Tech Tuesday: Winter Wheeling
We cross our fingers and hope that the sun and warm weather hangs around for a few more weeks every year, but the hard truth is that the wet and cold season is coming. With that comes deep mud, wet trails and, some people’s favourite, the snow. Taking your rig out to play in the snow can be an amazing use of a clear Sunday but heading out in the woods on a cold snowy day can also become a less than enjoyable day quick if you’re not ready for what is ahead.
Snow wheeling season is in many people’s books, although not everyone’s, the best wheeling season of the year. I myself tend to enjoy snow wheeling but just like anyone else a minor mechanical or equipment issue can become a big problem when you add the factor of snow into the scenario. A few easy steps can be taken to ensure that you are ready to go out and play in the snow. First and foremost, even more imperative than other season’s off road adventures, never go out alone. The slightest change in grade of a trail, the smallest of holes or ditches, or even the temperatures at different elevations can lead to even the most built rigs getting stuck unexpectedly. Having another vehicle or two with you will save you a cold and long walk back to phone service or the pavement. Another vehicle and a tow strap is mandatory to pop you out of any unexpected holes or ditches you may slide into. Although a decent strap and another vehicle can save you from minor stuck situations, when it really comes down to it, a decently sized group of similarly built rigs equipped with winches will give you a safety net and confidence to really explore and enjoy without worry.
One of the most important pieces to the deep snow wheeling puzzle is of course tires. On a deep fresh snow day the right tire is everything. If you are really trying to dig your way through some deep snow then there is nothing better than a large aggressive mud tire like an Irok or PitBull Rocker. If you are running a less aggressive lug/tread pattern then of course you can still have fun but you won’t get the same ‘dig’ traction. One of the most important pieces of the snow traction equation to think about is the width of your tires. A wider tire is going to have more surface area to spread weight while a skinny tire will have less surface area, thus a wider tire is more likely to ‘float’ on top of the snow. A wide tire of an aggressive nature aired down to a good snow wheeling pressure (anywhere from 14 psi – 3 psi depending on your set up) will be what gets you through to deep snow. Finding the air pressure that works best for your set up can be an interesting process but once you find a good pressure to widen your tread surface area you will understand the difference it makes. Of course if you are in a group and have a less built rig than others you are out with, following some else’s packed down track on the snow will help you avoid sinking down and getting stuck which can lead to more ground being covered for the whole group.
Something that I discovered a few years ago that completely changed my snow wheeling experiences is that wheel spin (and ultimately horsepower) is not everything. I was running 12.5” wide mud tires with around 11psi in them and for some reason I still hand a tendency of sinking and digging holes. Not until I went out wheeling with a group that was much more built and experienced than myself was I shown the true art of snow wheeling. Although it is not as easy as it sounds (and does not apply to every situation), you want to try and create as little wheel spin as possible to give the tires a chance to spread the vehicles weight and pack the snow beneath while slowly moving forward. Simply grabbing the throttle will often lead to you sinking down and spraying snow everywhere. Once you master the art of finding that perfect and slow wheel speed/throttle balance you will see how much further you get without getting stuck. To put it in simple terms, slow and steady definitely wins the race when it comes to deep fresh snow. Although if you do have a big power build that has decent weight distribution you will tend to be able to worry a little less and just power through the white stuff.
Hopefully these simple points help you prepare for this upcoming snow wheeling season and you get as many chances as possible to get out and enjoy the incredible snow wheeling our province throws at us every year. We’ll see you out there.