A Checklist for Off-Roading Fun

A 4x4 Off-Road Travel Checklist

Before you head off the road, use the following checklists to make sure that your vehicle is up for the trip. Your on-board toolbox must be properly stocked with the right tools, and you have to have the appropriate spare parts. Basic first aid supplies and survival gear are also a must, along with optional accessories.

Use these lists as a guide to get you started. What you actually choose to take along on a trip depends on where you will be traveling, so feel free to add to your checklist.

Inspect Your Vehicle

Before you hit the road, make sure your four-wheel drive (4WD) vehicle is in sound mechanical condition. To determine whether your vehicle is trail-ready and capable of surviving a trip off-road, first do a visual inspection inside and out. Then, take a few minutes to more closely inspect the inner workings of your vehicle. Check the following parts are in good working condition and you don't hear any strange noises coming from these areas:

  • Axles and differentials: Check hubs, seals, vacuum lines, shift motors, vent lines, front u-joints.
  • Battery: Clean terminals; check for damaged or corroded wiring.
  • Brakes: View drums, rotors, pads/shoes, fluid, hoses, leaks, and brake lights.
  • Belts and Hoses: Look for cracks or bulges.
  • Body/frame: Inspect the vehicle for cracks.
  • Cooling/heating system: Look for leaks, fluid levels and clean and repair fins. Check the hoses, thermostat and radiator cap.
  • Driveline/transmission: Inspect the case and shifter, leaks, fluids, universal and CV joints, and skid plates.
  • Engine: Check the carburetor, fuel injectors, spark plugs, wires, PCV valve, pumps, spark plugs, distributor, wires, belts, and leaks and cracks.
  • Exhaust: View the muffler and tailpipes.
  • Fluids: Inspect oil, transmission, brake, radiator coolant, gear oils, wipers, and power steering fluids.
  • Lights: Inspect the headlights, brake lights and auxiliary lights; make sure they're aimed properly.
  • Nuts and Bolts: Tighten axle u-bolts, lug bolts and nuts.
  • Steering: Check alignment, fluid level, belts and hoses, pumps, and the reservoir for leaks.
  • Suspension: View springs, shocks, alignment, wheel bearings, and steering linkages.
  • Tires: Tighten lug nutsair pressure and tread wear (including your full-size spare); look for cuts and missing chunks.
  • Wipers: Check for wear and overall fluid levels.

Off-Roading Tools

Put some thought into what tools you'll need in your offroad toolbox. If something breaks when you're out on the trail, you'll be able to disassemble, repair, replace and/or reassemble it in order to get yourself back on the road.

As a bare minimum, keep the following items on hand:

  • Air pressure gauge
  • Allen wrenches
  • Baling wire
  • Crescent wrench (small and medium)
  • Electrical tape and spare connectors
  • Grease (or a grease gun)
  • Hammer
  • Nuts and bolts
  • Open end/box wrenches (3/8" to 3/4")
  • Pliers: Standard, needle-nose and channel lock
  • Pocket/utility knife
  • Screwdrivers: Standard and Phillips head
  • Socket set (3/8") with extensions
  • Standard and Phillips screwdrivers
  • Super glue/epoxy
  • Vise grips
  • Wire and wire cutters/crimpers

    Off Road Safety Gear and Supplies to Take Along

    The following safety and recovery equipment will get you out of most predicaments. If you ride with a group, these items could come from any one of the vehicles in the group; it's not necessary for every vehicle to carry each item.

    • Air pump/compressor
    • Axe
    • Blanket
    • Bow saw
    • Bucket
    • Bungee cords
    • Can opener
    • Candles
    • Cell phone and/or CB (Note: steel whip CB antennas can be dangerous out on the trail)
    • Cigarette lighter
    • Coat hanger
    • Compass/GPS unit (remove GPS below)
    • Duct tape
    • Extra gas 
    • 1 to 2 quarts of extra motor oil
    • Fire extinguisher
    • First aid kit (packed in a tight weatherproof container)
    • Flares
    • Flashlight/lantern
    • Flashlight/lantern/spotlight with extra batteries
    • Food (dehydrated foods take little space and last a long time)
    • GPS unit/compass
    • Hydraulic/hi-lift jack
    • ID card with emergency contact information and medication/allergy information
    • Jumper cables
    • Leather gloves
    • Maps
    • Mirror
    • Multi-fit hose and a roll of rubber-weld tape 
    • Paper towels
    • Pen and paper
    • Radiator stop leak / tank sealant putty
    • Rags
    • Repair manual for your particular vehicle
    • Rope
    • Rubber gloves
    • Shovel
    • Spare clothes
    • Spare key kept on your person
    • T-style lug wrench
    • Tarp (6'x6') to keep yourself out of the mud and to catch small parts
    • Tire pressure gauge and tire pump
    • Heavy-duty trash bags 
    • Water: Enough for you (to drink, clean up) and your vehicle (battery, radiator, washer fluid)
    • Waterless hand cleaner
    • Waterproof matches
    • WD-40/lubricant
    • Whistle
    • Winch kit including straps, snatch block (pulley), shackle
    • Zip ties/cable ties

    Spare Parts Needed for Off-Roading

    There are also a number of kits and products on the market today to simplify the repair process, should a particular part fail. Some of the most popular products include radiator stop-leak, silicone gasket material, plastic steel, plastic aluminum, tank sealant putty, tire plugs/patch kit and carburetor cleaner.

    Remember, you don’t need to bring every spare part you own on the trail; just bring the parts that are most likely to break:

    • Air filter
    • Belts
    • Fuel filter
    • Fuses
    • Hoses and several sizes of hose clamps
    • Oil
    • Oil filter
    • Some brake line
    • Spark plugs
    • Tire valve stems with cores
    • Tires 
    • U-joints
    • Vacuum line
    • Wiper blades
    Format
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    Your Citation
    Walczak, Jim. "A Checklist for Off-Roading Fun." ThoughtCo, Jun. 14, 2017, thoughtco.com/going-off-road-checklist-3063. Walczak, Jim. (2017, June 14). A Checklist for Off-Roading Fun. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/going-off-road-checklist-3063 Walczak, Jim. "A Checklist for Off-Roading Fun." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/going-off-road-checklist-3063 (accessed November 21, 2017).