- Daniel Errante
- Jeep Wrangler Enthusiast
Water fording is a thrilling aspect of off-roading with your Jeep Wrangler, but it can also be one of the most risky if you’re not prepared. Deep water can cause serious damage to your vehicle, and without proper precautions, you could find yourself stranded—or worse. But with the right preparations, you can safely traverse water obstacles and enjoy the adventure that comes with them. Here’s how to get your Jeep Wrangler ready for deep water fording.
Understand Your Jeep’s Capabilities
Firstly, it’s important to know where your Wrangler stands in terms of water fording capability. Jeep states that the Wrangler can ford up to 30 inches of water. However, this figure is under ideal circumstances and assumes the vehicle is stock and properly maintained. Anything deeper or with a strong current increases the risk significantly.
Regular Maintenance is Key
Before even considering taking a dive, ensure your Wrangler is in top condition. That means all fluids are at recommended levels, the battery is secure, and there are no leaks or mechanical issues. Also, check your differential and transmission fluids as these are critical components that can be affected by water ingress.
Upgrade Your Intake
The engine’s intake is one area that can allow water to enter during fording. Consider investing in a snorkel, which will raise the air intake point well above the waterline, ensuring your engine breathes air instead of water. This will also help to reduce dust intake while doing regular off-road treks.
Protect Your Electricals
Jeep has done a good job of waterproofing the Wrangler’s electrical components, but extra measures can help. Use dielectric grease on connections to add an extra layer of protection. When planning your route, be mindful of your Wrangler’s electrical components and their locations to avoid the deepest water when possible.
Extend Your Breathers
Your axles, transmission, and transfer case have breather hoses to relieve pressure without letting contaminants in. However, these hoses can be too short for deep water fording and allow water to seep in. Extend these hoses up to a higher point in the engine bay to prevent this from happening.
Check and Seal Gaskets
Doors, windows, and even the hood can let water in when submerged. Make sure your gaskets and seals are in good shape to prevent water from entering the cabin or engine bay. If needed, replace them or use silicone sealant for extra waterproofing.
Tires and Suspension
Your tires are your first point of contact with water. Make sure they have a good tread and are properly inflated, but consider lowering the pressure slightly for better traction in slippery conditions. Also, consider a lift kit if you plan on regularly navigating deep waters, as this increases your ground clearance and fording depth.
Prepare Your Exterior
Inspect your exterior for any cracks or holes that can lead to interior leaks. Check the condition of your undercarriage and protect it with a good quality coating to prevent rust. Not only should it be watertight, but it should also withstand the abrasive effects of silt and rocks.
Know Your Route
Pre-scouting your path is vital. Know the depth and the bottom surface of the water hazard before attempting a crossing. Walking through it or using a stick to check the depth can give you a good idea of what you’re up against. Always cross at the shallowest point and at a perpendicular angle.
Have an Escape Plan
Equip your Wrangler with recovery gear like a winch, tow straps, and traction mats. Know how to use them and ensure they’re easily accessible in case you need to make a quick escape from a deep water situation.
Practice Safe Fording Techniques
Enter the water slowly and maintain a steady speed; you want to create a small bow wave in front of the Jeep to keep water away from the engine bay. However, being too fast can lead to loss of traction and hydroplaning. If the water is deeper than you anticipated or you feel you’re losing control, back out immediately.
After the Fording
Once you’ve successfully crossed, it’s important to take care of your Wrangler. Check your fluids for water contamination, and let your brakes dry out before resuming normal speeds. Pump the brake pedal a few times to expel any trapped water from the brake system.
Finally, let’s remember that water fording, even with a capable vehicle like the Jeep Wrangler, should always be done with consideration of the environment. Fording can cause erosion and damage aquatic habitats. Always adhere to trail guidelines and respect both the land and water you traverse.
Preparing your Jeep Wrangler for deep water fording requires attention to detail, investment in the right equipment, and a good understanding of driving techniques. Whether you’re crossing a small stream or tackling a deep flood, the key is to go prepared. By following these steps, not only do you protect your investment, but you also ensure the safety and enjoyment of your off-road adventures. Just remember to respect the natural environment and your own limits, and never take on an obstacle that is beyond the capabilities of you or your vehicle.