Yet another year and another tax bill, right? Well, wait just a minute-it looks like you overpaid, and Uncle Sam has a chunk of tax return money coming your way. So, what should you spend this cash on? Your 4x4, of course! With that in mind, we polled our editors, assigned them a vehicle, and told them to go shopping with the goal of stretching $1,500. Let's see how they did.
1999-2011 Ford Super Duty
What it is: Keystone Good Hood Heat Extractor Hood
What it costs: $600
Why it's cool: It's cool because its helps keep your engine cool. This high-strength, fiberglass composite-constructed hood is designed to draw hot air from the engine compartment so it can be replaced with cooler, dense air. It's finished in gel coat and easily installs to factory hood hinges. It's available for '99-'07 models.
Where to find it: www.keystonerestyling.com
What it is: N-Fab Pre-Runner Bar
What it costs: $327
Why it's cool: If you're looking for a sexy, bolt-on addition for the front of your Super Duty and/or you desire a cost-effective way to add forward-facing lights, the Pre-Runner is a simple, one-piece, all-welded solution. With this bar, you'll be able to mount up to 9-inch-diameter lights.
Where to find it: www.n-fab.com
What it is: Sportz Truck Tent 57 Series
What it costs: $250
Why it's cool: Your Super Duty can be the foundation of your backcountry lodging with this new two-person truck tent (shown here on an F-150). Some of its features include a patented sewn-in floor, 5.6 feet of headroom, two large windows, two side vents, cab access door, and a 4x4-foot awning. The tent sides fit over the truck bed for protection against water, too.
Where to find it: www.sportzbynapier.com
Easy Winch Mount
What it is: Westin MAX Winch Mount Tray
What it costs: $165
Why it's cool: This winch mount bolts directly to the Super Duty frame, works with most major brand winches, and can accommodate up to a 12,000-pound-rated line pull winch. It's made from mild steel and has a black powdercoat finish. Options include tow hooks and bull bar/light bar as shown here as well as a faceplate. It's available for '08-'10 models.
Where to find it: www.westinautomotive.com
What it is: Mag-Hytec diff cover
What it costs: $260
Why it's cool: This finned aluminum diff cover helps keep your diff oil cooler and helps extend the overall life of your Ford rear axle. Its features include 6-quart capacity, a magnet-filled drain plug, sending unit fitting, O-ring-sealed dipstick, and O-ring-sealed drain plug. Further, the cover itself utilizes an O-ring that is snapped into an inverted V-groove for a positive seal without a gasket or silicone.
Where to find it: www.mag-hytec.com
1997-2006 Jeep Wrangler TJ
The Ultimate Party Mod?
What it is: Drop Down Tailgate Conversion
What it costs: $160
Why it's cool: This system allows any TJ owner the ability to transform the factory swing-out tailgate into a traditional drop-down-style tailgate. It comes in very handy as a cooking or work surface, or simply for sitting around in camp.
Where to find it: www.swagoffroad.com
What it is: Front Bumper with Winch Mount
What it costs: $134
Why it's cool: Using the a'la carte mentality, this frame-built bumper base serves as a perfect starting point for the budget-minded wheeler. With numerous bolt-on options, you can piece together the perfect look, one paycheck at a time. Add-on options include stingers, grille guards, extraction points, tow-bar mounts, fairleads, various end caps and even steering box protection.
Where to find it: www.metalcloak.com
What it is: A Bikini Top to Keep Your Cool
What it costs: $57
Why it's cool: This strapless top covers the front passenger area of a TJ and uses industrial-strength webbing and buckles. It will keep the sun off your skin when things heat up on the trail.
Where to find it: www.quadratec.com
Lock It Up
What it is: Locker for Model 35 Rearends
What it costs: $265
Why it's cool: This inexpensive locker is perfect for the wheeler with small tires and a low budget. It installs into the stock open carrier and ensures that both tires are receiving torque when you step on the skinny pedal.
Where to find it: www.ringpinion.com
What it is: Rocker Panel Protection for Less
What it costs: $165
Why it's cool: These simple yet effective rock sliders offer wheel-to-wheel protection and include an integrated step to help with egress. Made from 2x3-inch rectangular tubing, these units are ready for the trail. Bolt-on installation instructions and a durable powdercoat finish complete the package.
Where to find it: www.quadratec.com
Make It Purr
What it is: Tune Up in a Box
What it costs: $63
Why it's cool: This all-inclusive kit features plugs, a cap and rotor, spark plug wires, and all the filters you need to get your 4.0L in tip-top shape for summer.
Where to find it: www.quadratec.com
Protect Your Rear
What it is: A Rear Bumper Built for Abuse
What it costs: $199
Why it's cool: This bumper is a quick and easy bolt on that includes a 2-inch receiver hitch. It protects the rear of your Jeep from steep drop-offs and comes with a durable black powdercoat finish. We like the fact that it is made in the U.S.
Where to find it: www.olympic4x4products.com
Flexy and Sexy
What it is: Flat Fenders for Cheap
What it costs: $184
Why it's cool: Modern Classic Enterprises is a new company that is putting a fresh spin on a classic look. Their new flat fenders are made from UV-protected ABS plastic, and are designed to flex and distort instead of transferring impact loads to the rest of the vehicle. They install over the OE fenders and include a template to make trimming the factory units easy. These parts are proudly made in the U.S.
Where to find it: www.flatty-fenders.com
What it is: Dana 35 Kryptonite Diff Protection
What it costs: $140
Why it's cool: This tough part is U.S.-made and fabricated from high-strength 1/4-inch-thick steel plate. The base is comprised of a 3/8-inch-thick steel ring. Features include a fill plug with a CNC-machined boss that extends out to protect the plug. The unit comes fully assembled and ready for paint.
Where to find it: www.bluetorchfab.com
A Little Boost
What it is: One-Inch Body lift
What it costs: $138
Why it's cool: A 1-inch body lift will provide just enough room to accommodate a slightly taller tire without all of the side effects of an aftermarket suspension system. Mountain Off Road Enterprises builds their spacers out of 6061-T6 aluminum for durability. This product includes all necessary mounting hardware.
Where to find it: www.mountainoffroad.com
2007-2011 Jeep Wrangler JK
What it is: ReadyLift 1- to 2-Inch Adjustable Spacer
What it costs: $270
Why it's cool: ReadyLift has this adjustable leveling system that improves approach and breakover angles, as well as giving you clearance for 33-inch tires. This new 3-in-1 adjustable-height coil spring lift spacer allows you to select the height of front end lift that you want. Machined from 6061-T6 billet aluminum and featuring a patent-pending design, you can choose adjustments from 1, 1.5, or 2 inches of lift to get the look you want. This is the perfect kit for Jeep owners who have installed a front winch or heavy front bumper by helping to bring the front end back up to where it belongs. The ReadyLift JK adjustable lift comes with a limited lifetime warranty and is guaranteed to maintain your factory ride. The kit comes complete with machined spacers for the front suspension along with all necessary hardware.
Where to find it: www.readylift.com
What it is: Misch 4x4 Dash Top Tray
What it costs: $25
Why it's cool: This molded polyethylene dash top tray follows the contour of the center top section of the JK Jeep. The smooth ABS plastic insert is suitable for securing GPS devices with suction cup mounts. There are compartments with slightly raised outlines to hold cell phones, coins and more. The tray attaches the dash with hook and loop adhesive-backed fastener strips.
Where to find it: www.misch4x4.com
Smooth Out the Road
What it is: Bilstein 5100 Monotube Shock
What it costs: $80 per shock ($320.00 total)
Why it's cool: Bilstein's 5100 Series Shock Absorbers are high gas-pressure monotube shocks designed specifically for stock or lifted pickups, SUVs and Jeeps. These direct-replacement units are longer than stock, making them ideal for leveling kits. The shocks feature a 46mm digressive piston with self-adjusting deflective disc valving. They offer super damping ability that makes them ideal for heavy hauling or occasional off-road use, while maintaining an exceptional street ride. Bilstein's 5100s offer superior fade-free performance and long life and come with a limited lifetime warranty.
Where to find it: www.bilstein.com
What it is: EVO Mfg Trail Table
What it costs: $180
Why it's cool: The EVO Manufacturing Trail Table was designed to add a workspace to any Wrangler JK. The Trail Table is made from 1/8-inch-thick steel and can be used for anything from a workbench to a kitchen table. When deployed, it clears the factory subwoofer and features 348 square inches of surface area. When not in use, it folds up to a compact 1.5 inches. Installation is easy, requiring only a few holes to be drilled, and the durable powdercoat finish ensures it lasts the life of the vehicle.
Where to find it: www.evomfg.com
Not Afraid of Mud
What it is: Mopar Slush Mats
What it costs: $76 (four-door)
Why it's cool: These Mopar slush-style floor mats are available for both the two- and four-door Wrangler and have heavy-duty rubber construction with classic tire and rock patterns molded in, along with the Jeep logo. A must-have during inclement weather, the deep ribs trap and hold water, snow and mud to protect your carpet and keep it clean.
Where to find it: www.mopar.com
Get a Handle on Your Jeep
What it is: Skyjacker Rock Ready Roll Bar Grab Handles
What it costs: $31 a pair
Why it's cool: Skyjacker Rock Ready grab handles are made from 100-percent nylon webbing and are virtually indestructible. They have a "No Slip Grip" connection that features a rubber insert located directly inside of the securing strap, which eliminates bunching or sliding. The moto-style handgrip ensures comfort and security for all hand sizes. They are available for a number of roll bars, including padded and unpadded in 2-inch and 3-inch bar diameters, and can be ordered in red or black.
Where to find it: www.skyjacker.com
Armed For The Trail
What it is: Synergy Suspension Jeep JK High-Clearance Front Lower Control Arms
Where to find it: $325
Why it's cool: Synergy Suspension's Front Lower Control Arms for two and four-door Jeep JKs are sold in pairs and are fully adjustable when on the vehicle to correct caster on lifted vehicles. The Synergy suspension components feature an abrasive-resistant powdercoat finish for maximum durability and corrosion resistance and are made from high-quality, crush-resistant 13/4-inch-thick, 0.188-inch-wall 1026 DOM tubing. The arms are designed and manufactured to maximize ground clearance and will allow the use of OEM wheels with larger tires without the requirement of a wheel spacer. The OEM-style bushing is designed for extended permanence and minimized road vibration, and the tried-and-true Currie Enterprises Johnny Joints are for paramount performance. These 100-percent bolt-on components assure an easy, trouble-free installation with the use of basic hand tools.
Where to find it: www.polyperformance.com
What it is: TeraFlex HD Rear Differential Cover
What it costs: $100
Why it's cool: The TeraFlex HD differential covers are designed to offer extreme protection from rocks, obstacles and other debris on the trail. The cover is cast from the same high-strength ductile-iron as the TeraFlex HD axlehousings. The cover is over 3/8-inch thick to ensure protection. It also offers two fill plugs for use in standard or high-pinion Dana 44 housings, or when the pinion must be rotated in extreme applications.
Where to find it: www.teraflex.biz
Put a Winch on It
What it is: Smittybilt Winch Plate
What it costs: $150
Why it's cool: Smittybilt offers this winch plate for those Jeep owners who want to run a winch but keep their factory front bumper. Designed specifically for the Jeep Wrangler JK, it is made from 1/4-inch steel, finished in black powdercoat for long-lasting durability and includes mounting hardware. The winch plate is able to support most popular winches rated up to 10,000 pounds.
Where to find it: www.smittybilt.com
2007-2011 Toyota FJ Cruiser
What it is: Daystar Suspension Spacer Lift
What it costs: $162
Why it's cool: Daystar lift kits use the same proven technology found in their leveling kits but with the addition of rear lift. The polyurethane spacers provide a 21/2-inch boost and provide room for 32-inch-tall tires. The front strut spacers and rear coil spring spacers are made in the U.S. and bolt on easily with hand tools, so you can install it with your buddies and save even more money.
Where to find it: www.daystarweb.com
What it is: Budbuilt Midplate
What it costs: $249
Why it's cool: Budbuilt's 3/16-inch-thick, laser-cut steel skidplate for the middle of your FJ Cruiser bolts on to existing mounting points with no welding or fabricating required. Recessed flathead and carriage bolts give a nice smooth bottom. Edges are formed for strength and rigidity with gaps to allow for ease of cleaning and mud removal. Budbuilt offers other skidplates for the bottom of your FJ Cruiser as well, and the products are modular and can be added as your budget allows.
Where to find it: www.budbuilt.com
What It Is: Inchworm Gear Electric Locker Motor Guard
What It Costs: $75
Why It's Cool: The motor assembly for the rear electric locker on the FJ Cruiser costs nearly $600 to replace. It is made of cast aluminum that isn't engineered to withstand abuse, so Inchworm Gear's formed-steel guard is cheap insurance. It bolts on with hand tools and is formed to protect the side as well as the bottom of your motor assembly.
Where To Get It: www.inchwormgear.com
What it is: All-Pro Off Road High Clearance Tail Pipe
What it costs: $159
Why it's cool: The FJ Cruiser's stock exhaust hangs low, below the frame, making it very easy to dent or scrape when off-road. All-Pro has found the answer in their bolt-on "muffler-back" exhaust tube made from 439 stainless steel that offers more ground clearance than any other aftermarket system. The system bolts to the factory tailpipe flange and includes a bolt-on mounting bracket.
Where to find it: www.allprooffroad.com
What it is: Metal Tech Tube Doors
What it costs: $439 a pair
Why it's cool: Metal-tech tube doors are a bolt-on tube door for the FJ Cruiser featuring 1.5-inch tube framing and precision CNC laser-cut mounting plates for a guaranteed fit. Stainless steel paddle latches make it easy to get in and out of the FJ, and the bolt-on installation can be completed in only half an hour, making it easy to change back and forth to the factory doors. Look for Metal Tech's rear tube door in the summer of 2011 for even greater visibility and weight savings on the trail.
Where to find it: www.metaltech4x4.com
10-4 Rubber Ducky
What it is: Bandi CB Mount
What it costs: $39
Why it's cool: Communications in the backcountry are important, but no one wants to drill holes in their sheetmetal if they can avoid it. All-Pro Off Road is the exclusive distributor of the powdercoated Bandi CB mount, which is a direct bolt-on for the FJ Cruiser factory tailgate hinge.
Where to find it: www.allprooffroad.com
What it is: Baja Rack BR-TYFJOEMRCK-48-1-0
What it costs: $375
Why it's cool: Baja Rack offers three roof racks custom tailored to the unique dimensions of the FJ Cruiser. The BR-TYFJOEMRCK-48-1-0 installs inside of the stock rack and adds functionality and versatility to the factory rack without adding height to the vehicle. All Baja Racks offer one-piece construction and a durable powdercoat finish, and can hold upwards of 200 pounds. Additional accessories include light bars and mounts for fuel cans, spare tires, axes, shovels, and Hi-Lift jacks.
Where to find it: www.bajarack.com
What they are: EBC Brakes Yellowstuff brake pads
What they cost: Starting from $102+ (per axle)
Why they're cool: These performance, high-friction pads are an easy upgrade and have a zero fade, race-developed compound and they're effective right from cold. They offer better high-speed stopping and are a great upgrade if you're running larger tires or if you tow often.
Where to find it: www.ebcbrakes.com
Heavy-Duty Tool Bag
What it is: MasterCraft Safety Canvas Tool Bag
What it costs: $30
Why it's cool: The MasterCraft Safety Canvas Tool Bag is made from heavy canvas with a reinforced bottom. This bag is equipped with two carry handles and a bag strap for mounting. It is great for storing tools, jumper cables, towropes, and wrench roll-ups. This bag comes in black and is 17 inches high by 8 inches wide and 6 inches deep.
Where to find it: www.mastercraftsafety.com
What it is: KC Apollo Series Light Kit
What it costs: $99
Why it's cool: KC Apollo lights feature an extremely tough black Polymax round housing with a sleek, flat profile. Their optical quality glass lens, halogen bulb and polished reflectors combine to generate a super bright, specially focused beam of light. The two-axis mount provides for easy aiming. Apollo Series lights are available in 55-watt round models, and come in a choice of Long Range, Driving or Fog light patterns. And like all KC lights, they're backed by KC's exclusive 23-year warranty. KC Apollo Series pair packs include two 6-inch or 5-inch round Apollo Series 55-watt lights, two soft vinyl protective light covers, and KC's "Do-It-Yourself" wiring kit that includes wire, a mini rocker switch, fuse, connectors, tie-wraps, and mounting hardware.
Where to find it: www.kchilites.com
What it is: Bestop TrekStep
What it costs: $196
Why it's cool: The TrekStep is a spring-loaded step that provides easy access to the bed of your truck without blocking access to your hitch. Quickly flip the step down with the push of your foot when you need it, then flip the step to stow it under the rear bumper when you don't. The TrekStep has a 300-pound load capacity and is made from heavy-duty aluminum with a durable powdercoat finish. The no-drill installation takes only 10 minutes, and the TrekStep comes with a 3-year/36,000-mile warranty.
Where to find it: www.bestop.com
What it is: The More Power Puller
What it costs: $155
Why it's cool: The More Power Puller has been manufactured by The Wyeth-Scott Company since 1934 and is a heavy-duty industrial portable ratchet puller/hoist. More versatile and cheaper than a winch, the More Power Puller can pull from the front, rear or side. This handy tool is made of solid iron and can dead lift 6,000 pounds, or drag 12,000 pounds. Available with up to 35 feet of 5/16-inch Amsteel Blue synthetic rope, or with 5/16-inch cable, it is tough enough for most jobs-including vehicle extraction.
Where to find it: www.wyeth-scott.com
Yank It Out!
What it is: Master-Pull Super Yanker Tow Rope
What it costs: $99
Why it's cool: The Master-Pull Super Yanker is the ultimate tow rope for heavy vehicle extraction. By utilizing the power of kinetic energy, the Super Yanker is able to stretch up to 30 percent when properly used. This stretch provides superior shock absorption, which helps to reduce stress on vehicle components and also on the passengers by removing the abrupt jerking action felt when using straps or chains. Comprised of an inner core and outer cover, the rope is well protected from the elements and extremely durable. The Super Yanker is an excellent recovery tool that excels in deep snow, mud, and sand, conditions all too familiar to most off-road enthusiasts. The 1-inch Super Yanker works best with fullsize trucks such as Hummers, Super Duties, and Rams, while a 7/8-inch version is also available for lighter vehicles.
Where to find it: www.masterpull.com
Air in a Box
What it is: ARB Portable Air Compressor
What it costs: $302
Why it's cool: This portable 12-volt air compressor comes in a durable polypropylene carry case for added versatility and uses quality components for quiet operation and extra long life. Including a 19-foot air hose, it also comes with all the necessary fittings for tire inflation and camping or leisure gear. It's perfect for people who have more than one trail toy.
Where to find it: www.arbusa.com
What it is: Agri-Cover Access Limited
What it costs: Starting from $579
Why it's cool: Here's what you need if you're looking for cargo bed protection but don't want to give up quick, easy bed access. This roll-up cover is made from reinforced polyester mesh coated with UV-protected vinyl. It features all black rails, bars and bows; XT Dial tension control; Velcro sealing system; clamps with D-rings; and the AutoLatch II with automatic dual locking system. It also come with the TrailSeal, which provides a firm cushion and tight seal when closing the tailgate preventing dust, rain, and snow from getting in the bed of your truck.
Where to find it: www.agricover.com FW