In my book, functionality, purpose, and reliability are the deciding factors of four-wheel drive modifications. On a street car, you might be able to get away with that faux “race car” tow hook, but on an off-road vehicle, that subpar recovery device could have some serious—even deadly—implications. Like the Formula One wing sitting on the back of your neighbour’s kid’s Honda, there’s things that look just as stupid on your LandCruiser. Here are my thoughts on a few that shouldn’t be allowed—ever.
So after scrolling through a few forums, you’ve seen a few competition rock crawlers from Tuff Truck with massive stinger bumpers that are meant to protect the front of your vehicle in the event of a rollover. The next natural step is to put this on your comparatively stock vehicle, because it will make you a rock crawler too, even if it’s ridiculously in violation of Australian Design Rules. The word here ladies and gentleman is…poseur. Stinger bumpers do serve a purpose, on highly, highly-modified vehicles, with a full supporting roll cage, that live for competition, not the daily commute.
Adding an aftermarket heavy-duty bumper to your 4WD is a perfectly acceptable modification. The first step is to evaluate your needs. Want to have the rock crawler look without looking like a poseur? Consider an ADR compliant tube bumper to improve your approach angle, and the clearance in front of your tyres. Want to keep it things a bit less wild? Forget the stinger bar and get a custom-built full-width bumper that will protect your vehicle against animal strikes while giving you a more aggressive and custom look.
Mounting a high-lift jack to your vehicle when you have with no suitable jacking points (or the know-how to use it)
A high-lift jack is an incredibly useful and powerful tool, while simple to use, without proper training it can also be incredibly dangerous. Not having proper jacking points only exacerbates the risk of using a high-lift. It’s far too common to see them mounted to a vehicle that lacks those safe jacking points—plastic bumper covers, and no side steps make using a high-lift painful at best. Even if you have everything you need — do you actually know how to use this big, heavy item you’ve lugged with you through the bush? Any four-wheel drive trainer can show you how to properly use a tool that if used wrongly could put you in the hospital.
The obvious fix is to have bumpers and side steps with appropriate jacking points installed. Just remember, not all side steps are rated to hold the weight of your vehicle safely. Tired of the drama associated with the high-lift? You’d be surprised how capable your factory bottle or scissor jack is when paired with an appropriate base. There are also adapters available that allow you to jack from the holes on your wheels—though it does little good when you need to change that tyre (note- you should never change a tyre with the vehicle supported only by your jack – if you’d gone to a 4X4 driver training course you’d know this).
I’ve had people tell me they have beadlocks, only to realise they have some Chinese pot metal bolts screwed into the outside of their wheel. In a terrible attempt to justify it, they say it’s alright because they’re cool. Do you know what’s cool about fake beadlocks? Absolutely nothing, they’re terrible. Why are they terrible? In addition to being incredibly ugly (my opinion), they’re usually oversized, and likely made from the cheapest Chinese metal the factory could find.
Buy a properly sized off-road specific wheel made to handle the abuse of off-road travel. Try to fit the smallest wheel possible, which is usually limited by the size of your brake rotor and calliper. This allows you to have the most sidewall possible, reducing the risk of a pinch flat or sidewall blowout, while giving you a better ride. If you want beadlocks, your best bet will be to get a set of internal beadlocks, which put a canvas and rubber bladder inside your tyre, pushing the sidewalls from the inside out, onto the safety bead, preventing them from coming off.
Buying Knock-off, Cheap LED Lights
It was virtually impossible to walk through a four-wheel drive show without being constantly blinded by the amount of LED lights on display. There’s nothing wrong with LED lighting—and while there’s no doubt it is the future for many applications. Its main drawback is the expense that comes with it; proper light bars from reputable manufacturers aren’t cheap for a reason.
Knock-off LED light bars suck, and they suck for a few reasons. For starters, you’ll notice that most of these lights are marketed as “work lights” and that’s because they do not have the distance you need for effective off-road use. Sure, they’re really bright, but when your factory halogens are outperforming your fancy light bar(s) that might be your first clue that something is wrong. Also, take a look at this light bar (below) after a trip through a car wash, that condensation is sexy…isn’t it?
Stick to quality items within your price range. You’re better off with a cheaper, name-brand set of halogen lights than you are a poorly-supported set of LEDs sold by a shady dealer. Buying cheap off-road gear that claims to have a high-end punch is false economy. Trust me,
I learned this the hard way.
Words By Matt Scott