Chop Shop 4x4 Off-Road Professional Technicians & Subject Matter Experts


Posted on May 21, 2018 by Sesar Gonzalez | 0 Comments

Everything You Need to Check in Your Pre and Post 4X4 Inspections


There’s something special about flipping your vehicle into 4x4 and blasting through giant puddles, all the while your wheels are spinning mud in every direction.

For those who haven’t 4x4ed before, it’s one of those things that you can only relate to if you are into off-roading. Whether you are a new or experienced driver, there are several things you are going to want to know about before you set out on the trails. And if you are new, we recommend you familiarize yourself with some of the basics of 4x4ing.

When it comes to 4x4ing, it’s important that you complete a thorough pre and post-4x4 inspection. This will help you top up the right fluids, check the integrity of key systems, and make sure that your vehicle will make it through the trip without any problems. Because when you’re out on the trails, getting stuck isn’t fun and a costly mistake to make.

In this article, we are going to talk about the following:

  • The steps to take in your pre-4x4 inspection
  • A few must-have accessories for every off-roader
  • The things you need to check in your post-4x4 inspection
  • How to ship your vehicle if you are travelling to distant events
  • A few extra tips to help you get more out of your 4x4ing.

The Pre-4x4 Inspection

You’ve got a few things to check before you actually set out. As fun as off-roading is, it puts a lot of strain on your vehicle and you want to ensure it’s up to the task. The best way to make sure you’re prepared is to complete a thorough pre-4x4 inspection.

Don’t worry, we’re going to walk you through it step by step.

  1. Check Your Lights

We know this makes us sound like the cops, but you need to have working lights. This means that your headlights, reverse lights, brake lights, and indicators need to all be working. And this rule is even more important if you are off-roading with a group.

Lights are so simple, but they are an essential form of communication out there on the trails. This is especially true if you find yourself off-roading at dusk or night.

Here’s a great example.

On dusty roads, your taillights help other drivers behind you judge distance and reduce the likelihood that they will hit you.

Do the right thing and check all your lights. Cycle through each of their settings, and determine that they are lighting up when turned on.

  1. Check Your Fluids

You’re about to put your vehicle under a lot of strain. There are several fluids you are going to need to check, replace, and top up.

  • Oil: Start by checking your oil. If your current batch of oil is even remotely close to being finished, change it.
  • Windshield Washer Fluid: Some people forget to do is top up their windshield washer fluid. It’s not always going to clear your windshield, but it’s nice to have for those moments where you need a little extra visibility.
  • Radiator Fluids:Fill your radiator overflow bottle. Your engine is going to be working very hard while you rip through puddles, ditches, and other obstacles. In cooler areas, you won’t have to worry about your engine overheating as much, but if you’re 4x4ing in a dry and hot locations like in California, Arizona, Utah, or Nevada, your radiator is going to be working overtime.
  • Brake Fluid: Check your brake fluid. Losing your brakes during off-roading is a terrifying experience and something that I don’t recommend for anyone.
  • Power Steering Fluid: Top off if needed.

  1. Check Your Belts

If you’ve ever had a belt snap while on the trails, you know how important it is to check your belts. Start by looking at the alternator, fan, and power steering belts. Any belts that appear dry, worn, and cracked should be replaced.

Oh, one more thing.

Remember that old belt? If it still works and is just worn, keep it. You can use it in emergencies should your other, newer belt snap while out on the trails.

  1. Check Your Battery

The first thing you want to check is if your battery is clamped down tight. A loose can dislodge, become disconnected, and can cause other issues that you won’t want to deal with when you’re driving.

You will also want to make sure that your battery isn’t corroding. Applying a little bit of grease on the terminals can help protect it from oxidation.

  1. Check Your Wheels / Tires

There’s no off-roading without a decent set of tires. If you have time, take your wheels off the vehicle and check the inside of your tires for any damage that may cause a flat.

Here’s a few other things you need to check:

  • Tire tread depth:If your tires have less than 30% of their original tread depth, you may want to change them.
  • Tire tread wear:Look to see if the wear on your tires is even. If it isn’t, you may need a wheel alignment.
  • Foreign objects: Make sure there are no foreign objects embedded in your tires. On a long trip, a random piece of metal could puncture your tire and cause a flat.
  • Side walls:Scan them to see if there are any splits, bubbles, and foreign objects.
  • Spare wheel: Many people forget about their spare wheel. Take the time to check it out. You never know when you are going to need it.


  1. Check Your Brakes

Brakes are easy to diagnose because you can often detect them by simply driving the vehicle. Still, we recommend you take a look at your brake pads and rotors.

For your pads, check that they aren’t past the indicators. When it comes to your rotors, you need to look for any major signs of wear or cracks.

  1. Check Your Suspension

If you have a reliable jack, raise your vehicle and inspect its suspension system. You want to check whether the suspension is intact, that the ball joints are functional and haven’t split, and that the steering rack is in working order.

  1. Check Your Winch

Are you planning to off-road in a muddy area? You’re going to need a working winch. If you already have one, test it out by pulling it all the way out. See if it will properly pull your vehicle when engaged.

  1. Check Your 4x4 Settings

You’re almost ready to go. The last thing you will want to test out is your 4x4 settings. Head over to somewhere with low traction. We recommend a gravel road or grass. Throw your vehicle into 4x4-low to see if the system engages and provides you with the traction you need.

Did Everything Check Out? You’re Ready to Go

This list may seem extensive, but trust us, you need your vehicle to be in peak condition before you put it to the test out there on the trails.

You can’t avoid major breakdowns, but you can easily prevent simple ones from happening with routine checkups and maintenance.

The Post 4x4 Inspection

Upon returning, you’re going to need to check several things.

  1. Identify Problems from Your Trip

Can you recall any times where you hit a ditch hard, knocked against a boulder, or any other situations where you may have damaged your vehicle? If so, start by checking those potential problem areas. Take note of these problem areas and make arrangements to have them fixed.

  1. Clean Your Vehicle

I’m willing to bet that your vehicle is filthy. After all, it’s not off-roading if you don’t come back with a little mud and dust.

  • Grab a hose and start cleaning the exterior of your vehicle.
  • Hose off and dislodge any mud from the undercarriage.
  • Blast the engine compartment to dislodge any debris that make its way inside.
  • Clean your tires and the inside of your wheels.

It’s going to be a lot easier for you to see spot new damage if you can actually see the damage.

  1. Check Your Tires

The main reason why you need to check your tires is to see if you have any punctures. The day you get home, check your tire pressure and repeat this step the next day. If you spot a noticeable difference in your tire pressure, you may have a leak.

  1. Check Your Differential / Transmission

There’s a good chance that your differential and transmission took a beating during your trip. Look for any damage and leaks. Be prepared to change your transmission fluid if you were in deep water. If the fluid is milky-white, it has likely been contaminated and will need to be changed.

  1. Check Your Shocks

Take a look at your shocks as well. You’ll want to see if they have any dents or leaks.

  1. Check Your Brakes (Again)

We never said you wouldn’t have to check many of the same things again. The main thing you are looking for when it comes to your brakes is any noticeable damage.

If you were off-roading in mud or sand, scan your brake drums and make sure they aren’t full of it.

  1. Check Your Suspension / Steering

Slide under your vehicle and take a look at your track bar, control arms, springs, bump stops, and general steering column. While underneath, you should check for any major signs of damage, dents, and looseness.

  1. Grease Your Vehicle’s Joints

If you drove through fairly rough conditions, you may need to grease the joints and bearings of your vehicle.

  1. Check Your Frame

Walk around your vehicle and check its frame for any noticeable cracks, dents, and ensure that any weld lines and high stress areas are still intact.

  1. Check Your Engine

It wouldn’t be 4x4ing if you didn’t put your engine to the test. Show your vehicle some love by inspecting its engine. You’ll want to look for any leaks, check any hoses, clamps, and determine if anything is worn out.

  1. Check Your Fluids

Just like before you set out, you’ll want to check your fluids and make sure nothing is low or leaking. Because you filled all your fluids before you left, it’ll be easy for you to determine if anything is damaged or leaking.

  1. Check Your Winch

The last thing we recommend you do is to check your winch again. If you tested it before you left and never used it, chances are that it will still work. Still, we recommend that you do a quick test.

Shipping Overseas? No Problem

If you’re planning to ship your vehicle overseas, or to any of the trails we recommend throughout the United States, you’ll want to follow the general steps we outlined earlier in the article.

The most popular form of shipping your vehicle is the roll-on, roll-off method. However, in order to prepare your vehicle for shipping, you’ll need to follow a few basic steps and it will need to be in working order.

Rinse and Repeat for Your Next Trip

And there you have it. You’ve just completed a thorough pre- and post-4x4 inspection. There are a lot of things you have to check if you want to keep your 4x4 vehicle in good shape. You may skip many of the steps we’ve recommended, but we wanted to provide a thorough guide to teach new and experienced off-roaders the type of things they should look out for.

No matter what you decide, always prioritize safety and keep blazing those trails.



Connect with us on our new LINKEDIN company page!

Posted on February 28, 2017 by Sesar Gonzalez | 0 Comments

Linkedin Now supports The Chop Shop LLC and its mission to prepare you for adventure. Our professional 4x4 installation services, quality 4x4 products, excellent customer service, off-road subject matter expertise are ready to set you up for adventure. Our professional technicians are second to none. They have decades of experience in installing: suspension systems, shocks, springs, control arms, leaf springs, coil springs, coil-overs, struts, radius arms, 4 links, 3 links, panhard bars, track bars, steering linkages, hydraulic steering, mounting and balancing tires, bead-lock wheels, and all necessities for off-road adventure. The Counter staff of Subject Matter Experts have all the experience to get you ready for adventure. Military trained staff with passion for adventure are the best America has. Follow us to gain insight on The Chop Shop and be ready for your adventure.

5 jeeps and a prius in the mojave desert

Posted on December 18, 2016 by Sesar Gonzalez | 0 Comments

Life doesn’t hand you a lot of gifts. Even when it does you have to have the insight to recognize them and the motivation to seize them. When Sesar put the word out that he was gonna jeep the Mojave Trail, I pulled some strings to make sure I could be there.

Mojave Trail jeep

Did I even know what the Mojave Trail was? Not at all, but I knew it would be an experience that I didn’t want to miss. I stopped collecting assets 4 years ago and started collecting experiences instead. Sesar took me on my first jeep expedition a few months earlier to the Rubicon trail. That trip opened my eyes to the beauty and excitement of exploring nature from the comfort of a jeep. While it doesn’t provide the health benefits of hiking, you can cover more ground and it’s easier to carry beer.

Mojave Trail Traveller's Monument

I’ve never been a jeep enthusiast and never had an interest in cars. It’s an expensive hobby and requires mechanical know-how. We have always owned practical cars like the Honda Civic and the Prius. Sesar hates practical.

Mojave Trail steep section

dude, send me the bleepin’ details!

He sent just one text a few days before the trip that said “bring a backpack of supplies…needed to survive.” I was hoping for a detailed pack list and trip summary, but just as I had hoped the selfie craze was a fad, I was sorely disappointed. It took my whole family blowing up on him with angry emoji texts to eventually get a few details. Up until two days before I left we didn’t know when or how I would get home and that I needed to bring my own food.

Mojave Trail Chop Shop

There would be 7 of us on the Mojave Trail in 5 jeeps. When was the last time you were able to get 7 adults together to go on a 3 day expedition? Sadly, few people have the time to get away from the money grab of life. I guess it takes the commanding leadership of an off-duty army officer to pull off this type of feat. Either way, Sesar and The Chop Shop put together one hell of a jeep trip.

Mojave Trail Sand Dunes

many battles were fought on this trail

In preparation, I did some rigorous research on this new website I found called Wikipedia. I also yelped it and asked Jeeves but was not nearly as successful there. Anyways, I learned that the Mojave trail is a 140 mile trading route originally created by native Americans that connects the various watering holes in the Mojave Desert. It starts near Laughlin and finishes at Barstow.

Mojave Trail road to Laughlin

It was later used by Spanish missionaries and every other foreign colonizer that came to the area including American pioneers and forty-niners heading west to find gold in California. It’s a true Wild West trail where many confrontations occurred between Native Americans and incoming colonizers. Think of The Lone Ranger and the stuff that Louis L’amour books are made of, but this is the real deal.

Mojave Trail scenic mountain

Today, the Mojave Trail is a 4-wheel drive dirt road for us weekend warriors in mid-life crisis. The national preserve is believed to appear much the same as it did hundreds of years ago. It’s not a slow rock crawling expedition like the Rubicon Trail. It’s a high speed adventure through huge expanses of waterless uninhabited desert and thick sand. The primary dangers are the trees and rocks that you have to avoid as you bounce and swerve through the often narrow trail at high speeds.

Mojave Trail powerline road

Mojave Trail sand dunes

“i’m a professional”

The other major obstacle is that there are very few markings along the trail so it’s easy to get lost. After reading this, I asked Sesar if he had ever done the trail before. He assured me that he had taken tanks through the trail with the army as well as recreational jeeps. I’m happy to hear this, but a scene from “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off” flashes into my head. I picture the valet who takes a joyride in Cameron’s father’s 1961 Ferrari minutes after saying “Relax…you guys have got nothing to worry about..I’m a professional.”

Mojave Trail jeeps

Nonetheless, after Sesar’s reassurance and after learning about the rich history of the Mojave Trail, I was all in. We had already taken four jeeps rock crawling through the Rubicon trail without getting stuck once. This should be a cake walk. Anyone suspect that I might have just jinxed the trip?

Mojave Trail closed road

probably the wrong place to leave a prius in barstow

I arrived in Barstow Thursday night and paid to leave my car in a reserved spot intended for 18 wheel trucks at the Flying J truck stop. We laughed at the ridiculous sight of my tiny car parked amongst 30 big rigs in a spot that could fit 5 of my cars. As We drove away in Sesar’s jeep, we imagined what the weary long haul truckers would do to my Prius that was occupying the last reserved spot. They probably wouldn’t think it was as funny as we did.

Mojave Trail Joshua tree forest

We headed into the desert just a few hundred yards off the highway to camp for the night and wait for the others to arrive. Camping in the desert is so easy. You can just unfold a cot and sleep under the stars with no worries of bears or mosquitos.

Mojave Trail sunset

We hung a strobe light so the other jeeps could find us. Eventually, we saw headlights veering off the highway and bouncing into the desert towards us. Let the games begin!

Mojave Trail jeep

embarking on the historic desert trail

We woke at sunrise and began heading east from Barstow on the Mojave trail. We flew through the desert at speeds ranging from 30 – 70 mph. There is so much dust flying around that you can barely see. If there is a rock in the middle of trail we will be airborne. I double check my seat belt to make sure it is catching properly, and Sesar says “relax, you got nothing to worry about.” Once again, I picture the valet from “Ferris Bueller.”

Mojave Trail river crossing

Less than an hour into the trail we encountered the Mojave River crossing. I figured we would stop and check the water depth to see if we could make it through. Instead, Kevin, who is leading the caravan just charges straight through so we follow right behind. The water seemed like it was going to swallow our car, but it was too late to stop. Our only choice was to power through to the other side.

Mojave Trail Mojave River crossing

After the river crossing we stopped at an old bridge with train tracks. I assumed it was no longer in use but as soon as I climbed the bridge for an aerial photo a train came roaring by a few feet from me. The conductor sounded pretty angry as he honked his horn, but I’m surely not the first idiot to pull that stunt.

Mojave Trail railroad tracks

“don’t touch it, it might be a crime scene”

We continued on until we came across a relatively new abandoned Challenger in the middle of the desert. It looked like a crime scene but after finding no dead bodies in the backseat, we came to the conclusion that some teenagers were probably just having fun riding their trucks over a broken down car. I was reminded of my Prius I left at the truck stop and figured it probably looked a lot like the challenger by now. “You got nothing to worry about,” Sesar says laughing.

Mojave Trail abandoned Challenger car

on this day, some very cool stuff went down…

Travelers monument was our next stop on the trail. Everybody got out of their jeeps and threw a rock onto the pile for good luck. There is a secret plaque on top of the rock pile, and tradition dictates that only those that travel the Mojave trail get to read it. The profound message can be life changing.

Mojave Trail Traveller's Monument rock pile

Eventually we reached a beautiful forest of Joshua trees. Apparently, the area is protected for a rare species of gnomes and frogs. When Sesar told me to bring a small porcelain gnome and frog, I assumed it was an inside joke. Sure enough, everybody else brought items to contribute to the growing population of porcelain figurines. I still don’t know why.

Mojave Trail gnomes frogs log book

Afterwards, we signed the log book and continued on our journey. We eventually found a nice campsite near the base of a mountain before sunset. Sesar offered to let me try his Eno hammock he had been raving about. I was plenty comfortable on my cot the night before but I obliged and he took my cot. I woke up freezing in the middle of the night just waiting for the night to be over. Morning finally came and Sesar boasted he was so warm on the cot that he was nearly sweating. Army guys get a kick out of pranking city boys.

Mojave Trail sunrise

“we just hit 80!”

The next day three more vehicles joined us on the trail bringing our caravan to eight jeeps and trucks. This gave us new blood to banter about shocks and coils with and tell our lies to. It wouldn’t be a jeep trip without at least one mishap, but we managed to put out an electrical fire with some quick thinking (not water!). Afterwards, we paid the toll to the penny can hanging from the tree and continued on the last straightaway at top speeds. “We just hit 80!” someone called out over the radio.

Mojave Trail penny can toll

We reached Laughlin before sundown and celebrated with a huge buffet and more jeep banter. The moment of truth came the next morning when we pulled into the truck stop in Barstow. My Prius was right there where I left it without a scratch. I guess maybe truckers do have a sense of humor.

Mojave Trail final stretch to Laughlin

Mojave Trail sunrise at campsite

Mojave Trail Devil's Playground salt flats

Mojave Trail scenic mountains

Written by Keith Wiley:

crossing the rubicon: a 3 day off road jeep adventure

Posted on October 24, 2016 by Josh Pedigo | 0 Comments

The Rubicon Trail is the Mecca of off-roading jeep adventures in North America. It sets the bar for which all other trails are judged by, not only for its difficulty but for its beauty. While the entire trail is only about 22 miles long and only about 10 of it are off-road, it runs through some of the most beautiful mountains and lakes in the country, finishing at Lake Tahoe.

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Pick up and delivery service

Posted on November 27, 2015 by Sesar Gonzalez | 0 Comments

The Chop Shop is proud to announce our new Pick Up and Delivery service for your vehicle! This new service will cost $1.50 per mile from our shop to your door and back again, with no limits on mileage. If you are interested in having The Chop Shop install any of the following, or perform any other service that you may need for your offroad vehicle, but you do not have a way of getting to our shop, Pick Up and Delivery is the perfect option for you:

  • new suspensions
  • lift kits
  • leveling kits
  • mount and balance wheels and tires
  • new gears
  • LED lighting
  • rock sliders
  • under carriage skid plates
  • front and rear bumpers
  • tire carriers
  • body armor
  • welding services
  • brakes services or upgrades
  • etc. 

Call 530-207-0277 or email to schedule your Pick Up and Delivery today!

Pre-Adventure checks and inspections

Posted on June 17, 2014 by Sesar Gonzalez | 0 Comments

Before you embark in your adventure, be prepared for what lies ahead. Set yourself up to have the ability to expect the unexpected. Be postured to adapt to any situation and overcome any obstacle.  

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Ready for adventure

Posted on March 01, 2014 by Sesar Gonzalez | 0 Comments

On behalf of The Chop Shop, we would like to announce our official Jeep Headquarters ( Learn from us, prepare with us and be ready for your adventure. "Make It Happen"

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