Off-roading in the water carries unique risks to your vehicle, to you, and to your passengers. Prepare yourself by outfitting your vehicle, knowing the terrain, and using the right driving techniques.
Stay safe and have fun outdoors. Use these three tips for safely driving through water when off-roading.
Walk the Crossing
Before crossing the water, the driver or a passenger should walk the intended path. If it’s not safe to walk, either because of depth or flow, it’s not safe to drive.
Water with a moderate flow might push your vehicle downstream while you cross. Start your crossing slightly upstream of where you want to exit if there’s a moderate flow of water.
As you walk, watch for boulders and potholes. If you find a pothole, search for a nearby submerged rock. Sometimes, a rig comes to a sudden stop after running into a submerged rock, and the wheelspin creates the pothole. If you find potholes or boulders, avoid driving over these areas.
Prepare Your Vehicle
The second tip for safely driving through water while off-roading is to prepare your vehicle. The following steps can help you avoid taking in water:
- Axles: Let your axles cool down as the driver or passenger walks the crossing. Axles use breather tubes to stabilize pressure. If you drive into the water with a hot axle, it will cool rapidly and lower the air pressure in the differential housing. Then, the breather tube will draw in water if it’s below the water line.
- Differential breather: Using extension tubes prevents the differentials from sucking in water.
- Air intake: The air intake cools the engine by letting in air. But if you drive into water with a depth above the air intake’s height, it’ll pull in water instead. Affix a snorkel to your air intake to raise its height.
- Engine bay: Cover the engine bay with a water bra which prevents water from coming in through the grille.
Place your recovery gear in an easily accessible space so you don’t have to search for it in case you need it. Connect your front and rear tow straps and be prepared to use your winch in case you get stuck.
Drive With the Right Technique
After all the preparation comes the driving technique. Everyone should unbuckle their seat belts, and vehicle windows should be down in case you need to exit in the water.
Drive into the water slowly in second gear. As you push into the water, you’ll create a wave of water at the front of the bumper called a bow wave. Once you see the bow wave in front of the hood, follow the wave at a consistent low speed to keep water near the engine bay low.
Drive straight ahead or slightly downstream, but never upstream. If the engine dies, do not restart the vehicle in the water. Instead, evacuate everyone, assess the situation, and attempt recovery.
Prepare With AM Off-Road
Before you head out on your next trip, outfit your Jeep with parts from AM Off-Road. We’re a high-quality Jeep accessories store with products that make it easy to customize your rig. Check out our selection today.