Dishing Dirt: 5 Rules of Mudding

April 22nd, 2015 by David Beran

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As snow masses melt, spring rain falls and fields swell with water, there’s one byproduct that turns out to be a boon for off-roaders: mud. Whether you’re situated down South, back East, in the Midwest or in the Pacific Northwest, it’s officially mud season. Bogs, fields and marshes are all fair ground for muddy runs and innovative enthusiasts are always discovering new ways to have good, dirty fun in the mud.

The South is home to a bevy of bogs, bayous and marshes. In the East, logging trails are a favored mudding ground and the surrounding trees make it easier to winch out. The Midwest has snowy fields that melt and saturate the ground, creating a slushy, soupy bog. It’s too wet to grow anything in yet, but perfect for slinging mud. Up in the Pacific Northwest, it can be a straight road with a dip in it where a muddy bog has formed naturally or a running creek in the woods where mudders flock to.

There are also manmade mud bogs. For instance, the annual Mud-N-Yer-Eye Frolic happens this weekend at the Hollister Hills State Vehicular Recreation Area (HH-SVRA) in Hollister, California. For three days, April 24-26, there will be obstacle courses, trail runs and lots of muddy fun. The 4-Wheel Jamboree Nationals happen in Lima, Ohio (May 15-17), Bloomsburg, Pennsylvania (July 10-12) and Indianapolis, Indiana (September 18-20) all feature mud bog challenges for registered 4x4s. Participants run these in their stock rigs with all-terrain tires.

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We’ve assembled a few rules and guidelines for mudding that promote safety, fun and good old-fashioned common sense.

Rule #1 When in Doubt, Power Out: The skinny pedal is your friend. As long as you’re moving, keep wheels spinning and stay on the gas. It’s possible to go mudding in a 2-wheel drive vehicle, but 4-wheel drive is preferred. As a general rule, bigger is better when it comes to mud and that means bigger tires, axles and horsepower.

Rule #2 Know Your Mud: There are three basic types of mud to know about and appropriate tires for each of them. They are:

  • Clay-Type Mud – you need a good clean tire to take on clay-type mud. To keep mud from clinging to your tread, use Pam cooking spray or WD40.
  • Dirt Mud – the spray method still works and Super Swamper tires are recommended. When you have a bottom, you go with a tire that digs. In a bottomless scenario, use flotation tires like Super Swamper TSLs.
  • Watery Mud – you can get by with street tires like BFGoodrich Mud Terrains or Pro Comp MT2s.

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Rule #3 Use the Right Tires: This is an offshoot of the previous rule. You want tires that will help your vehicle sling mud, but it all depends on the type of vehicle. Horsepower, lift height, and wider/taller tires are generally better. There are two schools of thought – Cut in: a narrow tire cuts into mud like a pizza wheel; or Float on Top: A larger, wider tire with a lesser arc allows you to float on mud with the widest possible traction patch.

Rule #4 Winch Correctly: Hard-lining a winch is a bad idea with mud because mud creates suction. When you’re winching in mud, treat it like a tug of war. Engage your winch, let it pull tight, then pause – pulling a little at a time. This will release the suction and allow your winch to cool.  A good rule of thumb when you’re stuck is to go back the way you came instead of going deeper. This is almost always your best route out.  Pre-staging a rear tow point with a strap to your Receiver hitch is easier than fishing for a tow point when you’re buried.

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Rule #5 Be Aware of Risks: There’s always a risk of damage to your vehicle and it’s not unheard of to break a driveshaft or axle shaft, shred a tire or hydro-lock your motor. Before your adventure, mud-proof your engine, suspension, axles and transmission by spraying them with WD40 to prevent mud from clinging. Avoid rocks that can cause damage and remember if you catch a stump in the mud and your steering wheel jerks you can seriously hurt your thumbs. Know the weather and be aware of flash floods that occur naturally in bogging areas. Finally, bring a change of clothes for gosh sakes. A trash bag full of dry towels and socks can save the day out on the trail. Also, bring a couple of gallons of water in spare water jugs to douse your windows before you take a shot with your wipers. Mud is water, dirt and rocks that are hard on glass, and rinsing with water first can keep you from scratching your windshield.

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About the Author: David Beran

As a professional inkspiller living in Los Angeles, I’ve written in industries ranging from entertainment to employment to automotive. Terrain I cover includes off-road events and races, budget builds, custom mods, EVs and the latest innovations in aftermarket 4x4 parts. I’m always eager to learn about new trends in 4x4s and my motto is “go off-road or go home.” Google+ is the destination for my dispatches: https://plus.google.com/+DavidBeran/posts.

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