getting out of mud, or : the hi-lift is more than just a 4×4 ornament

Buzzing around town today we rolled north into the 4×4 trails past Shady Rest. There’s some neat stuff over there: nothing super technical but it’s gorgeous and has been effectively off limits due to snow for the last six months.

For 20 minutes we bounced around the gorgeous trees, the FZJ-80’s OME suspension laughing off anything we hit. I saw some water ahead: no big deal.

The ground got soft, and we sank in like a stone to a dead stop. Hub deep on the driver’s side: both tires. The stereo kept pumping but I instantly knew it was un-stucking time.

stuck
Literally deep mud and figuratively deep shit.

We had no cell reception so I couldn’t call anyone, but what kind of self respecting off road enthusiast needs to call help just to get unstuck? I had a Warn M8000 winch (up front), straps, an axe, and a Hi-Lift. Missing were my traction pads and shovel, and really I should always have a shovel.

I of course considered winching: it’s a big powerful piece of gear. But I wanted to go backwards because the next 100 feet was more super soft mud and ten feet behind the truck was solid ground. Going further with just me and the family with no cell service seemed a little risky. I’m a coward: sue me.

winchinghmm
Winch cable out, but respooled and staying as a heavy/expensive hood ornament for the day.

My plan was to basically jack up the wheels that were spinning in mud and get something under them that could grip a bit. Right next to the truck were a bunch of downed smaller trees and branches: perfect. Out comes the axe to shape things for what I’m needing.

chopchop
Yeah, I keep a sharp axe in my truck. I’ll show it to any guy who wants to date my daughters in the future.

To lift tires out of the muck with a Hi-Lift you need:

  • A platform to put under the jack. Like snowshoes, you need to spread the surface area out otherwise the jack will just get pushed down into the mud. I carry a huge piece of 2 1/2″ thick 1’x1′ and it’s been working great.
  • A Hi-Lift wheel attachment or aftermarket bumpers. “Modern” vehicles have laughable bumpers that in no way can support the weight of a vehicle and as such the Hi-Lift will simply rip it off.
  • A Hi-Lift. Especially if you have a lift kit and/or oversized tires you’re going to need an insane amount of jack height. With the wheel attachment this might not be so bad, as you’ll keep the suspension compressed as you lift up (I think).

Once you’ve got the hole the tire was in exposed, jam some crap in there. Rocks, (already downed) trees, (already downed) branches, traction pads, etc. A note on traction pads: I have some and have used them a few times. Get bright orange because they tend to get really smashed down into the mud/snow and can be almost impossible to see and are quite tough to retrieve. If you can find some natural stuff and don’t hurt anything, I’d vote for that. Save the traction pads for when you don’t have a gazillion downed limbs laying around.

hilifttrees
Lowering down, logs/branches jammed in, and now we’re driving on the shrubbery.

It definitely looked bad, out there hacking up wood with an axe and jamming them into a muddy hole to be driven on, but I don’t really see any actual environmental impact aside from the heart palpitations I may have some put some Green Peace observers through.

frontoo
Did the same thing to the front end for good measure.

And the end result is rather boring but you can see below, out the vehicle goes without much issue. I had my center dif locked and was in 4L, for any off road dorks reading this.

Some lessons I learned:

  • Bring your gloves. I had left mine in another bag, and especially when working with the winch it becomes almost necessary. My nitrile gloves were a poor excuse.
  • Lube the Hi-Lift. More.
  • When working the Hi-Lift, you need to put your back into a bit and, while not jerking it about, make sure you’re powerfully going all the way and all the way down. It took me a while to master the descent until I understood that.
  • Consider putting an old t shirt, some cardboard, or really anything sacrificial between your Hi-Lift and whatever point it’s contacting otherwise it will chip powder coating and paint.

Don’t view getting stuck as the end of the world. It’s like having a somewhat empty kitchen: you’re not going to die, and it’s a great time to experiment with what you’ve got. You’ll learn a lot and provided you don’t get hurt and make the situation worse it can be down right enjoyable.

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