Gravel road preparation

With the opening of a new kayak and camping season it is time to make sure the Outback is ready for the adventures. The car is very capable from the start and I’m mainly looking at preventing damage from gravel or sticks as opposed to changing the performance.

First step is to improve on the factory roof rack. The built-in load bars are an okay idea but honestly I prefer the low profile rails on the 2017 touring. The factory rails are too soft and not as quiet as they could be. I went with a complete Yakima Jet Stream setup using their awesome landing pad (#15 for the Gen5 Outback) system and a pair of short black Jet Stream load bars. I used my existing Thule Hull-a-port Pros but converted them to c-channel mounting instead of clamps. The resulting system is very solid and quiet. None of the problems I’d had last year with the racks walking around on the load bars. Thanks to Auto Racks for outfitting the system and as always having advice and stock to make it happen.

Second step was to prevent gravel damage to the paint on the side of the car. When I ordered the Outback I’d specified the wheel arch covers to help deflect some of the gravel away but wanted more protection behind the wheels to block gravel and any mud spray. From my days racing rally I knew that polyurethane mud flaps can be very effective. I purchased a set of Rally Armour UR mud flaps and installed them on Saturday. The flaps seem to provide good protection and they even make driving on gravel quieter since there are a lot fewer stones bouncing off the bottom of the car.

Last step is to install a set of Primitive Racing skid plates. These are not full-on rally style skid plates and are not suitable for rock scrambling. They however are good protection for large loose stones like you’d find on the last part of the Trans Taiga or a root or stick that could damage the underside of the car. Lightweight protection for forestry roads and light off-roading.

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