This is another one of those story assignments I get that makes me believe Editor Cappa really hates me. It's guaranteed to light up my name across Web rings across the nation and put hatred into the hearts of the uninformed. But you gotta do what the boss man says, even if it's contrary to the laws of self preservation. So go ahead and light me up. Here's a list of the top-10 lamest 4x4 products out there.
Revolving Wacky Shackles
Revolvers, or any homebuilt wacky shackle. Gawd, makes us just want to turn around if we get behind a guy running these things on the trail because of how many driveshafts we've seen bind and spit out on their behalf-especially while climbing a ledge. They unload and cause the springs to jack, sending the rear pinion toward the floor and the front toward the ground, negating any traction the tires may get. Just a bad idea all around unless all you care about is RTI ramp scores.
Dash-Mounted Winch Control
Why? Ever try to change the radio station while driving over a rough road? You can't keep your finger on the button. What a terrible idea for a winch control. Not only that, but you will usually be all hunched over the steering wheel trying to flip the switch and steer and shift all at once. The factory hand-held wired controls, or even the wireless ones, are way better for people who actually use their winches. Leave the dash-mounted switches for the poseurs.
Zig-Zag Oh-My-Lord Shackle Mount
Another wacky suspension theory available in both aftermarket bolt-on and homebuilt varieties. The theory is to allow the spring shackle mount to drop down away from the frame for more articulation. All it'll cost you is your stability, geometry, and simplicity. Just run a locker and lift a tire instead, please.
Tornado Air Intake Thingy
The stuff of the infomercial, the Tornado whoozit is supposed to mount inside your air stream and increases turbulence and swirl of the incoming air to increase power, mileage, and make you smell better. Maybe it does, we don't know. But to us, adding a big ol' restriction in your intake in these days of bored throttle bodies and high-flow filters doesn't make a lot of sense.
The breaking point at which a 20-inch rim becomes beneficial off-road is right around the 44-47-inch tire size. Since we really don't encounter that many rigs on the trail running those types of tires, consider the 17 the last step along the pack to good sense when choosing tire sizes. Anything bigger with normal-size tires, and you're just adding weight and ego.
Mono Leaf Spring Packs
The theory is to remove all but one leaf in a spring pack to eliminate friction and increase flex. The reality is that unless the single leaf is made really, really thick it's going to bend into a useless, undulating piece of steel. Once it's thick enough to resist bending, it flexes worse than a good, supple multi-leaf spring pack.
Big, Awkward, Goofy Bumpers
Bumpers made from square or rectangle tube? Just ugly. With all the manufacturing technology available today, we can't understand why anyone would want to replace a good-looking factory bumper with square stock-especially on late-model Jeeps. Buildings, trailers, and farm-animal feeders should be made from square and large-diameter round tube, not Jeep parts.
Plastic Diff Covers
You spend hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars on crush-proof parts for your 4x4. Are you seriously going to put a plastic part in one of the most vulnerable areas of your vehicle? Feel free to show off the gears in your $8,000 custom axle. Just don't cry when the bearings smoke because your 90W winds up all over the trail.
Four-wheel steering works off-road. The only problem is most people don't know how to use it seamlessly. They're more occupied sawing the rear of the Jeep back and forth than paying attention to obstacles and picking good lines. Unless you're in competition or can use it as flawlessly as guys like Jerry Duffy (pictured above), just plan on hitting Reverse now and then.
Interco Thornbird Tires
Are they actually good anywhere? They suck in the mud when compared to other Swampers, and they are horrible on the street. Why bother? Just suck it up and get a real set of mud tires. Consider this a plea for Super Swamper to discontinue these tires.