Knowing your off-roader’s wading depth is important so you can assess what water sources you can safely cross with it. Entering water deeper than the manufacturers wading depth recommendation, will result in water being sucked into the engine, causing severe damage.
Therefore, I investigated just how deep a Jeep Cherokee can go in water.
The wading depth of a Jeep Cherokee is 508mm (20 inches) in standing water and 230mm (9 inches) in flowing water. This is a measurement specified by Jeep, and can be found in the owner’s manual. If you are unsure of your cars wading depth, a safe field-measure is always the top of the wheels.
You are probably thinking, “Sure – I’ll just waterproof the car”, but there are several factors that affect your Cherokee’s wading depth. These are discussed in the section below.
Factors that affect wading depth
- Engine air intake
The first thing that probably comes to mind when you are considering entering the water is that your engine needs a water free air intake. This is true, and many Cherokee owners have invested in a snorkel to lift the engines air intake to about roof height.
- Electronics & diff
Secondly, you may consider waterproofing your electronics, and if you are an experienced off-roader, you are probably considering raising the diff breather extension tubes and extending the breather tubes of your gearbox and transfer case.
- Door seals
This almost goes without saying – but waterproofing your cars doors saves you a lot of pain and effort in drying out your car after a water adventure. As an addition, if you keep the inside of your car dry, the interior electronics are also protected from direct water contact and excessive moisture.
You can do this by keeping them clean of dirt and grime and by cleaning and drying them after a muddy submersion. Several treatment products, such as silicone spray or WD40, are also available on the market that you can use to moisturize and protect the rubber, which will extend the life of your door seals.
There is one more thing that affects your cars wading depth that you need to keep in mind.
You car will, at some point in deep water, start to float – simply because it is basically a big air bubble with air filled tires. Floating is a great idea when you are swimming, but for a car floating means no traction, and no traction means you are at the mercy of the current.
There is also an additional danger in that a floating car can be tipped over by the current, which can result in serious damage to the car and injuries to the passengers. In the least, it will cost you a very expensive tow back to civilization, in addition to a comprehensive service.
Surely, these factors will allow you to cross deeper waters? The answer is “Yes”, it will help you cross deeper water without stalling or doing serious damage to your engine. This is especially true if the duration in the water is short. When wading through deep water becomes a regular thing, more frequent and thorough services are necessary.
Post trip – cleaning and servicing
This is essential for the proper functioning of your Cherokee (Source).
Make sure to clean your Cherokee properly on the outside and inside, as dirt traps moisture and encourages rust. Dirt also causes wear and tear in moving parts, so giving the car’s undercarriage a proper power hose down is vital.
This is also an opportunity to check the cars exterior for any paint damage that may result in rust. Make sure to treat these spots with rust proof paint.
First, check the air filter after every trip, depending on how dirty your drive was, it may need to be replaced. Secondly, the car’s suspension takes a lot of stress while driving off road, so check the shocks for leaks or damage from rocks and debris.
Thirdly, make sure everything that needs lubrication is well oiled and greased. Lastly, check that everything is tightened up. Nuts and bolts can loosen with the vibration of driving a bumpy road, and will need to be fastened again. This is especially true for additional equipment and modifications that were made to the car.
Safety tips for crossing deep water
Stopping for a break before crossing a water source is very important. Not only does it allow your car to cool down before entering cold water, but it gives you time to plan your tip through the water. Here are some things to think about:
- Water depth, current and flow speed.
- It may be a good option to either confer with someone, who knows the route, on the water depth and capabilities needed to make the crossing. Alternatively, you can try to wade in if the water is safe, to assess the depth yourself.
- A stronger current may mean less slippery riverbed as slow moving water gathers sediment. Be careful though, a very strong current may drag you along and can tip your car over.
- Determine the best entry and exit points.
- Taking the wrong angle to start with can end up with you being stuck in the water. The last thing you want to do is drive around in the water to find the best exit point!
- Consider the steepness of the entry and exit points compared to the clearance of your car, while choosing the most direct path through.
- Check for obstacles.
- You can even consider staking out the route beforehand to ensure you follow the safest route.
- Keep a steady pace.
- Once you have decided on a route, put the car into automatic 4WD (low range) and leave it in drive to maintain a steady pace. For manual transmissions, second gear is better than first to maintain a steady speed.
- Check for debris or damage upon exit.
- Once you have safely exited the water, try to keep the car on a slight incline to allow water to drain from the undercarriage. Then perform a manual check to remove any debris stuck to the underside of the car, before you proceed on your journey.
What about mud?
Water and mud are usually not mutually exclusive when it comes to the outdoors. Driving through mud can be a fun challenge for your Cherokee. It will be difficult to estimate the depth of the mud, unless you are willing to submerge yourself.
To be on the safe side, consider the following Jeep tips:
- Check for tire tracks on the exit end of the mud. No exit tracks probably mean that no one is getting through, and you should not try to.
- It is easy to get bogged down in mud, so have your recovery equipment near-by. Better yet, make sure to have a companion car that can tow you out if you are stuck.
- Always drive in 4WD as this will prevent spinning and getting stuck in the mud.
- Do not stop, just keep moving.
- If you are bogged down, turn the steering wheel slightly from side to side to help the tires grip.
- Make sure to wash your Cherokee’s undercarriage with a power-hose when you get home, to remove all the mud.
Now that you know what to expect, take that Cherokee on a well-deserved adventure, and make sure to get it wet!