There are some things that some individuals should refrain from doing, given a free choice. For example, I should not challenge others to fencing duels, enter a memorization contest, volunteer to cover for a lifeguard while he goes to take a break, or do any math that goes much beyond the plus and minus keys.
In the video above, a couple is enjoying the adventure of off-roading with their Four Wheel Hawk on what looks like a F-150 SuperCrew short bed, which likely has a wheelbase (distance between the front and back wheels) nearly as long as the Mighty Furd. For those who do not have the data reserve to spare, here’s the situation. The wife is justifiably nervous about taking the truck over a curved and uneven dirt path carved into a hillside, since the drop-off on the opposite side could easily roll the vehicle over. But, her loving husband tapes this mini-adventure, apparently no more knowledgeable than she is about why this path should have affected A] how she would steer her way through it, and B] his job while she did so. Adventure!
What happens is that the truck quickly drops a wheel off the inside edge of the curve, the embankment and camper weight tossing the truck’s rear end halfway off the trail. The truck teeters over badly, threatening to tip over. Fortunately, she was going downhill, and momentum keeps the truck sliding to the end of the embankment before it can be sucked over the edge. With the errant wheel once again supported, the truck rights and she can now pull forward and park.
What makes me uneasy about the crossing over has two prongs, the first being that neither person seemed to be aware that the front and rear tires of any vehicle do not share the same path in a turn. The tracks left by the rear wheels will always drape to the inside of those of the front wheels, and the longer the wheelbase, the more pronounced the effect. Note in the video that the uneasy driver is careful to keep the front of the truck perfectly centered, assuming that the rear will do the same. Big mistake, and the direct cause of the near-disaster. She should have planted the front end as far to the outside as she thought she could get away with, and left it there. I like to think that this was their first truck, recently acquired after driving a lifetime of small cars. Not enough time in parking lots, trying that infernal ninety-degree turn to wedge it into spaces.
The second thing that makes me uneasy is the sneaking suspicion that even today, they consider the mishap to simply be because the trail was too narrow for their truck. Might have been. Does not look like it. The only time you “go for it” in dicey conditions where damage awaits is when traction is an issue. It wasn’t, here. In this potential hazard, her videotaping spouse should have been spotting for her, dancing between the front bumper clearance to the rocks on the outside, and the location of the rear tire near the edge. Edges give way and collapse, particularly with heavier vehicles, so proximity to them is pretty important. That turned out not to be an issue here – she simply drove over the edge. That simple crossing should have taken up to a couple of minutes with his help, and quite a long while without. Turning turtle might have changed their whole day, particularly with the side window rolled down and no seat belt usage. Risk management involves more than a willingness to step on the gas pedal.
What did she do right? She first stopped, got out and looked over the situation to see just how challenging it might be. The second is that she instantly recognized that this situation was way above her familiarity level, something which should have prompted her to start asking questions about the best way to approach it, despite the desire of her husband to make a cool adventure video. Third, at the start of it, the pronounced tilt pointed out to her that she’d be busy later if she was too casual about how spill-able items were stowed in the fridge. Happily, the Darwin Effect did not have full sway in this instance, and we have a one-minute video of her, emerging intact. The truck? I don’t know. It’d be a good idea to take a quick look underneath the back half of it.
The guy above likes to work on his Toyota, which may come in handy if he keeps submerging his axles in keep water. If he’s modded for it, fine, but it’s mechanically risky to take a stock vehicle this deep. It’s notable that this is a 2WD truck with a limited-slip axle fitted, but notice also that he does not venture out alone on his weekends away from home. 2WD is one reason he’s going fast enough to create a bow wave and wake – the slower he goes, the greater the risk of getting stuck.
Two things pop into mind as wallet-bait here, the first being that the cooling fan behind the radiator makes a very poor propeller. If it isn’t up high enough, the water’s weight will instantly bend the blades forward into the radiator, stopping the show. A slight brush will spray the ignition parts with water mist, which is often a problem on older vehicles. Bring waders. Second, keeping the axle submerged trusts that the axle bearing seals are waterproof, which they aren’t. They are grease-proof and moisture-resistant. Introduce water into churning grease, and you’ll be wondering later why your truck brand seems to choose such crappy wheel bearings. Similarly, the differentials are vented to air, and hypoid gears are innately high-friction devices, saved solely by advanced lubricants. Slop some water down that vent, and you’ll wonder why your brand of truck makes such lousy differentials. The list goes on, like the transmission and transfer case, so tackling deep water in a stock vehicle is a bad idea unless it’s a hobby project and you have beaucoup money set aside just for that. This guy does.
Aside from the potential for damage, don’t be misled by the implication that it’s perfectly fine to tackle stuff in 2WD where 4WD would normally be the rule. This intrepid soul is going along with others who are equipped to extricate him, and he fully accepts that it’s a hobby which involves risk, breakage and repair. He’s gotten stuck enough times that he’s planning converting his truck to 4WD. If you live in your rig as I do, depend on its full functionality every day, have no other options and can only spend so much on it, your approach to adventure should be modified to suit. I’d love to pound some machinery through the rough stuff, but one thing’s for sure. If I ever do, it won’t be in my own machinery.
Me, I’ll be dancing a line of risk, but one lined with a dose of paranoia. Wherever I go, I’ll be running solo. That’s a risk whether I get stuck, or suffer the same type of inevitable breakdown that could just as likely occur in a library parking lot. Occasionally being out of cellphone range does not affect the initial problem, but definitely impacts the potential result. And, my only “recovery tools” will be a small shovel, a few hand tools, a pocket knife and a honed vocabulary. To partially offset these risks, I’ll be carrying my cellphone booster, keeping the Mighty Furd mechanically maintained, and approaching more interesting off-road features with a mix of conservatism and the knowledge that substantial damage or breakdown may be beyond any mortal’s ability to pay the tab to fix it. So, I’m hoping that what I post next year will be sadly lacking in gnarly-ness and memorable close scrapes. After all, the Mighty Furd will be my home, and I’m footing the tab on a fixed income. I’ll occasionally be going where 2WD in my size and weight of truck cannot reliably be taken, and enjoying that winnowing out. For me, that’s the adventure: getting and being out there, not creating YouTube moments.