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3 Stages of the Off-Road Vehicle

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On: Thu, Jul 10, 2014 at 1:35PM | By: Elizabeth Puckett

3 Stages of the Off-Road Vehicle

Off-road vehicle’s aren’t one size fits all. Understand the different phases of off-road modifications.

The vehicle you choose, powertrain you build, and other components are 90% of what makes a vehicle off-road worthy. Not all are meant to be axle-twisting rigs—many people need their truck or SUV to have decent street manners. On the other hand, pavement isn’t a priority for some—off-road ability is all that matters. Here are the three phases of off-road vehicles and what you need to do to accomplish each.

Vehicles For This Phase:
Trucks and SUVs with a smooth-riding independent front suspension. These types of vehicles can take on easy trails without extensive modifications, and do well on paved roads.

Performance Mods: If you want to keep it casual, don’t void your vehicle’s warranty. Upgrade with reusable air filters, high flow exhaust, and a handheld tuner.

Suspension: Keep it at stock height so the factory handling and stability aren’t compromised. Off-road shocks may be too firm on the street, but factory-style upgrades are a good upgrade at this phase.

Tires: Large tires will hurt your fuel economy and starting thrust. A stock size tire with a mud tread is ideal for the occasional off-roader.

Armor and Recovery: An aluminum skid plate will suffice in protecting your drivetrain parts. Frame-mounted tow hooks or clevis shackles are smart for possible winch or snatch strap recovery.

Vehicles For This Phase:
Those made with a live-axle front suspension make a good platform for weekend warriors and those who off-road at the hobby level. Think eight generation Suburbans or K-Series pickup trucks. These offer a good foundation at a low price.

Performance Mods: You’ll need a strong V8 to take on some of the mud pits you’ll encounter. Max out the bolt-on options (exhaust, intake, etc.) and consider adding a nasty cam/heads setup to power through tough terrain. Also, invest in drivetrain protection like a transmission cooler, driveshaft safety loop, and so on.

Suspension: A 2" to 4" lift will create more room for larger tires, increase capability, and improve articulation. However, lifted suspensions are a little rough on paved roads, so be prepared for the trade-off.

Tires: 33" to 35" tires will increase ground clearance and improve floatation. Bias-ply is best of trail riding.

Differential: A selectable locking differential is good for this level of vehicle. It will maximize traction at both rear wheels.

Armor and Recovery: Side bars, light guards, and even roll bars are good additions at this phase. As far as recovery goes, it’s time to get a winch, especially if you frequently travel alone.

Vehicles For This Phase:
Two-door Jeep CJs and Wranglers are classic choices for hardcore off-roaders. Jeep parts for serious mudders are plentiful and the community is huge, so there’s a large knowledge base to tap into.

Performance Mods: A fully built engine with the addition of a turbocharger or supercharger will make your vehicle king of the off-road. Have your transmission built and get a HD transfer case to handle the extra power stress.

Suspension: Coil-link systems can be pricey, but they provide impressive suspension flex for extreme rock crawling.

Tires: 37" and up tire sizes will help you tackle boulder and maintain traction.

Differential: For a vehicle that can handle the toughest trails, a locking differential in both axles is the only way to go.

Armor and Recovery: Off-road front and rear bumpers with the minimization of body components (removal of tops, doors, etc.) is typical for extreme off-road rides. Consider a full roll cage in the event of a rollover.



JamesBergman | 10:58AM (Mon, Mar 21, 2016)

I am kind of new to off roading, but my friends keep telling me that I should get the best suspension I can. However, if I do that I will be getting a the suspension you recommend for hard core off roaders. Should I worry too much about my suspension now? I would kind of rather get something good quality that will last, but don't know if it is worth the cost yet. View Link

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