Off-Road Terminology

Like any specialized field, off-road enthusiasts have their own terminology and jargon.  You will rarely hear some of these terms in ordinary conversation but you will see it in on-line blogs and certainly hear it in groups of real off-roaders.  Thanks to East Hills Jeep of Greenvale, NY, a full service Jeep, Chrysler, Dodge, Ram dealer, for their assistance with this article.

AIR DOWN: Lowering the pressure in a vehicle’s tires to improve traction. This is commonly done when one is stuck in sand or mud.  Usually you have an air compressor with you so you can inflate the tires back up when you hit the road again.

APPROACH ANGLE: The maximum angle that a 4×4 vehicle can climb up without causing vehicle damage.  Most owners know approximately what the approach angle is of their vehicle and they avoid climbing obstacles that are any higher than that angle. The approach angle of a 2015 Jeep Wrangler Rubicon is 44.3 degrees.

ARMOR-CLAD: A vehicle that is equipped with heavy-duty skidplates. Skidplates are usually aftermarket parts that owners install under the critical areas of their off-road vehicles.  For example, under the radiator and engine area.  You don’t want rocks and stumps jamming up into that area when you are off-road.

BEATER: A beat up old vehicle that is mechanically sound. This term is used for street cars as well as off-road vehicles.

FULL-FLOATER:  A rearend design in which the axles don’t carry the weight of the vehicle.  The tires are fully supported by special bearings and no load is transmitted to the rest of the axle.  This is the preferred setup for off-roading because if the axle breaks, the vehicle can still roll freely. 

GRANNY GEAR: A granny gear is an ultralow first gear in a manual transmission, typically with a ratio between 4.3:1 and 7.0:1. The term was likely generated because when you drive in a “Granny Gear,” the vehicle creeps along very slowly.    

GRENADE: To blow up a part on your vehicle. Trannies, transfer cases, and engines can all “grenade.”

LIFTED: A vehicle that is raised by either a body lift, lift springs or some other means. Lifting a vehicle is generally done so that the body isn’t damaged when going off-road.  

LOCKER: A locking differential is a special differential that allows engine power to be delivered to both wheels under all conditions. This means that you can’t have one wheel spinning on a given axle when you are in slippery conditions or when one wheel is off the ground. 

MONDO: A term that has come to mean any object that is large, huge, or massive. 

PTO: A Power Take-Off is an output shaft on the transfer case that sends engine power to accessories.  On some off-road vehicles, the front mounted winch is powered by a PTO.

PUMPKIN: The center section of a front or rear differential housing.  It is referred to as a pumpkin because it is roughly shaped like one.

SNATCH BLOCK: A snatch block is pulley device that is used multiple the force of a winch or to change the winch’s direction of pull.

TAIL GUNNER: The tail gunner is the last vehicle in a trail-ride caravan.

TALL GEARS: Gears with a numerically lower ratio; 3.72:1 gears are taller than 4.1:1 gears.  Generally taller gears yield higher gas mileage because the engine doesn’t need to turn as fast for a given speed.

T-CASE: Short for Transfer Case. A device usually attached directly to the transmission. The transfer case is a gearbox that splits engine power to the front and rear axles.

THRASHED: When something has been used far beyond its limit.

TWEAKING:  Modifying something to enhance performance.  The sport of off-roading utilizes a lot of tweaks.  The term is used a great deal.

TREE-SAVER: A nylon strap designed to go around a tree to protect it while it’s being used as an anchor point for winching.

YANK STRAP: A large nylon strap used for pulling out stuck vehicles. Also referred to as a tow strap.

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