Want to Make Your Custom Jeep Wrangler Unstoppable Off-Road? Lift it!
Whether you’re searching for a custom Jeep Wrangler, or buying one and modding it yourself, this is what you need to know in order to make your Jeep unstoppable off-road. The best way to customize your Jeep for maximum capability is to lift it.
Check out the process and then visit Keene CDJR to get started…
First and foremost, you’re going to need ground clearance. This is often done through a suspension lift and some larger tires. Of course, those tires also need to be the right kind of tire. You can’t just throw on any type of tire and expect to make it through the mud. Third, a body-on-frame design is necessary for success. The beefiness of the axles (compared to an independent suspension) is very noticeable when it comes to durability. Speaking of durability, you’ll want to make sure to slap on plenty of armor on your Jeep. Skid plates, rock rails, etc. The proper amount of wheel articulation is also needed, seeing as it’s crucial to making it over uneven terrain safely. In order to push through rugged terrain, the Jeep can’t do anything unless you have plenty of plenty of torque in the low-end: that’s where a low-range transfer case comes into play. Locking differentials are also required in order to help power you through tough situations. Finally, you’ll need an elevated air intake so you don’t hydrolock your engine when playing in the swampy areas of the off-road trails.
Keep in mind though: these add-ons might make your lifted Jeep unstoppable, but it takes a good driver to safely navigate through the trails. If you are inexperienced and thinking about getting your first Jeep, make sure to do ride-alongs first and learn the basics. Then, have that same person come with you on your first outing. This will ensure you learn the right way.
You Need Ground Clearance
Ground clearance is perhaps the most important thing on this list. What is ground clearance? Simply put, it’s the amount of inches you have between the ground and the underside of the Jeep. Throwing a suspension kit on helps keep all the important components tucked up underneath, but you need some big tires thrown on in order to safely make it over stumps and boulders. If not, you could find yourself doing some serious underbody damage, and easily getting stuck.
Important to note: raising the height of the Jeep increases its center of gravity. The higher the center of gravity, the increased chance you have of flipping the vehicle.
The amount of lift (and type: body or suspension) depends on what you want to do with your Jeep. So, make sure to do some research before you buy. However, anywhere from a 3-3.5-inch lift with 33-35 inch tires is the most common (and extreme) set up you’ll find on serious off-road rigs.
Now, I know I said those tires need to be big; since that’s the only true way to gain some major ground clearance. With most lift-kits just being there to help throw bigger tires on. But, those tires also need to be the proper type.
If you go out there with a pair of street tires, you’re going to have a bad time. In the dirt, mud, or sand, they have about the same amount of tread found on the bald spot of a middle-aged man.
You’ll want some off-road tires with deep and aggressive tread, tough sidewalls, and made out of the proper rubber compound for the terrain.
It’s also important to understand how to use your tires. Yes, you need to use your tires differently when traversing certain terrain. When hitting the trails, you’ll want to let a little air out to help with maximum traction by making the surface area of each tire larger. When rock crawling, you’ll want to let even more air out for greater grip. Think of it like a basketball: what happens when it’s full of air? It bounces. When it’s deflated? Doesn’t bounce as much, and it will even sit flatter on the ground. In other words, you don’t want basketball tires when going off-road; deflate them a bit.
A Beefy, Body-On-Frame Design
A body-on-frame design is what older SUVs — like the older CJ Jeeps — used, and what you’ll still find in a lot of trucks and Jeep vehicles today. Why? Because a body-on-frame construction makes for a tough-as-nails vehicle. Not only that, and unlike a unibody frame, the flex, stress, and wear and tear is only felt by the frame. With unibody construction, you’ll see that wear and tear throughout both the frame and vehicle.
Not to mention, you’ll have a much easier time modifying this type of vehicle. Body lifts are a prime example of this.
It might not be shiny, but your Jeep still needs to armor-up before doing battle with the wild off-road trails. Seeing as even if you have good ground clearance, off-roading can still do a lot of damage to your vehicle. Especially when rock-crawling, accidents happen.
More often then not, the damage will happen to the underside of the vehicle. Conveniently, this is where all the important parts are located (gas tank, oil pan, etc.) Steel skid plates can be bought to help protect these parts, and rock sliders/rock rails will help protect the rocker panels/side of your vehicle. A transfer case skid plate is also necessary, seeing as if that goes, you lose all your low-end torque.
Bottomline: if they make a skid plate for it, get it. The more armor, the better.
With ground clearance and the proper tires, your vehicle isn’t unstoppable. You also need the proper amount of wheel articulation. This is where that solid axle from a body-on-frame design comes in handy, seeing as it provides more flexibility compared to an independent suspension. Disconnecting the sway bar also gives you better flex.
The whole idea is to always have a wheel (or two) on the ground to keep you moving. When going over uneven terrain, articulation allows this to happen.
Low-Range Transfer Case
You need plenty of torque in the low-end to successfully off-road. With it, you’re able to maintain steady and smooth momentum over obstacles without having to stomp on the gas to make it over a rock, and lose control. Not only would that be annoying, but it would also be dangerous.
Slow and steady wins the race, and with a low-range transfer case, light pressure on the pedal will keep you moving. Not only because you have all the torque in the low-end at your disposal, but also because a low-range transfer case has the proper gearing ratio for off-roading.
Not to mention, you’ll be able to climb steep grades without hesitation thanks to proper gearing and torque. So it opens up more exploration possibilities as well.
Your average vehicle will come with open differentials. Which means the wheel with the least amount of traction will get the most power. This is a no-no for off-roading. Seeing as you want the wheel with the most traction to be getting the most power. Locking differentials are the best way to go about this, and the most common type you’ll find on Jeeps produced now and days are electronic lockers. Air-lockers, pneumatic lockers, and solenoid-based lockers, and brake lock differentials are also some you’ll find floating around on used Jeeps.
Electronic/air-lockers physically lock the two wheels on an axle together. This causes both wheels to spin at the same rate, which gives them the same amount of torque. Therefore, reducing your chances of getting stuck.
Elevated Air Intake (Just Get A Snorkel)
Hydrolocking your engine isn’t fun. In a nutshell, it’s when water gets sucked into the air intake of an engine, and causes the engine to shut down. In order to combat this, you’ll want to elevate your air-intake. Even if you aren’t planning on doing serious water fording, you can still hydrolock your engine on a shallow puddle.
My opinion? Just get a snorkel. If you do need to cross a river, you’ll be prepared. If you don’t, they still look cool.
Your Used Jeep Is Not Unstoppable
Your used Jeep is now unstoppable, and you’ll be hard-pressed to find an off-road trail in America that can stop you.
If you know how to drive, of course. Because half of off-roading is the proper equipment, and the other half is the driver’s ability. Without either one, it’s going to be a miserable experience.