4WD MODIFICATIONS – GENERAL MODS
Modifications you might not have thought about: diff breathers, replacement seats, civilising the ute.
As 4WDs become heavier and the list of ‘essential’ equipment increases, many 4WD owners find that their vehicles are overweight. There is a way around this situation, but it mightn’t be cheap.
Our Outback Travel Australia restoration project, rebuilding and modifying a LandCruiser 75 Series tray-back, is an ongoing exercise. We continue to use it as a test bed for all sorts of gear.
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.
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.
Many 4WDs come with steering dampers that reduce unwanted reactions from the front wheels through the steering wheel. We checked out two Tough Dog units that differ from most others.
This Queensland company produces a heavy duty rear axle upgrade for the 70 Series V8 LandCruiser. The company also produces coil-spring rear end conversions and 6×6 variants.
Adding a third axle to a 4WD ute can increase its gross vehicle mass to 4495kg – car driver’s licence limit – or higher in some cases. The additional axle carries some of the additional weight and, being braked, increases stopping power.
The Service Body business has grown from backyard fit-outs to professionally engineered, purpose-designed units that suit all popular cab/chassis and light truck vocations. Here is a representative sample of service body types.
The Suzuki Grand Vitara is by far the most capable SUV on the market. It has useful 1.97:1 low range gearing and is robustly built. However, like most 4WDs it can benefit from additional ground clearance and some under-body protection.
Modern 4WD seats are better than they used to be, but some still leave much to be desired – particularly those fitted to working-class utes and wagons.
It’s all very well loading your vehicle up with accessories, but it’s not so easy getting their value correctly assessed and insured. One company we found stands out from the crowd.
In early 2006 a draft National Code of Practice (NCOP) for Light Vehicle Construction and Modification was released. Since then, there have been several updates, but while no State or Territory has adopted the NCOP, some States have adopted parts of it.
Nothing on a 4WD ute looks worse than a dented, scarred and rusty ute tub or tray. It doesn’t have to be like that. At OTA we’ve owned several utes over many years and we’ve evaluated three methods of protecting the metal and paint from damage. All have their advantages and disadvantages.
Dust. It looks great in the trip photo album or video, but it’s a gritty nuisance when it gets into your last kilogram of flour.
Modifying a recent-model 4WD isn’t the simple operation it was with previous-generation vehicles. Electronics confer greater safety and efficiency, but changes to standard specifications can upset electronics’ programming and behaviour.
Your 4WD is in the firing line for damage, on and off road, so make sure the shiny bits are protected.
As today’s 4WD wagons become larger, heavier and ‘softer’ the 4WD ute has great appeal to many off-roaders. However, a ute – even one of the up-market ones – needs the personal touch to fit in with work and bush travel plans