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What damage is possible from off roading a minivan?

My family has two cars, a Honda Odyssey minivan and a crossover SUV. The other day, my brother is going for a hike that is only accessible by a dirt road, and being the logical person that he is, he takes the minivan (haha of course). As luck would have it, the road is much more treacherous than he had imagined and he ends up making it up the road. As he tells it, there were deep ruts criss crossing all over the road, and it was too narrow to get out of so “you just had to hit the gas and scrape your way up it.” it sounds like he scraped the bottom of the car a lot. He obviously made it back and the car seems to run fine. Other than imperfections on the bottom of the car, what long term consequences could we face from my brother’s stupid mistake? Do you think that this could have seriously impacted the useful lifespan of this car? should I watch out for premature failures? I appreciate any feedback I can get. Thanks

Rather than “watching out” for failures in the future, I would suggest being proactive, and having the vehicle checked–a.s.a.p.–by a competent mechanic.
That means taking it to a well-reputed independent mechanic, and telling him exactly what happened.

A thorough inspection of the chassis, suspension, drive lines, engine oil pan, transmission pan, exhaust, brake lines, and everything else that is exposed on the underside of the vehicle needs to be done.
Even if no obvious damage is revealed, I think you can anticipate early replacement of the struts/shocks, and–possibly–a wheel bearing and/or a CV joint–or two.

The first thing to do is not let your brother borrow either car for this type of roads. He should have turned around at the first bad obstacle and started his hike from that spot.

Second I would jack the car up and be sure to rinse all the mud and other things out from under the car. A mechanic doesn’t want to inspect a car that he has to pry 50 pounds of mud off the stearing gear to inspect it. Then get a good inspection by a competent mechanic.


Yosemite provides a very good addendum to my suggestion!

Step 1=cleaning the gunk off of the undercarriage
Step 2=a proactive inspection by a qualified mechanic (Not a place like Sears, Midas, Meineke, Monro, or Pep Boys, and CERTAINLY not a place like Jiffy Lube, where there aren’t even any actual mechanics)

… and your brother should PAY for the car wash, car inspection, and any resulting repairs!

A careful visual inspection as a first step and then have the car moved to an alignment rack.

If during the alignment any specs (caster, camber, or toe) appear to be way off then something (or plural…) is likely bent.

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Gotta agree with everyone else. It needs to be checked over underneath thoroughly. There has to be more wear on the transmission for sure.

Agree with all the above. Also, let your brother know it is only hiking is HE is climbing up, going up with the car does not count :slight_smile:

If it just scraped along and no big bangs, probably little to no damage. But of course as mentioned above, it does need to be put on a lift for a good visual inspection. I’m trying to recall what’s on the underside of my Corolla that would be damaged first if it bottomed out? Under engine plastic rock shield, oil pan & drain plug, exhaust pipes and cat, fuel and brake lines. Those would be the first items to take an underneath-the-car thrashing I expect. After that the front drive axles, struts, and steering & suspension components. On the rear there’s a suspension component that sits pretty low which is used to adjust the rear wheel alignment.

BTW, I think you meant to type in the title “off roading”, not “off reading”.