If you have answered yes to any of the above questions, it means you’re in the right place.
The simplest definition of an off-road car could be as follows: a vehicle which can (also) drive. Sounds obvious? Well… not if we take the word ‘drive’ literally and won’t only associate off-road with a forest path or some shallow puddle.
Let’s be honest: a harmless obstacle can tackled with any SUV with higher suspension and a trip down a gravel road can be taken even in a standard personal car. However, the nature of off-road cars and their sense is something more:
There is, however, one trouble with off-road vehicles. All serial models – even though at the sales stage they are promoted as cars which would ‘reign always and everywhere’ – most people will generally use to drive on paved roads. This is simply the reality of which car manufacturers are fully aware. Therefore, designers seek compromise and adjust the solutions which are available in these cars.
If you’re not happy with this state of affairs (and since you’re her, our guess is that something is up) and wish to turn your ‘serial’ off-road car into a ‘real’ off-road car, you have to take steps to carry out appropriate modifications increasing the terrain capabilities of your car. And enhancing its aesthetics at the same time:)
At this point, it is important to remember that you don’t have to give up on the comfort of driving on paved roads but you’ll learn more details in the other part of this article :)
To put it very simply: LIFTING a car is raising it. Why would someone want to take such a step?
The first issue is creating the possibilities to install bigger (than standard ones) wheels in such a car. A car’s serial design greatly limits the possibilities of interference into the kind of tyres we’re driving with – tyres with greater terrain capabilities would simply not fit into the wheel arch without raising the whole vehicle in an appropriate way. The subject of tyre selection at the stage of off-road car modification is described in more detail HERE.
Secondly, it is about increasing the clearance and increasing approach and departure angles which translate into what we can do off the beaten track.
Thirdly – increased wading height. Once it is appropriately raised, our car will be able to pass through deeper bodies of water. If we add an appropriately installed snorkel, we gain almost a submarine ;)
Fourthly – increasing the car’s loading capacity through installing a non-standard bumper, winch etc. Using brand sets enables selecting the hardness of springs and shock absorbers which accurately match our assumptions. When installing a steel bumper with a mounting plate and a winch, we can order the front suspension + 100 kg – this enhances the driving and prevents leaning forward too much during braking.
Fifthly: the visual aspects. A higher car with larger tyres present itself much better than its ‘serial’ equivalent.
Selecting an appropriate lifting set is one of the most important decisions to be made at the modification planning stage. Of course, all elements must work together and jointly create an inseparable entity, though an appropriate lift is the ‘backbone’ of the whole undertaking and the stage at which all work with the car should begin.
Lifting can be carried out on a car’s suspension or its body. Lifting the suspension takes place through replacement of individual elements. The body is modified through installation of appropriate washers where the body is installed on the frame.
It is worth mentioning that the suspension lift is the most effective and has real impact on the car’s operation. It ultimately determines the off-road capabilities of your car and this is why we shall cover this type of modification in the article below.
Suspension is nothing else than a set of elements connecting the wheels with the body. They are responsible for the transfer of forces which are generated during driving at the contact points between tyres and the road surface. They are also responsible for even distribution of these forces, therefore they must be characterized by reliability. After all, our safety during passing over subsequent off-road obstacles depends on suspension so let’s not treat it ‘offhandedly’. Attach importance to adequately plan the modification of your 4x4.
Every car should be ‘tuned’ to individual user preferences. Various solutions can be recommended depending on the car’s intended use. One set will work well in case of a car only intended for paved roads, another one will be appropriate for people who wish to use their car to go fishing or hunting and another approach shall be taken in case of a car typically intended for very hard terrain.
At the modification planning stage, the driver’s personal preferences shall also be taken into account. For example: does he prefer a ‘harder’ car or maybe likes when a car ‘sits softly’.
In terms of selecting optimal components, each case shall be assessed individually. One must remember that not every element co-operates with all of the elements. There is no other solution to this problem than many years of experience in completing sets. It is not an easy thing to do. There is a multitude of combinations and even once a set is completed there is still the issue of configuring all of the equipment elements with each other.
Sometimes even individual tuning of shock absorbers becomes necessary which is a particularly complicated issue. This takes place especially during the implementation of complex projects which practically comprise of redesigning the whole car. Sometimes it’s necessary to change oil in shock absorbers into one that is different than the one recommended by the manufacturer. Sometimes, we’re forced to carry out road and field tests using appropriate sensors. We then examine the behaviour of a given car with a particular load and with consideration of the user’s preferences. It can be said that each car would bring about a slightly different scenario.
Lifts can be divided depending on their price, however you must bear in mind that the number of elements to be installed in your car and their quantity will depend on your budget.
For example: a basic, cheapest 2.5 inch lift only includes shock absorbers and springs…It is true that such a set will achieve the desired lift and yes, such a car will drive but the vehicle’s method of operation will leave much to be desired.
For a slightly higher price, you will find sets which include a greater number of elements. Apart from shock absorbers and springs, they will include special swing arms and elements for ideal geometrical adjustment such as Panhard rods.
The achieved effect will also allow you to drive on roads at higher speeds and in incomparably greater comfort.
A car which is lifter using a correctly matched set drives much better compared to a serial model which has just left the garage. Despite the fact that the centre of gravity has been moved upwards, the level of comfort and driving confidence increases significantly.
We have different types of springs in lifting sets. Their quality and durability are mainly dependent on their brand. A new element of the offer are the so-called progressive springs which have variable characteristics along their total length: as you move upwards, the distances between individual links of the spring shrink.
In practice, this means that the car is more comfortable at lower speeds and as the speed is increased and obstacles are more noticeable, the springs begin working within their upper range which maintains pleasant and confident driving. In this way, we can combine two different extremes: comfort at lower speeds and confident driving at significantly higher speeds.
Oil shock absorbers are the main element. It is the cheapest option which offers the greatest comfort of springing: they are simply soft.
Another type are oil and gas shock absorbers, often used for installing higher lifts in cars which will also be used for normal driving at highway speeds. In this category, we have a very wide choice: from cheaper manufactures to models with adjustable hardness which depending on the settings offer harder or softer dampening. It works on a basis of an appropriate dial which can be switched independently in a very simple way.
We also have adjustable shock absorbers with an additional oil tank. They work on a basis of adding to a standard shock absorber, a special steel hose connected to the tank with an additional amount of oil. Thanks to this, the shock absorbers are definitely less likely to overheat on a long and fast off-road journey (in case of cross-country type models). Therefore, they don’t lose their properties which is the case with standard shock absorbers which have a tendency to ‘boil’ on long and fast cross-country drives.
We also distinguish bypass shock absorbers (such models are installed in our demo car) or coil over absorbers which allow an even higher level of speed and driving comfort. Each year, they’re becoming more and more popular.
Every car has its optimal lift size. It comes as no surprise that when its proportions are distorted, the car looks comically. Wheels which are too large for an unraised car look as bad as wheels which are too small for a car with an installed high lift.
Over the years, we have managed to determine a perfect lift height for all cars which are included in our offer. However, in the end, everything depends on the car owner’s ambitions and budget.
The most basic lift raises a car by approx. 2-2.5 inches. When there is lack of funding for branded sets, clients often decide to go for the economical versions which are based on installing special polyurethane washers on the serial springs.
Of course, we are able to lift the vehicle in this way but it’s not the best solution. Standard springs have various operational characteristics which may not necessarily work well following the car’s lifting.
Springs which are lifted this way will decrease the comfort of driving significantly. By default, they will not be as suitable to work in different conditions such as driving over obstacles, potholes or on asphalt as the accessories which are dedicated to such usages.
Apart from this, one has to remember about replacing shock absorbers as the standard ones will be too short anyway. It is true that you might come across metal extensions on the market, however the durability of such a solution is close to nil and this is why we strongly advise against such experimentation.
In this case, buying shock absorbers is an investment and it’s simply not worth saving money on them. Thanks to the appropriately reinforced construction not only will they be responsible for the comfort and quality and driving but also for your safety when you’re sat behind the wheel.
Higher lifts are divided into:
In case of higher lifts (from 3-3.5 inches upwards), elements which are only optional in shorter lifts become a necessity. These are:
A car’s geometry is changed due to the modification of shaft angles and shift of bridges (it depends on the lift type and size).
A solution to this problem are special sets which enable the adjustment of correct geometry. These are the aforementioned Panhard rods – front and rear ones – the length of which is adjustable allowing for shifting bridges leftwards or rightwards whilst the reinforced adjustable swing arms which allow for shifting bridges forwards or backwards.
Their installation is necessary as standard swing arms have a fixed length and also become too short – this is why the front bridge moves backwards dangerously approaching the cabin.
Following the installation of a selected lift and appropriately matched wheels, care must also be taken of the bumpers which will secure the wheel arches and make it impossible for them to have contact with the wheels. Special gas (or hydraulic) bumpers will also secure the car against damages during jumping and fast driving over potholes.
What is more, practically with every lift we should replace the steering wheel shock absorber the role of which is to dampen the shocks which can be felt on the steering wheel.
The general rule is as follows: if we’re dealing with a wheel larger than standard, the steering wheel shock absorber shall be replaced. Otherwise, a standard shock absorber will fall apart which can cause a dangerous situation on the road.
This is a phenomenon called a ‘death wobble’: when driving, the car vibrates so much that it becomes impossible to hold the steering wheel and control the vehicle. The solution is very simple – an appropriately selected and reinforced steering wheel shock absorber.
This is a very dangerous phenomenon with catastrophic consequences, however adequate selection of modification components reduces it to nil. In a correctly designed Jeep something like this has no right to occur…
This is why, apart from the purchase of appropriate suspension, it is important to install it in a professional, off-road garage.
Off-road vehicles are characterized by non-standard solutions and unfortunately it is frequently the case that a mechanic who deals with similar vehicles on a daily basis is simply unable to deal with the correct installation of elements. And we should remember that even the best suspension may be dangerous in operation if it has been installed incorrectly in your car.
We should bear in mind that off-road vehicles do not fall into the ‘non-servicing’ category which don’t require servicing. Let’s be straightforward: these cars simply have to be looked after. The same applies to additionally installed accessories.
This is an absolutely fundamental thing which is often neglected by off-road enthusiasts. Residue mud or other remains of off-road driving mean destruction to not only the shock absorbers but to absolutely all of the suspension elements. Go the extra mile to remove all of the mud from the car as soon as it’s possible.
It is recommended to befriend a local garage specializing in 4x4 cars as it will become necessary to regularly monitor the accessories in terms of any possible faults. Repairing a loose element which is discovered in time might be a matter of using a screwdriver for two minutes. No reaction might result in a serious failure which we don’t want, right? :)
A car which is serviced on a regular basis will drive for a very long time. Otherwise, even the best and most expensive of suspensions will have its faults. Let’s not forget that we’re dealing with extreme overloads here.
We’ll keep on saying this: the subject of off-road car modifications is not an easy one. In such a short article it is impossible to present the information which would be sufficient to independently plan out a redesign of your car, nor is it its intention. Our intention is to introduce you into the world of technical complexities. However in order to attain a master’s level in these issues, you will need time and experience. This will not happen straight away. But don’t worry, you’ve got us.
This means that you can write or call us at any time and we’ll use our best efforts to fulfil your expectations. We will provide relevant advice (or advise you against something☺), help you with planning the whole modification process and refer you to our reliable garage. In other words – we’re here to help you!