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.
Chinese-made camper heaters are shameless copies of European-designed units and they’re available at a fraction of the price. Our test unit cost $340, rather than around five times that for the genuine article. Performance so far is excellent.
Fitting this kit was easy enough, but we used different clamps for ease of fitment and for simpler bush repair.
ELECTRICS & LIGHTS
Today’s camping vehicle current demands are much greater than those in the ‘good ol’ days’ and traditional blade-fuse circuit protection isn’t adequate. Circuit breakers are an alternative, but larger, screw-in fuses are probably a better bet for off-road vehicles, where vibration is a constant connection hazard.
Fitting driving lights to modern 4WDs can be a challenge, but Lazer High Performance Lighting has integration kits to fit light bars into grilles and above windscreens, with and without roof racks.
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.
These calculation tables are designed to make it easy to assess the effects of payload and towball weight when towing. Caravan and trailer weight distribution can also be calculated.
COMMUNICATIONS & NAVIGATION
The ZOLEO satellite communicator is compact and provides over 200 hours of battery life. It is designed to operate in temperatures ranging from -20°C to 55°C, is shock-resistant and features an IP68 rating for water and dust resistance.
When it comes to choosing the right UHF CB aerial, size is important, but it’s probably not what you think. Taller, with higher ‘gain’ isn’t always better.
This device alters accelerator response without touching fuel injection computer ‘mapping’.
There’s a current craze for fitting a plain or oily-foam ‘sock’ over a snorkel. It may seem like a good way of keeping your air cleaner element dust-free, but it isn’t.
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
As we all know, the skinny standard wheels and tyres fitted to Japanese 4×4 trucks are useless in off-road situations – particularly the rear duals that can trap rocks between them. There are several sources for replacement wide single wheels and tyres, but the most practical we’ve come across are the Australian-made 17 x 9 wheels from AAV4x4.