Summer’s here and millions of folks are gearing up for the Great American Road Trip. Instead of hitting the highway, how about taking a sharp turn off-road instead? That’s the suggestion of 79-years-young Jim Brightly, a still-active off-road and outdoor journalist who has a vast array of publications on his resume, including Four Wheeler, Truckin’, Trailer Life and Field & Stream.
Brightly, an off-roader for more than 50 years, says “Off-roading is always challenging and fun. You never know what’s going to happen on the trail or what you can see over the next hill.”
The best part of off-roading, says Brightly, is that it’s ageless. “It’s a great vacation for all ages, old and young. Our three kids grew up in a Jeep’s backseat, and now our grandkids are continuing the sport. You can get away from the crowds or take your personal crowd with you in their own rigs. You can smell the campfire, see the stars, enjoy the adrenaline from playing in the dunes or finding that perfect campsite.”
For beginning off-roaders, Brightly has a few tips for a memorable experience:
1. Slow down: Enjoy the scenery and watch for the challenges so you can approach them correctly and safely.
2. Safety first: Always carry plenty of water and never go off-road alone. Just like swimming, you always want to have a buddy along.
3. Fluid situation: Check all your vehicle’s fluids (oil, brake, coolant, wiper) to make sure they are at the right levels.
4. Don’t trash it: Respect the outdoors and trail you’re on by not leaving any trash behind.
5. Nice spare: Along with a matching spare tire, keep a spare fan belt as well (and the tools needed to change it). Your rig will never break down in the driveway, but a fan belt could snap or slip at any time.
6. Be careful: Know your off-road driving skill level and limitations: don’t do more than you can safely handle.
7. Know your tires. Choose a tire that’s appropriate for the terrain you’ll be on most of the time. For off-roading, you’ll need something extremely durable, with great traction.
“Good tires are super essential on- or off-road,” Brightly says, “because they play a vital role in braking, steering, comfort and handling.”
For off-roading, Brightly says choices include a versatile all-terrain tire (A/T), or a durable mud-terrain (M/T) tire like Yokohama Tire’s rugged GEOLANDAR M/T G003 or GEOLANDAR X-MT. “These tires are also designed for highway use and daily driving, too — they are on my rig for my upcoming 2,700-mile Continental Divide expedition.”
Maintaining your off-road tires for daily use is essential, too. This includes taking five minutes a month to check your tire pressure. Keeping them properly inflated will give you a better ride and save fuel.
Other tire tips include:
* Check your tread depth by placing a penny upside down into a tread groove. If you can see all of Lincoln’s head, your tire’s tread has worn down to the legal limit and you need to buy new tires.
* Tires must be replaced when the tread is worn down to 2/32 of an inch (the lowest legal limit). It’s best to replace them before they reach 2/32, depending on your climate and driving conditions.
* Rotating your tires regularly promotes even wear of the tread. Tires should be rotated every 5,000 to 8,000 miles.