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What Makes a Good Off-road Vehicle?

Updated: Feb 14, 2023

two jeeps embarking on an off-road trail near the side of a mountain

Not all vehicles are built to travel on off-road trails right away. Some of these cars need specific features to ensure they can overcome different obstacles often encountered on uneven terrain.

Do you know what makes a good off-road vehicle? What features must your vehicle have to ensure a safe and comfortable ride when navigating over rocks and ditches? This blog discusses some key features your vehicle must have to be off-road ready.

What Makes a Good Off-road Vehicle?

Locking Differential

Most vehicles are equipped with open differentials, which gives the tire with the least traction the most power. Meanwhile, others have a limited-slip differential where the wheel that receives the smallest amount of traction spins. While these may be optimal in other situations, it is not the best case in off-road driving.

Locking differentials help distribute power to all four wheels. This component allows you to lock the two wheels on an axle together and have even power and traction instead of only giving one wheel all the torque for traction and stability. This lets you maneuver your vehicle more efficiently in tight spots.

Four-wheel Drive

A four-wheel drive is a vehicle that uses a transmission system that directs power to all four wheels. Many off-roaders prefer this type of drivetrain setup because of its many advantages. For instance, you can easily maneuver through snow-covered roads and on ice, preventing you from losing traction when one of your wheels gets stuck.

Another reason a four-wheel drive makes a good off-road vehicle is its grip on various surfaces, whether sand, mud, rocks, or riverbeds. Moreover, your Jeep will have no difficulty driving up steep hills that most vehicles can’t get over.

High Ground Clearance

Traveling off-road faces you with various obstacles, from long-branched bushes to large boulders. Without ample ground clearance, your vehicle is at risk of serious underbody damage, especially when driving through rocks and stumps.

We recommend having at least 8.5 inches of ground clearance to go over most obstacles and up to 10 inches if you’re planning to traverse more challenging terrain. You can get this using lift kits and additional coil spring spacers. This upgrade also lets you mount larger tires for more traction and durability for off-roading.

Low-end Torque

Having more initial low-end torque is one of the most important features of what makes a good off-road vehicle. Traveling on different terrain is about more than getting through in the fastest time possible but having maximum control over your vehicle.

Speed and horsepower are ideal for regular and track driving. However, off-road excursions are also reliant on having more torque for additional traction and power when going over ditches and gaps. This is also why having the right kind of tires is vital so the wheels will have more grip as they spin.

This is also why some Jeep vehicles have lower horsepower options but make it up for having more low-end torque for precisely these types of off-road situations.

Wheel Travel

Wheel travel or articulation is also one of the more important characteristics of a good off-road ride. Traction and stability are key when it comes to getting the right type of tires for off-roading and overlanding.

Wheel articulation is essential when you plan to go on an all-terrain adventure. Many off-road enthusiasts prefer to install a solid axle, as compared to an independent suspension, because it provides greater wheel articulation. However, it still depends on the pavement you’ll travel on. For instance, we recommend going for an independent suspension when maneuvering in a desert as it provides a smoother ride, while solid axles are better for rocky terrain.

Suitable Tires

Not all tires are made equally. In fact, there are kinds of wheels specially designed for your needs. Selecting the most suitable tires lets you go on your adventure with confidence. They often have blocky and heavy-duty tread patterns and puncture-resistant sidewalls to withstand the abuse they will face. Moreover, they can spell the difference between seamlessly moving from one point to another and getting stuck for many hours.

Before you go on your expedition, switch out your all-season tires with off-road ones so your ride will be more capable for the challenging terrain ahead. Similarly, return to your all-season wheels because off-road tires wear out faster and are not built for on-pavement travels.

Here’s a pro tip: Go for tires with authentic performance rather than wheels made for cosmetic purposes. While some may have a rugged look, they may not be tough enough for extreme adventures. Beadlocks also help stabilize your tires and maintain proper wheel rotation.

Underbody Protection

While off-road vehicles come with high ground clearance, your ride is still susceptible to damage if exposed and unprotected. Its underbody houses many vital components, such as the gas tank, transfer case, and differential. These can get damaged when they come in contact with rocks, water, or tree stumps.

Most vehicles come with protection for their underside. They are typically plastic that smooths airflow, improves aerodynamics, and reduces fuel consumption. However, off-road rides need more durable covering, particularly steel, aluminum, or alloy components.

There are various types of underbody protection available, such as sump guards, skid plates, differential covers, and rock sliders. It’s best to equip your vehicle with these depending on the terrain and obstacles you will meet.

Be Prepared for Your Off-road Adventures

Off-roading is not a casual activity you can do out of the blue. There are various preparations you need to do to ensure you have a safe journey. Moreover, your vehicle must be built for the rough terrain and obstacles it’ll meet along the way. The features of what makes a good off-road vehicle will differ from one driver to another, but the ideal setup will always have a common denominator across all configurations.

Visit the Joiiio blog to learn more about how you can prepare your ride for off-road traveling.

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