5 Essential Off-Road Performance Upgrades

Aug. 25, 2016 By Tim Healey
When it comes time hit the trail, there are some simple upgrades you can perform to make your rig perform better when playing in the rough stuff. Hereís five things you can do to your truck or SUV to maximize its off-road capabilities.

Air intake/Air filter
Getting more airflow to your engine will result in improved performance, and upgrading your air intake and/or installing an aftermarket air filter can be a cheap and easy way of doing so. In addition, if your off-road journeys involve frequent water crossings, mounting a snorkel-style air intake can keep you from sucking water into the engine and ruining your day on the trail.

Exhaust
Not only does getting air to flow in faster help your engine, so too does getting it to flow out faster. On top of that, higher-performance exhausts sound better, and in some cases, the mounting can be changed to allow for additional ground clearance, which definitely comes in handy on more challenging trails.

Brakes
You might not think you need upgraded brakes given the slow speeds of off-roading, but even at slow speeds, stopping a few feet shorter could mean the distance between being stuck or not. Downhill trails sections or high-speed off-road puts a heavy demand on brakes as well, so upgrading your stock calipers, rotors and pads will help ensure youíll stop when you need to. Donít forget about those larger upgraded tires as well, which area heavier than your stock rubber and therefore require more effort to stop.

Locker or Limited-Slip Differential
Traction is king off-road, and keeping wheels from spinning unnecessarily can be the difference between climbing an obstacle or needing to find a bypass. To that end, if your 4x4 doesnít come factory-equipped with a locking or limited-slip differential, itís one of the best ways to improve your rigís traction on the trail. If your vehicle comes with limited-slip and you plan upgrade to a locker, if youíre considering changing the gear ratio to complement larger tires make sure to install that locker at the same since youíll have the diff open anyway (itíll save you some dough).

Programmable Tuner
Although manufacturers do a great job of setting up the tuning and timing for engines and transmissions in stock form, once you start making changes to your off-roader those settings donít quite work as well. There are a number of electronic tuner options on the market for a wide variety of vehicles to adjust engine performance, shift timing and more. They can also help dial in your rig to complement changes to wheels, tires and other performance upgrades.

Any of these tweaks can help make your truck or SUV that much more capable off of the highway, so consider each of them worthy investments in your vehicleís off-road performance.

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