Offroad Mods

Sometimes referred to (mistakenly) as sump guards, a steering guard is useful in more ways than one. Not only will it give valuable protection to one of the most vulnerable aspects of your 4x4 (it's not easy to refit or repair steering assemblies in the middle of an off-road course), it can also add easily-accessible tow and recovery points to your vehicle without the need for complex welding to a chassis, depending on its design.

Constructed from steel plate, patterns can vary - so be sure to buy the right guard for not only your make and model but also the correct model year of your 4x4. A combination of bolts supplied with the guard, and attachment points integral to your vehicle, is a sign that the guard should be fitted securely once in place.

Axle lockers are a serious mechanical modification, and unlikely to be something you'd consider for an everyday 4x4 that only takes part in the odd off-road fun day. Sometimes known as air lockers, the)' can be mechanical or electrical in terms of how they function, featuring a locking differential controlled by the driver and designed to increase the traction needed to combat extreme conditions.

Designs vary, but the driver generally activates the axle locker via an internal dash-mounted switch; a locking ring then engages over one axle gear, which locks the gear to the carrier and immobilises the differential pinion gears, giving equal drive to both wheels. The force to engage that locking ring comes from pneumatic pressure supplied by an onboard air-compressor.

Sturdy diff guards, which bolt around the diff housing with U-bolts encircling the axle in most cases, are easy to fit and advisable if off-roading activity includes a high proportion of navigation over rocky surfaces.

Also available - and advisable for deflecting damage from vulnerable areas when off-roading - are transfer case and fuel tank skid plates. And deflection is the key to the prevention of damage in such cases, so weight can be kept to a minimum by fitting these areas with a guard made of 44-inch aluminium.

Rock sliders sound serious, but as a means of preventing damage to a visible area of your 4x4, they're worth considering. Traditionally formed from box steel, there are now composite alternatives on the market, which are slightly lighter but no less damage-resistant. And not only do they protect the vulnerable sill and lower door panels of your 4x4, they're also very useful for raising one side of the vehicle with a Hi-lift jack without damaging its bodywork.

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cabin area. Some are permanently fixed, some are removable, but all should come with certification and assurances fioin their manufacturers. Oh, and unless you're a competent professional with experience of roll cages, don't even think about creating a DIY alternative.

Generally made of cold drawn seamless steel or 3.2mm-wall CNC steel tubing, a roll cage's purpose is simply to prevent a vehicle's bodywork from caving in and to protect both driver and passengers. The weld points used (and the welding involved) in fitting either an internal or external roll cage are as important as the materials used in the cage's construction itself. And if first aid kits or fire extinguishers are added to the cage after it has been fitted, it's important to heed manufacturer's instructions for making those modifications without weakening the structure in any way.

You might think you have to be a competitive off-roader to have a roll cage f.tted to your 4x4 - but ask the experts and they'll tell you it's essential if you're taking part in any serious off-road activity. Okay, so you're not going to fit a roll cage to your family-favourite 4x4 that only occasionally heads for the rough; but any owner of an old soft-top Suzuki SJ or Vitara (hardly the sturdiest of 4x4s, it has to be said) who off-roads regularly would have to be very foolish indeed not to consider fitting one.

A roll-cage starts, in its most basic form, as a doughnut of tubular steel and ranges in pattern to a complete skeletal structure, fitted within (or sometimes to the outside) of your 4x4's

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