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Save Money Off Roading With Cheap Truck Parts & DIY Auto Repair - Econo Boost

Posted in How To on August 1, 2009
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Photographers: 4-Wheel & Off-Road Staff

We don't know about you, but we can't tell you how disappointed we were the day we realized that money didn't really grow on trees. As a matter of fact, we still can't figure out how money grows. Most of us think it's magic, for every time we have a little bit it disappears! The "times are tough" talk is probably getting pretty old to you by now, and it's beginning to wear on us too.

So what better way to stimulate the economy than spending a little money on your hobby? No, we're not asking you to break the bank, or even bruise it. Think of this as an investment in your sanity and a cheap way to keep you immersed in the thing you love the most, four-wheeling. So please take a gander at some of the more inexpensive widgets and DIY tricks that won't put you on a strict PB&J diet.

Retainer Clips
All you new Jeep Wrangler JK owners looking to upgrade from your factory wheels, be sure to remove the disc brake retainer clips before sliding on your new dubs. The stock JK wheels are designed to accept the raised surface of the clips, and while a few thousandths doesn't sound like much, it will prevent your aftermarket wheels from sitting flush and creating a safety hazard.

Tarp Top
Jeep soft tops are not exactly the cheapest things to come by. While not the most stylish way to cover your head, tossing on a tarp or a thick shower curtain is an affordable way to keep you out of the elements on those rainy trail days.

Child's Play
Making homemade widgets for your truck is a blast. Unfortunately the price of metal has made making mistakes expensive. For those of you who still love to fab but who need to get the first cut right, try cutting out cardboard templates and double-checking that the dimensions you think you need are exactly right.

Under Cover
Long before all those heavy-duty aftermarket differential covers, OEMs actually made covers out of beefy material from the factory. An inexpensive trick for those of you running Dana 44 axles is to find a set of early-model 3/4-ton covers. The old diff protectors will bolt right up to most modern 44s and are made twice as thick!

Wire Tie
Running wires can be a real pain, especially if you need to run more than one along the same spot. To make life easier, place one end of your wire bundle into a handheld drill, and with your buddy holding tension on the other end, pull the trigger. The rotation of the drill and the tension will deliver a tight and easy-to-work-with wire bundle.

If your truck's engine is equipped with an open-element filter, then K&N has a smart upgrade to help protect the air filter and not rob performance. The K&N Drycharger prefilter slides over your existing filter and works to keep debris from sticking to the filter. The Drycharger is available for a variety of filter sizes and is that little bit of added protection that gives you more peace of mind behind the wheel. Information: K&N,

A basic towstrap is a must-have. With dozens of aftermarket recovery straps available, it's hard to say which one is best, but easy to say that most aren't cheap. We've found that cruising the aisles of local hardware and military surplus stores has netted us great deals on all sorts of straps. Remember when searching for a strap that the more weight it is rated for, the safer and stronger it will be.

Mall Crawler
Don't have the time or money to work on your 4x4, but still want to show the world that you're into trucks? Well, try looking cool in one of Off Road Evolution's Ultimate Z71 tees, available in any color you want as long as that color is black. Here is your chance to own a piece of Ultimate Adventure history and look cool doing it. Information: Off Road Evolution, 714.870.5515,

Space Age
A suspension lift kits is not always the most affordable option for those building on a budget. But if you are dead set on getting a little more height out of your coil-sprung off-roader, then a set of Daystar coil spacers might be the budget boost you've been looking for. Daystar has a huge line of spacer lifts that will easily raise your 4x4 that little bit and will cost you less than dinner and a movie for two. Information: Daystar,

Quick Turn
Steering a fully hydraulic steering system off road can be quite the workout if you have an orbital that requires more turns of the steering wheel from lock to lock. A trucker knob is an easy bolt-on solution that will save a little energy and maneuver the rig easier off road. The knobs are available in a variety of colors, shapes, and sizes and can be picked up at most tractor supply stores. Information: Tractor Supply Co.,

The Skids
Underbelly protection is a vital defense for keeping your 4x4's expensive drivetrain components protected off road. Though a nice selection of skidplates is available from the aftermarket, another affordable avenue is to search your local junkyards for trucks with factory skidplates. Generally the junkyard jewels will require a little modification, but that's still cheaper and less time-consuming than replacing a transmission pan with a new drain plug provided by Mother Nature.

Get Hitched
If your ride is equipped with a 2-inch hitch receiver but lacks a solid rear tow point, then a basic hitch minus the ball just might be the answer to your rear recovery problems. Using the hitch's shank opening as a clevis mount, you no longer have to search for a good place to hook to. Available almost anywhere car parts or tools are sold, it's a cheap investment that you'll be glad you made the next time you need a backwards pull.

Pelican Pouch
Are you running out of storage space inside of your truck? If the answer is yes, take a look at Pelican's 1020 Micro Case. Designed to be water resistant, crushproof, and dustproof, it's a great storage pod for the off-roader who needs a safe place to store small valuables like a phone or an iPod. Information: Pelican Products,

Inner Led
Brighten up the inside of your cab with an Accent Light Module from Super Bright LEDs. Using four small LED lights fitted in a condensed package, the module tucks neatly out of the way and produces an impressive amount of light for its size. Information: Super Bright LEDs,

Tiny Mirror
We love driving with the doors off, but hate losing our mirrors. At $1.99 a tiny stick-on mirror is about the cheapest, most worthwhile safety and visibility upgrade we can think of. Available at most auto parts stores. Switching lanes just got a bit easier.

That's Nuts
A bolt with a stripped head can test the patience of even the calmest individual, but defeat you it will not! For if you have access to a welder and a couple of sacrificial nuts, you can get that stubborn bolt right out. Weld the nuts directly to the stripped bolt head. This trick will save you from hours of fighting with vise grips.

Light Bright
We've all seen the cheap, $15 lights at Wal-Mart and auto houses. Generally we advise staying away from the little import-style lights, but we've found them to be incredibly useful as rock lights. Their tiny packaging allows you to tuck them in low, protected places while still getting full use of the light.

Drive Slug
Get rid of your selectable hubs the cheap way! Using a steel plate cut down and drilled to the appropriate diameter and mounting surface, and weld a differential side gear to it to create your own at-home drive slug. This tip is intended for the external-style Dana 60 or Dana 44 axle and requires some fabrication skill.

Limit Strap
Ratchet straps are extremely useful for everywhere from the trail to your garage. Attaching to the frame at one end and the axle at the other, the ratchet strap unloads your vehicle's suspension and allows you to work safely. And if you are in a pinch and haven't got the funds for a set of performance limiting straps, the ratchets are a cheap and easy temporary solution.

Adaptive Wheeling
Whether you're trying to get those old CJ wheels to bolt onto your new Jeep or you're giving those factory rims a little more offset, Spidertrax has you covered. Spidertrax offers a full line of wheel adapters and spacers that will keep you from spending big bucks on new wheels. Always remember when running wheel spacers or adapters to use Lock-Tight, and be certain to tighten and retorque everything as instructed. Information: Spidertrax, 800.286.0898,

Country Cover
Keep your ride's factory differential covers protected in style with Rough Country's bolt-on differential guards. An easy driveway install, the Dana 30, 35, and 44 axle covers mount in less than 30 minutes and even come with new Grade 8 hardware and the proper torque specifications. Costing you less than what you likely pay for your monthly cell phone bill, this is a cheap investment that will be paying for itself for years to come. Information: Rough Country, 800.222.7023,

Lock Weld
If you're equipped with a welder, a can of brake clean, and a couple free hours, then you have a practically free locker sitting in your garage. Welding your truck's spider gears inside the differential is an old-school, low-buck way to upgrade your traction aids while spending hardly any dough. Though we don't suggest this for the daily driver, it's a great way to give that old farm truck or beater rig an advantage off road.

Shock Mover
One of the most common issues when lifting a '97-'06 Jeep Wrangler TJ is that the rear shocks become too close to the lower coil bucket once the lift is installed. The simple fix is a set of shock mount relocaters from TeraFlex. The brackets bolt in place and position the shocks farther back, thus preventing the shock's body or shaft from making contact with the bucket. And at 38 bucks, they're leagues cheaper than constantly replacing damaged shocks. Information: TeraFlex, 801.288.2585,

The '84-'01 Jeep Cherokee XJ is one of the most affordable and competent wheeling platforms. When you're ready to convert the rear transfer case output from a slip-yoke to a fixed yoke CV mount, we have a driveline tip that should save you a fair amount of cash. Using a stock front CV driveshaft from an XJ, you can simply take the new rear driveshaft measurement down to your local driveline shop and get the stock front shaft lengthened. Since it's already equipped with a 1310 CV and a slip shaft, you'll only spend a little bit of change to get it extended. Junkyards, forums, or used Jeep parts houses are all great places to search.

Don't you want to get a subscription to the world's biggest off-road truck magazine? We all know you are tired of paying those newsstand prices. For less than a few gallons of gas, you can get an entire year of 4WOR! Think of all the money you'll save reading all our tips and tricks and how much cooler you'll be reading our magazine. OK, we're not certain that reading our magazine can make you instantly cooler, but it's a start! Information:

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