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Quick & Easy Tricks to Keep Your 4x4 Rig Street Legal

Posted in Features on May 4, 2015
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Photographers: Harry Wagner

We know that states, counties, towns, and cities all have different tolerances of what is legal to drive on the road. Many of the vehicles we are about to show you may not fly with your local law enforcement, but with any luck, some of the tips and tricks we have compiled here will keep the fuzz off your back.

Here are a few simple things that have helped keep us out of trouble

We’ve traveled all over this great land and met with our share of peace officers. Often these fine lawmen and -women are concerned for our safety and the safety of others. They’re just doing their job. Other times they may be harsh or critical (everyone has bad days), and sometimes they flat out don’t know what they are doing or talking about (in reality, that’s for a judge to decide). Other times they may pull a built rig over to look for more serious offenses, like alcohol or drugs. Sometimes they see a herd of dubious rigs hurdling down the highway and may decide that it’s not worth their time to write the 50 fix-it tickets that may come up. Whatever the circumstance, always be respectful and courteous to law enforcement, and they will probably treat you the same way. If you earn a ticket, chances are you deserved it (if not, hire a lawyer). Sometimes you just have to pay the piper.

Here are a few simple things that have helped keep us out of trouble and just may do the same for you when you are driving your off-road rig on the street.

In many states, any and all trucks are required to have mudflaps. The flaps here are made out of old snowmobile tracks. If they’ll keep you from getting pulled over, run ’em. We like big gaudy flaps with the Wyoming bucking bronco, the Montana state outline in white, a chrome lady, “Four Wheeling Is Not a Crime” from Daystar, or flaps with chains that help keep them from flapping in the wind.

If you’re worried about tearing the mudflaps off while wheeling, you can build a quick-disconnect mount for your truck’s mudflaps. If nothing else, you could use square steel stock from the local hardware store and build a miniature version of a receiver hitch and receiver that your mudflaps could slide in and out of. Chris Durham’s Willys, shown in front here, also has rear fenders that can be extended to cover more of the tire when on-road.

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Sometimes mudflaps are just not enough. These fenderettes slide into a mount welded to the axle of this TJ-based buggy and cover the rear tires. When you’re not on-road just pull a pin and the fenderettes come off. They can then be left at the trailhead or strapped to the roof of the Jeep to prevent damage while wheeling.

TJ Wrangler stock rear fender flares are pretty darn large but can be trimmed for more tire clearance. They are also available in many widths from different aftermarket manufacturers. They can help keep your rig street-legal when the tire-coverage enforcers are afoot. In this photo, composite fiberglass Chris Durham Motorsports rear flares are covering a good amount of 40-inch tire on a modified TJ.

Because turn signals were not required, nor even available, on street vehicles until the 1950s, older rigs can be street-legal without them. However, signals are a great idea and, when used, can prevent accidents. If your signal lenses were lost because of fender trimming or the adding of modified front fenders, the little bitty lights you see here are a pretty sweet option. Just drill a hole and wire them in. We’ve even seen them wired up with a resistor to act as a three-wire light. Mounting options abound, and many of these lights are DOT approved.

PhotosView Slideshow

Mounting a license plate is part of the formula for keeping your rig legal. Proper illumination is also key. We came across these DEI Lite ’N Boltz (PN 030302, $19.97) from Summit Racing Equipment on the back of a flatfender. They can be used to mount your license plate, and the small built-in LED illuminates the plate at night.

We’ve also used trailer license plate lights, which can be mounted to your rig to illuminate your relocated license plate. In some cases the frame with mounting provisions and a light are available

Even the most extreme rigs usually have headlights, but if your crawler doesn’t and you need them, consider this style of combination headlight and turn signal. It was intended for plow trucks where the factory lights are obscured. These are DOT approved , so they should be legal just about everywhere.

Rearview mirrors are more than just optional in every state we know of. These stick-on domed mirrors are a quick and dirty way to make sure that you can see the police car behind your trial rig. As for side-view mirrors, you can clamp mirrors onto your rollcage, doors, or what’s left of the windshield frame long after the factory mirrors and mounts have gone the way of the wooly mammoth.

Tim Hardy’s red Samuri is an iconic hardcore rig. It is very capable, and he’s been driving it for years. One thing is for sure: Any peace officer will either want to impound this rig right away or feel so sad for the poor guy driving it (who is obviously in a financial struggle based on the looks of the rig) that he or she will “let it go this time.” Still, there is good on-road tech on display here. Hardy runs a Lexan windshield that attaches to the rollcage. It’s easy to remove at the trailhead if he is planning one of his frequent flops, and it ticks a box of required “safety equipment” for many states while he is on-road.


Summit Racing
Akron, OH
Phoenix, AZ 85043

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