It takes serious power and knowledge to take your truck off-roading. Your truck needs the right interior and exterior components to handle rough terrain, and you need the knowledge of proper safety and liability in case something goes wrong. Still, most guides assume the truck and driver aren’t prepared for off-roading. Instead, here’s a guide on off-road basics: post-trail vehicle maintenance. This assumes you’ve successfully gone off-roading but aren’t sure how to revert your truck back to its pristine power and performance. Despite all the work that goes into prepping a truck and/or driver for off-roading, these tips will help maintain your truck afterward for future trail adventures.
Cleaning Your Truck
Naturally, it’s important to always clean your truck after every off-road session. Washing and vacuuming the vehicle gets rid of dirt and grime that might otherwise buildup. This debris can affect your driving performance and tires if not immediately treated. For instance, the undercarriage is highly susceptible if neglected. Lift the hood and hose out the engine bay to clean this. While washing gets rid of dirt, it also highlights other issues that would otherwise go unnoticed. Make this the first step before working on the other services on this list.
Checking the Tires, Differentials, and Transmission
Once your truck is cleaned inside and out, check your tires, differentials, and transmission. All-terrain tires are built for all types of surfaces, including mud, sand, dirt, gravel, and snow. Nevertheless, this means when you’re done on the trail, you’ll cake your tires with whatever surface material they tread on. Therefore, check your tires to ensure the tread is not worn out or you might need to replace them. Similarly, check the tire pressure often. When off-roading, it’s common to lower your tire’s PSI so that it catches on uneven surfaces better. While this helps on the trail, it doesn’t make for effective road driving. Check for loose lug nuts, beadlocks, deep cuts, or missing lugs as well.
The differentials help rotate wheel pairs at different speeds. This is extremely important for off-road designed trucks, like the Ford Raptor, which have differentials to control the torque functionality on natural surfaces. The Raptor itself, for example, features electronic-locking rear and front axle TORSEN differentials that lock up if the torque is imbalanced so no wheelspin occurs. So, check the differentials and transmission for damage or leaks. While a differential cover can help, even this merely offers a slight protective edge that can still dent and leak. Water fording also has its own risks. If your transmission fluid is a milky-white color, it could be contaminated with water and might require immediate changing.
Inspecting Your Shocks, Brakes, and Axles
Some other essential components to inspect are your shocks, brakes, and axles. As with many truck components, your shocks can dent, warp, or leak, especially the bushings and mounts. Never tighten or adjust your shocks unless your truck is secured on the ground. Also, inspect your brake drums for mud, sand, or dirt, as these can coat them. If you off-road frequently, check your brake lines, as they get stressed from frequent or overuse which can lead to unexpected faulty braking power. While larger tires are important for climbing over larger boulders, their ball joints, knuckles, and stub shafts see much force and can crack or bend. Check your tires and wheels for any looseness, as this might indicate a problem with your axles.
Tightening Suspensions Components
A critical point in this guide on post-trail off-road vehicle maintenance is your suspension parts. Whether it’s your track bar, control arms, springs, bump stops, or racing shocks, any of these parts can rub against each other if improperly lubricated, causing wear and damage. With your truck parked, emergency brake engaged and level, check underneath it for damage to your suspension and steering. Tighten any loose nuts and bolts. The steering box should be mounted to the frame with the sector shaft and all the other components in place.
It’s important you lubricate your truck to avoid grinding, wear, and further damage. This pertains to your truck’s fluids. Check your engine oil, transmission fluid, brake fluid, radiator fluid, power steering fluid, antifreeze, and even windshield washer fluid so that they’re all filled. Each of these fluids has a role in your truck’s maintenance on and off the road. Not to mention, greasing your chassis eliminates squeaking and grinding. Grease any nuts, joints, and bearings, especially U-bolts and driveshafts.
Frame and Engine Check
Like many of the other parts on this list, perform a frame and engine check for cracks and excessive use. Cracks form along the frame’s weld lines and high-stress areas, so keep note of these spots. Off-roading picks up a lot of dust that can clog engine components. Inspect under the hood for leaks on the hoses, belts, and clamps. You may need to replace any loose or worn parts. Check the radiator and air filter for dust, damage, or clogs. Clean or replace the air filter if needed.
Winch and Gear System
Off-roading is a risky activity with many possible incidents, so accidents can happen. If you or someone you know was stuck on the trail, you might use your winch and gear system to tow them out, or vice versa. Spool the winch line to make it neat and ready for the next use. Finally, clean and organize all tools and gear in your truck so you’re ready for your next off-road adventure.
With all that done, you’re ready to go off-roading again. However, it might also help to have the right aftermarket parts on your truck for an easier outing. That’s why you need to check out our selection of Ford Raptor lights here at Specialty Performance Parts. Our Rigid, Baja, or KC HiLiTES lights supply immense illumination power without affecting your Raptor's signature look. Your Ford truck keeps its OEM-appearance with added power so you can see during early, late, or nighttime driving. Whether it’s with an LED lightbar or fog lights, we have everything you need to maintain optimal visibility both on and off the road.