How do you make sure your vehicle is prepared for your next off-road adventure? The outback can be a harsh environment that is punishing and unforgiving to vehicles and their drivers. So, what should you equip your vehicle with to make sure you return home safe and sound and full of adventurous stories? With so many modifications on the market it can be hard to know what you need and who’s advice to take, especially when all some companies want is your money, so let’s go through some of the basics in preparing your vehicle for your next off-road adventure.
Whether you’re going for 2 days or 2 weeks, you need to make sure your vehicle is in sound mechanical condition. Have your vehicle serviced regularly by a reliable mechanic. If you own a 4wd, and are about to head on a big trip to remote areas, it can be a very good idea to get your vehicle checked by a mechanic who has a lot of experience with 4wd’s. A 4wd mechanic will be able to look for things that a general mechanic may miss.
Make sure you have the right tyres for job. There is no point heading across the Simpson Desert on highway tyres. A good set of all-terrain or mud terrain tyres is essential. Ensure you are using reputable and reliable brands and that you have plenty of tread remaining.
For remote areas, take a minimum of 2 spare tyres and a puncture repair kit. For some trips, you may like to take an extra tyre carcass, tyre levers, bead breaker, tyre gaiter and spare inner tube.
3. Bull Bar
A Bull bar is a vital piece of protective equipment for your vehicle. An animal strike could result in expensive damage, the end of your trip or even worse. A good, strong, professionally fitted bull bar is a must for any vehicle heading out of the CBD.
It is very important to know your vehicles fuel consumption and plan ahead. It’s no fun sitting on the side of the road waiting for help to come along if you run out of fuel. If you’re heading off-road, your vehicle will use a lot more fuel in 4wd and even more if you’re in the sand. A good rule to follow is that your vehicle will use 1.5times its normal amount in 4wd, so take at least 20 litres more than you plan to use. It’s better to come home with half a tank than run at any point!
Carrying a lot of fuel can be difficult. The safest way to do it is by having a long range tank fitted to your vehicle. Whilst diesel can be carried in jerry cans on the back of the vehicle or inside, finding a place for petrol is hard. Petrol is not allowed to be carried on the back of a vehicle and, due to dangerous fumes, should not be carried inside. Be careful how much you carry on your roof as carrying a lot of weight on the roof will affect your vehicles centre of gravity and change its handling.
5. Carrying your load
Packing a vehicle correctly is very important as you need to ensure your vehicle handles safely on the road and does not put undue stress on the vehicle.
As mentioned above, be very careful how much weight is put on the roof. Ensure your roof rack and roof weight restrictions are not exceeded and that weight is distributed evenly across the roof and tied down securely.
Heavy items should be placed as low as possible within the vehicle to keep the vehicles centre of gravity low.
Your suspension will get a severe workout when heading off-road. Aftermarket suspension is a good idea as long as you use reliable and reputable brands and preferably have it fitted by a professional. Shocks and springs in good working order will have a huge affect on how the vehicle handles both on and off the road. Ensure your suspension is adequate for carrying the extra load of your gear. Air bag suspension is a great addition for carrying heavy loads but, even with suspension upgrades, be careful not to excess your vehicles load carrying limit!
7. Driving Lights
If you’re planning to drive after dark, a good set of driving lights is a valuable investment. Not only will they allow you to see further and wider along the road, they will help to stop your eyes from getting so tired. Squinting into the distance lit up by your standard high beams is not good for your eyes or your safety! Driving lights will help you to see animals before it’s too late and to see upcoming road or track conditions.
8. Spare Parts
A good range of spares should be taken for your vehicle, especially if you are going to be a long way from help in remote areas. At a bare minimum, a full set of spare radiator hoses, belts and oil should be carried. Depending on where you are going, you may like to carry spare shocks and spring or even spare axels. Get to know your vehicle and talk to your mechanic about what items may be useful for you to take as spares. Of course, you should always take spare fuses, globes, electrical wire connectors and insulation tape, glue, wire, cable ties, duck tape, and a length of thin hose. Jumper leads or a jump start battery are also a good idea.
There are many things to consider when preparing your vehicle for your next off-road trip. Be sure to get to know your vehicle, use the internet to find other peoples experiences with your make and model of vehicle and have a good chat with your 4wd mechanic about what your vehicle needs to have done to adequately prepare it to take your off-road and safely back home again.
If you own a 4wd and have found its limitations off-road, you may want to modify and upgrade your vehicle to get even further off the beaten track and more importantly, back again. Modifications not only make your vehicle more capable, but make it safer as well.
Here are 5 modifications you can make to your vehicle that will help make it safer, and get you further off road than your even been before.
Find the right tyres to suit your terrain
• A good set of tyres that are suited for the type of driving you will be doing will make a world of difference off road.
• A mud terrain tyre or any tyre with an aggressive off road tread will provide more traction in most situations off road.
• Larger tyres will also make a big difference as a big tyre will roll over rocks and ruts much easier than a smaller one.
• Before you go putting a set of 35’s on your 4wd check with a mechanic about how big the tyres your vehicle can handle are. In some cases you may have to lower your diff ratio’s as larger tyres will decrease your power and torque, as well as put your Speedo out.
• Also check with your state road laws and insurance company before making any changes to wheel size.
• I use a separate set of 6 Mud terrain tyres 1 size bigger than standard that I put on specially for trips away.
Upgrade your suspension
• A suspension upgrade will make a big difference to your vehicle capability off road.
• Not only will it be stronger and take more punishment from corrugations, but it will carry heavy loads better and provide better performance off road.
• Typically most vehicles will benefit from a heavy duty 2 inch lift suspension kit which will give your vehicle more ground clearance and wheel travel.
• This will make a big difference when you’re flexing it up through big ruts and big holes!
Install a long range fuel tank
• A long range fuel tank will allow you to carry a lot more fuel which can be a big help when doing remote area trips such as the Canning Stock route.
• Fuel in a long range tanks is much easier and safer than carrying jerrycans and will definitely help you get off road and stay off road for longer.
Talk to your mechanic about powering up your engine
I have recently added a Roo Systems power chip and a 2.5inch straight through exhaust fitted by Pro 4X4 in Adelaide. This has made a huge difference climbing sand dunes and over taking is a lot safer on the highway with all that get up under the hood. I now have 45% more power and still within safe standards for my vehicle.
• Most vehicles, especially older ones, can benefit from a little extra power for both highway and off road use.
• There are a few different options for power upgrades so it’s best to talk to your mechanic about how to squeeze a few extra horses out of your engine.
• Of course not all vehicles will need more power and some may not be safe to upgrade but if it’s safe and possible.
• Extra power can have a massive effect on your vehicles performance especially in the sand and mud!
Get the most appropriate difflocks for your vehicle
• Lastly, difflocks are possibly the single best modification that will literally get your vehicle further off road.
• The ability to lock both front and back diffs together will give you TRUE 4WD with all 4 wheels turning evenly together.
• This means that even if you have just 1 wheel with a good amount if traction it will grip and move you vehicle forward.
• There are a range of auto lockers, air lockers and electrical lockers on the market so speak to a 4wd mechanic to find out what the best options are for your vehicle.
No matter how many mods your vehicle has, it wont make much difference if you don’t know how to use them or even use you 4wd correctly. A lot of newer 4wd’s are more than capable stock standard but many people do not know how to use their vehicles correctly.
Experience and advice are so important when learning to use your 4wd so why not book into a 4wd training course where a qualified instructor can take you through how to use your vehicle correctly off road. With a bit of careful driving you can get your standard vehicle a surprisingly long way off road without any mods at all!