Over the next two weeks we will be sharing with you some advice from Outback Crossing on some key accessories you really need to turn your 4WD into a viable and independent proposition for tackling Australia’s nastiest terrain. See some of their recommended essential accessories below:
Bullbars and Roo Bars (essential)
We believe bullbars are absolutely and utterly useless in the city but become essential pieces of kit the minute you wander 100km from the metropolitan area. Bull and Roo bars are designed to deflect any object you are unlucky enough to hit, outwards and downwards – helping prevent animals from flying into windscreens and most importantly helping reduce damage to the vulnerable front end of your car. One deflected kangaroo is usually enough to pay for the cost of the bar work. It may distort the roobar somewhat but you could be considered unlucky if you smashed a headlight or damaged a vital radiator by striking a kangaroo with a roobar. Calling these things bullbars is a little misleading because hitting a 2 tonne bull at speed is going to damage your car. The difference is that you may still drive away from it. Hitting the same beast at 100km without a bar will definitely create major damage to your average 4WD.
Depending on location there are times on badly overgrown tracks where it is necessary to bulldoze your way through – even to the point of knocking over small trees and scrub. The bullbar is the first line of defence. It helps gauge the width of tracks and lightly bounce the vehicle off obstacles. Barwork that includes fender bars that follow the front guards of the car and protect the sides are even better.
The other great thing about roobars is their versatility for bolting on attachments. Things like driving lights, lifting points, winches, UHF aerials and fishing rod holders all find a home at the front of the vehicle. Around camp they make great tie down points for tarps and tents, temporary clothes lines, or just something to sit on and watch the sunset
Hi-Lift, Kangaroo and Wallaby Jacks (essential)
Called kangaroo or wallaby jacks because of the nature of their operation – these simple tools are capable of saving a car from the most drastic situation. We consider the hi-lift jack such a vital piece of equipment we don’t even feel it should be categorized with other recovery gear like winches or snatch-straps. It is as important as a spare tyre.
In theory, a car driven into a gorge deeper than its own roof height – should be able, wheel by wheel, to be jacked and packed until it can be driven out on level ground. Likewise a hi-lift jack could potentially winch you, a metre at a time, across Australia. Not particularly attractive or likely scenarios but it demonstrates the respect with which we hold this invaluable tool.
Air Intake Snorkels (essential)
Snorkels hold firm at third place because they do more than allow you to submerge your diesel vehicle in fathom deep rivers and drive across. Although their primary role is to allow your car to make water crossings and prevent the ingress of engine destroying water, the fitting of an airtight snorkel brings about other benefits. By lifting the air intake of the engine up and away from the engine bay, the air induction system is given access to a cleaner, denser and often cooler air supply.
Diff Breathers (essential)
Hiding under your 4WD, usually at the top of each axle housing are positioned the differential breathers and they perform much the same role as the air intake snorkel performs for the engine. Diffs get hot and consequently build up pressure. The diff breathers allow the pressure to escape to atmosphere and prevent seals from blowing out.
Many four wheel drives come with an extended ‘stalk’ to elevate the open end of the breather above the water line when making water crossings. However some don’t and if you plan on tackling running rivers and creeks it pays check and elevate them, if necessary, up and out of harms way.
Snorkels and diff breathers go hand in hand.
Suspension and Lift Kits (essential)
Good suspension is vital. It’s generally unseen and hopefully unheard but it is one of the harder working components of your 4WD. Springs, whether they are coil or leaf suffer untold stress and flexing. Likewise shock absorbers and steering dampers get incredibly hot operating under the rigours of badly gutted and corrugated dirt roads. All springs and all shock absorbers have a finite lifespan and will eventually fail.
Vehicles are manufactured to operate under a fairly standard load and if you plan on towing big heavy caravans or lots of equipment then a suspension upgrade may be the order of the day based upon what you intend to carry.
Good ground clearance in rough terrain is a real bonus. Just 25mm or 50mm added ground clearance can dramatically help you straddle larger obstacles, improve approach and departure angles and help reduce the car ‘bellying’ or ‘bottoming out’ in deep sand (often getting bogged). A lot of 4WD’s come from the factory with high suspension and plenty of clearance under the vehicle but some 4WD’s are manufactured with a dual purpose in mind – i.e.: to be a daily commuter that can be taken off road for holidays and weekends. In designing all purpose 4WD’s that allow easier boarding and alighting some of the ground clearance is compromised.
An aftermarket lift kit is a great way to gain a couple of inches extra clearance between the bottom of the car and the ground and can make off road life a lot more fun. We don’t recommend adding more than 50mm (2 inches) of lift to the ride height. Steering components and CV Joints become pushed beyond their engineered limits and the vehicles centre of gravity is lifted, possibly introducing instability in the handling characteristics of the car.
Dual Batteries (essential)
The modern four wheel drive often comes armed with an arsenal of aftermarket electrical goodies. There is enough reserve in a modern car electrical system to accommodate the usual array of accessories like small power inverters, GPS systems, average driving lights and the odd small work light. But start adding current hungry items like big power winches and car fridges and the need for an auxiliary battery becomes almost mandatory. Good quality, heavy duty batteries come with a price tag in excess of $200 and it’s one area where it’s wise not to scrimp. Popular 4WD batteries like Century’s NS70 (not an endorsement) have an average lifespan of between two and three years, depending on conditions, and are central to the operation of your 4WD’s electrical system.
The usual configuration in a dual battery setup is to have a heavy duty ‘cranking’ battery as the primary power source for your car. A second ‘deep cycle’ battery is added to the wiring loom and the two are connected by a switch with the original vehicle alternator sharing charging between the two.
Cranking batteries don’t tolerate constant discharging and recharging well, while deep cycle battery’s handle the task admirably. Conversely, deep cycle battery’s don’t have the necessary grunt to continually start an engine.
The batteries can be connected by a manual switch, which allows the driver to divert alternator charge from one battery to the other based on estimated need. Automated systems are also available which are basically switching solenoids controlled by a small microprocessor that detects battery voltage levels and disperses the charge accordingly. An extravagant alternative is to install a second alternator and feed each battery a dedicated supply.
Tyres are a key accessory that will affect the performance of your 4WD and as always it is important to ensure that you have the right tyres fitted to suit your 4WDing needs. For some tips and advice on how to get the most out of your tyres click here, or for advice on which tyre best suits your driving style call our team of specialists on 1300 MICKEY.
Stay tuned for Part 2 next week.SOURCE: http://www.outbackcrossing.com.au