Tuesday, March 27, 2012

(DF) THE DOWN SIDE TO FOUR WHEEL DRIVE

As you may already know from Anna's post, it rained quite a bit last week (almost 9 inches here, in 4 days). In some areas, that wouldn't be a problem, but here at my place it only takes about six inches over a few days, to completely saturate the ground. Everything else is run off. By the time it is finished raining, the saturation has made it down to the clay layer underneath and water runs from the base of every hill, in the form of clear, rushing springs.

Thursday evening came around, still raining and I had been dealing with a sore foot all week, so I fired up the old 4X4 Chevy truck and drove up to the back pasture to feed the horses. Well, actually, I drove almost up to the back pasture, thanks to saturated soil and the down side to four wheel drive.

Don't get me wrong, I really do like my four wheel drive, and in most situations it is wonderful. Anyone would probably agree that (at least in theory) four wheels pulling will take you through things better than two wheels pulling. Fact is, that works in practice too, USUALLY.

Now we get to the exception and the downside. When two wheels spin in soft mud, they go down into that mud, so the back end is down. If the other two wheels are spinning and the mud is soft, they go down too, and now, the whole truck frame is on the ground, spoiling any possibility of it coming out under its own power. It becomes like a turtle on a rock, flailing for all it's worth and going nowhere. This is exactly what happened Thursday evening, leaving me no choice but to walk back to the house and devise a plan to get it out. By "get it out", I really mean, get it out without too much damage and with no injuries. Not always an easy task.

Saturday, I had to work but was scheduled for an early day (7 am to 3:30 pm), so when I got home, I hooked up the tractor and trailer, loaded an old sheet of heavy plywood (to use as a jack platform), and headed up in the field, where I also loaded some rocks. A Hi-Lift jack is probably among the more dangerous tools I own, but is all too often the only real tool for the job. This was one of those times.

I waded ankle deep water to place the plywood over the mud at the back of the truck, with clear water shooting a couple of inches high from quarter sized holes in the mud. Carefully jacking up the back end of the truck, high enough that both rear wheels were suspended above the deep, water filled pits they had created, I then filled those pits with rocks and let the truck back down. A WORD OF WARNING HERE: Please do not lift the entire end of a vehicle with any type of bumper jack unless absolutely necessary, it is very dangerous. In this case I had little choice because the only part of the bumper that wasn't completely buried in the mud, was the top edge above the license plate ............. fortunately there was no problem this time. The front end was easier, with only one wheel completely down and up where there wasn't water standing.

It took a couple of tries, but once the frame was off the ground and the wheels on top of rocks instead of down in a water pit, it pulled out fine. Needless to say, I took it home a slightly different route to avoid having to do it all again. Next time, I will avoid large areas of mud, at least with a full sized truck. Some vehicles work better in lots of mud than others and mine is not one of the better ones for that application. Good luck with your own mud boggin'.

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