Stay Safe Off Road in Your Ford Bronco™ or Ford Bronco Sport

Your Ford Bronco™ has been designed and built to take on the outdoors. However, on the trail, as in life, things can take a turn for the worse in the blink of an eye.

10 Tips for Off-Road Safety* from Ford Bronco

As thrilling as off-roading is, carefully planning your route and moving with precision is a big part in safe adventures. Here are some basic off-roading tips:

  1. Familiarize yourself with the controls and dynamics of your vehicle before attempting any off-roading.
  2. Always wear your safety belt and sit upright. Grip the steering wheel with thumbs on the outside of the rim. This will reduce the risk of injury due to abrupt steering wheel motions that occur when negotiating rough terrain. Do not grip the steering wheel with thumbs inside the rim.
  3. Throttle, brake and steering inputs should be made in a smooth and controlled manner. Sudden inputs to the controls can cause loss of traction or upset the vehicle, especially while on sloped terrain or while crossing obstacles such as rocks or logs.
  4. Look ahead on your route, noting upcoming obstacles, surface texture or color changes or any other factors that may indicate a change in available traction, and adjust the vehicle speed and route accordingly.
  5. Pre-run the planned drive route at a scouting pace every day. Conditions can change rapidly, causing the course to vary day to day. During pre-run, mark obstacles with GPS markers to make sure appropriate speeds are used to avoid potential vehicle damage. Where necessary, get out of the vehicle and check the terrain.
  6. When driving off-road, if the front or rear suspension is bottoming out and/or excessive contact with the skid plates is encountered or choose and alternate route with less obstacles to avoid potential damage to the vehicle.
  7. If you are driving in a dusty area or desert conditions, be sure to leave ample distance between you and any other vehicles to allow for adequate vision and always drive with your headlights on to help other drivers see you . Furthermore, if you are in private or state off-road vehicle zone please follow all posted guidelines.
  8. When convoying with other vehicles, it is recommended that communication be used, with the lead vehicle notifying other vehicles of obstacles that could cause potential vehicle damage.
  9. Always keep available ground clearance in mind and pick a route that minimizes the risk of catching the underside of the vehicle on an obstacle.
  10. When negotiating low-speed obstacles, applying light brake pressure in conjunction with the throttle will help prevent the vehicle from jerking and will allow you to negotiate the obstacle in a more controlled manner. Using 4L or Trail 1-Pedal drive (if equipped) will also help with this.

*Always consult the owner's manual before off-road driving, know your terrain and trail difficulty, and use appropriate safety gear.

Know Your Ford Bronco: Inside, Outside and Under

Before heading out on any off-road adventure, take a look under your Bronco and commit to memory the location of the fuel tank, engine sump, differentials, gearbox and any skid plates. Armed with this kind of knowledge, you'll be less likely to snag these components on any rocks or outcroppings.

You will also want to get a sense of your Bronco dimensions, like height, width and ground clearance, and familiarize yourself with your instrumentation.

Know the Rule of Two: Always Bring a Spotter

It's always recommended that at least two vehicles be used while off-roading. The buddy system helps make sure that help is close should a vehicle become stuck or damaged. It is also wise to take supplies such as a first aid kit, water, tow straps and a cell or satellite phone with you anytime an off-road excursion is planned.

Know Your Rock Clearance

If you're tackling an off-road trail and the rear suspension is bottoming out and/or excessive contact with the skid plates (when equipped) is encountered, reduce vehicle speed to avoid potential damage to the vehicle. Always keep available ground clearance in mind and pick a route that minimizes the risk of catching the underside of the vehicle on an obstacle and getting high centered.

Know Your Camera is Ready to Assist

If you don't have spotter, you can use your front facing trail camera to see the trail in front of you. However, a spotter is always the best option.

Ford Bronco and Ford Bronco Sport: Know Your Terrains

Bronco in the Mud

Ford Bronco was made for mud, but be cautious — even 4x4 vehicles can lose traction in slick mud. If you do, steer your Bronco in the direction of the slide until you regain traction. Following a muddy adventure, clean off any residue stuck to the rotating driveshafts and tires.

Bronco in the Sand

When driving over sand, try to keep all four wheels on the most solid area of the trail and drive steadily through the terrain without varying vehicle speed. When accelerating, apply the accelerator slowly and avoid excessive wheelslip. When driving at slow speeds in deep sand and in high outside temperatures, use a low gear when possible.

You can use the vehicle's momentum to maintain forward motion in sand. You'll want to avoid coming to a stop on steep sand grades as the vehicle may not be able to continue forward motion after it has stopped.

Bronco on the Rocks and Gravel

When approaching large rocks, position the vehicle so that the tires will pass over the largest obstacle. Never attempt to straddle a rock that is large enough to strike your axles or undercarriage and never ever attempt to drive over a rock that is large enough to contact the door sills.

On gravel, driving at slow speeds reduces the risk of losing traction when you stop, accelerate or take a corner. Always leave a generous gap between you and other vehicles to minimize the risk of damage from flying gravel. Avoid dust clouds as they reduce visibility.

Before navigating uneven ground:

  • Secure anything inside the vehicle that could become dislodged. If possible, remove any roof-rack items.
  • Use the lowest gear possible and approach the event at a crawl. If the vehicle begins to slide down a slope, steer downhill and gently apply the throttle. If you lose traction on your uphill wheels, stop immediately and choose a more suitable route.
  • Approach logs, rocky steps or ditches diagonally. It is advised to keep at least three wheels on the ground at all times.

Bronco in Wading

If equipped, your Ford Bronco is more than capable of tackling shallow bodies of water with ease.* Just remember to never attempt to cross a deep, fast-flowing body of water. For accurate data regarding your vehicle's water-fording capability, please see your owner's manual. In the meantime, here are some general water-fording facts and suggestions:

  • As water depth increases, vehicle speed must be reduced to avoid potential vehicle damage. Water ingestion into the engine, transmission, transfer case, axles, electrical components or vehicle interior can occur if you drive too fast or through water that is too deep. Water can cause permanent damage that may not be covered by your vehicle warranty.
  • Your vehicle brakes will be less effective when wet and/or muddy. Always check the water depth before entering and check all fluids afterward.
  • Extreme care must be taken crossing any type of water. Don’t drive into water unless necessary. You should only drive through areas that are designated and approved. You should tread lightly and avoid damage to the environment. You should know your vehicle’s abilities and be able to recover it if something goes wrong.
  • You should never stop or shut a vehicle off when crossing deep water unless water was ingested into the engine air intake. If the engine stalls, do not attempt to restart it. The key to any water crossing is going slow. Shift into first gear (manual transmission) or Drive (automatic transmission) and proceed very slowly with a constant slow speed and light accelerator application. Avoid high engine RPM. Drive through the water very slowly at first, then build up momentum. Keep the vehicle moving at a steady pace; do not try to accelerate through the water crossing. If there are other vehicles ahead, wait until they’ve left the water. Unsettled water can make a safe passage more challenging.
  • Ease off of the accelerator as you reach the other side to diminish the bow wave. Apply the accelerator slowly and as necessary to climb out the other side.
  • Periodically inspect all of the vehicle fluids for signs of water ingestion if the vehicle is used to traverse water regularly.
  • Be aware that obstacles and debris may be beneath the water’s surface.
  • Muddy waters can reduce the cooling system's effectiveness by depositing debris into the radiator.
  • Keep the doors fully closed during the water crossing.
  • Upon completion of the water crossing, slowly drive a short distance and check the brakes for full effectiveness.

*Always determine the water depth before attempting a crossing and proceed slowly. Refer to your owner’s manual for detailed information regarding driving through water.

Bronco in the Winter

Four-wheel-drive vehicles have advantages over two-wheel-drive vehicles in snow and ice but can skid like any other vehicle. Should you start to slide while driving on snowy or icy roads, turn the steering wheel in the direction of the slide until you regain control. Other tips include:

  • Avoid sudden applications of power and quick changes of direction on snow and ice.
  • Apply the accelerator slowly and steadily when starting from a full stop. Avoid sudden braking. Although a four-wheel-drive vehicle may accelerate better than a two-wheel-drive vehicle in snow and ice, it cannot stop any faster as braking occurs at all four wheels. Do not become overconfident as to road conditions.

Make sure you allow sufficient distance between you and other vehicles for stopping. Drive slower than usual and consider using one of the lower gears. In emergency stopping situations, apply the brake steadily. Do not pump the brake pedal.

WARNING: If you are driving in slippery conditions that require tire chains or cables, then it is critical that you drive cautiously. Keep speeds down, allow for longer stopping distances and avoid aggressive steering to reduce the chances of a loss of vehicle control, which can lead to serious injury or death. If the rear end of your vehicle slides while cornering, steer in the direction of the slide until you regain control of your vehicle. Excessive tire slippage can cause transmission damage.

Bronco on a Hill

When climbing a steep slope or hill, start in a lower gear rather than downshifting to a lower gear from a higher gear once the ascent has started. This reduces strain on the engine and the possibility of stalling.

If your vehicle stalls, do not try to turn around because this could cause vehicle rollover. It is better to reverse back to a safe location. Apply just enough power to the wheels to climb the hill. Too much power can cause the tires to slip, spin or lose traction, resulting in loss of vehicle control.

Descend a hill in the same gear you would use to climb up the hill to avoid excessive brake application and brake overheating. Do not descend in Neutral. Disengage overdrive or move the transmission selector lever to a lower gear. When descending a steep hill, avoid sudden hard braking as you could lose control. The front wheels have to be turning in order to steer your vehicle.

While descending a steep hill in a manual transmission vehicle, do NOT leave the vehicle in gear with the clutch depressed. This could cause damage to your driveline.

Bronco in a Rut

If you find yourself in a rut, ravine, gully, ditch or washout, approach them slowly and inch your Bronco over. Ditches and washouts should be crossed at a 45-degree angle. Always review your path and the terrain prior to attempting a crossing.

Bronco on a Log

Approach obstacles slowly and inch the vehicle over, approaching at a 10–15-degree angle. This allows one front tire to be on top of the log while the other begins to climb over. If a large obstacle near the log, such as a rock, cannot be avoided, choose a path that places the rock directly under the tire rather than the undercarriage of the vehicle. This will help prevent damage to the vehicle. Always review your path and the terrain prior to attempting a crossing.

Ford Bronco: Care After the Adventure

Another adventure in the books, but the day isn't over yet. Items to check include:

  • Make sure that tires are inflated to proper tire pressure as indicated on the tire placard.
  • Check the wheels and undercarriage for built-up mud or debris, which can cause vehicle vibration.
  • Make sure that the grille and radiator are clear of any obstructions that may affect cooling.
  • Make sure that the brakes are in proper working order and free of any mud, stones and debris, which can become trapped around the brake rotors, backing plates and calipers.
  • Check that the air filter is clean and dry.
  • Inspect for torn or punctured boots on ball joints, half shafts and steering gears.
  • Inspect exhaust system for damage or looseness.
  • Inspect undercarriage fasteners. If any are loose or damaged, tighten or replace and ensure that the proper torque specification is used.
  • Inspect the tires for any cuts in the tread or sidewall area. Also inspect the sidewall for any bulge indicating damage to the tire.
  • Inspect the wheels for dents, cracks or other damage.
  • Refit the front license plate if removed previously.

Know the Rules Before You Go

Before you go off road, go online or call your local government agencies to find out where the legal off-road and recreation areas are. You will also want to make sure you don't need any special permits/licenses.