Not everyone has a bottomless bank account for 4WD mods, and us blokes at 4WD Action are no different. Just like you, we’re keen to save our money, so it makes sense to find out exactly what best bang-for-buck mod is – and if you’re like us, then you’ve probably got the funds minister breathing down your neck too!
[blockquote cite=”” type=”center”]”We install and torture test the budget gear you need to get further off-road”[/blockquote]
So, over a few cold ones, all the boys sat down and did up a list of mods we reckon will get you further off-road for just $500. But, being the dreamers we are, we also decided to have a look at a couple around the $1000 mark for all you lot that hide a sneaky stash from the missus. But the thing is, at 4WD Action it’s not enough to just put a list together – we’ve gotta get out there and test them!
We’re going to look at everything from recovery points to tyres and suspension and put them all head to head in order to prove exactly what will get you further off-road. Make no mistake about it – this is a no bull, if we get stuck we’re buggered megatest!
[blockquote cite=”” type=”center”]”These are the bits of gear every 4WD should have – but how much further off-road do they actually get you?”[/blockquote]
We’ve sent the big bald bloke, Al, out for another play on the tracks, but this time he’s taken Jock and his HiLux along to determine what mod is going to get the little IFS beast further off-road.
Let’s go break some gear and see where we end up!
Everyone knows a winch will get you out of any sticky situation, right – but will it? We will show you where a winch is good and where it is absolutely useless. The winch worked well when you had somewhere to pull from, but where we didn’t have an anchor point it was useless. Take a sand recovery for example; unless you are close to the edge of the beach or know how to make a sand anchor, a winch isn’t going to get you far.
To prove a point we ran the Lux up our test track without having the winch installed, this was to show how much mucking around there is to do a recovery if you are the first one through. We then fitted up a winch and went and tried the tracks again. Having the winch fitted made it safer to do a recovery as we didn’t have to use two 4WDs and one winch to get up a snotty hill.
For trips anywhere from Tassie to the tip of Cape York, fitting a snorkel should be the number one mod on any 4WD, whether it’s a diesel or petrol. From a $90 internet special up to a $600 custom staino job, it’s money well spent. Think not only about the price to get your old bus home after you sink it, but also how much it’s going to cost to get it up and running again, and it’s clear that a snorkel pays for itself. So do yourself a favour and get a snorkel on your 4WD today.
[blockquote cite=”” type=”center”]”If we didn’t have this mod , we would have been pushing the truck home”[/blockquote]
One of the most important elements of 4WDing is the recovery point on your 4WD. Whether they be factory or aftermarket, if you don’t have the right recovery points you could be in for a world of hurt, either to yourself, your truck or both.
Aftermarket recovery points are usually made of 8-10mm plate and bolt up to your bulbar mounting points at the front. The rear recovery points are either hard mounted or in the form of a hitch that slides into your tow bar and secures using the hitch pin. These are the correct components to use in a recovery, as most factory points are just for towing and no good for a snatch style recovery.
TYRES AND SUSPENSION
WHEELS AND TYRES
We all know that a decent set of shoes on your truck will make a big difference, but we’re going to show you how true that can actually be. Jock’s Luxxy had a set of factory alloys with OEM spec highway terrains that most would say are definitely no chop in the bush, so we hit some gnarly tracks to put that theory to the test. The results? Even when we dropped the pressures to 18psi, we couldn’t get enough grip or traction to get a mere half a truck length up our test track.
The next step was to throw on a set of 31in Bridgestone Dueler muddies on a set of neg22 Dynamic Soft Eight rims to see how that improved things. You might be surprised by this, but the wider track from the rims combined with the muddies only got us two feet further up the track – that’s right a mere two feet!
Why? Simple – as soon as the unlocked Luxxy lifted a wheel, it was all over. That’s the thing about tyres – you have to remember that in an unlocked truck, if you lift a wheel you’re gonna lose drive and momentum. It doesn’t make any difference as to what tyres you are running. No contact means no go.
That’s not to say you shouldn’t be running a set of proper off-road tyres – they’re far tougher, and will go the distance once you’re off the blacktop – definitely a necessity of any 4WD.
If you’re short on coin (like the most of the boys here at 4WD Action) then get on the computer and do some scouting, as you might be able to pick up a set of tyres with 70% or 80% left on them for about the $500 mark.
Most 4WDers would class suspension as a pretty essential mod, so we put a 2in lift in Jock’s little Luxxy to see just how much difference it would make. When you think of a 2in lift in a bigger live axle truck, you think about room to run bigger tyres and get more flex. In any older independent front end 4WD, a 2in lift can have the reverse effect as you lose your downward travel as you have wound the torsion bars up to match the new rear springs.
We found with the Luxxy that we got a lot more flex from the new rear springs but the front was that hard it didn’t like flexing up and had bugger all drop. The advantage is that you raise the diff above the ground nearly two inches more in some vehicles; this gives you more clearance when going through rutted tracks even before you fit bigger tyres.
We took a bit of liberty here price wise, and bought Jock a brand spanker of a kit for his Lux. That set us back around a grand, but for those willing to shop around, it is 100% possible to pick up a second hand set in good nick for under $500.
[blockquote cite=”” type=”center”]”This is the best bang-for-buck way to get further off-road”[/blockquote]
COMPRESSOR AND TYRE DEFLATOR
We all know that we need a good compressor and a tyre deflator when we hit the tracks. But what you didn’t know is how important they really are in some situations. If you don’t have a proper tyre deflator and you use the old trick of poking a stick in the valve, how do you know what pressure your tyres are at? We put the old stick-in-the-valve technique to the test and found we had an 8psi difference in pressure between the four tyres, which will lead to uneven wear and inconsistent traction. Ensuring you have a dedicated deflator along for the ride is really a no-brainer.
Once your tyres are down, it’s super important to ensure you get the pressures back up when you hit the blacktop, especially when the closet servo is 50k’s or more away. A good compressor doesn’t have to be an expensive one; we used our ever trusty Thumper MkII to pump the tyres up on the Luxxy and the GU before we headed back down the road. It really is a necessity if you want to get anything resembling a long life out of your tyres.
[blockquote cite=”” type=”center”]”There’s a reason why these things are called cheat buttons!”[/blockquote]
We set up a test track on a nice big hill, it started off with some deep wombat holes and then ramped up into a big rock step and finally to top it off there was a bunch of jagged rocks and another final big step up. Unlocked, the Luxxy got half a car length up and lifted a wheel. It was all over from there as it only took the right-hand rear tyre to leave the ground and we lost all drive.
We did this test eight times to see what was going to make the biggest difference, and it was clear what was best – a front locker. That’s right, we fitted a second hand locker to the front of the little Luxxy that Jock picked up off the internet, and it walked up time and time again, regardless of how often a rear wheel was off the ground. We were actually surprised that locking the front would make such a difference when compared to the other mods. It didn’t matter what suspension or tyres we had on it, the Lux wouldn’t drive more than half a car length without stopping. Flick the locker on and it drove just about everything.
With the results of the front locker impressing us, we went one step further and fitted a rear locker to the little beast. We went for an auto locker in the back as it was the cheapest option; once it was in we headed back out to the tracks to see if it made any difference. It wasn’t as surprising as when we fitted the front, but it allowed the little Luxxy to drive through things it was getting stuck on before.
[blockquote cite=”” type=”center”]”The difference between front and rear lockers really surprised us”[/blockquote]
With both lockers fitted we had a bit of fun, just to push the envelope. With both ends locked and the new suspension we fitted, the little Luxxy was almost unstoppable. There was still the fear of ripping a CV in half from the wheels coming down a little hard after a big wheel lift, but in all lockers are a clearly effective mod when it comes to off-road capability.
[blockquote cite=”” type=”center”]”It doesn’t matter what you drive, here’s a couple of upgrade options that’ll help out on the tracks”[/blockquote]
UPGRADES FOR AUTOS AND MAUALS
Is a clutch really a mod you ask? Well, we reckon it is, and it’s one that is overlooked fairly regularly. We’re going to do a couple of runs to see how the Luxxy goes with its standard clutch, then take her home to the shed and fit a new heavy duty unit from Australian Clutch Services. Because this is one that is more reliability based, rather than something that’ll get you further off-road, we spoke to Stewart Furze who is the Mechanical Engineer at Australian Clutch Services to ask him to explain the difference between OEM and their Outback Extreme range.
“The benefit to the Xtreme Outback range is the increase in torque holding capacity. The Xtreme range offers different options depending on the application and requirement. As an example the 3L Turbo Diesel HiLux runs a factory 260mm organic clutch kit. These factory clutch kits have a minimal safety factor built in for when they fail. In a nutshell, the clutch is designed to fail before you break your gearbox.
For example the factory engine torque of the HiLux is 343Nm. The OEM pressure plate has a clamping force of 600kg over a 260mm friction disc which yields a torque holing capacity of around 377Nm. This is only a safety factor of 10%. Different manufacturers tend to build in different safety factors depending on the application of the particular vehicle. It is important to note that there are two main factors that are directly proportional to torque capacity; the first being the clamping force and the second being the co-efficient of friction of the materials used.
[blockquote cite=”” type=”center”]”This is an essential off-road mod for any automatic 4WD”[/blockquote]
The Xtreme Outback kit comes with an organic friction disc to maintain daily drivability but with an increased clamp force pressure plate which increases the clamping force from 600kg to 800kg. As a result the calculated torque capacity jumps up to 502Nm. This means you’re not shock loading the input shaft on the gearbox as much, as you have more pedal control with the heavier clutch.” – Stewart Furze (Australian Clutch Services)’
TORQUE CONVERTOR LOCK-UP
For anyone that has an automatic 4WD, then running away downhill can be a big issue. A fix for this is a lock up converter unit, which will lock up the converter and allow you to utilise the full capacity of your 4WD’s engine braking. We have seen how these work in Rocket Rods big 79 ute time and time again on the 4WD Action DVDs, so who better to explain just how they work.
“With 15 years of proven history, the Wholesale Automatic Transmissions GENII Torque Converter Lock-Up Kit is the only system that has its own ECU that mimics the factory ECU output to ensure solenoid longevity while giving you the choice of having full 100% engine braking on any downhill slope both on- and off-road as well as far better fuel economy when towing. All at the touch of a button – it’s that easy!” – Rodney Hudson-Davies
A recovery kit isn’t everyone’s idea of a mod, but it could be the difference between getting towed out or towed home. A good recovery kit has all the fruit; gloves, snatch straps, shackles, winch blankets, chains, tree trunk protectors, snatch blocks and winch extension straps all in a handy to grab bag. You have to think of it this way, if you don’t have a winch when you need to recover a mate or yourself, what’s the next best thing?
[blockquote cite=”” type=”center”]”They’re not exactly “mods”, but these bits of kit will get you out of any sticky situation”[/blockquote]
During our testing, we proved that the answer to that was a recovery kit. The Luxxy got caught in a spot and because he had no winch, we had to connect the snatch strap to the front right hand tow hook and use the ever trusty Project GU that was along for the ride as the camera truck to pull him up the step that he was stuck on, and up to the top of the hill. If we didn’t have a decent recovery kit it would have been game over, as we wouldn’t have been able to get him out.
When used the right way, a high-lift jack can be one of your most effective purchases. The emphasis with these is using them properly, and safety is an extremely important part of using one as they only have a small base area and things can go downhill really quick when things go wrong. That being said, using your high lift with your MaxTrax or some logs will get you out of the softest sand or a big boggy hole nine out of ten times.
[blockquote cite=”” type=”center”]”If we didn’t have a decent recovery kit it would have been game over”[/blockquote]
Ok, so again technically not a mod but we bet you Jock’s wage that they’d be more useful than a new suspension set up in some cases. Over the years we’ve used our MaxTrax for everything from mud to sand and whatever else in between. Just to show you the uses for these things, we went and found some nice muddy holes and some really soft sand to prove just how handy these little bright orange beauties can be. We’ve even used them as ramps; this is done by double or triple stacking them in front of a rock step to reduce risk of tipping on a big hill.
<[blockquote cite=”” type=”center”]”So what’s the best bang for buck modifications for your 4WD?”[/blockquote]
OUR FAVOURITE MODS
SHAUNO’S BUDGET MOD
“I’ve said this numerous times before, but the best bang-for-buck way to go further off-road is to change your tyre pressures. I never leave home without a tyre deflator because I find that I’m constantly changing tyre pressures to suit the terrain I’m driving on. This protects my tyres and gets me further off road. On dirt roads I’m straight down to about 28PSI, while in mud and sand I drop them to 18PSI and go down from there depending on how soft it is. In my opinion, carrying a compressor and tyre deflator is the best value for money addition to any 4WD!”
GRAHAM’S BUDGET MOD
“I’m going to be honest – my favourite budget mod has nothing to do with getting further off-road, and everything to do with staying out there for longer! Without a doubt my favourite modification made to my GU is my ally folding table that attaches to the side of the canopy and gives me a heap of useable table space yet still allows me to access my drawers and storage.
When I’m done with it, the whole thing folds flat and is stored in its own shelf up above my drawer system. Likewise, the drawers themselves are nothing more than plastic storage containers bought from the hardware store and held in place with ratchtet straps. The real secret to them not moving is a lining of old yoga mat underneath.
I’ve had these in for years over some of the roughest tracks in Aus and they haven’t moved an inch. As a bonus, if I ever bust one (which I doubt I will) I can buy a new one in just about any town in Australia. Lastly, an sticking in the kitchen area, I’ve got a piece of plastic poly pipe with an end cap and a screw on lid that neatly fits 2 bottles of spirits end to end and stops them from moving or breaking; almost a portable drinks cellar.”
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