The etymology of “Jeep” is still shrouded in mystery. Some believe it comes from the comic book character “Eugene the Jeep,” who was as rugged and powerful as the Army car that now bears his name. Or it may be a contraction of “G.P.,” or “General Purpose,” attesting to the versatility of the vehicle. Either way, the general-purpose nature of the Jeep is just as true today as it was in World War II, being equally suited to both paved highways and rough off-road terrain.
There are a few quick changes you can make to get your Jeep in “off-road mode” for maximum safety, and the most important changes concern ways to improve traction while off-roading. Tires don’t grip the earth the same way they grip pavement. Here’s how to account for that.
Let Some Air Out
You can increase your traction on the trails by engaging in a little bit of positive deflation. When your tires’ psi is too high, they struggle to grip the more varied terrain of sand, dirt, mud, and anything else that lies beneath your Jeep once you veer off the highway. With less air in your tires, they flatten slightly, which increases their surface area. With more rubber to grab the ground, you can handle tougher conditions, especially off-roading in the rain, where high traction matters most.
Change To Wider Tires
Even with diminished air pressure widening your tires—off-roading generally calls for about 20 psi while highway driving should have you near 35—you still may not have the surface area you want or need to get a grip. If that’s the case, you should explore a new set of tires that will give you a few extra but critical inches of width. Be careful not to get tires that are too wide for your wheels, however, as this can affect your steering and response time.
Better known as lockers in the Jeep modding community, locking differentials are one of the best ways to improve traction while off-roading, particularly in muddy conditions. When you’re having trouble powering through the mud, you need to make the most of your four-wheel drive capabilities. Lockers make this happen by equally distributing power to all four wheels, which could make the difference in getting you out of a jam. By using your lockers and driving straight ahead, your Jeep will push its way through treacherous terrain and get you moving again.