If you’ve got a truck, it’s time to turn it into an off-road beast. This is more of a general overview of the basics that will make your truck capable of tackling off-road obstacles with ease. It isn’t all encompassing, but should cover everything you need to get started on your transformation. You’ll find ways to install both big lifts and small lifts, and modifications for just about any budget level. So no matter how much money you have, or don’t have, there are ways to build up your ride so that you can tear through grassy fields and rocky hills without slowing down or getting stuck…
To see what I am talking about check out this post: 5 Steps to Making Your Truck a Monster
1. Install Tires that Fit
If you are going to drive off-road, you must have a proper set of tires. This is the single most important aspect of building an off-road truck. You can install a lift kit, but if your tires don’t fit on the rims or wheels correctly it isn’t going anywhere. Tire sizes vary from vehicle to vehicle so they aren’t always easy to buy online, but once you know what size you need it’s simple enough to find them at almost any store nearby. I would advise against buying cheap tires for an off-road vehicle just because you are going to beat them up with rocks and muck…even premium tires won’t last forever. However, price isn’t always an indication of quality. You can find a part number on your current tires and search online to find the same tire for less money…but I would advise against that. It’s safer and easier to stick with brand names that have proven themselves over time.
2. Install a Lift Kit
You can run larger tires on your truck without installing a lift kit, but it is much easier to control and drive the vehicle when you have it installed. If you really want to do some serious off-roading then you need a lift kit and big tires. Installing a lift kit will not only make you feel more comfortable on the road while driving through town or highway speeds…it will also reduce wear on suspension components and tires by reducing bumpiness from bad roads. This helps keep moving parts (control arms, ball joints, etc) in good shape which reduces maintenance costs over time. A four inch lift should do nicely for most off-road situations unless you are doing extreme rock crawling or heavy duty mud bogging. There are many ways to install a lift kit and it starts with properly measuring wheel base to determine the type of lift that best suits your needs…
3. Install Lockers
Lockers will improve handling in off-road situations because they allow each axle to spin independently while providing power to both wheels at the same time. This gives you incredible traction and control, especially on loose surfaces like sand or mud. The downside is that lockers can be expensive and complicated to install . If you have a rear locker then make sure your front end has some sort of differential/locking system as well. If you are installing lockers for the first time then plan on spending a lot of time in your garage or tool shed learning what you need to do and how it all works…and don’t expect to have everything figured out within a few hours. It can take several weeks of research, reading manuals, and tinkering to get both lockers installed right.
4. Install an Air Intake System
Some people put a big snorkels on the front of their trucks to increase air intake while others just install an air intake system on top of their hood. The latter is a lot cheaper but not as cool looking and not as effective.
5. Install a Lift Gate Light
Having lights on your tail gate gives you extra visibility when off-roading at night , especially good if you are chasing other vehicles through rocky terrain . There are several types of tail gate lights available and some are more expensive than others …but they all get the job done. I personally prefer LED lights because they are brighter than traditional bulbs and don’t need frequent bulb replacement, but it’s up to you.
If you have a winch then be sure to learn how to use it safely. I can’t emphasize this enough…you will learn very quickly if your winch system works or not so plan on getting stuck VERY often until you know how to properly use it without destroying your vehicle or injuring yourself.
6. Install Good High-Lift Jacks
Good jacks are expensive but they will save you both time and money in the long run. If you step out of your vehicle on a steep incline and it slides down while you are under it… then you really need to get better jacks .
7. Install Lights Under Your Pickup Bed
If you plan on driving off-road at night , or even during the day, then make sure all of your lights work properly before heading out. A broken taillight can attract unwanted attention from cops or other drivers if you are doing anything remotely extreme. If you don’t have a winch then it’s also a good idea to install lights in your bed so when people get stuck and ask for help, you know exactly where to find them and can direct them to an area that is clear of dangerous obstacles like rocks or big holes…or even better …you can drop your tailgate and drive into the hole yourself saving time and effort .
7. Install Good Locking Differentials
Locking differentials are probably the most important parts of any serious off-road vehicle. They provide significantly more traction than normal differentials because both wheels stay tightly connected to each other regardless of road conditions (as long as one wheel does not fall off the road ). I highly recommend you install both front and rear locking differentials because they will work together to provide an almost endless supply of traction. If you are installing them in a vehicle that already has lockers in the front then it is not necessary to have them in the rear ( but do what works best for your truck ) …however if you plan on having more than one vehicle with differentials or want your bike to have a locking differential then you will probably need to have one at every end (front and back) .