A vehicle that can handle challenging terrain and unexpected obstacles is crucial for off-roading in emergencies. Whether exploring the great outdoors or navigating rough roads, having a well-equipped bugout vehicle can make all the difference in your safety and survival.
Fortunately, you don’t need to break the bank to upgrade your vehicle’s off-road capabilities. With DIY survival vehicle upgrades, you can boost your vehicle’s performance and be better prepared for any situation.
In this blog post, we’ll explore some of the most effective and affordable ways to upgrade your vehicle for off-roading. From tires and suspension to lighting and winches, we’ll cover all the essentials you need to know to get started.
So, let’s dive in and learn how to make your vehicle more capable and better equipped for the next SHTF scenario!
PREPPING 101 GUIDE- WHAT IS PREPPING? HOW TO BE PREPARED FOR WHAT’S NEXT.
Table of Contents
Tires and Wheels
Your vehicle’s tires and wheels are the first lines of defense regarding off-road performance. Upgrading your tires and wheels can make a significant difference in your vehicle’s ability to handle challenging terrain and maintain traction.
Choosing the right tires for off-roading
There are a few factors to consider when it comes to off-road tires. First, you’ll want to choose a tire with a tread pattern designed for off-road use. You’ll need to select a tread designed for the terrain you’re operating in. Look for tires with larger, more aggressive tread patterns that can handle mud, rocks, and other obstacles.
You’ll also want to consider the size of your tires. Larger tires can provide better ground clearance and traction. Still, they may also require modifications to your vehicle’s suspension or fenders.
I can tell you from first hand experience that larger tires aren’t always better. When I was a lot younger, I had to have bigger tires on my Jeep. So, I got a lift. Great, I could fit larger tires. That was the end of my glory.
Going too big can create a lot of stress on the driveline. Everything wears out faster. Power is also lost if your ring and pinions aren’t re-geared. If you’re not familiar with performing a re-gear, you’ll be better off having a shop perform it. You’re looking at $500 plus for parts and God only knows what the labor will cost you.
NTW Online has a tire fitment guide explaining which tire size fits on stock and lifted vehicles.
Choosing the perfect wheels for your vehicle
There are many wheels to choose from when prepping for off-road driving. Alloy wheels are lighter and better for acceleration, braking, and fuel economy. They are more appealing to the eye for most people.
A better option is steel wheels. Steel wheels are more robust and cheaper than alloy wheels.
Beadlock wheels use a unique ring to clamp the tire bead to the wheel, preventing it from separating during low-pressure situations. Beadlock wheels can prevent tire beads from separating from the wheel, providing better traction on rough terrain when running lower air pressure.
Beadlock wheels can withstand the extra stress of off-road driving and prevent damage to the tire bead and wheel.
Beadlock wheels come in various styles and sizes, allowing you to customize your vehicle’s look and performance.
Installing beadlock wheels can be a complex process, and it’s recommended to have a professional handle the installation.
Most beadlock wheels are not street-legal. One company I know of is Hutchinson which manufactures street-legal beadlocks.
Tips for maintaining your tires
Proper tire maintenance is essential for maximizing their lifespan and performance. Make sure to regularly check your tire pressure and adjust it as needed. You’ll also want to inspect your tires for any signs of wear or damage and rotate them periodically to ensure even wear.
Upgrading your vehicle’s tires and wheels can significantly improve its off-road capabilities. Choose tires with aggressive tread patterns and consider larger sizes for better ground clearance and traction. When installing new tires and wheels, follow proper procedures, and maintain your tires for optimal performance.
Your vehicle’s suspension is another critical component of off-road performance. Upgrading your suspension can provide better clearance, articulation, and stability, which can help you navigate rugged terrain more effectively.
Upgrading your suspension for better off-road performance
There are several ways to upgrade your suspension for better off-road performance. One popular option is to install a lift kit, which raises the height of your vehicle and provides more ground clearance. Lift kits can come in different sizes, and you’ll want to choose one that matches your vehicle’s weight and intended use.
You can upgrade your suspension by replacing your shocks, springs, and other components with off-road-specific parts. These parts are designed to handle the extra stress of off-roading and provide better articulation and stability.
Installing a lift kit
If you’re installing a lift kit, follow the manufacturer’s instructions carefully. Improper installation can lead to safety issues, and you may need to make additional modifications to your vehicle, such as extending your brake lines or adjusting your steering.
A cheaper yet effective way to run bigger tires is a small body lift or spacer lift. Either saves some money and gives you more room for larger tires. I prefer to keep the smallest lift I can in order to clear the larger tires. I’d rather trim the body. Keeping your bug out rig’s center of gravity lower will decrease your chances of a rollover.
In summary, upgrading your suspension is crucial for better off-road performance. Consider installing a lift kit or replacing your shocks and springs with off-road-specific parts. When adjusting your suspension settings, consider the terrain you’re driving on for optimal performance.
Proper lighting is essential for off-roading, especially when driving at night or in low-light conditions. Upgrading your vehicle’s lighting can improve visibility and safety, allowing you to navigate challenging terrain more effectively.
You don’t have to break the bank or refinance to upgrade to LED headlights. I’ve been running a pair of LED headlights on our Jeep for 3.5 years with no problems. I bought them off Amazon for next to nothing. Name brands aren’t always better.
Adding extra lights to your vehicle
One way to upgrade your vehicle’s lighting is to add extra lights. Depending on your needs and preferences, you can install various lights, such as fog, spotlights, and LED light bars. Make sure to choose lights designed for off-road use that can handle the extra stress of vibration and impact.
Choosing the correct type of lights
When choosing lights, consider the type of terrain you’ll be navigating and the amount of light you need. For example, installing spotlights for better visibility if you drive on narrow trails. Consider installing LED light bars for broader coverage if you’re going on open terrain.
How to install new lights
Installing new lights can be a straightforward process. Still, you may need to modify your vehicle, such as mounting brackets or wiring. Ensure to follow the manufacturer’s instructions carefully and consult a professional if you need clarification on any aspect of the installation.
Upgrading your vehicle’s lighting can significantly improve your off-road capabilities. Depending on your needs and preferences, consider adding extra lights, such as fog lights, spotlights, or LED light bars. Choose lights designed for off-road use and follow proper installation procedures.
A winch is a valuable tool for off-roading, allowing you to pull your vehicle out of tricky situations, such as mud, sand, or steep inclines. Installing a winch on your vehicle can provide extra safety and security, especially when exploring remote areas.
The importance of having a winch
A winch is a crucial tool for off-roading, as it can help you get unstuck from challenging situations. It can also be used for recovery, such as pulling other vehicles out of trouble or moving obstacles out of the way.
Choosing the right winch for your vehicle
When choosing a winch, consider the weight of your vehicle and the type of terrain you’ll be navigating. A winch should be able to pull at least 1.5 times the weight of your vehicle and have enough cable length to reach a secure anchor point.
You’ll also want to consider the winch’s pulling capacity and line speed. A winch with a higher pulling capacity and faster line speed can provide better performance and efficiency.
How to install a winch
Installing a winch can be a complex process, and having a professional perform the installation is recommended. Choose a winch compatible with your vehicle’s mounting location and follow the manufacturer’s instructions carefully. You may also need to modify your automobile, such as reinforcing your bumper or upgrading your electrical system.
A cheap winch option
You don’t have to purchase the most expensive winches on the market. I know several people that are rocking Harbor Freight winches and some off Amazon. If they don’t have a winch big enough to suit your application; you could always buy a block to double the winches pulling power.
Installing a winch on your vehicle provides extra safety and security when off-roading. Choose a winch compatible with your vehicle and meets your pulling capacity and line speed requirements. Follow proper installation procedures and consider consulting with a professional if needed.
Axle lockers lock the differential in your vehicle’s axle, providing better traction and stability when off-roading. When you engage an axle locker, both wheels on the axle turn at the same speed, even if one wheel is in the air or on a slippery surface.
The benefits of having axle lockers
Axle lockers can provide several benefits when off-roading, including:
- Better traction: Axle lockers can offer better traction on slippery surfaces, such as mud, snow, or rocks.
- Improved stability: By keeping both wheels on the axle turning at the same speed, axle lockers can improve stability and prevent wheel spin.
- More straightforward navigation: With better traction and stability, you can navigate challenging terrain more quickly and with less effort.
Choosing the right axle locker for your vehicle
Several axle lockers are available, including mechanical, air, and electronic. Each class has advantages and disadvantages, and you’ll want to choose the one that best suits your needs and preferences. I personally run ARB air lockers on my rigs. They are selectable and very robust.
You’ll also want to consider the compatibility of the locker with your vehicle’s axle and differential, as well as its installation requirements.
How to install axle lockers
Make sure to choose a locker compatible with your vehicle’s axle and differential, and follow the manufacturer’s instructions carefully. You may also need to modify your automobile, such as upgrading your differential cover or adding a compressor for air lockers.
Another cheaper option
Lockers are expensive. A cheaper option is a ratcheting locker, like the one pictured above. These lockers provide traction and still maintain good on-road manners. They are also automatically activated so you can concentrate on driving. It is super easy to install with minimal tools.
In summary, axle lockers can provide significant benefits when off-roading, including better traction, improved stability, and more straightforward navigation. Choose the correct type of locker for your vehicle and follow proper installation procedures for optimal performance.
Bumpers and Skid Plates
Off-road bumpers are designed to provide better protection for your vehicle’s front end. They can also offer winches, lights, and other accessories mounting points. Bumpers can provide several benefits when off-roading, including:
- Improved protection: Bumpers can protect your vehicle’s front end from damage due to impacts or rough terrain.
- Mounting points: Bumpers can provide mounting points for winches, lights, and other accessories, making them a versatile upgrade for off-roading.
- Customization: Bumpers come in various styles and materials, allowing you to customize your vehicle’s look and performance.
Skid plates protect your vehicle’s underside from damage due to impacts or rough terrain. They can provide several benefits when off-roading, including:
- Improved protection: Skid plates can protect your vehicle’s underside from damage from rocks, stumps, or other obstacles.
- Better clearance: Skid plates can provide better ground clearance, allowing you to navigate rough terrain more easily.
- Customization: Skid plates come in various materials and thicknesses, allowing you to customize your vehicle’s protection level.
How to install bumpers and skid plates
Choose a bumper or skid plate compatible with your vehicle’s make and model, and follow the manufacturer’s instructions carefully. You may also need to modify your vehicle, such as reinforcing your frame or upgrading your mounting hardware.
A cheaper option
If you or a friend are handy with a welder, you could always build your armor. Bumpers are relatively easy to build. At the shop where I purchase my steel sells remnants. These are pieces of scrap that are usually sold a lot cheaper than ordering full sticks. Steel is typically sold in 20′ lengths. You may be able to get some large enough to build your bumpers.
In summary, bumpers and skid plates can provide significant benefits when off-roading, including improved protection, mounting points, and customization. Choose the correct type of bumper or skid plate for your vehicle and follow proper installation procedures for optimal performance.
Critical Tools and Fluids
- Tire repair kit: A tire repair kit can help you fix a punctured tire quickly and easily. It should include a tire plug kit, a tire gauge, and an air compressor.
- Jack: A jack can help lift your vehicle for tire changes or repairs. A Hi-lift jack can even pull your rig out and move body metal around if damaged to keep you moving.
- Tool kit: A basic tool kit should include pliers, screwdrivers, wrenches, and sockets, as well as any specialized tools for your vehicle. A large hammer and saws-all can be handy when body damage is rubbing tires.
- Recovery gear: Recovery gear, such as a tow strap, winch cable, or shackles, can help you pull your vehicle out of tricky situations.
- First aid kit: A kit should include basic medical supplies, such as bandages, antiseptic, and pain relievers.
- Oil: Bring extra oil for your vehicle, as off-road driving can stress your engine.
- Coolant: Coolant is essential for regulating your engine’s temperature, and you should bring extra in case of leaks or overheating.
- Brake fluid: Brake fluid is necessary for your vehicle’s braking system, and you should bring extra in case of leaks or failures.
- Transmission fluid: Transmission fluid is critical for your vehicle’s transmission system. You should bring extra in case of leaks or failures.
- Water and food: Bring plenty of water and non-perishable food items in emergencies.
- Maps and navigation: Bring a map or GPS device to help you navigate through unfamiliar terrain.
- Communication devices: Bring a cellphone, radio, or another communication device to stay in touch with others in case of emergencies.
Bringing critical tools and fluids is essential for off-road repairs and emergencies. Make sure to bring a tire repair kit, jack and jack stands, tool kit, recovery gear, first aid kit, extra oil, coolant, brake fluid, and transmission fluid. Remember to bring water and food, maps and navigation, and communication devices for emergencies.
Final Thoughts on Easy DIY Survival Vehicle Upgrades For Offroad
In conclusion, upgrading your vehicle’s off-road capabilities is beneficial and affordable. With some DIY knowledge and the right upgrades, you can make your vehicle more capable of handling rugged terrains and unexpected obstacles. From upgrading your tires and suspension to adding extra lights and a winch, there are plenty of affordable ways to boost your vehicle’s performance.
Remember, being prepared for off-road emergencies is crucial. A well-equipped vehicle can make all the difference in your safety and survival. So, don’t wait any longer. Take action and make the necessary upgrades to your vehicle today.
We hope this blog post has provided valuable insights and tips on making your vehicle more capable of off-roading. Stay safe out there, and happy off-roading!