Our in-house expertise goes beyond talented installation skills. Our team knows what it takes to keep your vehicle operating at optimal levels on- and off-road. We are here to walk you through all the options to protect the critical components on your truck or SUV for whatever level of off-roading you intend to tackle.
Lockers: One of the Best Off-Road Mods You Can Make
Despite the term four-wheel drive, most vehicles with transfer cases don’t actually transfer power to all four tires. This is not ideal when you’re trying to power through mud or climb a boulder because only one tire is receiving power. That’s where locking differentials (lockers) come into play. They lock your axles and send power to both tires equally, instead of transferring it to the one with the least resistance. Lockers make a huge difference when you’re off-road because they double your traction. Our team will help you select the right lockers for you...automatic or selectable...and whether a mix of the two is the ideal choice for you.
Driveshafts: The “Muscles” That Most Overlook
The driveshaft isn’t the exciting mod that a lift or wheels may be, however when you’re adding a 2.5” lift or greater, or you’re upgrading your engine with a supercharger or Hemi swap, upgrading your driveshaft is an important choice that will save you frustration down the road. When you lift your Jeep or truck, the suspension geometry changes, which doesn’t play well with shorter factory driveshafts. Larger tires add weight and require more initial torque to turn, and an engine upgrade means more horsepower that a factory driveshaft just isn’t meant to handle. Installing a tough aftermarket driveshaft with extra length, and strength needed to accommodate any of these mods will save you headaches down the road.
Axles: Size Matters
Axle shafts aren’t something novice off-roaders consider but they are crucial to moving power to your wheels. When taking on obstacles, high rpm’s and spinning tires can lead to axle failure. The material an axle is made of, along with spline count, can decrease the chances of that happening. When it comes to axles, size matters. The higher the spline count the larger the diameter, the larger the diameter the stronger the axle. If you choose to upgrade the axles altogether, the key is to build axles for your intended application...a daily driver can upgrade from the Dana 30 front and 35 rear, to Dana 44s, whereas a serious off-roader may consider swapping out for a full-size Dana 60 axle.
Gear Ratios: Low vs. High
The gear ratio most 4x4 owners concern themselves with most is the ratio between the driveshaft and axles, also known as the differential gear ratio or axle gear ratio. It’s controlled by the number of teeth on the ring vs. the pinion. A ratio of 4.56 means that as the axle turns one whole circle, the driveshaft turns 4.56 circles. The higher the number, the lower the ratio becomes. When you increase the tire size without changing the gear ratio, you increase fuel consumption, and more importantly for off-road driving, you cannot drive at the low speeds needed for crawling over obstacles. Our experts will help you determine the best front and rear gear ratios for your 4x4 to maximize fuel economy and off-road capability!
Skid Plates, Rocker Guards & Body Armor, Bumpers: Up-Armor for Off-Road
There are a few factors to consider when deciding if your 4x4 needs body armor, skid plates or other protection, including the make and model of your vehicle, the type of off-roading you plan to do, the amount of ground clearance your 4x4 has, your driving style and personal preferences.
If you’ve spent any time under your vehicle, you’ll have quickly realized there are many vulnerable areas and components, some of which may be protected by factory skid plates, but those tend to be thin steel, aluminum, or even fabric, unless you opted for a 4x4 package with slightly better protection. The OE skid plates are usually found under the fuel tank, transfer case, front suspension assemblies, and sometimes the oil pan and transmission. They will usually protect against flinging debris and can withstand sliding in dirt, but if you add large rocks to the mix, factory skid plates may crumple like aluminum foil under the weight of the vehicle, or even tear off. Axles are some of the heaviest components, so you’d think they were durable, but when it comes to rocks, your axles will benefit greatly from steel axle housings, along with heavy-duty, weld-on differential protection. In most cases, aftermarket chassis skid plates are 3/16-inch-thick steel plate, with reinforced bends, gussets, and backbones to prevent the steel plate from folding. If you want to save some weight, some skid plates are made from a combination of aluminum and steel.
The most damage-prone part of any SUV or truck body is the rocker area under the doors. Longer wheelbase vehicles and 4x4’s with less ground clearance are especially vulnerable and it’s an expensive area to fix. Luckily, it’s one of the easiest and most affordable areas to protect. Factory side steps can provide some trail protection, but they also decrease ground clearance and are not intended to support the weight of the vehicle. If they get caught on an obstacle, they can bend, break, or tear off, potentially causing body damage. Rocker guards, also called rock sliders, offer better protection, and range from bolt-on body- or frame-mounted to hefty weld-on frame-mounted styles. Rockers that attach directly to the frame or tie into the body mounts are generally much more durable than bolt on styles. Rockslide Engineering has even combined hidden automatic power side steps into durable rocker protection for those who need a step-up and high clearance rocker guards.
Bolt-on body armor is almost exclusively available for Jeep Wrangler and Gladiator vehicles, primarily because the flat body panels that are easy to mold armor around. Body armor can be found for the rocker areas and rear corners, typically coming in formed 3/16-inch steel plate designed to take heavy duty abuse. Some aftermarket manufacturers also offer body armor in aluminum if weight is a factor. The formed corner and rocker guards can also be used to hide existing body damage cause by previous trail outings.
Realistically, the bumpers of your 4x4 are located low enough that they will eventually hit something, on- or off-road. The original front and rear bumpers found on most trucks or SUVs are not designed to make contact with obstacles on the trail. Most will be completely torn off if they rub a rock or a tree and are simply not designed to take a serious hit. Aftermarket bumpers are made to take a beating and come in styles to suit any taste...from sleek and low profile to extra beefy and aggressive. If you’re upgrading your bumper(s), you might as well take the opportunity to make a few other upgrades at the same time. Look for an aftermarket bumper that features sturdy recovery points, built in winch mounts and off-road light mounting tabs. Consider adding a bull bar or grille guard for additional protection.