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Built For The Rocks

Jeep Being Lifted Out
Sean P. Holman | Writer
Posted June 1, 2011
Photographers: Courtesy of Jeep

11 Ways To Make Your Rig Survive

Here is a scenario many of us are familiar with: In front of you lies a boulder-strewn path of assured vehicular destruction. Rigs that have gone before you have been beaten into submission with broken axles, punctured oil pans, and reshaped sheetmetal. Sure, you could take the bypass, but where is the adventure in that? As a crowd of onlookers forms, you make the decision to proceed with confidence because you know that your rig has been built to survive.

If you feel this strongly about your rig, you understand what it takes to tackle extreme terrain. If you would have taken the bypass, but wanted to take the obstacle in this scenario, we’ll show you the best ways to fortify your rig so it can tackle the most impossible rocks Mother Nature can put in your path. Not only will you be able to take tougher trails, but you’ll also have more fun at the wheel.

Follow our suggestions and we’ll set you up to get high fives at the end of the obstacle that appeared impassable.

Make Some Room
When it comes to rockcrawling, clearance is your biggest ally. The whole point of lifting a truck is to fit bigger tires to be able to get the axles further away from the ground. With more clearance, you have a greater ability to drive over obstacles, keeping your important parts from interacting with the rocks and lessening the wear and tear on the machine.

See Clearly Now
One of the best things you can do to your rig is to improve what you can see from the driver’s seat. Installing rock doors, or taking your doors off all together, are just a couple ways to improve your visibility. Enhanced visibility allows you to pick better lines, place wheels more accurately on obstacles, and more easily communicate with your spotter. As anyone who has done it before can attest, the difference between doors and no doors on the trail is just about as noticeable as the difference between auxiliary lighting or no lighting on a night run.

Get the Low Down
We have been following a trend of LCG, or Low Center of Gravity, for a while now. This movement has been to go with as low a lift as possible, or in some cases, no lift at all, while fitting the tallest tires possible. Keeping the center of gravity low equates to better stability on the trail and less of a chance to flop or roll on uneven terrain. Several companies have introduced LCG kits in recent years, which can include higher fender or flare positioning and new body panels. For those of you not as concerned with looks, the old standby philosophy of not fearing the Sawzall is still alive and well. A little fender trimming goes a long way. Another trick to lowering your center of gravity is to fabricate an attachment point to your axle so that the winch can pull the body closer to the axle for those maneuvers that put a priority on stability over suspension travel.

Real 4WD
Unless you have lockers in your front and rear differentials, you don’t have a true 4x4, no matter what the sticker on the bed says. Most 4x4s come from the factory with open diffs and two-wheel drivethat is, only one wheel per axle turns (the one with the least resistance), potentially leaving you stranded. Lockers are essential in the rocks and come in many forms, from Lincoln Lockers to spools. The most popular lockers today are selectable units because they allow the driver to engage them only when needed, but automatic units such as the venerable Detroit Locker are still stalwarts in the sport.

Bead Security
Beadlocked wheels allow the tire to be run at extremely low pressures without the worry of it coming off of the rim. Non-beadlocked wheels are usually only safe to run to about 12 psi, while beadlock-equipped wheels can support tires that are aired down to little or no air, depending on the tire. The difference in psi from 12 to 5 is significant when traction is hard to come by. Another thing to look for when outfitting your rig for rocks is a wheel that protects the valve stem from being ripped open on the trail. Yeah, we’ve seen that happen.

Slow Roller
Low gearing is the key to total control on the trail, as it allows the vehicle to crawl over obstacles and makes the most out of the torque available at low engine rpm. Low gears slow down the action, making it easier for the driver to decide on the fly about his line. At slower speeds, weight transfer is more predictable and wear and tear is minimized. Keep in mind that if your rig is used in mixed wheeling, it is important to choose your gearing wisely, as there is such a thing as going too low. The OE industry seems to have settled on 4.0:1 low-low gearing, which is what Hummer offered in its H3 Alpha and Jeep offers in its JK Rubicon. However, aftermarket transfer cases such as Advance Adapters’ Rubicrawler and Atlas 4 and Stak’s three-speed Monster Box offer multiple low gearing options to make your rig as flexible as possible.

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