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A beginner’s guide to off-roading

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Now that you’ve got the keys to a new or new-to-you Jeep from Chapman Chrysler Jeep, you’re probably itching to put it to the test. Most cities offer some great Jeep off-roading trails all within a short drive of the metro. We’ve done the dirty work and created a checklist for what you need to know before you get those tires (and mirrors and windshields and just about everything else) muddy. Let’s go!

First, let’s get packing. Here’s what you’ll need for a good adventure: a full tank of gas, a tow rope rated to the weight of your Jeep, a spare tire and all the tools needed to actually change that tire, a portable air compressor, maps, a first aid kit and a fully-charged cell phone. You’ll also want to take along a high jack lift, a vehicle-mounted winch, shovel, water for the radiator and drinking water for you and your passengers, two-way radios to communicate with your driving pals and at least one fire extinguisher.

Then, you’ll want to choose your route. While driving through sloppy river bottoms and rock climbing is what we all first imagine when we think of off-roading, you’ll want to gain experience behind the wheel in kinder terrains before hitting a difficult trail. Look for trails with a rating of 1-2, which feature obstacles and terrain that is relatively easy to navigate and might not require continuous use of four-wheel drive. These trails often consist of grass, dry dirt or gravel roads, or crossing dry stream beds. They can offer a fun ride while posing little risk to you, your passengers and your vehicle.

Many national and state parks offer trails just for this type of activity and they can be a great place to start your off-road adventure. Seek out trails that offer good traction materials and don’t have steep climbs or descents. Once you feel comfortable with these trails, you can move on to more demanding trails that feature rocks, dunes, mud and crossing rivers.

Before you set off, make sure you tell someone where you are going and what time you expect to return. It’s also a good idea to read and be familiar with your Jeep’s owner’s manual. It will offer details on driving techniques for your specific model. Off-road and Jeep clubs are also a great source of information – search for a club in your area to find drivers who share your love of the road less traveled. Many clubs offer day trips as a group, which is a great way to explore an area in a safe manner and with drivers who have the expertise to help you should you have trouble.

We hope it goes without saying that all off-roading is done at your own risk. Please practice safe driving and know your route before you head out. You’ll want to be sure to leave the area better than you found it, too. No littering or graffiti. Stay safe out there, drivers!

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