Sound Advice
by David C. Green

John Miller has a wealth of hard-learned advice on how to avoid problems and what to do when you can't. Trouble in adventure paradise? Here are some of John's observations.

On Breakdowns

  • Running fast and fully loaded in 120-degree heat fries engines, transmissions, and tires. "Get-there-itis" often overcomes common sense.
  • Read your owner's manual. Know the location of key systems. For example, is there a resettable fuel-cutoff switch? Also learn fuse functions and locations.
  • Carry spare belts, water hoses, and fuses.
  • Have the right lug wrench. If you have alloy wheels and a steel spare, have a set of steel lug nuts and wrench for the spare.
  • Once a year, check your jack to make sure it works.
  • Check your spare--one can easily go flat or become rotten over time.

On Towing and Trailers

  • Repack wheel bearings every year. Inspect them for rust, lubrication, or damage--you don't want to lose a trailer wheel when you're going 60 mph in the middle of the desert.
  • Change your trailer tires every three years. On trailers left outside, inspect for weather damage and cracks.
  • Before you start out, make sure you have the correct size spare, properly inflated and not cracked. Half of his trailer recoveries don't have spares, or, if they do, they're useless.
  • Carry two $20 bottle jacks and some wood boards.
  • Make sure you have the right lug wrench for the trailer wheel.
  • Know how to properly hook up your trailer or tow car.

On Off-Roading

  • Slow down. Problems occur when driving too fast or towing too hard. Drivers hit deep ruts and tear out the suspension, break axles, crack oil pans, and blow out tires.
  • Look ahead for dry creek crossings and rocks. Watch out for sand and debris on turns. That's where most people wreck.
  • Talk with a trustworthy person who's recently traveled your intended route.
  • Don't use old maps. Roads often change and become impassable without safe turnarounds.