4x4's (I prefer to call them less capable 4x4's in the guise of Sports
Utility Vehicles) are becoming more and more on road biased than their original
cousins (the real 4x4's). However, there are still those who still enjoy
putting their vehicles to proper off road use and I felt that they will find
this article interesting reading. Please keep in mind that I am referring mainly
to those who enjoy traveling off the beaten track in search of nature's
offerings, than those who enjoy off road competitions. The latter requires far
more aggressive modifications.
Traveling in such conditions your
vehicle is subject to heavy punishment from the terrain and also the loads it
may be required to carry in terms of passengers, camping equipment, camping
supplies and not to mention the accessories (eg winch) the owner may have fitted.
Thus, there is a need for a completely different suspension to that found in
the more on road-biased vehicles.
One of the main features you must
have is good axle articulation. This refers to the suspension's ability
to allow the wheels to move up and down. The greater the articulation the easier
it will be to overcome tough obstacles, because the wheels will stay in contact
with the surface. On road however, too much articulation will lead to body roll,
thus affecting handling.
Vehicles with the best articulation
for off road conditions have live axels and coil springs all around.
Also important are good shock absorbers
as the shocks on off road conditions work much harder than when they are on
road. This is why gas shocks are such a good investment.
All shock absorbers are filled with
oil. When the piston in the shock absorber moves up and down rapidly, heat is
generated causing the oil to thin. When this happens, the shock absorber won't
be able to damp vibrations as well as it should. Thus the recommendation for
fitting gas charged shock absorbers.
At the end of the day, it is you
the individual who knows exactly how much of time you will spend on the road
and off the road. Hence, when deciding to purchase a SUV/4x4 vehicle give some
thought to the suspension layout.
Happy Outdoor 4x4ing everyone.
Duncan Udawatta -
Botswana (Southern Africa)
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