Jeep® Off-Roading 101: Water and Mud


When you own a Jeep® brand vehicle, it’s hard to resist the urge to take your vehicle off-road.  We bought our Jeep 4×4 to not only experience the Jeep brand lifestyle, but also to go places without the benefit of a paved road.  Trail Rated® Jeep brand vehicles offer that opportunity.  So with the next series of articles, we’ll talk about some basic off-roading techniques and how you can safely enjoy your Jeep brand vehicle on the trail.  Off-roading can involve many different types of obstacles, each one presenting different challenges for both the driver and the vehicle.  Water fording and driving in mud are two obstacles that are fun and exciting if done properly and safely.


Knowing how to ford water and get through mud is a useful skill for every off-road driver.  Almost every off-roading area in the United States (including the desert) will eventually have a place where you will need to cross a stream, ford a large water obstacle, or drive through mud.    The two primary concerns for water and mud obstacles are safety and potential damage to your vehicle.



Water Obstacles:    Crossing streams and water obstacles are fun and exciting!   While you’ve probably seen drivers speed up and roar across a stream, it may not be the smartest thing to do in certain situations….especially through an unknown water obstacle.    The first thing you’ll need to know is your own vehicle’s capability.    It is important to check your owner’s manual to determine your vehicle’s maximum water fording depth.   As an example, a 2010 Trail Rated® Jeep Wrangler’s maximum water depth is 30 inches at speeds under 5 mph, and a 2009 Jeep Grand Cherokee is 20 inches for standing water and  9 inches for flowing water, both under 5 mph.   If you don’t have your manual handy when you get to the water, a general rule of thumb is that water up to the bottom of the bumper is an acceptable depth to cross to avoid damage (but some models may be lower).    Water that is too deep can cause damage to the engine, transmission, differentials, and electronics. Put your vehicle in 4WD Low, drive slowly, and be ready to back off if the water gets too deep.   Watch for large rocks or holes that may appear as you cross.   It’s also important to remember to keep moving at all times and not to stop mid-stream.   Never cross a water obstacle without another vehicle to assist with recovery equipment if needed.     After crossing, use your brakes lightly until they dry out.  If necessary have your vehicle inspected to check for water in the differential or transmission.



Mud:   Usually, if there is water present, there will also be mud.   Mud can also take us by surprise as it can sometimes be camouflaged by other debris.   Or….maybe you just want to go mudding!   Either way, mud can be a fun challenge on an off-road trail.   Unlike water (where you can sometimes see the depth), the depth of mud can be hard to judge.  You can get seriously stuck in mud, so it’s essential to make sure you have recovery equipment and another vehicle close by to pull you out if needed.   Do not proceed if there are no tracks on the other side of the mud hole.  The important thing about mud is to make sure you’re in 4WD, avoid excessively spinning the tires, and KEEP MOVING.   Beware of the middle of deep ruts where you could easily high-center.  If you start to get bogged down, slightly turn your steering wheel from side to side to gain more traction while continuing forward momentum.     Once you get back to civilization, use a pressure washer to clean the underside of your vehicle to get rid of excess weight and to prevent corrosion.


Water and mud can be fun and challenging off-roading obstacles.   By keeping these tips in mind, you can enjoy your Trail Rated Jeep vehicle as it was meant to be used without compromising safety and without damaging your vehicle.  Do you like water and mud obstacles?   Where is a great place in your area where water and mud can be enjoyed with your Jeep brand vehicle?


  • JOSH

    Where can I take my Jeep off roading near Chicago, and when is the next big event in this area?

    • Matt

      I’ve read of one out near seneca and one in indiana that has some awesome trails but i haven’t been able to make it to any yet and now that the weathers getting all cold, I’m not sure what hours are going to be like.  I’m from the southwest burbs, how about you?

    • mike

      Bad lands Attica Indiana

  • dave

    doesn’t need to be “trail rated” to go off road! i’ve had plenty of fun on the trails & beaches w/ my 3.7L WK w/ QT1!

  • http://yahoo,com justin

    what do i need to do to my jeep grand cherokee laredo to make it look jacked up?

    • JeepForLife94

      Justin, in order for your heep to look ”Jacked Up” (lifted) you are going to need a lift kit, and large tires I suggest a 3” or 4” lift. I have a 4” lift on my Grand Cherokee Larado and my Cherokee Sport, and I can go just about anywhere and do anything. The great thing about jeeps is they have a lot of possibilities for mods, you can do just about whatever you want to them.

  • Stephanie

    Where can I take my jeep off roading in or around San Diego!?

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  • Nate

    Just got a Jeep Wrangler JK 2013 white, hardtop with a 4in. lift kit and some 35 fule mudding grip tires :)

    More less how deep can I go in water with my lift kit and tires. Everything else is still stock?

  • jeep lover

    Just got a Jeep Wrangler JK 2013 white, hardtop with a 4in. lift kit and some 35 fule mudding grip tires :)

    More less how deep can I go in water with my lift kit and tires. Everything else is still stock?

  • AbsoluteFreedom

    The Cliffs in Marseilles is alt of fun!! Looks like rain today…perfect to take it mudding ths weekend. I’ll be there Saturday :)

    Check out their site…pull up some videos on YoutTube for the Cliffs.

  • JeepForLife94

    Any old back roads outside of town, where I can run my XJ or ZJ through a mud hole after a good rainstorm, are great places to go in my town. Love playin in the mud & water, and love my jeeps. Only vehicles I will EVER own are Jeeps and ram trucks. I just love the fact that other than a bit of a lift, my jeeps will take me anywhere I want to go. Weather that is on or off pavement, and get me there and back safely and reliably. Keep on Truckin on JEEP JEEP (O) I I I I I (O)

  • Colton XJ

    For my xj i have a 3.5 inch lift and 31 inch uniroyals, could I go bigger if i got fender flares? also Im hunting for a brush guard (preferably the one I dont know the name of but it looks like a bull, an arched type guard?) I do not know what the name of the guard is called, anyone have an idea? I posted a pic of the brushgaurd i want but i do not know the brand nor name. I want to get bf goodrich all terrains 34″ but my tires already rub, would fender flares and/or spacers make that okay? HELPPP

  • Troy Rau

    Had a 2013 JKU Rubicon with 3.5″ pro comp lift, 35″ Duratrac tires, smitty bumper and XRC8 winch, along with some other goodies. Loved taking it through mud and water, until it developed an intermittent electrical problem. Dealer told me the jeep was not made to go through water and mud, and decided not to warranty it because I did just that. Was about to file it as a lemon for reoccurring problems that the dealer told me was my fault because I took it off-road. Ended up trading it for a truck instead. Taking it through water and mud resulted in burned out computers, bad sensors, bearings failing in alternator and idle tensioner pulley, and more. I will never own another newer computerized Jeep.

  • Jeepster

    which type of jeep is the best for offroading

  • angelm

    i have a jeep patriot 2009, i wanted to know if i could go mudding or through rivers in it and if i got a 2in lift on it, how deep could i go?

  • Leroy

    I have a 98 jeep grand Cherokee with a 6 inch lift 33 inch Mickey Thomson Baja mtz , ok is this jeep eligible to go thru water fyi it does have 4 wheel drive

    • 2007jk

      all 98 grands have 4×4 and yes it is eligable to go through water my 98 has taken me through 2+ feet of water with just 33 tires no lift

  • JesseDean

    I am new to this blog. I have a boxy body style 2001 Jeep Cherokee with a 3 1/2 inch suspension lift on 33 inch wild country mud terrains. I have a whole bunch of questions that I will be asking. I really enjoy reading everyone’s comments. Thanks