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Tech Savvy: Modern Off-Road Technology You Should Implement In Your 4x4

Posted in Product Reviews on April 27, 2017
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Photographers: Courtesy of Manufacturers

Keeping up with the latest advancements in everyday life can be a daunting task. The changes being made to televisions, cell phones, computers, and social media sites happen at such a fast pace, as soon as you think you are keeping up with the Jones’, they have already moved on and posted photos. Fortunately, the 4x4 world is making advancements too. Even the staunchest most rigid and unbending individuals can find usefulness in 4x4 modernization. It’s not like anyone is dying to put a points ignition and a carburetor on their ’17 Ford F-150. With our sights set to help you step into today’s available technology, we scoured the aftermarket to find the most interesting and useful products. Here are a few functional advancements that can bring your 4x4 into 2017 and beyond.

Boltless Beadlocks

The popularity of beadlock wheels for use off-road has increased significantly over the last decade and rightfully so. Properly aired down tires provide increased traction and a smoother ride over rough surfaces. But not all beadlock wheels are street friendly. That’s where the Coyote Enterprises (coyoteents.com) Boltless Internal Pneumatic Dual Bead Lock comes into play. It fits any wheel and divides the tire’s air chamber into two separate compartments, which are inflated via two separate valve stems. One is for the tire and the other is for the beadlock. The heavy-duty inner tube within the beadlock case forces the case to take shape and keeps both the inner and outer tire beads in place, regardless of the tire pressure you choose.

Onboard Cell Tower

If you find yourself in the boondocks often and out of cell service range regularly, you might consider adding a Wilson Amplifiers (wilsonamplifiers.com) weBoost cellphone booster kit to your 4x4. There are several different models to choose from to match nearly any budget. The weBoost increases talk, text, and high-speed-data reception and transmission. The pro models are said to provide up to 60 percent more reach to and from the cell tower. Some units offer cell boosting for multiple devices (smartphones, tablets, and so on) in a vehicle. The weBoost is said to work with all phones and with all carriers. The increased range not only results in stronger signals and clear connections but also improves the battery life of your cell phone.

Any Angle Fuel Pickup

Driving a 4x4 up and over hills and other obstacles can cause fuel starvation. Fuel starvation can stop you in your tracks in the middle of a trail and significantly shorten the life of your electric fuel pump, especially the frame-mounted type. The Holley (holley.com) HydraMat is a fuel-reservoir system designed to reduce the fuel starvation issues that are common during hard cornering, acceleration, stopping, inclines, and low fuel conditions. Surface tension and fluid wicking allow the HydraMat to continue to draw fuel from the tank or fuel cell even when part of the mat is uncovered. The tiny pores in the media seal off through surface tension, forcing fuel to be drawn from other areas of the mat where fuel is present. The HydraMat eliminates the need for complex specialty reservoirs, sumps, and pick up pumps and also acts as a 15-micron pre-filter. The HydraMat is available in several shapes and sizes for installation in factory fuel tanks, custom tanks, or fuel cells.

All-Zone Illumination

If off-road lighting real estate is at a premium on your 4x4 and you like the up close light coverage of LEDs, but need the long-range brightness of an HID, the Lightforce (lightforce.com) DL230 HTX might be just what you need. The Lightforce DL230 HTX features a 70-watt HID bulb within a 170mm reflector that is said to reach out to 5,800 feet and 20 Lumileds LEDs around the perimeter to provide flood lighting. Each light is IP69-rated to protect against moisture and contaminant intrusion and comes complete with a UV-stable hard-coated impact-resistant polycarbonate lens; stainless steel hardware; three-mode operation; high-current waterproof connectors; over, under, and reverse voltage protection; thermal overload protection; and a three-year warranty.

Slingshot Recovery

Long gone are the days of using dangerous and unforgiving chain or wire cable for a recovery strap. Modern technology has given us much safer options, such as the synthetic kinetic recovery ropes like the Bubba Rope (bubbarope.com). Each Bubba Rope is designed to stretch like a rubber band and use the stored kinetic energy to help slingshot the stuck vehicle from the grasp of sand and mud. The stretching action of the rope cushions the stress placed bumpers, frames, and tow points, helping to prevent collateral damage that can be caused during the recovery process. Bubba Rope is available in many different sizes including the 2-inch by 20-foot Extreme Bubba with a break-strength rating of 131,500 pounds for removing heavy equipment, farm implements, and dump trucks. Each Bubba Rope comes with a web strap for carrying and a gear bag for storage.

Shocking Tech

Fox Shox (ridefox.com) offers completely adjustable race-shock technology for bolt-on 4x4 applications. No fabrication is required to fit Fox Factory Series reservoir shocks with DSC (Dual Speed Compression) adjusters to most popular 4x4s. The DSC adjusters are built into the shock reservoir and allow for 12 separate low-speed and 10 high-speed compression levels so you can tune in the ride you want, no matter what your driving style is or the load the vehicle is hauling. The DSC reservoirs are also available on universal-length smooth-body shocks, on coilovers, and as a separate upgrade for all 7/8-inch-shaft smooth-body and remote-reservoir coilover shocks.

High-Angle U-Joint

Sometimes you build yourself into a corner and simply can’t use a traditional driveshaft and U-joint assembly. That’s where Tom Wood’s Custom Drive Shafts (4xshaft.com) comes to the rescue with its Super-Flex Universal Joint. The offset trunnion design sets the mating yokes further apart and allows for 10 degrees more flexibility than a conventional U-joint. When installed in a standard yoke, the Super-Flex Universal Joint is said to allow the driveshaft to flex to 40 degrees before binding and up to 45 degrees with a little clearance grind work on the yokes. The Super-Flex Universal Joint is available in 1310, 1350, and 1410 sizes and does not require any special flanges for the transfer case or differential.

Easy Link

If you’re looking to increase off-road wheeltravel and decrease axlewrap there is probably no better way than to install a three- or four-link suspension system. The problem is that designing and building the link mounts requires a bit of forethought and admirable fabrication skills. Fortunately, RuffStuff Specialties (ruffstuffspecialties.com) has done the hard part for you with its do-it-yourself link-suspension products. The kits include prefabricated mounting brackets, heavy-duty rod ends, threaded bungs, DOM links, and more. Weld-on truss kits are also available for the more popular axle applications.

Drink Me

Running out of clean potable water away from civilization can be a matter of life and death. It’s always a good idea to have a backup drinking water plan on multi-day trips into the wilderness. The Sawyer (sawyer.com) MINI Water Filter is a compact water filter that can be easily stored away in the emergency or camp kit of your 4x4. The Sawyer MINI filter is rated to 0.1 micron absolute, weighs only 2 ounces, is said to filter up to 100,000 gallons and remove 99.99999 percent of all bacteria such as salmonella, cholera and E.coli as well as remove 99.9999 percent of all protozoa, such as giardia and cryptosporidium. It’s available in several different kits and can be attached to an included collapsible drinking pouch, a hydration pack, a standard soda bottle, or simply used with the included straw for drinking directly from the water source. Like all Sawyer water filters, a proper backwashing is said to restore up to 98.5 percent of the filter’s flow rate, meaning there are no expensive filter cartridges to replace, ever.

Fire Away

If you like the performance and low amp draw of LED lights, but prefer the round shape and look of a traditional off-road light, the 90-watt Vision X (visionxusa.com) 8.7-inch Light Cannon LED off-road light may be just what you need. The 8.7-inch Light Cannon LED is said to be the first single-source spotlight to reach out to 3,280 feet with a focused beam pattern of usable light. Each light is housed in a black aluminum polycarbonate hybrid housing, comes standard with an extended warranty, and includes a single wiring harness for use on 9 to 32V DC power systems. The single-element LED Light Cannon is also available in smaller 4.5- and 6.7-inch versions.

Advanced Bypass

The ARB (arbusa.com) Old Man Emu BP-51 is one of the most advanced bolt-on shocks currently available. It is an externally adjustable internal bypass shock. It is designed to bolt-on to existing mounting locations on popular Jeep and Toyota 4x4s. Each shock features a 51mm-diameter bore and adjustable velocity- and position-sensitive damping. Rebound and compression damping is independently adjustable to provide the ride you want regardless of your driving style and vehicle weight. Built-in hydraulic bumpstops at each end of the shock stroke provide a smoother and more controlled ride over rough terrain. The shock absorber body is manufactured from aircraft-grade 6061 anodized aluminum to dissipate heat and provide corrosion resistance.

Roll Out

Sometimes you just need a bit more wheelwell room when installing larger tires on your 4x4. The sharp inner lip of sheetmetal fenders can be rolled flat and out of the way with the Eastwood (eastwood.com) Fender Roller. It was originally designed for lowered vehicles, but it performs the same task on some lifted 4x4s. The fender rolling tool bolts directly onto the wheel hub and fits popular 4- and 5-lug hubs. The forming roller arm is adjustable from 14 to 22 3/4 inches. A Delrin ball-bearing wheel is said to be tough enough to form the fender without damaging the paint finish. The Fender Roller can also be used to help repair wheel-arch collision and trail damage. An optional longer and larger flange mount is available to allow the Eastwood Fender Roller to be used on 4x4s with larger 5- and 6-lug bolt patterns.

Trail Locator

It used to be that the only way you could find out about a new-to-you trail was by word of mouth. With so many great areas to go wheeling, it could take a lifetime to even find some of the best trails in the U.S. Today, you can fire up the Magellan (magellangps.com) eXplorist TRX7 GPS and navigate directly to and over the closest off-road spots no matter where you are. It features on- and off-road mapping of more than 100,000 off-road trails and user-generated tracks. You can plan and capture your off-road activities and then share them on social media sites such as Twitter and Instagram. The TRX7 features a 7-inch high-resolution touchscreen with an IP67 shock-, water-, and dust-resistant casing. It has Wi-Fi and Bluetooth connectivity and includes a genuine RAM windshield mount. A 16GB onboard memory and a 64GB MicroSD card expansion slot gives the TRX7 the capability to accommodate new outdoor maps as they are developed.

HD ’Shafts

If you’re hard on axleshafts and just can’t muster the major funds needed to step into the next axle assembly size up, RCV Performance Products (rcvperformance.com) has arguably the strongest IFS, solid front axleshafts, and rear ’shafts that money can buy. RCV Ultimate CV Axles are designed to be bolt-in replacements for traditional U-jointed front axleshafts and are said to have been tested to be twice as strong as original equipment ’shafts. Unlike conventional U-joint ’shafts, the constant-velocity design allows smooth power transfer to the ground, eliminating crow-hop, making the RCV ’shafts just as strong when steered straight as they are at extreme angles—where U-jointed axleshafts are at their weakest. Ultimate CV Axles are backed with a "No Questions Asked" limited lifetime warranty and are available for all of the popular front and rear solid axle and IFS applications. Custom axleshafts and 300M axles are also available.

Speedy Reeling

Are you into winch line speeds that rival a 1/4-mile drag car? Then Torq Motorsports (redwinchesusa.com) can probably help you update your Warn 8274 winch with the Red Winches Storm 8274 Twin-Motor Top Kit. The standard dual-motor conversion kit comes with gearing for a 25 percent faster unloaded line speed than a stock Warn 8274 winch. An optional overdrive version allows for a 40 percent faster unloaded line speed. The Storm 8274 Twin-Motor Top Kit is available with or without air brakes to help bring the speeding winch line to a stop. The company also offers completely new high-speed dual-motor winches for those looking for even faster breakneck winch line speeds and a unique look.

Cordless Welding

Most off-road enthusiasts, handymen, and handywomen could find use for a compact, portable, rechargeable, cordless, inverter welder. In fact, several different companies have dabbled with the idea over the years. Fronius International (fronius.com) is the latest to step up to the plate and offer the AccuPocket 150/400. The AccuPocket 150/400 weighs in at a svelte 24.25 pounds and is available in both TIG and stick welding versions. It features an 18 percent duty cycle at 140 amps and a 100 percent duty cycle at 40 amps. An onboard battery is said to be able to burn up to eight 1/8-inch electrodes or up to eighteen 3/32-inch electrodes. The included ActiveCharger can replenish the AccuPocket battery to 90 percent capacity in just 30 minutes. For bigger welding jobs, a 2 kVA generator is enough to power the hybrid AccuPocket 150/400 indefinitely.

Sticky Meats

We often say tires make the truck. No truer words can be said when it comes to pure off-road performance. For many years, only sponsored professional racers and their close friends had access to soft tread compound (sticky) competition tires. These tacky tires nearly rival the grip and flexibility of a pencil eraser. They provide insane traction, especially on hard rocky surfaces, but they also wear out much quicker than a traditional tire. Today, Interco (intercotire.com), Maxxis (maxxis.com), and Pro Comp (procompusa.com) all offer the sticky competition off-road-only tires to consumers. Winter use is typically not recommended due to the nature of the soft compound. Even though some of the competition tires are DOT compliant, they are not for highway use.

Bull Joint

If you’ve found that the weak link in your factory front axle assembly is the steering U-joints, OX Off-Road (ox-usa.com) may have the solution with its OX Extreme Duty U-Joint. The OX Extreme Duty U-Joint design is said to completely eliminate the common weak points found in a traditional Spicer-style steering U-joint. They are said to be made from the best materials and heat treat processes available and feature bronze alloy sleeves to reduce pin wear. Cad plating and black oxide finishes are applied for corrosion resistance. Lockout hubs are recommended for applications that see street use.

Rugged Radios

Rugged Radios (ruggedradios.com) offers a variety of dual-band radios, including the RM-50R remote-head radio. The remote head, which can be mounted to any surface, makes it perfect for applications where space is at a premium. The main radio body can then be tucked out of the way. The RM-50R features VHF/UHF capability and 50 watts of power for a typical range of 20-30 miles. Each RM-50R includes a programmable and backlit hand mic, programmable channel presets, loudspeaker, 3.5mm external speaker output port, 20 feet of external speaker cable, 16 feet of remote head cable, and a 9-foot power cable.

Crate Diesel

The desire to make a diesel engine swap into any number of different 4x4s has always been an insatiable one. Unfortunately, there just hasn’t been the aftermarket support available to make such a swap easy for all 50 states. The Cummins Repower (cumminsrepower.com) program could change all that. The company has developed a new crate engine program specifically for the enthusiast market. It will offer brand new Cummins diesel engines from the factory, direct to the consumer market. The first Cummins Repower engine offering will be the R2.8 Turbo Diesel. Once released, it is said that it will include all of the major components needed to ease the installation process, as well as all the necessary documentation to make the swap 50-state-emissions-compliant. Other Cummins engines are coming soon.

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