So you’re interested in off-roading and aren’t sure where to start? We’ve gathered some definitions for the most basic vehicle terms that you’ll begin to hear as you get involved and start thinking about modifying your truck, Jeep, or SUV to conquer those trails better!
If you are looking to raise your differential without increasing the overall height of the truck, you may be interested in an axle lift. Although this will not help you if you choose to increase your tire size, it has an advantage in that you will not raise your truck's center of gravity.
If you have a body-on-frame truck or SUV, you can raise the body by placing spacers between the normal mounting points of the vehicle's chassis and body. Typically, you can only raise the body by four inchs before it becomes unstable.
A suspension component that prevents bottoming out.
Center of Gravity
This is the point of the vehicle where the weight above it and the weight below it are equal. The lower that your vehicle's CoG is, the less likely it is to tipover. Therefore, if you plan to do any off roading, you want a lower CoG, but not to the point where the suspension will end up inside the truck.
Springs that wrap around the shock or strut to assist in shock absorption.
It isn’t uncommon for off-road vehicles to have two shock absorbers per wheel.
With all the bouncing around encountered off-road, many people upgrade their normal seatbelts for more secure harnesses – offering better stabilization to jostling around in your seat.
A suspension component which limits amount of travel and prevents shocks from breaking by extending all the way out.
Roll Bar and Roll Cage
A Roll bar is a single bar, usually located near the driver's head, to prevent serious brain damage in case of a collision. A roll cage surrounds all of the passengers and is far safer. Hopefully, you will never have to put either item to use!
A very common (and noticeable) modification is to raise a vehicle's suspension system by means of oversize springs, shocks, controlling arms and steering linkage.
Sway Bars and Stabilizer Bars
Adds stability and limits the roll of the vehicle during a turn, helping to prevent a flip from occurring.
Of course we all know what tires are, but it won’t take much off-roading to recognize that tires are your new best friend (or worst enemy) on the trail. Responsible for navigating varied and difficult terrain…the tire is where the rubber meets the trail. Larger tires will provide both more ground clearance as well as greater traction – but be mindful that at some point tire size increases will call for modified suspension set-ups. Nitto Tire’s Trail Grapplers are a great choice for beginning and advanced off-roaders alike, as they provide tremendous and versatile performance on the trail while also being smooth and quiet on the highway.
This is the distance between the center of the front wheels and the center of the rear wheels. Simply put, a shorter wheelbase is better for off-roading, as it is sturdier.
You don't want to go off-roading without one! A winch will come in handy if you get stuck, or someone else gets stuck... Or if you go rock crawling.
One of the most common modifications done to increase a truck or SUV's ability to handle rough terrain is to install a vehicle lift kit. This will increase the distance from the ground to the truck. Increasing the height of your vehicle will also allow you to install bigger tires (see Tires).
While this is by no means an exhaustive list, hopefully it can help the beginning 4x4er become more knowledgeable and get their vehicle going in the right direction!
Photos courtesy of Icon 4x4.