While the majority of headlines coming out of Detroit focus on the escalating power wars and how insane the Mustang, Challenger, and Corvette have gotten over the years, the recent debuts of the Jeep Gladiator, Ford Raptor, and Chevy Blazer have all attracted plenty of attention. Everyone loves a beefy sports car, to be certain, but off-roading has a huge and growing fanbase, as well.
But just like any popular pastime, there are plenty of misconceptions that surround off-roading (or overlanding, as it has become known more recently). Getting to the truth about off-roading requires knowledge, research, and the kind of experience that can only be earned during a serious situation out in the middle of nowhere.
From straight-up lies told by dealers and proliferated online to legit arguments that can keep a campfire crowd yelling all night long, keep scrolling for 16 off-roading myths people still believe for some reason.
16 Jeeps Can Go Anywhere
Plenty of would-be off-roaders figure that if they just run over to their local Jeep dealer and pick up a Wrangler, they're ready to hit the Rubicon Trail. But though the Wrangler is probably the best off-roading vehicle for the money when it leaves the factory, all the doo-dads in the world can't help an amateur navigate serious off-road terrain.
15 Four-Wheel Drive
Old guys who off-road know the limitations of themselves and their vehicles, often saying, "I've got four-wheel drive! I can go anywhere and get stuck!" The truth of the saying has been proved over and over again by overconfident drivers who presume that their four-wheel drive, even with three locking diffs, will get them through anything and everything.
14 All-Wheel Drive
These days, more and more cars feature an all-wheel-drive variant from the factory. But plenty of these all-wheel-drive systems are actually designed for performance on smooth tarmac, not off-roading. Case in point is the R8 above. Sure, throwing on a roof rack and hitting the ski slopes may sound fun with the R8's Quattro, but all-wheel drive definitely has its limitations.
Limited-slip differentials can certainly help with traction both for sports cars and off-roading, but just because a car has an LSD doesn't mean it's going to roar through anything. Just look at the Subaru above—Subarus use Torsen differentials (which are actually torque biasing, not limited-slip) but can and do still get stuck anyway.
The major differences between a base Jeep Wrangler and its Rubicon big brother come in the form of locking differentials, though of course, other goodies make Rubicons better off-roaders, as well. But even having a locking front, center, and rear diff won't save a Rubicon from the gnarliest conditions—good sense is the best off-roading gear to travel with.
11 Sway Bars
Another goodie that the Rubicon package adds that base Wranglers don't leave the factory equipped with is automatically disconnecting sway bars. This feature allows the driver (or a mischevious passenger) to click a button from the comfort of their seat in order to allow for more suspension travel. But as sweet as they may sound, disconnecting sway bars aren't the end-all, be-all of off-roading.
10 That Lift
Huge lifted trucks often draw plenty of derision from other drivers on the road, especially given the kinds of people who drive them. But in the off-roading community, experienced drivers are equally likely to chuckle when a truck or Jeep rolls by with a ridiculous ride height because raising a vehicle too high actually makes off-roading more difficult, not to mention dangerous.
9 Those Tires
Most of the malls in America have plenty of lifted Jeep Wranglers in their parking lots, all equipped with Old Man Emu lifts, huge knobby tires, and hi-lift jacks—though very few of them ever earn any mud splatter by going off-roading. Those 40-inch tires are another myth about off-roading that persists online, despite not being necessary for good, dirty fun.
8 Diesel Is Better
Much like the manual versus automatic transmission argument, another split exists in the off-roading community between gasoline and diesel fans. The division is more extant internationally, where diesel is more popular, to be fair, but this is another silly argument that's all too common. Diesel may have benefits like better low-end torque and fuel economy, but sometimes it's not ideal for off-roading.
7 Gasoline Is Better
Diesel engines offer better low-end torque, fuel economy, and sturdier engines, but gasoline-powered off-roaders have advantages in sand and snow, where maintaining speed can be important. But gasoline isn't the greatest substance to travel with, even if a gas Jeep is preferable for fording rivers, too. The point is that the argument can go both ways.
6 Hi-Lift Jacks
The prevalence of hi-lift jacks mounted on the backs of Jeep Wranglers in towns across the country vastly outnumbers how many Jeeps actually go off-roading. And even during an off-roading adventure, hi-lift jacks are really the last option for getting out of a jam. Essentially, the plan is to jack the vehicle up and drop it, which is ridiculously unsafe for the vehicle and everyone standing around, too.
5 Slow And Steady
The old child's tale about the slow-and-steady tortoise winning the race is typically brought up at any point during bachelor parties and off-roading trips. But while slow and steady might be best on steep terrain and while bouldering, maintaining speed is crucial for traversing sand dunes and in snowy conditions, too.
4 Skid Plates
Bolting skid plates onto the bottom of lowered sports cars to protect the oil pan has become all too common thanks to the ease of CNC machining and online ordering. The trend has also spread among off-roaders who believe their rig just isn't complete without skid plates protecting every surface. But if a rig is really skidding that much, the driver needs to seriously start doubting themselves.
Modern cars and truck manufacturers increasingly rely on forced induction to boost power output while improving fuel economy. The only disadvantages to turbochargers and superchargers are increased complexity and compression ratios. But as much as street drives may fret that their boost levels are too high, off-roaders need to get real about the fact that turbocharging their engine is probably a bad idea—just imagine blowing a turbo in the middle of nowhere.
2 Manual Is Better
One huge misconception that off-roaders are perfectly willing to argue until the sun comes up is that manual transmissions are essential for leaving the tarmac. But as fun as it may be to rev the engine in a sports car, off-roading doesn't always call for a stick shift. In fact, certains situations including steep descents and sand may make an automatic transmission more desirable.
1 Automatic Is Better
For every gearhead who swears that every car they ever buy will be a stick shift, there are plenty of true automotive aficionados who swear by automatic transmissions. Off-roading culture is no different, proving that humans love to build dichotomies where none truly exist. The reality is that some situations are easier to handle with an automatic while others are easier with a stick shift.
Sources: 4 Wheeling in Western Australia, Wikipedia, and