This is a sample of one of the techniques we will cover in the Overland Vehicle Travel Course – Click Here.
On your way to Relay, Ontario – a cold war radar relay station way off the beaten path (190 mile from the nearest tire repair shop). Your front tire is torn by some steel debris left over from a logging operation. You stop and change the tire. It has a 6 inch gash in two separate spots. You lament that it isn’t repairable and throw it on the roof rack. Then you notice, that the tire on the other side is also flat.
You pull the tire repair kit from under the seat, put some air in it with the onboard compressor. You slather it in camp soap and find the puncture, drill it, clean it and work a plug into it. It holds the air. So off you go, with only 40 miles to go.
The gravel road leads across a dam on then turns rocky, then sandy, then rocky again. You haven’t seen another vehicle in over a day. It’s a pretty lonely place.
You reach the entrance of the 15 mile road to Relay. It has a couple of boulders blocking your way. So you set about moving one of them with the high lift jack. You make room for your Jeep and on you go. 5 miles later you hear an explosion and the vehicle suddenly pulls to the right. The tire you just plugged must have blown out.
You hop out and discover a huge tear in the sidewall. You saw that it was damaged when you patched it, but now it is a huge open wound.
Now here you are, in the middle of nowhere. You already used your spare and you didn’t bring two. You’re stuck.
(Now before those reading this start to hem and haw about how much more prepared they would be than Mr. Hypothetical, or why YOU buy run on flats, always carry two spares or some other hypothetical arm chair quarterbacking, let me just say, “Go ahead and save it”. We know you are a huge deal and that you are ALWAYS prepared. Go ahead and pat yourself on the back and keep quiet – we know. This story isn’t here to discuss a hypothetical story, it is merely here to provide a more interesting story as we discuss an idea and some knowledge.)
No back to you, our intrepid adventurer and your “situation”.
You have enough food, supplies and scientific equipment on board to start a flourishing colony. But, you spend half your year camping out, you would rather get back home within the next week. You power up the sat phone and call the expedition watch. They set about organizing some help.
You make some coffee, eat an early lunch and the expedition watch calls back. They can get a tire and rim to you from Canadian Tire for a little over $350. They can have it flown in from Timmins in three days, but you have to meet them at the airfield (10 miles away – for $2,000 (cost of wheel, tire and delivery), the going rate to fly a spare part into a remote airfield in the Ontario frontier. Mining companies pay it often) or they can drive it to you in about a week ($1,200). The other option, they can have one sent by rail and dropped off at the dam (for $500) it will be there tomorrow around noon. But they need the old rim on trade. You choose the rail option. Now, all you have to do is present yourself and the rim at the rail stop, in 24 hours, 30 miles away.
You don’t want to leave all your gear, 30 miles is a long hike, plus the thought of rolling a spare 30 miles there and rolling the new tire back doesn’t appeal to you. So, you have to get yourself and your vehicle 30 miles down dirt, rock and gravel service roads and logging roads to the rail stop by the dam. You could drive on the flat, but you need the rim to trade and a bare rim is kind of dangerous – but it may be doable.
Any other ideas?
Well, sure. . .
Remembering back to your days as a logger (waaaay back) and your short stint in the military (not as far back. . . but back there), you devise a way to drive there.
So here it is, the “Timber Skid” or the “Expedient Skid”.
Keep in mind, we have a Jeep Wrangler – 2007 4-Door Model (we’ll use Reaper’s as an example – it’s Maroon). Personally, I have only used this concept when the lugs of the work pick up were sheared off on the log landing a couple of miles from the road. There was also the shredded ATV tire in remote Savant Lake, Ontario, where we used a timber skid to get us back to the camp. The only other time I worked the concept was during one of those “blocks of instruction” at Ft. Clayton, Panama when the motor pool (deployed and in the field) was bored and wanted to try it on a Government Issue Chevy Blazer (I think there was a $50 bet, a case of beer and a proud hillbilly PFC mechanic involved). I haven’t had the opportunity to try it on a front wheel drive car. This also won’t work well (or at all) on a rear wheel drive car.
We are talking about a four wheel drive, on expedition, when you don’t have many options and this is “kind of” a last resort. With a Jeep Wrangler, you also have 4 wheels that can turn and some room under the vehicle. These expedient skids can take some effort to get going.
OK here is the step by step:
- First point your vehicle in the direction you will be driving. This is a remote narrow road, rarely travelled. We are going to park on the side, facing the direction of the dam. You CAN’T back up easily once the timber skid is installed, so position the vehicle before you start.
- This technique only works on rear wheel. You flat is on the front tire. So, you have to change the good back tire to the front. Since this an expedition to a remote area, you have a chain saw and spare fuel. So go cut some trees about 6”-8” in diameter. Cut two chocks (to block the wheels), Then another to support the Jeep when you jack it up (10”-16” in Diameter would be best). Tall enough to keep the Jeep off the ground while you work underneath. You are going to block it up with these). Now you need two 6ft logs. (to be sporting, let’s say you are too lazy to get the jack out of the back).
- Arrange the logs – one at the front parallel to the bumper and the other perpendicular to the bumper, making a ramp – on the flat tire side. Just like the picture below.
4. Loosen the lug nuts a little. Being that we have a steel bumper and a clear drive up the log (no parts in the way), drive up that puppy. Just enough to raise the tire a couple of inches of the ground. Since we are too lazy to get the jack out – just take the tire off and put the shredded spare (on the roof) on as a temporary replacement. Then drive off the log.
5. Put the log configuration behnd the vehicle and drive up the log a little. Replace the back tire.
6. Repeat the whole thing on the front – then put the good tire on the front. Throw the shredded one back in the roof rack. Drive off the log. Now we have a good tire on the front – bad tire on the back. Honestly, you could do this in any order you want to save time, but we need the good tire on the front and in the end, we will have no passenger side tire on the back.
7. Fire up the chain saw and cut a 6 – 8 foot long oak pole (or other strong wood) 4“ in diameter.
8. Drive backwards up our pole (this time more in the middle) and block it so it can’t slide down. Chock your wheels. (You will be working under it). Take the rear shredded wheel off.
9. Place one end of the pole above the cross member near the transmission and the other end on the ground.
10. Pass the pole under the spring U-bolts, align it with the spring and lash it securely to the spring. You should use chain for your lashing as there is a likelihood of rope abrading and breaking. (I know some hard core 4-wheelers don’t like chain, but it has many uses). Also, watch the exhaust if you use rope. IMPORTANT: Make sure you aren’t touching the moving parts of the wheel where you removed the tire or the drive shaft. There are parts that will still move when you drive, so you don’t want the rubbing.
11. Move the vehicle off the log jack, using four-wheel drive. Starting will be difficult, but once moving, the vehicle will ride and handle surprisingly well. Make sure your chain, log and wheel aren’t rubbing as the wheel will still spin with the tire off.
I know . . . you’re thinking it’s crazy and will never work. Well, it does and I have seen it in action. But like any technique, you have to analyze and experiment with your construction. You will have to adjust what you are doing as you are going at it. For instance, a common mistake is to use rope instead of chain on drags and skids. The problem with rope is that it abrades and soon breaks. I’ve made this mistake a few times. Make sure to have some chain around for this type of improvisation. There are a number of other uses for chain that we cover in our Overland Vehicle Travel Course (OVT1), so just because an experienced off road hobbyist tells you “chain is bad”, you may want to consider having some. It has downfalls for many applications in towing and recovery, but it has upsides in improvisation too.
Just for the sake of proof, here is a picture from the U.S. Army Field Manual (FM 20-22) (Dated 1962)
Of course there are always those who say, “I’ve tried it, it doesn’t work”. One example comes from the tireless Jamie and Adam of Mythbusters fame. The video below, shows their attempt at a log skid. Take a viewing of it. When the movie is done, we can gather outside in the lobby and discuss it.
O.K. now that you have watched the video, what happened and why did their skid break down after only 200 yards (besides hitting speed bumps)?
The rope “abraded” right? Again – chain will last longer, but it seems they also tied it very close to the ground so it would abrade. Did you also notice the sliding they did when driving it down the road? Why did that happen? Could it be the nice angle and all the surface area due to the log being on the tire, not the frame, causing it to act like a rubber and forcing the car to turn? This happened to the motorpool guys down in Panama when they tried it. They adjusted the angle and it drove suprisingly well. It also fell apart after about 15 miles of driving. (They cut another log, chained it up and continued on.)
There are a number of other things they could have changed or adjusted, but you get my point. Improvisation rarely works the first time. Keep trying – especially when others HAVE done it.
Don’t get me wrong, Adam and Jamie are exceedingly awesome with their skills, experimentation, and improvisation. We would be estatic to have them with us when we need to improvise. But, in this case, it looks like they gave up on the concept far too soon.
With a little experimentation and their mad skills, I am pretty sure they would have perfected the concept. Which is what improvisation is all about – experimenting, adjusting and “making it work”.
Well then, there you are in the Ontario Wilderness. All packed up and off you go to get your spare tire. Your improvised tire replacement might break, wear down to a nub or fall apart a couple of times, but you hop out, fix it up and continue on. OR . . . you could hike 60 miles with a spare tire, that would be epic. Oh yeah, you could hike just a measily 20 miles with a tire . . . and spend $1,500 more. But, that seems to be for people with more money than sense.
But wait? Won’t this tear up the road?
Um . . . yeah. A little trench will be left in the road – which in our story was gravel and dirt. And normally, if you are a 100 miles from the nearest town, the road is probably not paved. But, if leaving a drag mark bothers you that much then go ahead and walk the 60 miles. Like I said – that would be an “epic” story to tell at the bar. . . if you make it.
And Hey. If you are interested in learning a lot more of these techniques, then I dare say you should check out our “Overland Vehicle Travel Course”. We have one on January 17th. Courtesy Jeep and Fortune Bay are working on a program to bring this type of knowledge and technique to you. We will cover everything from off road driving, not having your tires freeze to the ground in the arctic, avoiding being bribed by the cops in Hondurous, to what to do when your check engine light comes on 400 miles from the nearest town. Also, recoverng a stuck vehcile and much, much more. It is given by some experienced expedition people and highly skilled Jeep techs. You are sure to learn a lot!!
Check it out CLICK HERE
<on another, less awesome note. If the gashes in your tire are big enough, you can stuff the tires with weeds and grass (hay) and drive it quite a ways.>