The 3 most important offroad modifications
Often we are asked which modifications are necessary or recommendable if you really want to drive a Land Rover off-road vehicle “off-road”, whereby we do not mean any dirt roads or the like, but rather real off-road use.
Basically it can be said that Land Rover off-road vehicles have excellent off-road characteristics even without modifications. However, if you would like to improve them a little more, we always recommend these first three modifications:
- tires and rims
- vehicle protection#
- cable winch
Tires and Rims
The tire is the connection between the vehicle and the ground. Only if the tire can build up adhesion or “traction”, you are able to move forward at all. Anyone who has ever tried to climb up a muddy mountain with a sneaker and then put on a hiking shoe with a coarse tread knows what we are talking about here. Consequently, the tire is one of the crucial points in any off-road vehicle that determines whether you get stuck or not. It’s not for nothing that the Unimogs or tractors in the fields here have mounted particularly coarse-treaded specimens.
But what exactly are the aspects that make a tire and its suitability for off-road driving? Many people immediately think of the tread pattern and think in the direction of AT or MT, but that is not the only thing that needs to be considered. Rather, the general tire size is also an important point that we will start with here:
One is the diameter. The larger the diameter of a tire, the larger is the contact area with which the tire rests on the ground. The larger this area is, the more traction the tire can build up on loose ground and the less the tire sinks in. In addition, a large tire diameter helps enormously when hitting an obstacle.
A nice comparison is driving onto a curb with a shopping cart or a bicycle – what could be better? It is also the case that a larger tire diameter also ensures that the wheel hub is further away from the ground, so the greater the tire, the greater the ground clearance.
As a rule of thumb one can say: The bigger the better.
In addition to the diameter, the tire width also plays an important role. Here, however, it is not quite as general as with the diameter. While in sand and mud, for example, a rather large tire width has advantages, a smaller tire width can also have advantages in rock climbing. In loose terrain, the wide contact area means that the tire cannot sink in as deeply (for this reason, for example, the tire pressure is lowered in the terrain so that the tire becomes flatter and thus has more contact area, so to speak, adapts to the terrain). In rock climbing, on the other hand, even a narrower tire can have advantages. With a narrower tire, the entire weight of the vehicle is on a small contact area, the so-called surface pressure is therefore very high. On very stony ground, the tire can therefore grip well in the terrain. But this situation is rather an exception, in the vast majority of cases (at least in my area of application) the advantages of the wider tire outweigh the disadvantages.
Rule of thumb: The wider the tire, the better (except for extreme rock climbing)
Next, we will look at the sidewall height of the tire. This is the part that represents the difference between tire diameter and rim diameter. A high sidewall height leads to the fact that the tire can fulfill different tasks which are necessary in the area better. For example, with such a tire you can reduce the pressure much more without the risk of damaging the rim. In addition, the thick tire absorbs shocks much more effectively than a tire with a smaller cross-section and harder air pressure. Last but not least, it must be mentioned that the rim is of course also better protected when it is not so close to the ground.
If you really want to ride with very low air pressure, special rims are also recommended, which prevent the tire from turning on the rim or even jumping off the rim. These so-called beadlock rims clamp the tire and thus effectively prevent these errors.
Rule of thumb: The larger the tire cross section, the more suitable the tire is for off-road driving
And now we finally come to the tire tread. With the tire profile it is in such a way that in principle the distinction is made into AT (All Terrain) and MT (Mud Terrain) tires. The AT tire is so to speak an allrounder, with which one can be on the road or also in the area. Many AT tires show a really good performance and are at the same time quite quiet and fuel-efficient to drive. The MT tires are a bit more extreme. MT tires often have a very high negative proportion in the tread (studs with a lot of air in between), which can get stuck in the terrain and become “one with the ground”, but which makes the ride on the road often “spongy” and loud. Which tire profile is the best one cannot be said in such a general way, there are different profiles for different surfaces from sand over mud up to rocks. With some tires the profile is also slightly pulled down to the side flank, which can be quite useful if the tire is sunk in a rut.
Rule of thumb: Good AT are often pleasant all-rounders, but if you really are primarily off-road and in very hard terrain you should go for MT.
The second point we recommend regarding off-road equipment is vehicle protection. Although Land Rover vehicles have above-average protection (underbody) for a standard vehicle ex works, this is not suitable for tough off-road use. A vehicle protection system has the task of protecting the vehicle – as the name suggests – from damage. This is important not only because we love our vehicles and have invested a lot of money in them, but also because a defective vehicle may not be able to continue driving off-road and we want to avoid this as much as possible.
So what do you have to protect on your vehicle?
Essentially the underbody, the bumpers and the sides of the vehicle. Then there is the protection of the headlights and, for optical reasons, the protection of the paintwork.
Let’s start with the underbody. The underbody (i.e. the underside of the car) often comes into contact with the ground when driving off-road. This can quickly lead to serious damage if the underbody is stony, which is why protecting the underbody is a very important issue. In most cases thick plates made of aluminium are used which are screwed under the car in the area of the engine compartment as well as in the area of the differentials or the bumpers. These underride guards or skid plates protect the technical components from impact or collision with obstacles. They also protect the front and rear bumpers from being torn off if the vehicle’s slope angles are overstressed.
Another important protection is the so-called tree or rockslider. These are mounted on the side of the sills of the vehicle and protect the sensitive sills from impact, for example when a root or rock has to be driven around in a tight curve and touches the side, or when one slips off an obstacle and hits the obstacle with the side. Rocksliders are not to be confused with running boards. Running boards look similar, but are usually not as solid as real rocksliders and therefore offer more visual value or an entry aid than real vehicle protection.
In addition to underbody and sill protection, frontal protection systems are often also fitted. However, due to the increased legal requirements for pedestrian protection, these bull bars are nowadays often no longer really stiff and solidly mounted on the vehicle, but are only fastened by means of light retaining straps. These often do not really protect the vehicle, but are rather an optical gimmick. A positive aspect of the brackets is, however, that you can easily attach additional headlights to them.
Further protection possibilities are lamp protection grids or even lamp protection screens which can be mounted in front of the headlights and rear lights. The grids prevent that whipping branches can smash the headlights, while the protection screens also prevent that stones or mud that are whirled up can scratch or smash the lamp glass. Even though the lamp shields have the better protection effect, the lamp guards are mounted more often, probably because they simply give the vehicle a cooler look.
Last but certainly not least we would like to mention the protective film, which consists of a transparent or colored film and is applied either only in the area of the sides or also over the whole vehicle. This very effectively protects the paint from scratches from branches and bushes.
The last important point in this triple combination is the winch. A cable winch is the saviour in case of emergency, when nothing works anymore and is a “must have” especially for those who are often travelling alone by car. No matter how good an off-road vehicle is, it can always happen that you get stuck. When this happens, a heavy vehicle like the Land Rover vehicles usually gets stuck. Shovels, sandboards, waffleboards and high-lifters can often be a help here, but nothing is as reliable and powerful as a real winch. Besides getting stuck, a tree trunk or other obstacle can also block the way, which you cannot move away without help.
A very important point that I notice even on my off-road trips is that the presence of the winch increases the “feeling of safety” significantly.
Often you stand in front of a mud hole and would like to continue your way, but you struggle with yourself and then break off the route and turn around just because you keep thinking: “I’m on my own, what if I get stuck in there? Who can help me here? Do I have cell phone reception?”
Exactly in such situations the winch is the “icing on the cake” of equipment you need. The winch gives you the security of “trying” because you have a backup possibility. It often decides whether to go forward or turn around, even if you find out afterwards that you didn’t need the winch at all.
For this reason, the winch is one of the most important features of an off-road vehicle – unless you are driving in groups.