Offroad Nods

Off-road modifications cause more differences of opinion among 4x4 drivers than politics or religion. Yes, there really are that many different directions to go in when it comes to rough-stuff upgrades, although a number of basic rules seem to apply in many cases. So just where do you start if your aim is to enjoy your vehicle's capabilities, making the most of its maximum potential?

Do you need to spend thousands of pounds on roll cages and raised suspension kits, for example, or can you 'make do' with a set of all-terrain tyres and perhaps an engine snorkel? The answer lies in what you're likely to be using your vehicle for and - inevitably - what your available budget is.

If you're modifying your 4x4 to take part in winching trials or off-road play days, you won't need to run the full gamut of component additions that anyone competing in hardcore off-road competitions would demand. However, you'll need to make sure you have your chosen upgrades and accessories fitted carefully and safely. Meanwhile, don't be afraid to get the views, opinions and help of friends and fellow 4x4 enthusiasts who have already invested in carrying out their own modifications; learning from their mistakes can save you a lot of time, trouble and cash if you're prepared to listen.

So... let's take a look at some of the off-road modifications you might be considering.

disassemble the winch set-up first; vehicle anchorsĀ» which increase the stability and security of a winching vehicle it it is being used as an anchor for any winch exercise; ground anchors, which may be ir. their natural (tree) form or exist in man-made format; and straps and strops, which should only be used in accordance with their manufacturers ratings and be regularly checked for any defects and replaced on a regular basis.

Safety equipment should be mandatory, and must include heavy-duty durable gloves to protect hands at all times, a winch-flag (to show a cable that is in use or about to be used for a pull) and a first-aid kit, just in case. Common sense items that should also go into a winch accessory kit on any expedition includc axes, bow saws, shovels, an extra winch cable and winch hook, spare straps and tree-strops, pliers and a pair of good-quality wire cutters to repair frayed or damaged rope.

devices, such as the HiLift Jack or the Another consideration to bear Tirfor Winch. This is a small, portable in mind is that the covers you buy device that works using a hand lever to protect both your winch and its to pull a cable through a gripping jaw; fairlead are almost as important as the distinct advantage is the ability the equipment itself. Wi:hout a good, to effect leverage at any angle on an well-fitted protective covering, a winch object, rather than 'direct', as is most soon deteriorates and will need :o be common and advisable with a vehicle- serviced more often than normal; a few mounted unit. extra pounds spent preventing ingress

In addition to any electric or of water or debris, such as small pieces hydraulic winch, there are some other of stone or gravel from a road-surface, components vital to performing a safe will pay dividends in the long run. recovery of any kind. Ihese include Finally, remember that the way in D-shackles (metal U-shaped loops which your winch is fitted to your with a removable metal pin), which vehicle is crucial - both in terms are often the safest way of attaching the of safety and its effectiveness. Have looped end of a strap or snatch blocks it fitted professionally, by a fitter together; snatch blocks, which are who understands the correct way of wheels or'sheaves'with grooved edges mounting a winch to an appropriate to hold the rope or cable, designed to part of your 4x4, as a permanently assist in changing direction of pull detached bumper and red faces all or effecting increased leverage on round are not the way to retrieve a an object, often without the need to stuck vehicle...

of any considered depth, a snorkel can be a vital piece of equipment. Its purpose is to maintaina supply of air to the engine and remove the risk of the engine being flooded with water. In simple terms, it's a breather-tube extension attached to your air filter, protruding through a hole in a front wing and up the side of the windscreen - and that's it. It allows plenty of airflow but, because of the height of its open end, reduces the risk of water entering your engine.

A snorkel doesn't have to be a proper aftermarket or official item in order to be effective, of course. Making your own snorkel from a length of drainpipe is a simple bit of automotive DIY, particularly if your

4x4 is getting on in years and you're not bothered about its cosmetics. Crucially, though, a good seal is important at the air filter junction, with silicon sealant being ideal for the job.

If you prefer the idea of a professionally-made snorkel specifically for your make and model, most 4x4 accessory suppliers - including those that advertise in 4x4 Mart - will be able to supply one. And while you're at it, you might want to talk to the same specialists about waterproofing your engine, as the common problem of water entering the electrical system (usually via the distributor cap) can be infuriating.

It's recommended that any serious off-road activity is enjoyed with a minimum of two vehicles; and that means more than relying on your mates to follow you around with a mobile phone to call out the rescue services should you end up in a ditch. It's not necessarily a case of having one vehicle to push and one to pull, but one to go first - and one to act as back-up if necessary, whatever the situation.

Fitting a winch will open up possibilities, not only in terms of where you can go with your 4x4, but also what you can get up to. And that might include taking part in winch trials, for instance, where the aim is to lake your vehicle safely from one point to the next on a prescribed course, collecting proof of navigation en route from one mad obstacle to the next. And this is where a winch is more than just a utility tool: it can also be the basis of a fun hobby that all the family can take part in. But for your own safety, you should at least undergo some basic instruction if you've no previous experience of winching

Essentially, there are four different types of winch, which narrows down to those powered electrically, hydraulically, mechanically or with compressed air - although the latter is a rarity in off-road circles and more commonly associated with specialist applications. And the winches most often seen in off-road activities have common components: a winch motor (which provides power to the gear mechanism), a winch drum (which is powered by the winch motor), a winch cable (which is attached to the drum at one end and can be made of rope, steel cable or plasma cording), a fairlead (which guides the cable onto the spooling drum to help minimise damage), a gear train (to convert power from the motor into force for pulling), a brake, sometimes a clutch, a control box and a remote control. Remote controls are also referred to as wander leads.

A classic example of an electric winch is the Warn XD9000, a 12-volt DC unit using planetary gears and a brake in the drum. Capable of pulling 90001b in a straight line, using the last wrap of cable on the drum, the motor is powered by the vehicle's battery (the minimum recommended is a 660 CCA type) and uses a considerable amount of power to work. To avoid draining that battery, it's advisable to keep the vehicle running (and so keep the alternator charging) while winching. There are 24-volt options on many winches, and also variations on the gear system (such as the worm drive on a Superwinch Husky), but 12-volt electrical winches are popular and plentiful.

The motor of a hydraulic winch is powered by a hydraulic pump, through which hydraulic pressure is generated to power the winch's motor. An example is the Superwinch H14W, capable of pulling 14,0001b. In comparison with an electrical winch, the disadvantage is that it won't work without the pump being engaged, which means the vehicle's engine has to he running at all times.

Mechanical winches come in a number of guises, with true mechanical units using the option of power from the engine's driveshaft, via a power take-off point (PTO). Another interpretation of mechanical winches needs to be considered, however, in the form of hand-operated mechanical

You've probably seen plenty of shiny black Land Rover Defenders fitted with aftermarket external engine air intakes, parked up in suburban conurbations, looking mean and purposeful - but with no apparent purpose within a 25-mile radius. What's the point, you may ask? (Anyway, what's an external engine air intake, when it's at home?)

Well, you may know it better as a snorkel. It serves less (or rather, no) purpose within city limits, but as soon as a 4x4 begins traversing water

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