Driving through water is both fun and exciting, but it can also be a real headache for off-roaders who are not prepared. Preventing serious damage to that decked-out offroading truck involves knowing a few things about the water you are about to cross and your truck, too. Using these essential suggestions, inexperienced off-roaders can learn what they can and can’t do when crossing water and how to best protect their truck.
Know Your Truck
Sure, every driver knows how their truck handles and even how to negotiate hills and rocks with it. For success while forging water, you need to know a few more technical things like the location of your air intake and the truck’s computer. If water enters either of these places, your ride is toast!
It’s also a good idea to figure out if you need to do things like install a snorkel, extend your axle and transmission breathers, disable your radiator fan, or take other precautions based on the depth of the water you want to cross and whether you plan to do this often. Do the research on your specific truck and make modifications as needed.
Driving Through Low Water
Almost any truck should be able to go through shallower water up to axle-deep without much problem. Drive slow but steadily, keep the truck in a lower gear, and keep moving forward. You want to create enough momentum to make a small wake in front of the truck, which will reduce the amount of water that will rise up underneath it. This will help prevent water from getting into the engine compartment and potentially into the air intake.
Driving through Deeper Water
On the other hand, deep water is a totally different thing. Once the water is taller than the axles, it is essential that you know where your air intake is, as you can only forge water that is lower than the intake. To forge anything deeper, your truck should be equipped with a snorkel, although you still need to take care to keep the computer dry.
Safe forging of deeper water involves the opposite approach as driving through shallower water where you want to create a wave to pull water out from under the truck. In deep water, you want to move very slowly - about 3 to 5 MPH - and avoid creating any kind of wave at all.
More Helpful Tips
When crossing any water, turn off your truck lights and let them cool a few minutes before starting. Cool water hitting the hot lenses could crack them. A tarp covering the radiator grille can reduce the amount of water that gets inside the engine compartment. Another good idea is to walk water crossings before you try to drive them, so you know exactly what you’re getting into. You’ll be able to judge the depth better and figure out if it’s even safe.
A water crossing that is moving too fast to cross on foot shouldn’t be attempted in a truck unless you want to go for an unintended ride downstream!
Like many off-roading activities, crossing water is a lot of fun. Just don't underestimate the power of moving water and crossing it can be dangerous unless done carefully and correctly. Drivers that take the time to figure out what protection their offroad trucks need and practice in low water first will do the best with more difficult, deep water crossings.
Above all, take your time, think it out. If you have any doubts, trust that gut feeling and leave it for another day. Better to be safe and able to drive home, than to end up digging out your recovery gear to pull your truck out from the middle of a stream!