4WD Accessories - What do you Need? (Part 1)
What accessories does your 4WD need to turn it into a viable and independent proposition for tackling Australia's nastiest terrain?
We mention the word independent because that is the level of customization you need to ensure you are well enough equipped, to escape any calamity an off road excursion may throw up. Even if you travel in pairs or groups it's best to bolt on the right components to enable you to extract yourself, by yourself, if the need arises.
With 4WD aftermarket equipment being highly marketed and advertised to saturation point, it's easy to fall into the 'me too' trap and simply buy what everyone has and blindly follow the accessory pack. Drive into any small rural town and have a look around around at what the local 4WD drivers have bolted up to their own cars and you begin to spot local patterns. The solitary tyre dealer may only sell, for example, two brands of off road tyre - an expensive import (usually American) and a cheaper, yet "it's still good value mate" tyre that will do the job. It often means that the whole community eventually believes that the expensive tyre is the ultimate 4WD.
The same goes for things like winches, spotlights, recovery gear and all the other bits and pieces that go hand in hand with four wheel driving. Similar patterns can emerge in clubs or groups that regularly congregate together for dirt excursions and social banter regarding the benefits off 'Brand X' over 'Brand Y'. Peer group opinions are persuasive and expensive marketing campaigns work - that is why big companies employ them. Any aftermarket 4WD retailer will happily fill your trolley with a plethora of off road goodies all designed to part you with your hard earned cash.
So what do you really need to to do to your 4WD to ready it for the rigours of the Australian landscape and what equipment do we consider essential for extended forays into the bush and the boondies?
We like the set up on this Toyota ute. It belongs to a pair of contract geologists 3 months into a job scouring North West Queensland's rugged mining regions. They work seven days a week and if they don't cover the ground they don't get paid. No glamour here, just pure functionality. The addition of the tray mounts (highlighted) for the high lift-jack is a clever inclusion. This type of 4WD is the 'draughthorse' of the mining and rural industries in Australia and this is pretty much how people who rely on their 4WD, for their livelihood, set them up. Split rims with two spares, a snorkel, a decent bullbar, tall suspension and a hi-lift jack. These things pick through rock all day, drive in dry sandy river beds or fight impenetrable mud and swollen rivers in the 'wet' season'.
What's Really Essential? -
Bullbars and 'Roo Bars (essential)
We believe bullbars are absolutely and utterly useless in the city but become essential pieces of kit the minute you wander 100km from the metropolitan area. Bull and 'Roo bars are designed to deflect any object you are unlucky enough to hit, outwards and downwards - helping prevent animals from flying into windscreens and most importantly helping reduce damage to the vulnerable front end of your car. One deflected kangaroo is usually enough to pay for the cost of the bar work. It may distort the roobar somewhat but you could be considered unlucky if you smashed a headlight or damaged a vital radiator by striking a kangaroo with a roobar. Calling these things bullbars is a little misleading because a hitting a 2 tonne bull at speed is going to damage your car. The difference is that you may still drive away from it. Hitting the same beast at 100km without a bar will definitely create major damage to your average 4WD.
Depending on location there are times on badly overgrown tracks where it is necessary to bulldoze your way through - even to the point of knocking over small trees and scrub. The bullbar is the first line of defence. It helps gauge the width of tracks and lightly bounce the vehicle off obstacles. Barwork that includes fender bars that follow the front guards of the car and protect the sides are even better.
The other great thing about roobars is their versatility for bolting on attachments. Things like driving lights, lifting points, winches, UHF aerials and fishing rod holders all find a home at the front of the vehicle. Around camp they make great tie down points for tarps and tents, temporary clothes lines, or just something to sit on and watch the sunset
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