In Rollover 101, we discussed multiple things when it comes to rolling your vehicle. We started with simply avoiding the roll to begin with and how to prep your rig in case of a roll. We covered the importance of a quality cage, how to load your vehicle, and what to do while your rig is rolling other than scream and think about how much that roll is going to hurt your bank account.
Once you roll your rig; however, it is not just a matter of just flipping it back over and continuing down the trail. Many more critical steps need to be taken to protect yourself and your vehicle, so roll with me here and keep reading.
As soon as your roll as stopped, immediately key the vehicle completely off. Make sure you check right away if your passengers are OK by asking them to respond. If everyone is OK, shift the vehicle into park and engage the parking brake if you can while still strapped into the seat. This step is critical for later with the recovery.
If there is anyone outside of the vehicle like a spotter, ask them if the rig is safe and in a place where it may not continue to roll. They may have to stabilize the vehicle with a tow strap or winch line before you extract yourself out of it.
“Keith was having a bad day on Fordyce. It was going to be worse when he got home and had to explain this to his wife.”
Your adrenaline will be pumping, and you may be in a rush to get out of your vehicle right away, but unless your vehicle is on fire, take your time. If you are hanging upside down, put one hand on the roof, and unbuckle your seat belt. It is even better if you can use two hands and have anyone outside the vehicle unbuckle it for you. Be especially careful of any broken glass and exit the vehicle slowly and carefully.
If there is anyone with a neck or back injury, do not move them. Call 9-1-1 immediately if anyone is injured severely. If you are out of cell range, ham radio can be a lifesaver and is almost mandatory on trails like the Rubicon, where there is no cell reception.
Many years ago, on Deer Valley trail, our little group of Jeeps pulled off to the side of the trail to take a break and get something to eat. One of my club members in a YJ thought it would be funny to crawl his driver’s side tire up a big rock and park at a ridiculous angle, so we all watched as he inched up the boulder….and proceeded to watch him flop his rig on the passenger side.
In that the vehicle landed on a kind of a gentle downhill slope, the front of the vehicle had shifted where we could just push him right back over, and he would be good to go. So after he extracted himself from the Jeep and took our ribbing for a few minutes, all of us got together and pushed his rig back on its wheels….only to have it roll down the hill with no one in it and crash into a tree.
Lesson learned. ALWAYS make sure a rolled vehicle is in “park” or in gear with the parking brake on before you flip it back over. We also made a huge mistake by pushing the vehicle over by hand.
“Always strap to the high side of the rig.”
It is MUCH safer to recover a rolled vehicle with a tow strap or winch line connected to the center of the rolled rig around the frame rail. Ideally, you should have a couple more straps attached to the frame at wider points and tossed over the vehicle to slow the momentum when the vehicle is rolled back onto the tires. I have seen people dig holes next to the tires nearest the ground to make sure the vehicle does not slide when it is recovered, but this is not often possible on rock trails and may not be considered “responsible recreation.”
While you do not want to leave your vehicle on its top or side for too long because of the vehicle fluids, you also do not want to rush the recovery so much that you are doing it unsafely. Take your time, be smart, and think it through, and make sure the area is clear of people when you right your rig.
“You ain’t hardcore until you use a log to recover your rig.”
Once you get your vehicle righted, DO NOT start your engine right away. You will want to let it sit for a few minutes to ensure all the fluids in the vehicle flow back to where they should be. Take this downtime to go over your entire rig, checking for damage thoroughly. If the front of your hood crushed, make sure you double-check your radiator and coolant hoses for damage.
One thing I highly suggest is to take a tip from the racing crowd. Once all of your bolts are torqued correctly, especially on your suspension and steering, paint a white line across the bolt on to the surface of what it is bolted into. If the line on the bolt does not match the line on the surface, you can instantly see if the bolts have backed off and loosened up with just a visual check because the lines will not match. If you do this before a wheeling trip, checking all the suspension after a roll is a breeze.
“Painted lines on bolts help to show if they backed off.”
After the rig has sat for a few minutes, check ALL of your fluid levels. Do not forget to check the ATF in your transmission if you have an automatic. Top off everything that is low. Make sure you use a spill kit and clean up any fluid leaks that you may have left on the trail and clean up anything you may have yard-sale’d. Please also make sure you carefully pick up any glass off the trail if you managed to break a windshield.
After your damage assessment and topping off of fluids, comes the moment of truth. Odds are, your engine is just fine, and it will crank over no problem, but there IS a possibility it could be hydro-locked after being on its lid, especially if you left it upside down for too long while taking pictures for your Instagram account. You want to play it safe here by doing the following:
Turn the key forward, and ever-so LIGHTLY, bump the starter, then key it off right away. You do not want the engine to crank over and start; you just want it to turn over to hear if there is any resistance. If it seemed to spin freely, try to bump the starter a second time for just a little longer. If there is a “chunk” noise, or there seemed to be some resistance, you may be hydro-locked. Cranking it anymore could seriously damage your engine. You will have to pull all your plugs and turn the engine over to clear out the cylinders.
If the engine seemed to spin fine, try to crank it over. Once your vehicle starts, it will blow white smoke out the exhaust like you poured a gallon of Seafoam down a carburetor. This is just the oil burning off in the cylinders; eventually, it should subside.
Now is not the time to pound on your rig. Take it easy and slow for a while, listening for any weird noises from below. It is a good idea after driving for a little while to get out a couple more times and check to make sure everything is working correctly, especially your steering and suspension.
If you did not trailer your Jeep to the trail and have to drive it home, you may need to make a judgment call if it is safe enough or not for the road. A broken windshield can be a big issue, and I have seen people actually stop at a hardware store to buy a sheet of clear plastic to tape to the windshield frame.
Many people in the 4×4 world may say that the things I have suggested in this article are over-kill in terms of being careful. I know a lot of guys that just flip their rigs right back over and go, but it is always better to err on the side of safety.
Read Part 1 here.