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Don't let mud hole ruin trip

Advance Managing Editor
Outdoors people are going to get their vehicle stuck in the mud or snow; it's just a fact of life in the outdoors. But there are things we can do to reduce the frequency of watching our wheels sling mud. Having the basic tools to get a vehicle out of the muck can salvage a mired trip also.
Roads to prime outdoor locations often have at least one major mud hole before the final destination. How we negotiate these areas determines whether we enjoy our planned activity or spend several hours trying to dig and push our vehicle out of the soup.
Determining that it is safe to cross is the first consideration. If it seems safe enough, negotiating the mud hole at just enough speed to keep the vehicle moving forward is usually best. Trying to get up enough speed to blast through it can lead to spin outs and vehicle damage. Large aggressive tread tires have a tendency to "dig in" if too much throttle is applied and a vehicle can be sitting on its axle before the driver realizes it. Apply just enough gas to keep the forward momentum.
Owners of 4-wheel drive vehicles can use a "sawing technique" to gain extra traction from the front drive. By continuously turning the steering wheel slightly left then right as you drive through the mud, the vertical treads on the sidewall of mud tires will bite into the side of the ruts and increase traction.
But what if our best mud driving skills prove inadequate and we become stuck? Reducing the air pressure in the tires on the pulling axel(s) will often increase traction enough to get free. Extreme caution must be used when reducing air pressure to avoid the tire bead breaking loose from the wheel when you apply throttle. Excessive speed can cause the sidewalls to be cut by the wheel rim.
The same person should deflate both tires, using an air gauge to ensure not too much air is let out. My brother, Bill and I got hopelessly stuck in a sand bed once. I proceeded to let half the air out of the rear tire on my side and told him to do the same on his side, which was really dug in. The truck pulled out, but a very audible "flop, flop, flop" was coming from his side. Dear brother had let all the air out of the tire on his side! The next few minutes resulted in an intense discussion about Bill's IQ as we changed tires in 100 degree heat.
Anyone venturing into remote areas should have basic equipment to free a stuck vehicle. A winch or portable "come-a-long" with enough cable and/or straps, a small scoop and an ax are indispensable.
Skillful driving and the right equipment will allow us to play in the great outdoors, and not in the first mud hole we encounter.