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Vehicle Modifications

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wildweaselmi

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A common question is "what modifications should I make to my vehicle to make it trail worthy?"  Reading the offroad magazines, you might think gears, lockers, armor and a radical suspension is required.  Below is our take on what it takes to Fool Around offroad.  Note that modifications are listed in order of importance and each level assumes you have done everything in the previous step.

Vehicle selection
Before doing any modifications, make sure you are starting with a good platform.  Most any short wheelbase vehicle whose transfercase has high and low range works well on the trails in our area.  The Jeep Wrangler is by far the most popular choice, but you would be fine with a Toyota pickup and 4Runner, Nissan Pathfinder, Suzuki Samurai, Chevrolet Tracker, S10 pickup/Blazer, Jeep Cherokee etc.  Full size pickups, Blazers and Broncos are too wide for the trails we run.

First step
A stock vehicle will go amazing places.  Get a CB radio.  Install tow hooks front and rear if you don't already have them.  Get your tools and recovery equipment and figure out how to store them securely.  Get the biggest, knobbest tires you can fit. Consider a second set of tires just for the trail if this is a daily driver.  Wheel it in this state for a couple of years to see if the sport is really for you.  You will learn a lot of off road skills.  Spend time watching other rigs and figuring out what your ultimate goal is; mild, moderate or wild and most importantly - how big of a tire do you want.  Once you have made this decision, you can start to modify your rig without wasting money on mods that you end up replacing later.

Mild build
Most likely a daily driver, at home on easy trails, but capable of moderate trails.  The good news is that after your "First Step" you already have a mild rig.  You might think about adding a selectable rear locker like an ARB, improving body armor with rocker protection and ground clearance with "belly up" skid plates.

Moderate build
With this target in mind, you are probably going to keep the stock axles.  Your first modification should be a roll cage.  Then find out how big of a tire your stock axles can support and choose a tire this size or smaller.  Then figure out how much lift (or better yet, sheet metal trimming) you need to fit it.  These tires will need lower gears and you should add a rear locker at the same time.  You might want to think about a winch and front locker or limited slip.  You will begin to see the wisdom of a tow rig and trailer to get home should you break something on the trail.

Wild build
At this level, you are probably talking about a dedicated trail rig.  You should keep it street legal as some venues require driving on local roads to get to the trail head.  You should mount seats to the roll cage and install four point seat belts.  Heavier duty axles, front and rear lockers, and a winch are mandatory.  Once tire size goes over 38" you will need a hydraulic ram to assist steering. 

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