is at normal highway speed.
Check the steering system to ensure there is no damage to the linkage, knuckle joints, coil over mounts, or other parts. Then inspect the leaf springs and bolts, shackle and link bolts, link ends, and all other essential bolts.
Look Over the Drivetrain
Next look under the truck to inspect the drivetrain for anything obvious, such as damage to the drive shaft. Look for gouges and rock scarring as well as evidence of grease leaking from joints that are damaged and about to fail. Look for obviously damaged, loose, or missing bolts along the drivetrain as well.
A great way to detect loosening of drive shaft or any other essential bolts under the truck is to mark their alignment when properly tightened. If they begin to loosen, the alignment of the marks will change, indicating there is a problem with that specific bolt.
Take A Closer Look At the Tires
Never attempt to drive on the highway before looking closely at the tires to be sure they haven’t suffered either. If you’ve aired the tires down, air them back up and make sure the tire holds pressure. Then search for other evidence of tire damage. Look for gouges, cuts, or bulging in the sidewall that could cause a failure once driving at highway speeds; make sure the beadlock and wheel bolts have not been damaged.
After doing a thorough inspection to determine that there is no obvious damage to any part of the truck including bumpers, you can usually assume it’s safe to head out onto the streets. Go easy the first few miles and pay attention for noises, vibrations, and any indication that something’s not right .
If you discover damage to your truck before leaving the off-road site, you will either repair it or have it towed. Hopefully you won’t encounter anything more than the usual scuffs and scrapes to your steel truck bumpers that come with a day on the trails. After a safe trip back home, spend some time washing the truck up so it’s ready to roll the next time you head out for some trail riding fun!