Winter Backroad Safety – Advice

The snow is starting to accumulate in the mountains and although its early in the fall season for us at sea level, it will start to look like the middle of winter up in the mountains. If you are heading out on a winter excursion whether it’s to go camping, fishing, backcountry skiing, or any other outdoor activity there are certain precautions you should take.

Give some serious thought about what you would do if a major breakdown occurred, roads and highways get closed or you become plain stuck. Ask yourself if you are prepared for situations where you may be waiting potentially hours on end for things to clear up or for help to arrive. With temperatures dropping below zero, this could lead to a life-threatening situation, and you should never go it alone on a remote, seldom used trail.

This is one of the reasons 4×4 clubs are popular. Even if you do not choose to join a club, trail ride events are scheduled most times of the year and everywhere in the province. There is security here, with all kinds of help if you have any problems. It is also the best way to gain off highway experience.

If you do choose to go off alone, always give yourself an out, and do not go further than you can walk out to find help or shelter. Carry food, water and winter survival equipment in case you must spend the night with a broken-down vehicle. Be prepared for an accident with first aid supplies and training on how to deal with injuries. Always let someone know where you are going and when you will be back.

There are lots of things that can cause mechanical failures off-road. If you drive your vehicle regularly these things should show up when and where it is easier to deal with them, than it is out in the bush. Every situation is different, so it would be impossible to list every possible cause and repair procedure for a breakdown.

Here are two of the most common types:

  • Getting a flat tire is by far the most common type of breakdown. Always carry a good full-sized spare tire. You might want to pack a plug kit, but most of the tire problems I have seen are either not reparable, or simply a lost bead. One of the first essential items everyone that goes off road needs to get is a good air compressor. Airing down to gain better traction is only outweighed by the increased ride quality. This will increase the odds of a lost tire bead, however. Make sure your jack is in good working order, and if you carry a High Lift Jack on the outside of your vehicle, check and oil it often. Another handy item for tire work is a nylon winch hold down strap. These can be put around the center of the tread and tightened to re-seat the bead.
  • The second is breakage due to over-working your vehicle. The weakest link in the drive train seems to be the U-joints. If you break a U-joint there is a good probability that you will damage the yoke as well. This usually is not a trailside Just remember that you are driving a four-wheel drive vehicle and you can most often get home with either the front or rear driveshaft disconnected. You will need to remove the drive shaft with the broken U-joint so that further damage is not done, then drive out in two-wheel drive. If this is a front axle steering knuckle U-joint, the half shaft will need to be removed and a rag stuffed into the end of the open axle housing.

Always remember if you pack it in then pack it out. The outdoors is not a land fill. These remote areas of our Province are pristine, so let’s keep it that way so future generations can enjoy it.