Off-road enthusiasts love trucks and Jeeps, but not every vehicle comes factory standard with everything it needs to create the perfect off-road experience. Even a 4wd truck with high ground clearance might not be capable of handling everything drivers want to throw at it without a few upgrades. Read on to find out about nine of the most important upgrades drivers can make to ensure their trucks or other off-road vehicles can handle anything Mother Nature has up her sleeve.
Lift kits are one of the most popular upgrades among serious and novice off-roaders alike. They’re designed to ensure ample clearance so that trucks, Jeeps, and other off-road vehicles can maneuver over even tricky trails with ease. Whether they want to put together a custom lift kit or they want an easily installed, out-of-the-box kit, drivers should start by checking out options from offroadpowerproducts.com.
There’s some confusion among newcomers to off-roading about suspension upgrades and lift kits. They’re not the same thing. Lift kits add clearance, while suspension upgrades ensure that drivers won’t be stuck dealing with snapped bolts or blown bushings in the middle of nowhere. Look for heavy-duty springs, bushings, and other hardware designed to withstand off-road use.
Whether they plan on hauling heavy loads or not, serious off-roaders should upgrade their trucks’ suspension systems when they put in their lift kits. For those who don’t plan to haul anything, a leveling kit may be the best solution. It will still give an added boost to the vehicle’s suspension system and provide improved handling over stock suspensions even on 4wd trucks and SUVs.
Wheel and Tire Upgrades
Factory wheels made from normal alloys won’t be able to handle high-stress, off-road conditions. Specialized off-road wheels are designed to take a beating without losing functionality over time. Some off-road adventurers prefer steel wheels, while others prefer a stronger but lighter construction. For best results, look for wheels with beadlocks to prevent damage from dirt and debris and find a company that offers anodized, powder-coated, or polished finishes.
Even the best wheels won’t do drivers much good if they don’t outfit their trucks with off-road tires. Off-road tires provide better traction on obstacles and smooth surfaces and better climbing capabilities. Size isn’t as important as tread, which means even drivers who haven’t upgraded their suspensions or installed lift kits can upgrade their tires for better performance.
Every off-road vehicle should have a heavy-duty hitch, whether drivers plan on towing anything or not. A solid hitch will provide a mounting point for accessories like spare tire carriers or bike racks, which can be a huge advantage for outdoor enthusiasts who like planning off-road camping trips instead of settling for short day trips. Plus, a hitch will offer a solid tow point for drivers who find themselves stuck in ditches, which happens to even the best off-road drivers occasionally.
Front Bumper Upgrades
On a serious off-roading adventure, drivers may come across obstacles they just can’t get around. When this happens, the only option is to drive straight through them. Driving through heavy brush and other obstacles can completely destroy a stock bumper, so upgrade to a model with extended front deflector bumpers, bull bars, or skid plates to protect the vehicle from damage and extend its capabilities.
Brake System Upgrades
A better braking system may not be the most glamorous upgrade drivers can make to their vehicles, but it’s arguably one of the most essential. Adding lift kits, heavy-duty bumpers, and other upgrades to a vehicle can substantially increase its weight, which places more stress on the vehicle’s brakes. Factory brakes aren’t designed to provide stopping power for tanks, so drivers who’ve added thousands of pounds of weight to their rides really need to upgrade their braking systems to accommodate it.
There are two main things to look for in off-road rotors and brake pads. The first is size. A larger rotor and pad will provide more stopping power. An off-roader’s second concern should be heat. Larger rotors and pads also create more friction, which can heat up brake pads and leave them warped.
Look for slotted or vented rotors that increase airflow for better heat dissipation. It’s also wise to replace rear drum brakes with rotors and pads for better control in reverse.
Intake System Upgrades
One of the most worthwhile air intake system upgrades for serious off-roaders, especially those who love mudding, is a snorkel. Snorkels redirect air to the engine from above the vehicle. This allows drivers to make it through more substantial puddles and even small ponds without worrying about engine failure. Desert drivers probably don’t have to worry about this upgrade, but anyone who lives in a wet climate should consider it.
Roof Rack Upgrades
For those who like heading out for multi-day off-roading adventures, a roof basket is a must. They’re much sturdier than factory roof racks and can effectively double storage space. This frees up more cabin space and lets campers or hunters take all the equipment they need for a full weekend in the wilderness.
Unless they’re custom-designed for off-roading, most 4wd vehicles don’t come factory with winches. That’s a shame, because they’re a necessity, not a luxury, for serious adventurers. A strong winch can make the difference between being stuck for hours in the middle of nowhere waiting for help and drivers being able to get themselves out of sticky situations. Plus, drivers with winches can help less-fortunate off-roaders if they need a helping hand.
The Bottom Line
Creating the perfect off-road vehicle takes some time and money, but it’s worth it. Even 4wd, high-clearance vehicles don’t come straight off the factory floor ready for serious off-road adventures. Once they’ve purchased the parts for the basic system upgrades listed above from a reputable aftermarket supplier, drivers can start outfitting their vehicles with all kinds of fun accessories like light bars, headlamp conversions, side rails, and more that will impress friends and make life easier out on the trails, so get started today.