4WD Accessories - What do you Need? (Part 2)
What accessories does your 4WD need to turn it into a viable and independent proposition for tackling Australia's nastiest terrain?
Hi-Lift, Kangaroo and Wallaby Jacks (essential)
Called kangaroo or wallaby jacks because of the nature of their operation - these simple tools are capable of saving a car from the most drastic situation. We consider the hi-lift jack such a vital piece of equipment we don't even feel it should be categorized with other recovery gear like winches or snatch-straps. It is as important as a spare tyre.
In theory, a car driven into a gorge deeper than it's own roof height - should be able, wheel by wheel, to be jacked and packed until it can be driven out on level ground. Likewise a hi-lift jack could potentially winch you, a metre at a time, across Australia. Not particularly attractive or likely scenarios but it demonstrates the respect with which we hold this invaluable tool.
A more detailed article on hi-lift jacks can be read here
Air Intake Snorkels (essential)
Snorkels hold firm at third place because they do more than allow you to submerge your diesel vehicle in fathom deep rivers and drive across. Although their primary role is to allow your car to make water crossings and prevent the ingress of engine destroying water, the fitting of an airtight snorkel brings about other benefits. By lifting the air intake of the engine up and away from the engine bay, the air induction system is given access to a cleaner, denser and often cooler air supply.
A more detailed article on snorkels can be read here
Diff Breathers (essential)
Hiding under your 4WD, usually at the top of each axle housing are positioned the differential breathers and they perform much the same role as the air intake snorkel performs for the engine. Diffs get hot and consequently build up pressure. The diff breathers allow the pressure to escape to atmosphere and prevent seals from blowing out.
Many four wheel drives comes with an extended 'stalk' to elevate the open end of the breather above the water line when making water crossings. However some don't and if you plan on tackling running rivers and creeks it pays check and elevate them, if necessary, up and out of harms way.
Snorkels and diff breathers go hand in hand.
Tyres, Tyres, Tyres (essential)
Ahh...tyres - the 4WD industry revolves around them. The most visible accessory - the only one with contact with the driving surface, potentially one of the most performance altering upgrades and without doubt one of the most misunderstood. If you plan on changing rims and tyres make sure you really are upgrading.
The venerable 75 series Toyota Landcruiser, on it's introduction to Australia, suffered one of the unkindest cuts dealt to 4WDriving in this country. Thousands of brand new and perfectly good split rims were discarded in favour of fat tubeless tyres. Vehicles that came out standard with tall long legged 16 inch rims and tyres - were fitted overnight, by well meaning enthusiasts, with aftermarket 15 inch rims and squat, fat all-terrain tyres. Fuel economy dropped, ground clearance suffered, gearing was lost and allround performance was less than ideal. But they looked great, the aftermarket tyre economy boomed and everybody did it because, well, everybody was doing it.
We switch between split rims (with tubes) and tubeless rims and tyres. It is a luxury born out of necessity because we often travel to locations unaccompanied by other vehicles - locations that are sometimes hundreds of kilometres from assistance. Split rims afford us the security of being able to repair any number of punctures on any given day. Tubeless tyres, on the other hand, enable a quick and convenient roadside plug and repair if the occasion arises.
There are some great tubeless tyre and rim combinations around and not everyone ends up driving in country capable of producing a new puncture every 10km. Tubeless tyres offer a softer ride and the convenience of being able to plug a hole in the tread and move on in minutes
Split rims always leave us with a sense of independence and self-reliance. We're not trying to sway anyone in favour of splits or tubeless tyre combinations - just suggesting that a bit of research may help you make a more informed decision based on the type of terrain you intend to tackle. The world of rubber is big business with massive marketing campaigns and brand loyalties that closely resemble the Holden/Ford, Engel/Waeco and Toyota/Nissan debates.
Further reading about 4WD tyres can be found here.
Suspension and Lift Kits (essential)
Good suspension is vital. It's generally unseen and hopefully unheard but it is one of the harder working components of your 4WD. Springs, whether they are coil or leaf suffer untold stress and flexing. Likewise shock absorbers and steering dampers get incredibly hot operating under the rigours of badly gutted and corrugated dirt roads. All springs and all shock absorbers have a finite lifespan and will eventually fail.
Vehicles are manufactured to operate under a fairly standard load and if you plan on towing big heavy caravans or lots of equipment then a suspension upgrade may be the order of the day based upon what you intend to carry.
Good ground clearance in rough terrain is a real bonus. Just 25mm or 50mm added ground clearance can dramatically help you straddle larger obstacles, improve approach and departure angles and help reduce the car 'bellying' or 'bottoming out' in deep sand (often getting bogged). A lot of 4WD's come from the factory with high suspension and plenty of clearance under the vehicle but some 4WD's are manufactured with a dual purpose in mind - i.e.: to be a daily commuter that can be taken off road for holidays and weekends. In designing all purpose 4WD's that allow easier boarding and alighting some of the ground clearance is compromised.
An aftermarket lift kit is a great way to gain a couple of inches extra clearance between the bottom of the car and the ground and can make off road life a lot more fun. We don't recommend adding more than 50mm (2 inches) of lift to the ride height. Steering components and CV Joints become pushed beyond their engineered limits and the vehicles centre of gravity is lifted, possibly introducing instability in the handling characteristics of the car.
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