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What Makes a Good Off-Road Vehicle?

photo by 1000kbps via iStock

There are some trucks that we adventure lovers swear by due to their off-road abilities, reliability, and general usability in the world’s harshest environments. 

This got me thinking though, not everyone knows the reasons why an experienced off-roader would never choose a Rav4 to cross Africa or why Jeeps and older vehicles in general, are so popular amongst the off-roading community.

Are there any standards these vehicles must meet in order to be off-road worthy? Well, yes, of course, and in today’s article we’ll check them out. 

Traction – A Good Off-Road Vehicle Must Be Able to Maintain Traction

Person standing on a 4x4

photo by Brunomsbarreto via iStock

What aids the maintenance of traction in an off-roader? Apart from the obvious and that’s drive to all four wheels, there are plenty of other factors that dictate whether a vehicle will be able to maintain traction over slippery or uneven terrain. 

 Uneven terrain can lead to loss of traction due to wheels not being in contact with the ground. When this happens an ordinary 4×4 will just spin the wheel that is off the ground, hence losing all traction. That’s how differentials work. A capable off-roader will have differential lockers that will distribute the power evenly across the axle; therefore, giving power to the wheel on the ground and propelling you forwards. 

 Wheel articulation can also make a huge difference in maintaining traction because if you have enough of it you won’t lift wheels off the ground in the first place. Vehicles with front and rear solid axles like old Land Cruisers and Jeeps are exceptional at this which is part of the reason we love them.

 Moving on to slippery terrain such as mud and snow. To overcome such terrain, you will need a wide tire and they won’t fit on all 4x4s. Wheel arch space is the first issue but the second and most important one is gearing. A vehicle that does not have low ratio gears will struggle to turn the bigger tires. So, to fit good off-road tires you need low range gearing and some wheel arch real estate. 

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It Has to Have Proper Clearance

SUV in the sand

photo by MayankYadav via iStock

Making it over rocks and steep hills without getting stuck is all down to ground clearance and approach and departure angles. The off-roaders we all love have ample amounts of ground clearance and good approach and departure angles.

Gearing is Crucial in a Good Off-Road Vehicle

Gear shift

photo by noblige via iStock

I’ve mentioned this above briefly when talking about tires but that’s not the only reason you need gearing. Low gearing will help you tackle obstacles at a lower speed which helps avoid damage. You also have more torque to make it over anything that comes along your way. 

 A powerful engine combined with low gearing and solid axles is the ideal recipe for a great off-roader. 

 Aftermarket Support is Necessary

Shocks on an off-road vehicle

photo by RyanOverman via iStock

Finally, a good off-road vehicle must have good aftermarket support as building a tourer is down to preference and customization. All capable vehicles are supported with aftermarket suspension, axles, storage solutions, and anything else one could possibly need to tackle the world.

Less off-road-worthy cars such as cross-overs are usually limited when it comes to aftermarket parts; therefore, increasing their capabilities will be harder. 

Good off-road vehicles must meet some standards to be considered capable. If you are in the market for an off-roader, ensure it meets the areas mentioned above or go for a proven vehicle such as a Jeep or Landcruiser. 

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