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When maneuvering rough terrain on an off-road adventure, you’ll inevitably come across some unexpected obstacles somewhere along the way. Sure, it’s part of the fun and should be expected when you take your truck off-road. Water puddles, however, are one of the most dangerous hazards you can face when driving on one of these trails.

Anyone with a passion for off-roading will tell you it’s an invigorating feeling splashing through the water with your truck. But, just because you see water on the path, doesn’t mean you should assume it’s harmless. The water may have hidden dangers, like deep mud, that can stop your truck in its tracks.

If that happens you might find yourself stranded, possibly overnight. Here are some tips that will help you avoid the dangers water can present for your truck.

Get out and gauge the water depth

There are plenty of trucks on the market offering features that can enhance your off-roading experience. But, there’s only so much each truck can do. Water that gets into the engine, transmission, and differentials can cause a significant amount of damage. It’s important to know how deep the water is before trying to cross. It’s best to get out and gauge the depth of the water first to make sure it’s not too deep.

If the puddle of water goes above your bumper, it’s not considered safe to travel through. Water levels below it shouldn’t give you too many problems unless there’s deep mud at the bottom. Check for hidden dangers before trying to tackle the obstacle.

Getting stuck will put your engine and other components at risk when the spinning tires kick up plenty of mud and water trying to gain traction. Sometimes, drivers will use a tarp to cover the hood, so they prevent water from getting into the electrical parts of the truck.

Take it low and slow

Yes, you have 4WD, but that’s no guarantee you will get through sketchy water obstacles without problems. It’s also not a license to slam the accelerator and ram through the puddle. Trying to drive through it too fast can push the water, with force, under your hood where all the sensitive parts are.

It’s best to take it slow, in a low gear, and inch your way through the puddle. Be ready to back out of the water, in case it turns out to be deeper than you thought. It’s also important to keep moving whether you’re going forward or backing out. If you stop, for whatever reason, you’re almost sure to get stuck.

Know the off-road path you plan to take

You should always travel in areas you know well. You’re more likely to know what places to avoid when there’s been a lot of rain or melting snow. If there are areas where deep water might be, you probably have a good idea of alternate routes to take to avoid it. Also, consider upgrading your truck with a snorkel if you can. It just might save your truck should you come across water that’s deeper than you expected.

If you’re going on a path you’re unfamiliar with, be sure to ask others about it. Locals who travel those paths can warn you of spots that are extra muddy or other areas that are too dangerous to travel.

Also, be sure to let people know what path you’re taking and give them a time frame for when you plan on returning. That way if you get stuck and don’t have a way to get out, help can be on its way much quicker if you don’t arrive at that designated time.

Don’t assume all water puddles will be harmless. Assess each one you come across and don’t take any unnecessary chances. Off-roading is a thrilling experience provided you prepare for it properly, know your truck’s limits, and take all the necessary equipment with you.