You know you’re in the Deep South when you see more big, loud, suped-up trucks on the road than Toyota Priuses.
For some Southerners, getting a hand-me-down truck for their 16th birthday is more common than not. Turning that truck into the ultimate off-roading vehicle will be a goal for the rest of their high school career. Birthdays are filled with bigger tires, and savings accounts are drained to purchase the loudest exhaust system on the market. These small-town trucks are heard before they’re seen. Some can even be identified by sound alone.
But what exactly do these guys use their big, bad, loud trucks for? They haul boats to the river, they go hunting, and most importantly, they go muddin’.
Muddin’ is a rite of passage in the South, but before heading out after a good rain storm, that truck’s got to be in tip-top shape in order to handle the terrain. Here are the mods to make to a 4x4 —both functional and aesthetic— to achieve the ultimate mud-riding vehicle:
The factory tires your vehicle came with aren’t going to cut it in the mud. Replace those street tires with tires made specifically for the type of terrain you’ll be spending most of your time on. All-terrain tires have added grip and an open-tread style that make them adequate for a wide range of terrain. But for the mud junkie, go all out and get those mud terrain tires. Most importantly, you want deep treads and tough sidewalls. And yes, bigger is better. Thirty-three-inch and 35-inch tires are the most common among experienced off-road enthusiasts.
02. Lift Kit
A vehicle with limited ground clearance is asking for trouble when off-roading. Having space between the bottom of the vehicle and the terrain is one of the most important mods when preparing a vehicle for uneven terrain driving. This lowers the chance of serious underbody damage when driving over stumps, rocks, and uneven ground. The longer shocks that come with these kits also allow the vehicle to easily handle bumps and jerks without causing damage. Go for quality over quantity with one of these lift kits.
03. Skid Plates
Having high-ground clearance is the first step to protecting the underbody of your vehicle, but go the extra mile and install steel skid plates too. Skid plates protect the underbody components and eliminate the parts that rocks and stumps can latch onto and cause damage to. These are especially necessary for rocky terrains. The last thing you need is a punctured gas tank while getting rowdy on the trail. Skid plates can trap dirt, mud, rocks, and water which can cause damage if they aren’t removed. Make sure to take the right precautions by cleaning underneath regularly.
There’s no telling what’s around you when you’re miles away from city lights in the middle of the night. Make sure you’re prepared with proper lighting to stay safe. The factory lights your vehicle came with are fine for road travel, but you’re going to need to add aftermarket lighting to your vehicle to properly light up the area around the vehicle when off-roading. Don’t stop with powerful forward-facing lights. You’ll also need perimeter lighting. There are hundreds of options for bolt-on lights. The aftermarket offers everything from halogen to HID to LED in a variety of sizes and shapes. It’s also smart to have a bright flashlight in the tool box for unexpected incidents.
Bumper stickers and Bentleys don’t go hand in hand, but these trucks aren’t Bentleys—they’re much rougher. When it comes to bumper stickers and decals the world is your oyster. You can even create your own custom decals for your suped-up truck. Express yourself and stand out from the crowd by customizing your truck with cool stickers.
If you want to go out in the back country, you’ve got to be prepared with a winch. It’s an essential recovery system that will save the day when you or your friends get stuck in the mud. Winches have to handle a lot of weight, so invest in a high-quality winch. You’ll thank yourself down the road.
07. Air Intake and Outtake
In some situations while mudding, you can find your car submerged in mud. If you don’t have the right equipment you can cause serious damage to your engine, because sucking water into your engine is bad news. To prevent this, install an elevated air intake. Some off-roaders even install snorkels which allow a vehicle to travel completely submerged in water.
Air intake is cool and all, but outtake is much more fun. Who doesn’t love a truck with a big bad sound? Most factory exhaust systems are designed to exhaust quietly, but that isn’t necessarily the best for performance. Aftermarket exhaust systems are a quick and easy way to increase power. Who doesn’t want the distinctive rumbling sound of an aftermarket exhaust so everyone knows you’re coming around the corner?
08. Tow Points
If you never get stuck, you’re probably not doing it right. When muddin’, expect to get stuck at least once each time. With these odds, it’s important that there is a safe and easy place to tow your vehicle from. Trailer hitches and tow hooks are both good options because they’re connected to sturdy parts of the vehicle. Check out our tips on getting out of a sticky situation so you don’t end up like these guys.
09. First Aid Kit
Like any sport, off-roading is dangerous. Be prepared with a basic first aid kit that has supplies to stop blood loss, patch and clean simple wounds, while you wait for help to arrive if necessary.
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Always take appropriate safety precautions when working on or operating your vehicle. Take the necessary steps to help prevent injuries; always use protective gear like helmets, safety goggles, and gloves.