The days are shorter, pumpkin spice everything is everywhere, and average temperatures have finally dipped below 80 degrees. You know what that means—desert season! As RVs and trucks with trailers caravan east on the I-8, you’re probably pulling your own desert toys out of storage. But getting ATVs and quads—and even Jeeps, trucks and dirt bikes—ready for months of off-roading fun involves more than wiping away the summer storage dust. There are several basic tasks you’ll need to complete to make sure your first weekend trip isn’t spent in mechanical frustration:
Replace the fuel
Old fuel is no good, even if you last filled up in late spring, and the few random rainstorms we’ve had since then means water might have seeped into the tank. That means you’ll need to remove the fuel line and drain the fuel, and then remove and replace the fuel filter. Then you can reattach the fuel line and pour in fresh gas, ensuring your vehicle won’t be a sputtering, stuttering mess on your first ride of the season.
Check the truck or car tires before offroading
After months of sitting idle, temperature and atmospheric pressure changes can cause tires to leak air, so you’ll need to check the pressure and adjust according to the conditions you’ll be riding in—drier sand requires lower tire pressure. You’ll also need to inspect the tires for deep cracks, punctures, or other disasters waiting to happen, and if you’ve been thinking about trying out the dunes farther east, keep your eye out for deals on paddle tires.
Buy a puncture kit
Even if your tires from last season are good to go, it’s a good idea to pick up a puncture kit before heading out far beyond AAA’s reach. Spare tires are great but every serious off-roader knows how common multiple flats are, so it’s better to be prepared to fix them yourself than suffer the alternative: spending the remainder of your weekend stuck in your fold-up chair, watching everyone else tear it up.
Clean or replace the air filter in your car or truck
Something else every serious off-roader and desert camping enthusiast knows: sand gets into everything. Off road vehicles won’t run without clean air, and the accumulation of sand, dirt, and grime in your intake system will drain your horsepower. That’s why it’s crucial to clean out your air filter and airbox before heading out, or replacing the filter if it has seen one too many seasons. You might also consider getting a pre-filter, which will prolong the life of your air filter and make it easier to clean.
Clean the chain, but don’t lube before offroading
The same pesky sand that clogs up your air filter can also wear down your drive parts with its characteristic abrasiveness if it gets stuck in the chain. That’s why you shouldn’t use regular chain lube, which is a magnet for sand. Instead, use light chain oil or WD40 after cleaning off last season’s gunk.
Check the coolant
Even though it’s no longer triple-digit degrees in the desert, that doesn’t mean you should let coolant levels slide. Driving on sand makes engines work harder, so check your coolant before you ride and throughout the day---and don’t forget to bring extra coolant with you, along with extra gas and oil.
Consider a truck lift kit
If your off-roading preference is trucks and SUVs but you’ve been relying on stock features like four-wheel drive and rugged tires, you might want to consider leveling up with a lift kit. Suspension lifts add clearance and room for larger tires, allowing you to trek into areas you wouldn’t have dared last season.
Give your car or truck a test ride before offroading
After cleaning, checking, replacing, and ensuring your vehicle is in tip-top desert condition, the last thing you should do before heading east is fire up that engine and take a few test laps around the neighborhood. If there’s a mechanical issue you missed, it’s much better to figure it out at home with access to tools and parts shops than out in the sandy wilderness.
The desert beckons. Are you ready?
Desert season doesn’t last long, so if you’ve been putting off that pre-season maintenance, now’s the time to dust off your off-road vehicle of choice. And if you’re considering a suspension lift kit, Stereo Depot can help. Our locations in San Diego and El Cajon have lift kit experts that will answer all your questions and help you pick out the right kit for your ride. We can also help you deck out your vehicles with killer sound and lighting. So stop in today!