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How do you rock crawl with a manual Jeep?

Rock crawling is another different kind of experience that an off roader can get. Rock crawling is not for every driver.  

A rock crawling driver should have a good discipline, ability to feel both rock and the jeep and a good coordination to react on the necessary time in the most suitable way.   

Otherwise rock crawling is a very dangerous thing that may harm even your life and cause huge damages to your vehicle also.

Rock crawling with a manual jeep is also a somewhat more difficult task than with an auto transmission jeep.

There should be a good balance between gas, brake and clutch pedals while directing front wheels to find the best drive line.  

In 1st half I give you some general tips that may be important for both auto and manual drivers.

Then I’ll give specific tips for manual drivers. With those things in mind let’s roll into rock crawling.


Make your gears ready

Before entering any terrain this step is a must. But here I don’t mean that gears like hi-lift  jacks, your food and other fancy stuff that are needed for a normal off-roading adventure.  

In rock crawling you should have a  special knowledge about your vehicle’s mechanical side and a few specific gears.


If you especially built your custom jeep for rock crawling then you know how the stuff works.

If you bought a pre-built  custom jeep for this purpose then you should be armored with the knowledge  how the thing works and how to repair if something breaks at a trail.  

Because this knowledge is very important when rock crawling, not like other off-roading activities.

There’s a high chance to break down mechanical components under your vehicle like u joints, hubs and axle shafts during rock crawling.

In the middle of a rocky trail it may be hard or sometimes unable to get automobile support.  

So you should have the knowledge and ability to repair your jeep otherwise you will end up with broken jeep parts in the middle of nowhere.

Spare parts

Even if I have the knowledge how did you repair or replace a broken part without necessary spare parts.

So try to bring mostly breakable parts like drive shafts, u joint, nuts and bolts, fuses, necessary fluids and the tool box.


You can find various aftermarket parts which can install on to your jeep.

They can save your jeep from hitting on rocks and damaging and sometimes get their support to bear the weight of your jeep and crawl over rocks.  

At least it’s good to have a skid plating to protect oil pans ,suspensions and other important parts.

Rock rails and a roll cage also good to have.

Most importantly you should have a very good tire set that is suitable for rock crawling.

Set of mud terrain tires with reduced pressure will do the job.

Go with an experienced spotter

Next important thing is this. When your vehicle on rocks your visibility is very less.

So that you should need another eye to catch up things that are apart from your visibility.   

You should have a one experienced spotter who can guide you on the best drive line. You should follow the spotter’s guide lines 100%.

Don’t allow many people to disturb you guiding you on rock crawling. It will make a disaster.

Assess terrain before drive

You have to take an overall idea about the trail before driving on it.

The general acceptance among rock crawlers  is if you can walk through an obstacle you can definitely crawl over it with your 4×4.  

If you are new to rock crawling or if you are new to relevant trails it’s best to assess the trail first.

Draw your drive line on your mind

After assessing you can draw a driveline on your mind. That driveline should include how you access it, how you cross it and how you exit in a relevant obstacle.  

You can’t make an exact drive line for the whole trail at once.

First take a big picture and when crawling, you have to do it slowly one by one with the help of your spotter.

Go slow and steady.

This is rock crawling.not bouncing on rocks or a race on rocks. You should have patience very much.   

As I mentioned at the start you should feel your jeep and the rock. you should feel your tires trying to find the grip slowly.  

You should reduce your tire pressure for a better grip and engage your lockers in action.

Never try to speed up unnecessarily and bounce your jeep. It will break things.

Stick to the low gear enough.

4L and 1st gear will do the job. If you have built your jeep for rock crawling you may have a decent crawl ratio.  

If you have about 100:1 ratio or more your jeep will climb up most of the rocks even without pressing your gas pedal.

You just have to release your clutch pedal and steer necessarily.

Don’t try to push the clutch pedal much.

When crawling try to free up your left leg in your manual transmission jeep.

When your jeep is inclined on rocks, pressing the clutch will sometimes worsen the situation.

Because it will put the vehicle in neutral and roll your vehicle back on the inclined.

Some one’s are unable to properly balance the clutch and gas  to move the jeep forward when on ascending rocks after stopping in the middle of the ascend.

Clutch balancing

You can stop the vehicle rolling backward, when moving again after stopping  by clutch balancing technique.  

For that you have to press the clutch and brake pedals at once while engaging on low gear and then slowly release only the clutch pedal until you feel your vehicle trying to grip the rock.  

Then slowly release your brake pedal. If your vehicle is going to stall give some gas (not too much) while releasing the clutch pedal.

This will need some practice.

Give wheels the chance to find the grip.

When climbing your wheels try to find the grip on the surface of the rock while spinning very slowly.  

As the driver you have to direct your wheels by steering side to side slowly to find the necessary grip that can move you forward.   

That’s why I mentioned early , you need patience and the sense of your wheels and the rock.

Don’t spin wheels unnecessarily 

Same as other trails like mud, sand and snow unnecessary wheel spinning with pushing gas pedal to the floor will not give any support.  

It only makes the situation worse. Reduce your tire pressure around 10 – 13 psi. It will increase the grip of your tire.

Stick to the high side as much as possible

In rock crawling ground clearance is very important to not breaking your under parts.

So try to roll your wheels on the high side of rocks as much as possible.

Know your vehicle’s limits

This is a must. Not every trail is for every vehicle.

If your vehicle’s utilities are not enough to cross a certain terrain it’s good to back up other than trying to cross through it and getting stuck while putting your life and vehicle in danger.

Know your limits

This is the next important thing. If your gut feels like you can’t beat certain terrain don’t hesitate to back up while giving chance to other crawlers.  

It’s better than destroying other crawlers’ time also. According to your abilities there are limits that you can go.

It’s not a shame to give up on your limits.

Few final words

I think these tips will be important on some occasions on your rock crawling journey.

Most important thing in rock crawling is experiences. When you do it , you will be better day by day.

You can’t learn everything about rock crawling by reading or watching videos. Keeping these few tips in mind, you have to do it.

If you are a beginner or  new to rock crawling with manual transmission, start with an easy trail first. Then progress.  

If you find this article helpful , share with  your off-roading pals. You just have to click a share button below.

Have fun and safe off-roading pals !!

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