Having spent more than 20 years in the 4×4 industry both as instructor and overlanding guide, I often get asked what I deem to be the most important or essential items to upgrade on my 4×4. It is like asking “how long is a piece of string” because so many people, so many opinions.
When vehicles are designed and manufactured, engineers set out to find the best compromise between a luxury/comfortable ride and workhorse ability. The modern day double cab has most certainly evolved and is no longer the utilitarian basic vehicle it set out to be. That is not necessarily a bad thing at all, however with that, certain serious compromises are made, especially in terms of ride comfort.
A softer ride becomes more important than the actual carrying ability with manufacturers always striving for higher towing capacity, some are now at 3500kg, which in the greater scheme of things means absolutely nothing because local laws put a limit on that in any case.
So in my humble opinion and after years of literally learning the hard way, these would be the two most important upgrades that you could make to your vehicle of choice before you do anything else.
This is probably THE most important upgrade that you can make to your vehicle. We add accessories without realizing how much extra weight is being added to the vehicle. Let’s have a quick look at what some of them weigh on average:
- Bull bar – 50kg
- Winch – 45 -50kg
- Rear replacement bumper with single spare wheel carrier and spare wheel– 120kg
- Extra fuel tank 62L – filled – approximately 80kg
- Roof rack – 30kg
- Rooftop tent – from 45kg – 110kg brand dependent
- Under vehicle protection – 30kg – 40 kg
- Canopy on D/C – 57kg – 80 kg
- Drawer system – 65kg
- 40L Engel fridge – 25kg (empty)
- 55L water tank – 60kg
- Miscellaneous – 80kg
That is a total of roughly 760 kg’s, remembering that these numbers are based on a Toyota Hilux D/C and the vehicle is still unladen in the sense of passengers and luggage! This is also without calculating the weight of bigger heavier tyres……These numbers are staggering and we do not think about this.
Remember that your vehicle will have this weight on its suspension CONSTANTLY for which the standard suspension is NOT designed. Then we realize just how important it is to upgrade our factory fitted suspension with a reputable brand designed to carry and handle different weight scenarios. This is critical to get right as your vehicle’s handling characteristics will be drastically altered carrying all this weight.
It is extremely important to plan and work out before, what extras you are going to ad onto your vehicle. This will determine what setup would be needed to accommodate that specific scenario. Should you after the fact ad more weight, re-evaluate the situation and upgrade further if needed.
DO NOT FORGET THIS PART!
The second most important component that needs to be upgraded when equipping your vehicle for overlanding travel, are the tyres.
When you consider that the four pieces of rubber that you have on the road is no bigger in total than an A4 piece of paper, and when the tread is subtracted, no more than an A5 piece of paper, you suddenly realize that tyres are a lot more important than you ever thought!
Tyres are a hugely controversial topic and can make for interesting banter around the campfire. I am by no means advocating a specific brand because, it boils down to personal choice based on experience and outside influences like Oom Frikkie that believes he knows best.
However…..there are certain basics that you will not be able to get around, and ALL modern day tyres should be able to offer these features, if not, pass!
Tyres have their story told on the sidewall. From manufacturing date to what the tyre width is, to what weight rating it has to its speed rating. It is EXTREMELY important that you learn and know what these markings mean.
When replacing your OE (original equipment) tyres, make sure that you buy a LT tyre (Light Truck). It has a different construction to a SUV tyre, has a stronger carcass to compensate for the extra weight that you are going to carry and….it is heavier as well as more expensive than SUV tyres.
I am going to use my Hilux D/C here as an example. The Tare weight (“dry weight” of the vehicle – the mass of the vehicle without passengers, fuel or luggage, but including standard fittings) is 1700kg.
The payload (maximum mass the vehicle may carry, including passengers, fuel and luggage) is the difference between Tare and GVM (sum of tare and payload). The GVM on my Hilux is 2670kg giving me a payload of 970kg. Bear in mind the weight we discussed under suspension (760kg) that I only have a margin of 210kg to work with and I think you would agree that 2 adults and two children plus their luggage would reach that really fast!
So what does this have to do with my tyres you may ask?
Here is what it has to do with your tyres. You need tyres strong enough to be able to carry your vehicles weight.
Once again using my Hilux as example, with the GVM being 2670kg, I would need a tyre that can carry at least 667,5kg per tyre, rounded off to 670kg – in other words, a tyre with a weight rating of 94.
I currently run Cooper ST Pro 265/75/16 which has a rating of 123/1550kg per tyre. The speed rating of my tyres are Q = 160km/h. The speed rating is AS important. Also note that the speed rating is indefinite – in my case 160km/h indefinitely – Not that I would want to do that!!!
From all of the above, I do believe that it is abundantly clear why I say that the upgrading of both your vehicle suspension and tyres are the two single most important upgrades that you need to start with.
Please do not hesitate to contact me for any further information concerning this.