Anatomy of a Modded 4x4

Essential off-road mods

Modding a 4x4

Just like the enormous amount of performance parts for tuner cars, pretty much the same can be said when it comes to 4x4 pickups and SUVs. With so many options and parts, here are some of the most modded/upgraded aspects of any four-wheel drive vehicle. Just keep in mind that every bit of modification has both a positive and negative effect on its performance. To get the most from your mods, it’s important to determine what you plan on doing and the amount of off-roading that it will be seeing. This will show the vehicle’s needs and how it will improve or affect its overall performance to help you choose the ones that are right.

Driving Skill

One of the best investments you’ll ever make has nothing to do with modding. This simply entails harnessing your off-road driving skills. As such, regularly drive off road. Start out on easy trails learning how the vehicle behaves and build your skills as you progress to more complex off-road adventures. Nothing beats seat time, because the more experienced you are behind the wheel, the less mods it will take to safely complete your off-road adventure.


Engine Power

Simple bolt-on aftermarket parts such as exhaust and intake coupled with an engine management upgrade like a dyno-proven “piggyback” ECU can add more horses.

Turbocharged engines can benefit from downpipes and front-mounted intercoolers.

Fitting very tall tires greatly affects the overall gearing of the vehicle as this reduces the gear ratio. This means the engine is forced to operate below its power band, and performance and fuel economy suffers. To restore the effective gear ratio and the performance, the axle gears must be swapped to lower (numerically higher) ratios.


Suspension Lift

Suspension lift kits allow the use of larger tires and increase the ground clearance to easily traverse rough terrain. In general, lift kits vary, as they are simple and easy to install, 2-inch quick lift kits that are composed of longer shocks, rear leaf springs shackles, coil springs, billet spacers or more that are dependent on the type of suspension. These are actually sufficient enough to fit large tires and provide adequate ground clearance without altering how the stock suspension works. For those wanting more, a “Diff Drop Kit” for today’s pickups and SUVs with independent front suspensions is used. These bolt on to the sub frame to reposition the stock arms with longer shocks and coils. Whether it's a 2-inch lift or an extreme 8-inch lift, this will change where the stock suspension is located and how it articulates. This is why it is important to have a proper alignment done or add other components like a Panhard bar to properly locate the differential.


Tires and Wheels

Choose wisely. Those Swampers and Boggers looks great, but such tires are meant for off-road use only and wont provide much traction on paved surfaces. So choose a tire that can be used both off and on road with quiet characteristics. Keep the tires sized right. Remember that going bigger also means heavier so don't be surprised if it doesn't accelerate or brake as efficiently as it did when it ran on the original OEM spec wheels and tires. A good compromise for those with 2-inch lift kits would be 33-inch tires with lower sidewalls that can fit in a 20-inch rim. Opt for a durable, high quality tire, without over sizing it. Choose a quality made wheel with the right offset and backspacing so that it doesn't rub or interfere with any suspension component. Check that it doesn't protrude too much out of the body, which would necessitate adding wider fender flares.



We’ve all seen these intimidating front and rear metal bumpers with body bars that serve as protection in rough terrain. They also function as a sturdy place to properly mount other essential off-road gear such as lights, winches and tow mounts. Just remember that these will increase the weight and may cause the front end to sag or become a little lower. This is why when purchasing a lift kit, specify that you will be adding a metal bumper so that the lift kit would have a different coil spring rate in order to compensate for the added weight of the metal bumper. Since it is bolted right to the frame, it is very strong and tough enough than the stock unit. Snorkels are great if one really plans on wading through very deep water, so it depends on how the vehicle will be used.


Recovery Gear

Having an electric winch ranks up high as it will allow you to extricate your vehicle from being stuck. Winches are expensive but worthy investments, especially when trailing alone. Like any tool, it is very important that you know how to operate it properly and follow all the safety precautions. But be careful, as this can also be dangerous, most especially the straps, which might snap off or become loose so wear protective gloves. Some situations will not always require a winch but a shovel, hi-lift jack, and snatch strap or traction boards. When stuck, a good situational analysis and well thought out recovery plan is better than hastily grabbing your favorite item without even thinking.