4WD MODIFICATIONS & ACCESSORIES
Buying the right 4WD is critical and in this Buyers Guide, we highlight the strengths and weaknesses of new and used wagons, utes and heavy duty off-road vehicles. Also in the Buyers Guide are motorhomes and campervans. Many of the vehicles tested have video reports to let you see how they perform on and off road; and some also include tow tests. There are also suggestions for desirable bush modifications.
BARS, WINCHES & SIDERAILS
Many people see a winch as a means of increasing the off-road ability of a 4WD. It’s an impression that’s easily gained by seeing how off-road competition blokes and gals go about conquering seemingly impossible obstacles, but that’s not how you should look at a recreational vehicle winch.
You only have to see how serious 4WDs are dressed up for bush work to appreciate that out-of-the-box 4WDs are underdone for Outback travel and off-road driving. The most obvious addition that most people fit is a bull bar.
The availability of low-priced, lightweight awnings means that nearly everyone has one these days. However, you don’t always want one fixed to your roof rack, like a ‘jousting stick’.
Our mate Kevin Y is a senior technician with a large international truck manufacturer, so his background is ideal for this project: turning a ‘softroader’ into a go-almost-anywhere small wagon.
ELECTRICS & LIGHTS
Lazer High Performance Lighting continues to hit the Australian market with new driving light products. Although best known for its grille-integrated driving lights and slimline light bars, Lazer has developed a driving light pair in the popular 225mm size.
Back in the olden days you could never get enough light for country driving. We can remember rallying back in the mid-1960s, behind a pair of Marchal halogen driving lights and thinking it couldn’t get any better than that. It could, fortunately.
Bob James’ 6×6 Australia has been working on 4×4 modifications since 1984 and now does many 6×6 conversions on popular 4×4 utes and wagons, plus some 4×4 light trucks.
For many years we’ve been complaining about the restricted wheelbase and GVM offerings from medium-ute importers. In 2020, VW did something about it.
COMMUNICATIONS & NAVIGATION
Uniden’s 2021 App-enabled XTRAK PRO Series of in-vehicle and handheld UHF radios can track and share the user’s location through the XTRAK Bluetooth App.
Hema Maps unveiled its seventh-generation GPS and navigation product, the HX-2, in August 2021. The product is said to integrate digital mapping and data of remote areas with moderated community sourced data and social networking.
We’ve been asked many times what’s the best oil type to run in new and older model 4WDs and it’s not easy to come up with a straightforward answer. First, here’s some background into all the confusing acronyms that surround the oil business.
This device alters accelerator response without touching fuel injection computer ‘mapping’.
SUV Doorstop is a small, foldable step that allows safe and easy access to roof racks and roof-mounted solar panels.
These three fridge-slide enhancements from Clearview can make bush camping easier.There’s a cable tidy, an extension tray and a full slide-out Pantry.
SUSPENSION & BRAKES
Most 4WDs spend their time relatively lightly loaded around town and fully loaded on bush trips. Trying to make a fixed-setting shock absorber handle both damping tasks isn’t easy: hence, the adjustable shock absorber.
Supple suspension gives great wheel travel and a comfortable ride, but load and road conditions can sometimes cause ‘bottoming’. There’s a procedure to control this undesirable situation.
Electrification doesn’t mean the end of the internal combustion engine, but tomorrow’s passenger car engines are being designed primarily for hybrid-electric vehicles and as range extenders.
The leaf spring has been with us since horse-drawn wagon passengers demanded better ride quality and the long-serving leaf spring is still the principal springing medium for the rear ends of light commercial 4WDs.
LOKKA is an automatic differential locker that can be fitted to front, rear or both differentials. This auto-locking diff centre has been manufactured in Australia since the 1990s.
In the accompanying story Differentials Explained we’ve looked at the different differentials that are popular in the 4WD world and now we’ll look at their selection and use.
TYRES & WHEELS
We’ve been hoping for years that the airless, puncture-proof tyre would save us from plugging flats in mulga-root country, but it seems that our salvation is some years away. OTA brings you up to date with non-pneumatic-tyre (NPT) development around the world.
ROH has released a wheel range for 2021, with the emphasis on heavy-duty models that are rated at 1500kg each, for GVM upgrade applications.