Bored of work? Want a weekend where you can do more than visit the mall then why not get off-roaming trip squeezed in your calendar, and a 4×4 squeezed in your garage.
With the city becoming more concrete and fewer grounds many are finding solace in greener places during their weekend holidays, but they can get stuck to a limit due to inaccessibility. Hence many have started finding new routes using their 4×4’s.
First lets get this straight that off roading doesn’t means driving off the road like a pavement but it rather Off-roading is a term for driving a vehicle on un surfaced roads or tracks, made of materials such as sand, gravel, riverbeds, mud, snow, rocks, and other natural terrain.
Many people associate the jeeps, SUV and purpose built 4×4 vehicles to off-roaders but lets remind ourselves that there are more off-roaders segments like SUV’s, trucks, ATV’s, and motorcycles.
While many off-road vehicles can challenge and overcome most un-surfaced roads, the desire of many off-roading enthusiasts is to attempt much more challenging terrain. The two types are mainly Soft off-roading and hardcore off-roading, Soft off roading is the kind of off roading that we could do on a weekend with our 4×4 vehicles in stock condition, whereas the latter is where the vehicle has to be particularly modified to take the stress, torture and damage that it will be put through.
Now in India the off roading scene is not as big as in other countries, but yes there are many off-roaders and off roading clubs that exist. These off roaders normally go over a weekend for an OTR (off the road) with friends and clubs but with equipment and support vehicles in case something goes wrong.
Now many wonder lets get a 4×4 and go hardcore OTR, but it is incorrect. A stock Audi Q7 or even a Hummer is not suited for hardcore off-roading. The vehicles used in such OTR are specifically designed and modified for the terrain; they are fitted with custom off road suspension to alter ground clearance. The other type of equipments that are generally fitted are Electric/Hydraulic operated winches, Differential locks, Locking hubs, diff and gearbox guards, Better transfer cases, heavier grade propeller shafts , anti-wrap rods, snorkels and exhaust mods. Let’s see some more basic mods done to go OTR.
Increasing vehicle height
A vehicle height lift is done to increase the clearance between the ground and the vehicles underbody.
The first type of is called a body lift which is simpler and is mostly done on vehicles which have a body on frame design like the Mahindra jeeps, Scorpio, and many more. This mode is done by adding spacers between the frame and body thus creating enough space for fitting bigger wheels and tyres but it doesn’t increase the ground clearance between the frame and ground.
The second type is called a Suspension Lift, it is a much complicated and expensive but if done properly it’s a proper off-roading mod. In this modification the original suspensions are replace with many other off-roading suspension parts. The whole suspension system is changed as the OTR struts are longer and they in turn change the entire steering and suspension geometry which can be countered by using the entire OTR kit. An OTR kit may include the following.
- Larger arced Leaf springs.
- Longer Coil springs and struts.
- Coil spacers.
- Leaf spring spacers.
- Longer Control arms.
- Longer Pitman arms.
- Longer leaf spring shackles.
- Reverse leaf spring mounting on the axle.
- Longer Spindles in the front.
Axle lift is the modification where the axle of the vehicle is lifted by fitting larger tyres or using portal axles. A portal axle is a off-road technology where the axle tube is above the centre of the wheel hub.
Fitting of larger tyres is easier by it adds stress to the axle, drive shafts, steering system and driveline, hence many serious off-roaders use the portal axle . These portal axles are sourced mainly from old donor vehicles like the Volvo c303, unimog or some other vehicle and have been modified to fit the gaining vehicle.
Larger and bolder tyres
Many modify their vehicles to fit larger tyres. This not only adds the cosmetic benefits but also increases the ground clearance under all parts of the vehicle including the differentials and axle. Some vehicle may require the fitting of a vehicle lift kit, bodywork modification or even cutting of wheel arches. Whereas some vehicles like the ford F-250/350 may not even require lift kit.
Many may add one or more of the above methods to achieve ground clearance height increase.
Benefit of traction
One major requirement while offroading is traction, any off-roader requires maximum traction to overcome obstacles. This can be achieved from aggressive tyre threads or lowering the tyre pressure .they also use systems like limited slip differentials, locking hubs, four wheel drive, differential locks and more.
Vehicle lifting Con’s
While lifting a vehicle height its centre of gravity also increases thus making it more likely to tip over in some situations. Hence these vehicles are not as good handlers at high speed as their stock siblings whereas in OTR trips thee routes are well planned.
With OTR, comes the risk of vehicle damage. So for the risk part there are many accessories fitted like rock sliders, differential guards, under belly plates, gearbox guards, axle sliders, axle anti-wrap kits, OTR front and rear bumpers etc.
The main safety modifications done to make later jeep models off-roading capable were switching of the fuel tank from under the vehicle to fitting it under the front passenger seat just like earlier jeeps.