Upgrading and maintaining your moving parts – they’ll keep you on the tracks and out of trouble.
The primary moving parts of a vehicle, including the wheels, suspension and steering, can be defined as its running gear.
If you do any sort of remote touring, it’s crucial to have a good idea of how these components of your vehicle work, and how to maintain them to prevent problems.
Upgrading these hardworking systems can be the key to preventing costly problems when you’re a long way from home. Carrying a good supply of tools and spare parts, and knowing how to use them is also paramount.
If your goal is to keep your 4WD running smoothly and problem-free, you’ll need to know the moving parts intimately.
When touring, your goal should be to check up on them regularly, with daily scans of the vehicle involving the state of your tyres and wheels, as well as popping the bonnet to survey coolant, oil, power steering and brake fluid level.
Wheels and tyres are the very foundation of your rig. They’re the first point of contact between vehicle and terrain, and they’re the first component to address when building your tourer.
TYRES – Traction In Any Terrain
A tyre upgrade is the first modification most 4WDers perform on their vehicles.
When it comes to offroad performance and traction, your tyres will make more of a difference than just about any other mod. When equipped with a good set of rubber, most vehicles will go anywhere you point them.
Your tyres are the only point of contact between your vehicle and the terrain on which you’re driving. As well as improving your vehicle’s traction, the right tyres will also significantly increase its clearance, keeping your diffs and other important parts on the underbody of your vehicle up and away from sharp rocks, logs and other hazards.
Factory highway tyres are not particularly effective offroad (apart from on soft sand), so, depending on where you are likely to do your offroad driving, you will probably be looking at a set of all terrain or mud terrain tyres.
All terrain tyres are well suited to sand driving on beaches and dunes, and will not wear too quickly.
Mud terrain tyres generally have a more aggressive tread pattern and have better traction in muddy or rocky conditions, although they tend to wear fairly quickly and whir loudly when driving on the highway.
WHEELS – Weight & Strength
You won’t be going anywhere without wheels.
Many 4WDers opt to replace their vehicle’s stock wheels with alloy rims which can look great and also cut down on weight.
Steel rims are a popular choice with many serious offroaders due to their relatively low cost, and the fact they’re less likely to crack than alloys.
Steel rims are more likely to bend or dent when impacted sharply. Obviously, bent or buckled steel rims will still need to be replaced if damaged significantly, but they’re less likely to be damaged beyond use while out on the tracks.
SUSPENSION & CLEARANCE
Like Atlas holding up your offroad universe.
As well as improving the quality of your ride, upgrading your rig’s suspension is also one of the most effective methods of increasing your vehicle’s clearance, improving its offroad performance and capability.
HIGH– A two or three-inch suspension lift will do the job for most rigs and will provide enough extra clearance on most terrain.
A two-inch suspension lift is the most common, and as well as improving a vehicle’s offroad capability, it will also improve the comfort of its ride onroad.
HIGHER– If you plan on hooking into some very rough terrain or rock crawling, you might want to look into an even higher suspension lift.
Challenging 4WDing requires equally specific adjustments in height. However, always keep it legal and don’t get carried away with height that could affect your centre of gravity for practical touring.
Suspension upgrades to shockproof your rig.
Touring needs are very specific, so we require specific equipment that generally doesn’t come with factory specs. Especially when it comes to shock-proofing your rig.
LEAF SPRINGS – Flat, elongated strips of metal in a series of layers.
Multi-leaf springs are capable of spreading the weight of the vehicle across a much wider surface area. They also offer a sturdy and strong resistance to bumps and thumps and work best when carrying loads rather than for pinpoint impact resistance.
COIL SPRINGS – Occasionally called ‘helical springs’, coil springs use compression around the entire length of their curled design to numb any uneven road impact on your vehicle.
They are designed to offer resistance against this compression and their rate of stiffness should be matched to the weight you intend on carrying.
Advantages are they are much lighter, take up less space than leaf springs and are easily replaced on the road. Coil springs can increase ground clearance as well as make for a more comfortable ride.
SHOCK ABSORBERS – While your springs are working hard to support the weight of the vehicle against the uneven ground, your shocks are minimising the bouncing and juddering that goes through the vehicle.
Shocks provide insulation that softens against the impact of rebounding springs. Because of the different bouncing properties of leaf and coil springs, it’s imperative that you have the right shocks fitted to match your rig.
STEERING DAMPERS – The shock absorbers between the steering and suspension that can negate a degree of unwanted vibrations and ‘wobbling’ and allow you to maintain control of the wheel when on rough terrain.
Remember to see the pros when maximising your suspension, because when it comes to matching your vehicle to the right product, it’s imperative that you do it right the first time.
Preparing your rig for a life on the tracks.
Make the most of your oil, spare parts and hauling capabilities.
Oil is the lifeblood of any 4WD, protecting your engine from wear and making sure all the moving parts keep moving without seizure.
When you rely on your vehicle and your engine for remote touring, it pays to take every possible precaution to ensure you stay out of trouble.
Motoring oils for touring vehicles are predominately synthetic blends that have been scientifically developed to maintain better wearing properties than their ‘natural’ counterparts.
When packing spares you’ll be looking to bring the items that will allow you to keep moving.
The list of what’s worth packing will vary depending on available space, but should generally include a set of springs to suit your vehicle, water and fuel pumps, radiator hoses and clips, spare fan, air-conditioning, alternator and power-steering belts, fuses, 4mm and 6mm electrical cable, oil, coolant and fluids, two spare tyres and a puncture repair kit, a wheel bearing kit and packing grease as well as tools to fit the above parts.
Remember that carrying springs is one way to ensure you need them (due to the additional weight). Springs can be repaired 9/10 times when on the road.
Here’s an ideal list of spares to pack before you embark;
- Brake fluid
- Distributor cap/leads
- Fan belts
- Rotor button
- Spark plugs
- Transmission fluid
- Fuel and air filters
- Fuel hose
- Engine oil
- Gearbox/diff oil
- Radiator coolant
- Radiator hoses and, depending on where you are going;
- Starter motor
- One front shock
- One rear shock
- Wheel bearing kit front
- Wheel bearing kit rear
- New tyre valves
- Length of Heater hose