Truck Guy: Winter warnings

VANCOUVER – The snow is starting to accumulate in the mountains and although it’s the fall season for us at sea level, it could look like the middle of winter up in the mountains.

If you are heading out on a winter camping trip, there are certain precautions you should take.

First, give some serious thought about what you would do if a major breakdown occurred or you became stuck.

Ask yourself if you could deal with a little used trail with no one else around. With temperatures dropping below zero, this could lead to a life-threatening situation you should have avoided in the first place.

You should never go it alone on a remote, seldom used trail. This is one of the reasons 4X4 clubs are popular. Even if you do not choose to join a club, trail ride events are scheduled most times of the year throughout the province. There is security in numbers, with all kinds of help if you have any problems. It is also the best way to gain off-highway experience.

If you do choose to go off alone, give yourself an out. In other words, don’t go further than you can walk out and find help or shelter before dark. Carry food and water and winter survival equipment in case you have to spend the night with a broken down vehicle. Be prepared for an accident with First Aid supplies and training on how to deal with injuries. And always let someone know where you are going and when you will be back.

There are lots of things that can cause mechanical failures off-road. If you drive your vehicle regularly these things should show up when and where it is easier to deal with them than in the bush.

Every situation is different so it would be impossible to list every possible cause and repair procedure for a breakdown.

Here are two of the most common types, starting with tires. Getting a flat tire is by far the most common breakdown. Always carry a good full-sized spare. You might want to pack a plug kit too, but most of the tire problems I have seen are either not reparable, or simply a lost bead.

One of the first essential items everyone that goes off road needs to get is a good air compressor. Airing down to gain better traction is only outweighed by the increased ride quality.

This will increase the odds of a lost tire bead however.

And make sure your jack is in good working order. If you carry a high lift jack on the outside of your vehicle, check and oil it often. Another handy item for tire work is a nylon winch hold-down strap. These can be put around the centre of the tread and tightened to re-seat the bead.

The second is breakage due to over-working your vehicle.

The second-most common mechanical is the weakest link in the drive train — the U-joints. If you break a U-joint there is a good probability that you will damage the yoke as well.

This usually is not a trailside repair.

Just remember you are driving a four-wheel drive vehicle and you can most often get home with either the front or rear driveshaft disconnected. You will need to remove the driveshaft with the broken U-joint so that further damage is not done, then drive out in two wheel drive.

If this is a front axle steering knuckle U-joint, the half shaft will need to be removed and a rag stuffed into the end of the open axle housing.

Always remember if you pack it in then pack it out. It is not a land fill. These remote areas of our province are pristine, so let’s keep it that way so future generations can enjoy it.

Ian Harwood is the Corporate Sales and Operations Manager of Custom Truck Parts in Western Canada. Contact him at [email protected]

About Ian Harwood