Looking for an adventure that takes you crawling over rocks and splashing in the mud with your car? If your vehicle isn’t quite off-road ready, you’ll need to make some modifications to your ride before you hit the trails. The trouble is, there are so many options. Which additions are the most necessary? Perhaps you’re wondering if your vehicle is even capable to go off-road. In this article, we’ll explore the top five additions to make your car off-road ready and what to consider if you’re going to purchase an off-road vehicle.
While trucks and SUVs are most suited for off-road adventures, as they may already include some rugged features, some cars can be modified to satiate your desire for dirt. While you probably wouldn’t want to make modifications to an expensive luxury vehicle, an older model sedan can be altered to adapt to rough conditions. Here are the top five changes you can make to a car, truck, or SUV to get down and dirty outdoors:
- Tires – Tires are the only thing that separates you from the ground. A good set of all-terrain or all-season tires are ideal for all kinds of landscapes from the highway to uneven surfaces such as sand, mud, and even ice and snow thanks to their depth and stronger tread. In addition to their capability to travel just about anywhere, they’re tougher than standard road tires, making them less likely to puncture when going over rougher terrain.
- Lift Kit – Your car, truck, or SUV doesn’t have a chance if it sits low to the ground. You’ll bottom out and cause all kinds of trouble to components on the underside of your vehicle. You’ll need lots of room between the ground and the underside of your vehicle without detracting from the balance. A lift kit will help by providing ground clearance which will help to prevent hitting obstacles along the ride if even just a few inches. Often included, as part of the lift kits, are heavy duty suspension and bushings. The suspension that your vehicle is equipped with when it leaves the manufacturer is suitable for only city and highway driving. To accommodate the change in landscape, your suspension will need to be upgraded with heavy-duty springs and other hardware as well as bushings to lift the vehicle and enhance the support. Replace rubber bushings with polyurethane and steel for materials with high tensile strength as well as bolts that are impervious to corrosion.
- Winch – A winch can be a real lifesaver in the event you are caught in a sticky situation. Winches contain either rope, cables, or chains that are wound around a rotating drum that is turned by a motor to aid in pulling a significant amount of weight. If you’re quite literally “stuck between a rock and a hard place,” a winch will help get your vehicle out. It will also come in handy for coming to the aid of others who may get stuck.
- Light Bar – When you’re out having a good time and the sun goes down, you’ll need to be able to see as if it is daylight. After all, if you can’t see it, you’re likely to hit it and that can mean bad news for your vehicle. Equip your truck or SUV with bright, stadium-quality lights or the unforgettable yellow smiley faces to light the trail ahead.
- Snorkel – Used to prevent water from entering the air intake on your engine when crossing through water and reduce dust intake into the engine. If you’ll be driving through water or heavy sand areas, a snorkel will prevent any damage to the engine from the intake of thick dust or water. It may even help improve the performance of your vehicle.
Looking for other ways to prepare your vehicle for trailblazing? Consider adding these good-to-have items to your car, truck or SUV:
- Skid Plate to protect the radiator, engine pan, front and rear differentials, transmission, transfer case and other drive train components from boulders and other rough obstacles.
- Bull Bar to push obstacles out of your way. The bull bar helps clear a path while preventing damage to the front end.
- Roof Racks are great for storage of camping gear, luggage, and even kayaks or other sporting equipment. Choose aluminum for its lightweight material, making it more resistant to the elements than steel.
So many features are available to those looking to purchase vehicles and head straight for the trails. Some vehicles are specifically engineered for off-roading and include an adjustable suspension that will allow you to raise or lower the ride height. Here are some other features to look for when considering a purchase on Off-Road Vehicles:
- High Ground Clearance/Body on Frame SUVs & Trucks – a separate body is mounted on a firm frame or chassis to carry the engine and drivetrain.
- Low Range Transfer Case – for steep hills without having to rely solely on the brakes. Helps to maintain control over direction and speed.
- Good Torque Output – the higher the torque, the better to help with going uphill or getting out of muddy trenches.
- Locking Differential – similar to limited slip and is a must-have for serious off-roading. It locks the differential so that both wheels on the axle rotate continuously without slipping while off-road. Note: this feature should not be used on regular asphalt roads, as it prevents the wheels from slipping when going around a corner. Doing so may result in damage to the differential or tires. Many different types of locking differentials are available, from mechanical locking to full locking, and more.