While we all wish we had unlimited funds, this is rarely the case. If you're into trucks and off-roading
, you probably dream of building a custom rig from the ground up, making it exactly what you want. I've watched the TV shows on Powerblock where they build amazing trucks and wished I could do the same, too. While building a truck isn't as expensive as you would think, it is still out of the range of many of us. Does this mean you should give up on off-roading and start hiking? Hiking is fun, but it's not truck-fun. You can keep your hobby on a budget with some key customization's to your daily driver as long as you don't mind it getting a few bumps and scratches. Here's a few ideas to help you out. There are three key upgrades you can do that will get your truck more trail worthy. With these, you can take your current truck piece by piece and make it into a trail monster.
1. Lift Kit A lift kit is essential to many other upgrades, like tires and rims. There are two basic types of lift kits. Body lift and suspension lift. Both raise the driver up from the ground, but only one of them will change ground clearance. A body lift is the cheaper option, and lifts the body from the frame. While this doesn't help with ground clearance, it is necessary if you plan on adding larger tires. There can be additional costs involved with gearshifts and bumpers, but a body lift will basically help you add larger tires onto your current ride. A body lift is generally not the choice of off-roaders because it does nothing to raise ground clearance while hurting stability by raising the center of gravity. The second type of lift is the suspension lift. This is the way serious off-roaders prepare their trucks for the trail. A suspension lift replaces springs and shocks, along with brackets, spacers, bushings, and everything else that is necessary to align your truck to it's new height. This is great because along with wheel height, you gain ground clearance; a necessity for clearing ruts and rocks on the trail. And seriously, what good will those nice new 4x4 mud tires do you when the truck can't clear the ruts? Since we're talking about this being your daily driver still, don't go crazy here. Bigger isn't always better. Impress people with the thought you put into building the perfect truck, not just its size.
2. Tires and Rims Once the truck is lifted, it's time to squeeze some new off-road rims and tires on. There is a huge range of sizes and styles to choose from here, so some homework is necessary on your part. What trails are you hitting up? How much city and highway driving will you do on them? Tires alone can run about $1,000 for a set of 4, so this is somewhere you want to make the right choice first. Good tires are vital to your off-road experience; so definitely don't go with the cheapest option here. A little money now can save you a lot of trouble later. If you want to go bigger than the rims you currently have, a good set of off-road rims will set you back around $1,000 as well. So if you're on a budget, I'd recommend trying to outfit your current rims with off-road tires. Remember, if you're planning on keeping this truck your daily driver, you need to choose tires that are made for highway use as well as trail use. Tires meant strictly for the trail will wear out very quickly on the road, melting all the money you spent right into the pavement.
3. Winch If you're going off into the woods alone or even with some other trucks, you need a way to help yourself out if you get stuck, and a winch is just the thing. Imagine you're plowing down a trail and you see a nice big mud pit and you want to hit it nice and fast to spray mud everywhere. When you hit it you realize it's about a foot deeper than you thought and now you're stuck. What do you do? It's too far into the woods for a tow truck. This situation is why a winch is great. With the winch, you can tie off to a tree, or a friend's truck, and winch yourself out. A good winch can mean the difference between leaving your truck on the trail and driving it home. A winch is not the easiest thing to install, as often times a new bumper is needed. A good winch will set you back around $400 and depending on your truck, a bumper will start around $400. The best option here is to check out an off-road shop in person to see what they have for your truck specifically, since winches are rated on weight and the truck dictates how hard it is to mount. You definitely DO NOT need a winch to start off-roading, but make sure you at least have the phone number of a friend that does.
There are literally hundreds of upgrades you can do to your daily driver truck to make it a champ at off-roading, but these are some of the key ones to make any truck a solid off-road machine, while keeping it tame enough for the road. When building on a budget, getting the perfect upgrade for what you want to do is vital. Don't go too small, and don't go too big, even if it is tempting. Get what you need and spend what you saved on the next upgrade. Lastly, even if you can't afford all three of these upgrades, don't worry. Get some good tires and a friend and go out and hit the trails! Something like a train horn on your truck can help someone find you if you get stuck, and a cell phone can be the biggest friend you have, too. Don't get in over your head, keep the trails light in the beginning while you're upgrading, and you're sure to have a great time.