Van 9 Ways to Make Your Van Off Road Ready
Stock vans can cover a surprising amount of ground. Highways, city streets and gravel roads are all well within the bounds of driving and there are plenty of great places to explore. Eventually, many van lifers and road warriors will reach those points where they want to push a little harder and go farther down the trail.
Luckily, transforming a stock van into an off-road ready machine isn’t overly complex. A few upgrades will turn 2wd and 4wd vans into more capable machines that have improved suspension and clearance to reach more campsites and remote areas.
Add a Lift Kit
The first and most obvious off-road upgrade is a quality lift kit. The lift increases clearance by raising the body over the frame. More room is created for tire upgrades and suspension upgrades. A full suspension lift is not common on vans but the body lift is a fantastic option to start down the road of better clearance so you can drive rocky dirt tracks and have more confidence off-road.
Upgrade Your Suspension
The suspension components are an absolute necessity for off-road performance. Absorbing shock, handling corners and taking more abuse calls for better suspension. Shocks and springs are at the heart of suspension performance and should be upgraded. While your suspension is receiving upgrades, inspecting everything from ball joints to sway bar links is prudent. Make sure everything is dialed and aligned before you hit the road.
Invest in New Rubber
This should likely be the first priority for off-road performance but the tire selection process is typically done after gaining lift clearance and assessing suspension upgrades. Regardless, there aren’t many things more important than great rubber for performance off-road. Traction over wet, slick rocks, through mud, sand and snow and everything else you encounter will be greatly improved with quality tires. Try a set of slick tires side by side against great All Terrain rubber and the performance differences are obvious.
Armor the Vulnerable Points
Bouncing down the trail means your tires are kicking up gravel and rocks. It also means anything exposed in the under-carriage is at risk of contact with hard objects. Your oil pan, transmission and critical mechanical components can take on damage that quickly changes the dynamic of a trip. Skid plates are a literal life saver for your van when navigating tricky off-road situations. Or even on decent surfaces where a hazard appears suddenly and penetrates the undercarriage.
Carry the Right Off Road Gear
Your van can have all of the upgrades but every now and then, it will need an assist to get out of a jam. Carry one or two quality tow ropes, chains for winter driving and a set of Maxtrax rescue boards to get unstuck. The Maxtrax saves an incredible amount of time and effort , especially in sandy situations.
Although the rescue boards act as a lifeline, always have a shovel onboard just in case. Keep a compressor onboard so you can air down tires and air them back up quickly as well. With the right kit, you can get out of just about everything.
Install a Winch
For serious off-road use, a winch is a major bonus. You can pull a downed tree off the road, assist yourself with pullouts in mud and help others. The uses for a winch are near endless and while it’s not as common an add-on, they are fantastic to have for off-road travel.
Always Have Tire Plugs
Your spare tire is there for a reason but tire plugs are surprisingly useful. They require very little space and can repair tires from nail and screw punctures. Tire plug kits come with reamers to clear the puncture hole then you push the plug into the tire and pull back rapidly with the tool to seal it. Cut off the tag ends and you can use the compressor to add air and get back on the road.
Water Crossings? Install a Snorkel
Let’s face it, snorkels look cool. They offer more than looks however and can save your engine in deep water. If water enters the air intake, it will ruin your engine in a hurry. Adding a snorkel moves the intake higher to make water crossings safer.
Add Lighting for Navigation
Light bars can show the way when the world around you is dark. As an off-road tool, the extra light is a major bonus for scouting ahead and spotting hazards on the trail. They do much more than lighting up the campsite and can assist with tough trails in the dark.
Your van deserves a makeover
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