BUILDING YOUR RIG – PT 2: PROTECTION, POWER & VISION

Essentials for man & machine.

Without these three factors, mankind would be exposed, blind and depleted. And the same thing goes for your rig. Without a bullbar you’re vulnerable. Without lights you’re impaired. Without battery power you’re completely crippled.

These are not mere add-ons – these are your touring essentials. It’s time to find out the basics of the holy trinity of 4WDing necessities, and which way to jump when building your own tourer.

 

BULLBARS

The great importance of a bullbar.

ARB’s Deluxe bullbars will protect your rig and look great doing so.

Nothing will give you greater protection whens go bump at dusk, usually big bouncing things with big feet and big tails. In more detail, here are the two main reasons why bullbars are a prerequisite when hitting the open country…

 

PROTECTION FROM ANIMAL STRIKES

In 2011, the Australian 4WD Industry Council published a study into the efficacy of bullbars. The results came from 40000 respondents, who detailed their experiences over a five-year period. The sobering findings revealed the following three points.

  • Three in four vehicles have been protected from animal strikes by their bullbars.
  • Half the vehicles without bars will sustain major damage in their most serious bingle with an animal. Yet, for vehicles fitted with bullbars, that figure drops to just 12%.
  • Unprotected, one in five will be injured from a serious animal strike. Protected, less than one in a 100 will sustain injuries in such an accident.

And that’s just animal strikes, without factoring collisions with other vehicles or stationary items.

 

A STURDY MOUNTING POINT

The prow of your ship is the ideal place to mount your auxiliary lighting solutions, electric winches, plus your aerials and communications equipment.

Your front bar can also be a fulcrum to mount roofrack extensions and have attachments such as rollers fitted, in order to carry and restrain heavier items such as tinnies and kayaks.

 

BEHIND BARS

Not such a bad place to be after all.

STEEL BARS: The strongest yet heaviest construction. Also called winch bars as the strength of their construction allows a solid winch mounting point. The extra weight can also affect your driving
performance and can weigh down on factory suspension.

ALLOY BARS: All about the strength-to-weight ratio, and this is done through high-tensile alloys that have been tested for maximum impact stress. Alloy bars may also come with reinforced side gussets that maintain position during strikes.

AESTHETICS: Looks are important. If you’ve put your heart and soul into your build, then there’s no need to put a hideous set of braces on your girl’s gleaming grill.

The top manufacturers have built sturdy yet super sleek designs that complement the front end.

Aussie manufacturers like ARB and TJM have built international reputations for their bullbars, and they will sort you out as to the precise model for your particular rig as well as all the available fitting options.

 

MESS WITH THE BULL?

Get the bullbar expert.

It’s necessary to have your bars tested and certified in order to be compatible with your airbags.

Poorly fitted or ill-suited bullbars can affect the triggering mechanisms of your airbag system. In short, don’t cut any corners on this, and see a specialist when purchasing. They’ll also guide you with the correct design for your truck when it comes to approach angles.

How far out your bullbar protrudes can make all the difference when hitting shifty terrain; you don’t want your ship of the desert to be a snowplow of the desert.

 

NIGHT VISION

A quality bullbar is the ideal mounting point for a quality aftermarket lighting setup… like this pair of ARB Intensity LED spotlights.

While factory headlights are perfect for suburban driving, you will be taking it up a notch or two, and for your safety you’ll need to do the same thing with your lighting.

The main difference when choosing aftermarket spotlights and lightbars is the different technology that is available.

HALOGEN: Similar to factory bulbs, halogens are a cost-effective way to increase your night vision. Halogen lights tend to run very hot and have a much higher rate of bulb blowouts, so always keep spares handy in your rig if you’re spending any amount of time in the bush.

The wire filament in these bulbs can also be susceptible to damage from the vibrations of serious offroading. They are the cheapest of the options and can still prove super effective.

HID: Short for High Intensity Discharge. In general, HIDs are ‘whiter’, and much brighter, yet they use less wattage than halogen globes and don’t have the overheating issues faced by wire bulbs.Although, like household fluros, they can take a minute to reach maximum light strength.

While they may be considerably more expensive than traditional halogen lamps, the bulbs can last up to eight times longer. HIDs also have the longest throw of any driving light, potentially reaching over 2km down the road.

LED: Electroluminescence – is the name for the technology where an electric current comes rushing through a diode and releases energy in the form of light photons.

LED lights retain similar intensity to HID, yet are much more spread out. Unlike HIDs, there’s no warm-up time, but they can be heavy because of the heat emitted, and the necessary heat sinks.

No filament or gas also means they’re impervious to vibration damage. They can be an expensive outlay, although this has been decreasing in recent times, and there are no real maintenance costs.

In general, LED bars throw the most spread of light, whereas HIDs will project the most distance, so don’t be afraid to mix the two to your own specs.

 

BEAM ME UP

Basic beam patterns.

Traditional spotties generally come with dual lighting goals; a ‘spot beam’ that zones in on the focal point; and a blunter ‘spread beam’ that covers the area
between the spot beams as well as the roadside periphery.

The difference in the beams of light emitted is caused by the shape of the lamps and the reflective cones built within them.

 

AUXILIARY BATTERY SYSTEM

This pair of lithium auxiliaries provides enough power to keep the 4WD Touring production machine humming along perfectly when camped out remotely for long stretches of time.

Outdoor living means always having a spate power source to run your camp fridge, 12V lights and winches. It’s fundamental because you don’t want to be sucking energy from your starter battery life.

Plus, if you want to take care of work on the road like we do, you’ll also be able to charge your laptop, camera and other electronics.

 

HOW DO THEY WORK?

The auxiliary battery, ideally a deep cycle, is joined to the main battery via a dual battery isolator, like REDARC’s SBI range.

Whenever you kick the engine over, the alternator will charge the starter battery until it is full, and then the isolator will connect both batteries, enabling the auxiliary system
to charge.

REDARC’s isolators will also enable you to connect the batteries manually from in the cab when the kids have left the cabin lights on all night and the starter is dead. Having it done right will save you all sorts of headaches down the track.

 

WHERE DO YOU PUT THEM?

Ideally, under the bonnet. AGM batteries don’t like a lot of heat, but they are the best for touring applications, with more useable amp hours per battery.

ARB manufactures battery trays for most engine bays, and you can use sealed batteries in the cabin, though they should always be vented.

While you can do 12V installations yourself, it pays to have your auxiliary system installed by a professional to ensure it is well fused. Proper wiring can ensure you get the most out of your system as well, quelling voltage drop and potential safety issues.

 

POWER TRIPPING

Stay on top of your offroad power supply.

A meticulously built 12V setup is the beating heart of any dedicated touring rig.

INVERTERS

Convert 12V(AC) power into household 240V(DC) power, using a rectangular board with socket points, which is either clipped directly onto the auxiliary battery or plugs in to the lighter.

When using inverters, it’s imperative to always keep track of how much energy you’re drawing from the battery.

Inverters come in two main varieties…

Modified: Smaller output, best for low maintenance items.

Pure sine wave: Will produce a consistent current similar to household power. Pure Sine will be more expensive but will act as insurance against cooking your batteries or blowing-out expensive appliances.

 

GENERATORS
Petrol-powered inverters have worked like a charm since the ye-olden days of camping.

The downside is they can be loud, and being petrol based, there is a potential for the fuel to be a burden when trying to keep your touring weight down.

Plus, more and more parks don’t allow the use of generators. The go-to piece of machinery for generator buffs these days would be the Honda EU20i, or it’s smaller brother, the Honda EU10i.

 

SOLAR POWER

This is all about getting the sun to work for you and saving money in the process.

It’s important to note here that solar doesn’t actually run anything itself, like a generator can; but instead charges your battery system.

These come either as panels built onto the roof, as portable sandwich-board hinges, or the item most applicable for us – the roll-up or ‘amorphous’ style.

The roll-up solar blankets can be whacked on the ground or on your windscreen and connected to the auxiliary battery via a cable and regulator kit.

The guys at REDARC have developed some great solar solutions and should be your first port of call.

 

PORTABLE JUMP START BATTERIES

Self-explanatory, and a must for anyone embarking on a serious trek.

You obviously wouldn’t want to be relying on these as any sort of primary offroad power source, but they can be a handy backup option if you ever end up getting caught out with a flat battery or any sort of remote 12V power problems.