Those that frequently travel off-road are typically prepared with some basic recovery tools. The traction pad is one of the most obvious such tools. It’s typically used under slipping tires to provide some instant traction. It can also be used in a bind as a shovel or to level a vehicle with a rooftop tent on it. They are really great but they do have some drawbacks.
The first issue is that they are rather large. Fitting them inside would take up valuable space. They must be easily accessible, too. The last thing anyone wants to do is empty out their cargo in a muddy field. Then, once un-stuck, the really last thing anyone wants to do is put those muddy traction pads back inside a clean-ish rig. This is why so many mount them on the outside but that too has its issues. The first is that they are prone to theft and the second is that they look silly on your rig when you’re driving from your downtown office to Whole Foods.
This Ford patent picture, however, found by Gary Gastelu of Fox News Autos, seems to solve a lot of those issues. The traction pads in this case work double duty as side steps, or running boards, in their stored position. They can be removed off their brackets when needed and slid under the wheels for traction. Once the vehicle is freed, the dirty boards can be reattached to their side step brackets. This is both elegant and simple. Brilliant.
There may be some drawbacks, however. The sidesteps, and these boards, are located where serious off-roaders install body-protecting, beefy rock sliders. It doesn’t look like proper sliders can be installed behind those pads in their stored position. The second issue is that these pads seem slightly long, which may not be advantageous if the vehicle is buried.
In all, this is an awesome solution to a problem that many off-roaders actually do have. And it shows some really innovative thinking from Ford, sort of like their snorkel. Let’s hope it’s available soon, especially for the new Bronco.