A GUIDE TO THE TOP 4x4 ACCESSORIES & UPGRADES 2021/2022
Wanting to customise and upgrade your 4x4 with off-road accessories can be a deeply personal thing. It's often based on the opinion of experts, friends or possibly even your wife or mum(!), but in any case, it can also be highly subjective… and not to mention expensive!
To try and ease your burden, we've put together a list of the top 4x4 accessories and upgrades in 2021/2022.
In our humble opinion, there are four accessory upgrades that every 4x4 owner should be investing in to make both the on and off-road driving experience as good as possible:
- CHOOSING 4X4 PANEL & PAINT PROTECTION
- CHOOSING THE RIGHT 4X4 TYRE
- CHOOSING A 4X4 LIFT KIT
- CHOOSING A 4X4 BULL BAR
3. CHOOSING A 4X4 LIFT KIT
If you want to explore the off-road capabilities of a 4x4, then a suspension lift kit is the way to go. Adding a suspension lift kit lets you increase your tyre size and enable that extra ground clearance needed to tackle rutted trails, creeks and sand tracks through to building and construction sites. The aim is to raise the vehicle's height to provide a steeper approach, higher ground clearance, and accommodate larger wheels and tyres.
Anyone thinking of adding a suspension lift kit, also called suspension lifts or levelling kits, will reduce the maximum safe operating angles and affect road holding. We agree that the trade-off here is well worth the investment, giving you a more significant opportunity to explore deeper and further into the great outdoors.
There are a few primary considerations in purchasing a lift kit, so do the thinking beforehand, and you'll have a better chance of getting what you need within your budget. They include:
- Your 4x4's factory suspension specifications and setup
- What your 4x4 will primarily be used for (Basic Off-Road Recreation, Extreme Off-Road, Constant-load, Haulage or Towing)
- Your primary use may influence the amount of lift you need, E.g. A regularly loaded up Ute or wagon may require a rear 3-inch lift and 2-inch lift front to level out.
- Tyre selection and size you want to achieve (see the previous section) is a significant factor in the amount of lift you will require.
- Your daily use if it's a family vehicle - will you kids be able to quickly get in and out of the 4x4 without a step ladder!
Types of Suspension Lift Kits
While each type of 4x4 requires a customised suspension lift kit, there are two main types: leaf spring and coil spring. The following section will provide details and considerations when deciding which suspension lift kit is suitable for your vehicle… we're not talking 'Grave Digger' proportions here, though!
Leaf Spring Kits
Leaf spring suspensions are found in many models of 4x4. The simplest way to add height is to install new, bigger springs. Lifting blocks can also lift the rear of a truck but are not usually applicable for the front of vehicles because it typically causes issues with braking - this is not something you want with a fully loaded family adventure!
If you would like to add a suspension lift kit to the front and back of the 4x4, then the add-a-leaf method is one option. An extra leaf is inserted into the vehicle's leaf pack. But beware, the added spring rate can result in a rougher ride than the stock factory set.
New Leaf Spring Kits
The add-a-leaf option relies on old springs, but the alternative is simply replacing the springs with a new leaf spring pack. With a new leaf spring pack, the springs will not be fatigued, and the amount of lift can be customised to fit the vehicle and the desired amount of lift. Of course, this option does also depend on the age of your vehicle.
Your 4x4 can also be lifted by using longer shackles. The shackles will provide 50% lift so that a two-inch shackle will give a one-inch lift. The downside of longer shackles is that they affect pinion and shackle angle. Longer shackles should be used in a limited manner as a corrective measure. Polyurethane spring eye and shackle bushings should be used because they are more durable than factory rubber bushings when there is a great deal of flexing.
Coil Spring Kits
In 4x4's with coil springs, a coil spring lift can be used. This type of lift uses a spring spacer or a longer coil spring. The spacer lift is more appropriate for the desired lift of two to three inches. The factory-installed springs can be kept, and the shock absorbers may not need to be replaced, so the spacer lift is relatively inexpensive.
Longer coil springs may improve the load capacity of the 4x4 but are more expensive and harder to install. The downside of coil spring lifts is that the angles of the radius arm and track bars are changed, and axle location may also be changed with both axles moving toward the centre of the truck, which can shift the centre of gravity!
Pros and Cons of Suspension Lift kits
Modifying your 4x4's factory options with a lift kit will allow you to fit different (often larger) tyres to gain more traction and ground clearance. It's also important to consider what sacrifices you'll make to your overall ride and comfort, as there's generally some trade-off required.
Suspension Lift Kit Pros
- The ability to tackle more challenging terrain with rutted, rockier, wetter or sandy tracks is the number one benefit of a lift kit
- Suspension Lift kits can deliver 2" inch (50mm), 3" inch (75mm), 4" inch (100mm), 5" inch (125 mm) and 6" inch (150mm) lift
- Suspension Lift kits allow you to significantly increase your tyre size and selection options - meaning two things; more traction and ground clearance (and possibly a tougher look for your car!?)
- Overall visibility is increased from your vehicle sitting higher on the road.
Suspension Lift Kit Cons
- Consider how you'll feel (or your family) regularly climbing in and out of your vehicle.
- Get the height you genuinely need!... anymore, and you may unnecessarily feel like you're in a bus!
- Overall ride comfort (and handling) will be compromised by varying degrees compared to factory setup.
- The higher you go, the more you will increase your 4x4's centre of gravity, increasing the risk of rollover.
Ultimately the suspension configuration of your vehicle will decide whether you need just Coils or a mix of both Coils and Springs. Regardless of the suspension type, it is critical to get a lift kit that suits your driving needs and the right balance of performance, comfort and handling.
It should be noted that different countries and states have different laws about the limit of lifting vehicles, and these laws should always be adhered to. Insurance companies also may change coverage of modified vehicles, so be sure to check beforehand.