Rock Crawling Mods for Your UTV
By: Hubert Szumski, Category Manager at POWERSPORTSiD.com
In order to get the most out of any experience and adventure you choose to embark on, preparation is key. If you’re thinking about modifying your side by side vehicle for some serious off-roading duty, buckle in – we’re going to take you down the rabbit hole and show you what modifications can make for a good rock crawler.
The first order of business is to look at wheels and suspension. Depending on the type of riding and terrain, you can either stick with a moderate lift height or an extremely high lift kit. If you choose to go with a lift kit, the next decision is whether to keep the stock suspension shocks and getting them re-valved or upgrading to aftermarket shocks, which can offer more travel and enhanced adjustability. Depending how high you want to lift your rig, you may want to invest in new high clearance a-arms. If you are going for a super high lift, you might need to extend your brake lines as well.
For the next order of business, shift to tires and wheels. Tires give you grip and depending on your terrain, options will vary. Many choose to upgrade to aftermarket rims, as this gives riders the ability to pick a different rim size. Most riders will size down their rims, which will allow them to use tires with taller sidewalls to provide more flex and grip when aired down. Additionally, many aftermarket off-road wheels will be designed with a beadlock option, which will help with running low air pressure and not run the risk of losing the tire bead. With that being said, aftermarket rims tend to be lighter in weight, meaning your vehicle will not actually lose torque with bigger tires. That’s an un-sprung rotational weight, which will affect how much torque you are putting down to the ground. With the weight of bigger wheels, it’s important to think about the possibility of getting a transmission gear reduction kit. A transmission gear reduction will allow you to increase torque. Although it will sacrifice your top speed, you most likely will not be hitting full high speeds consistently while rock crawling anyway.
Out of all the possible modifications, protection is the most crucial and should not be overlooked. It’s important to protect both yourself and your vehicle, which can be done in various ways. Before going on any serious rock crawling adventure, you should install a roll cage on your side by side, as it’s one of the most important modifications for added protection in case of a roll over. It goes without saying that you should also wear a DOT (off road or full face) helmet. In addition, you should consider upgrading to a 4- or 5-point safety harness, which will keep you in your seat, just in case the vehicle rolls over.
When it comes to choosing protection for your vehicle, there are a few additions that will vary depending on your personal preference and type of rock crawling you’re looking to do. A full body skid plate will provide ultimate protection, especially the aluminum type. The material provides added protection, although it will add weight to your rig. As an alternative for less weight, UHMW skid plates are made from tough thick plastic material. Make sure not to overlook installing rock sliders to protect the frame of your side by side from nasty side impacts.
Another necessary protection modification is a sturdy, tough front and rear bumper. This will protect the vitals of your vehicle and will also provide a location to mount a winch – just in case you get stuck and need additional assistance.
As a final note, if you’re headed to a remote area, it’s always a good idea to carry an emergency beacon device with you. Often times, we tend to rely on our cellphone but if and when there is no signal, this is a viable alternative in the event of an emergency. As always, enjoy your ride and keep the rubber side down.
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- Helmet photos courtesy of Bell Helmets.
- Action shots/lifestyle photos courtesy of DragonFire Racing.