Modifying your off-road rig doesn’t have to break the bank. A few simple upgrades can easily give it a new look and even add some performance. Most of these off-road mods are simple enough to tackle in one day, with many taking less than an hour to complete. Although they may not be “big dollar” upgrades, we think they hold their own when it comes to adding personalized style to any 4×4 on a budget. From added safety to raw horsepower, these modifications are sure to take your off-road vehicle to the next level.
You’re probably already thinking, “What, $100 off-road tires? Yeah, right!” Off-Road tires can make a huge difference both in traction and durability when dealing with dirt, rocks, snow or rough terrain. In fact, when it comes to off-road mods, tires can give you the best bang for your buck. Most vehicles today roll off the assembly line with tires designed primarily for on-road use. Although rubber is expensive and most off-road tires tip the $100 mark, it’s worth mentioning that alternatives do exist, like buying a set of used takeoff tires. You can find them on eBay, Craigslist or even your local off-road shop. They run about half the price of a new tire yet still have plenty of tread and life. Another option is retread tires. Companies like Tread Wright have been around for decades doing this work and have in recent years concentrated their efforts to off-road tire designs. They offer tires that start at under $100 bucks each, in both all-terrain and mud-terrain tread patterns.
We installed a set on a Jeep JK over a year ago and they are still in good working order, even after logging over 12k miles!
Air Intake Filter
More driving time off-road means more dirt being sucked up by the engine. Thankfully the air filter stops particles from entering the intake and causing engine damage. Although factory filters do a good job at stopping dirt, aftermarket air filters specifically made for off-road driving conditions use oiled or dry media filtration technology and are designed to stop dirt while continuing to flow clean air. Performance replacement filters drop right into the factory air box and are a great upgrade. Some filters may even provide a slight increase in power via improved airflow. An added benefit to performance replacement filters is that they can be cleaned and re-used, many for the lifetime of the vehicle. Some aftermarket air filter companies to look for are K&N Filters, AEM, Volant, Air Aid, and Rugged Ridge.
TIP: Check your air filter after every big off-road trip. If the trail was dusty, chances are good the filter needs to be cleaned or replaced to maximize good airflow.
We’ve all been there, you hit a bump then your body goes rocking front to back or side to side. You try to brace yourself, but there’s nothing to hold on to. The solution to this little problem is to add a set of grab handles. Having something to grab when tackling bumpy terrain will make the ride and experience much better – they also can make entering and exiting a modified off-road vehicle an easier task. We’ve tried and tested grab handles by MasterCraft Safety over the years and really like them (though there are a number of other manufacturers out there). They’re easy to install and are made from 1.5 nylon webbing, featuring a sturdy 5-inch thermo-press handle. MasterCraft Safety grab handles also use a Velcro loop system that easily attaches to any roll cage. They are also among the cheapest off-road mods available. Now you’ll really have a handle on things when the road gets rough.
Shock absorbers may be hidden out of sight on most vehicles, but they work hard and help control the suspension and ride on your 4×4. Most factory shocks are worn out before they hit the 50k-mile mark, especially if you frequent rough roads. To ensure you have the best ride possible, a set of quality shocks will keep your vehicle planted on the road and performing better off-road. Many are direct OEM replacements, with a great selection of shocks for lifted Jeep, truck and SUV models. Quality off-road-tuned shocks can be had for less than $100 each and will help keep your rig from jumping around like a pogo stick. Start your search with Bilstein, FOX, KING, Old Man Emu, Rancho, and Icon Dynamics and then fine-tune it to your vehicle needs and budget.
Oil & Grease
Servicing your vehicle with quality oils and grease can really make a difference. Some lubricants are specifically designed for higher temperatures and extreme off-road use. Higher viscosity and synthetic properties help these fluids perform better in extreme conditions, surpassing conventional oils. Your engine, transmission, transfer case and differentials can all benefit from quality oils. Other key suspension components like ball joints, tie rods, A-arms and control arms should all be serviced with quality grease if they have zerk fittings. Letting them run dry will lead to premature failure. The same can be said for U-joints and wheel bearings. Polymers, synthetics and other advanced lubricants have really come a long way, making them cheap insurance on the go.
Off-Road lighting adds visible style to your vehicle with the ability to illuminate the night. This type of auxiliary lighting is designed to add further reach and wider spread than your factory headlights. These are off-road mods you can get real use out of. They are specifically designed for off-road use and provide the driver with greater visibility at night, in dusty conditions or inclement weather. Most off-road lights can be angled to shine the light where you need it most, combining spot and flood light patterns. The most economical lighting option is Halogen, but LED is becoming more affordable every day. Some of the off-road lighting companies to look at are Hella, Piaa, KC HiLites, Pro Comp, Rigid, Vision X, and Baja Designs.
If you don’t want to add additional lights, simply replacing your factory light bulbs can add personalized style and lighting performance to your truck or SUV. A variety of headlight replacement options exist ranging from simple replacement bulbs to complete aftermarket housings featuring modern designs. Aftermarket replacement bulbs are easy to replace and are the most economical option to making a light change. Some additional lighting upgrades include replacing interior and exterior bulbs with brighter and more efficient LEDs. Many of these modifications can be accomplished in a very short time, and it’ll either provide improved visibility on the trail or make it easier to find gear inside the cab on your next adventure. Both street legal and off-road options are available.
Modifying your vehicle’s exhaust can be done on the cheap. Swapping out the big honking factory muffler with a sleek high flow piece will yield performance gains and less backpressure for your engine. In addition to adding horsepower, your truck or 4×4 will also have a new distinguishable exhaust tone sure to excite the ladies or threaten the villagers. They range from “PURR” all the way up to ear-piercing drag racer “LOUD.” If you can cut and weld, these are fairly easy off-road mods to make. Even if you can’t, most muffler shops will only charge 1-2 hours of labor for swapping out a muffler. If you have a little money left over, splurge on a chrome or stainless tip.
You may have seen this iconic truck accessory while passing a semi on the interstate. We’re here to tell you that you don’t have to drive an 18-wheeler to run them on your rig. From off-road adventures to rally racing, mud flaps add looks and safety features only rivaled by the farmer’s daughter and these off-road mods can be a big help. Although many truck and 4×4 models may already come equipped with them from the factory—some may have mysteriously fallen off, removed or never added on the assembly line. Mud flaps help keep rocks, mud and other debris kicked up by wheels at bay, preventing them from hitting people behind you. They also help keep rocks from chipping the paint on the fenders and quarter panels of your rig. Mud flaps add safety and in some states, they are required by law, especially if you run large off-road tires.
You don’t have to be a full-fledged fireman to handle a fire extinguisher and put out a fire, although having some training does help. For many off-roaders heading off to far away places is the norm, and it is crucial to have the ability to put out a fire to save your 4×4, or a trail companion’s, from completely going up in flames. Fire extinguishers don’t take up much space, and they have a shelf life of up to 12 years and don’t cost all that much. Not many off-road mods can save your vehicle or even your life, so it makes a whole lot of sense to have one. Having a fire extinguisher in your rig will also help pass Safety Inspection should you ever join an organized 4×4 trail ride, rally or race. Fire extinguishers are available in a number of sizes and can be mounted directly to a roll cage or body.
Have more off-road mods under $100 bucks? Let us know below in the comment section.
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