Not all cars are meant to leave the pavement, but that certainly doesn’t stop drivers from trying. Still, if you’re going to go off-roading, you should at least prep your car for the trails. So here’s how to turn virtually any kind of vehicle into a force of nature—and clean it back up for everyday driving when you’re done.
1. Get some dope tires.
You need puncture-resistant tires with a deep tread for gripping all terrains. In the end, it doesn’t matter how solid your motor is if your wheels ain’t churning and burning.
2. Protect the underbelly.
If your car was built for the highway and not necessarily the backwoods, it’s probably somewhat low to the ground. Invest in a basic set of skid plates to keep your oil pan, transmission and other exposed parts underneath the car protected, or install a lift kit for ground clearance.
3. Replace those plastic bumpers.
The bumpers on the front and rear of your car are there to protect you from wandering pedestrians and poor parkers. When off-roading, they get in the way and can pop right off. Take ’em off and replace them with tough metal that you can angle out of the way.
4. Swap your suspension.
Replacing your stock suspension setup with some serious springs and bushings should lift and strengthen your car. Swap rubber for polyurethane bushings and stock steel for corrosion-proof bolts.
You may want to consider tacking a bull bar onto the front of your car to protect it from collisions, adding a snorkel to keep the engine from sucking in thick dust or water or installing a light bar for visibility. A hitch will come in handy if you want to bring along other toys like your mountain bike. And heaven forbid you get stuck in a ditch, it’ll make for a good tow point.
6. Worry about cleaning it later.
Off-roading is all about doing battle with the elements,. Honestly, mud and scuffs are the least of your worries because there are products to clean those up.
Oh, and when you’re done, the tips in the video below will help you get your car back in shape, assuming it made it out intact. Yes, cleaning up the aftermath entails some TLC, but Turtle Wax will pull most of the weight for you… Just remember: The most important part of off-road trips are safety and prep! Make sure your automobile is qualified and safe for off-roading (check with experts before you go) and don’t go off-road where illegal or prohibited.