By Dick Eussen If money were no objection, what optional extras would you fit on your fourbie? Our 4WD Editor, Dick Eussen, reckons he knows what the 10 best items to have on the 4WD are. He couldn’t restrict himelf to just 10 though, even when threatened, so we let him include a few more useful bits and pieces! When NAFA editor, Dave Krantz asked me to write about the 10 most “wished I had items” for the 4WD, I had to pause a little before coming up with what I reckon would be the best gadgets to take the fourbie off the black top. There are many after market accessories for offroad vehicles - tow bar, air compressor, spare tire caddy, dust and wind reflectors, side steps, sunshade, seat covers, safety rack, twin battery, and more. The list is broad, so I had to think what not only would be nice to have, but also was it needed or essential for offroad use. It’s a hard ask, and while I came up with my own 10 most wanted (not in order), I covered my back by suggesting a few optional extras, in case you don’t agree with my selection. TEN OF THE BEST
One: Snorkels are one of the best after market accessories you can have. Think about it, a snorkel allows the engine to breathe in fresh air - which all engines need for optimum performance. The air under the bonnet is hot and dusty. Snorkels also keep the air intake out of water when crossing a flooded stream. Get water in a diesel engine and it will tear itself apart. Two: Air lockers are really great to get a grip on mother earth. They lock both differentials and stop driving wheels from spinning on slippery surfaces, steep inclines, and declines, and in sand and loose gravel. Air differential lockers give 100% off road traction to all wheels when engaged under most conditions. Three: Bull or roo bars are a must on our third world roads. They protect the front grill and radiator from high impact small and medium animals hits – kangaroos, wallabies, and emus - that are in plaque numbers across much of the land. However, bars don’t stop much if you hit a big bovine, brumby, donkey, or camel, at high speed, something to think about when high tailing it on bush tracks or the open road. Four: Recover gear. Front mounted permanent winches will get you out of trouble when bogged, clearing log falls from bush tracks, or hauling the tinnie up steep riverbanks. I don’t have one, but do have a Tirfor hand winch that has got me and others out of a dilemma a few times. My recover kit contains a hi-lift jack, spare wheel jack, Span Set recovery kit - extra snatch, U-bolt shackles, gloves, snatch blocks, chains, cables, pump and tyre deflators. You can also add an exhaust jack and those cool sand tracks that allow you to drive over sand to it. Five: Emergency Kit - First Aid box, GPS, EPIRBS, Radio, Sat Phone. I heaped this lot into one kit because all are for emergency use and can save lives. The vehicle GPS is very popular. I don’t have one, but I should - to find my way about cities. I don’t have any problems finding my way about the bush, but many people have, which makes having a GPS compulsory – either vehicle mounted or hand held - for those prone to become lost in remote areas. Off and on road navigation systems have never been cheaper and finding your way about the country has never been easier. The new EPIRB digital 406 MHz Distress beacon can be a lifesaver because it sets off an emergency beacon signal that is responded to by the Australian Maritime Safety Authority in far-off Canberra. It is not encouraged to use it if your vehicle breaks down, unless help is too far away to reach. You should use the radio or sat phone for that purpose, but if the batteries are flat you have the ultimate life save when broken down on the track. The sat-phone has largely replaced radios in many areas but radios are handy for keeping in touch when traveling with other vehicles, with many off-roaders saying they fall in the “must have” category. Perhaps… Carry a first aid kit, always and have some knowledge how to treat injuries and illness that can occur in the bush. Six: Tires are important. I have been using wide rimmed wheeled tires for years and have nothing but praise for them. Wide tires have a better and smoother ride than narrow ones. They also will carry the vehicle over soft and boggy sections better as the weight of the vehicle footprints are spaced over more ground. I recommend all-terrain tires for a 4WD. Spic used on bus truly required for this purpose, they are not needed. Tire deflators, and an air compressor complete the tire needs. Seven: A tool box - spanners and screw drivers, spares, and other items - useful for multi-use on long bush trips are important for emergency breakdowns. Even if you lack knowledge of bush mechanics, there are people on the track or with you that may. Include a bead breaker, tire repair kit, spare radiator hoses, and fan belts. Eight: The suspension is one of the most important after market accessory you can fit because it improves the safety and handling ability of any vehicle – providing the correct suspension is installed. Consider a new suspension if the vehicle has done a lot of hard work. Fitting it with new shock absorbers, coil or leaf springs, steering damper, and Polyair bags, will make it ride better than a new vehicle. Nine: Driving Lights - If you drive on the open highway and bush roads at night you are a fool if you don’t have powerful driving lights to turn the night into day. Animals graze along road fringes and sleep on it on cold nights because hard roads retain heat from the sun. Animals are difficult to see and many have eyes that don’t reflect when lit up by lights. Ten: Vehicle Fridge. It won’t make an iota of difference to the 4WD or its driving ability, but will to you as a car fridge makes life easy when on the road, even for a day’s fishing. If you buy one, install a twin battery system if the vehicle does not have one. Install a starting battery and a low discharge battery. Fit a manual control so that both batteries can be isolated. Use the low discharge battery to run the fridge when the vehicle is parked for an extended period. More Options Extra Diesel Power: The DP Chip diesel power can give you up to 35% more power and torque, and up to 10% improved economy. A DP chip makes towing and overtaking much easier when you put the foot down. It works by digitally altering both fuel and time to optimize the fuel system Cruise Control: If you drive long distances on open roads, cruise control is handy as it can reduce fatigue, improve fuel economy, and is suited for automatic and manual vehicles, but remember it is not an auto pilot… Suspension driving seat: Factory seats in some 4WD are uncomfortable, but with a range of optional passenger and driving seats available, help is as close as the nearest 4WD store. Chains: Snow and mud chains are a must for snow conditions, but also perform on slippery and muddy tracks, especially on black soil. I have plowed through endless miles of Gulf country black soil and the Bloomfield Track with chains fitted on the front wheels only and got home when others failed - thanks to tire chains. Rear Vision System: Having rear vision, via a dash mounted screen system is not only handy to see if kids, or adults, are behind you out of the line of the rear vision mirrors, but also for backing when hooking up the boat trailer. Custom Canopy: Fitting a purpose built canopy on the ute or trayback gives security and also weather protection for your stuff. Hood Rack: Racks give extra transport storage and ease of carrying light bulky items, swags, tent, tinnie, or a canoe. You can also get one with an optional boat loader. Storage systems: There are several roller door storage units that slide directly into a wagon. These systems are bulky and take up much room, but their drawers will hold an amazing array of gear – camping, fishing, hunting, spare parts, recovery kits, etc. The best ones have sliding portable fridge brackets. Chain saw: Mini chain saws are very popular and fill a role for firewood, and also tree fall removal on remote bush tracks. Auxiliary Fuel Tank: Consider a spare fuel tank for long distance travel. Spare Wheel Carrier: Chassis mounted spare wheel carriers for a second spare, are better than tossing it up on a roof rack. Saves on hernia’s also. Cargo Barrier: Provides safety and security when transporting materials in station wagon. Generator: Handy item for camping – lights, fridges - and charging batteries. Seat Covers: Saves wear and tear on the upholstery and retains after market value. Rust Protection: Consider protecting your valuable investment with an electronic rust protection system, especially if you drive on beaches and tidal flats. Towing Aids: Tow bar, weight distributor hitches, and electronic brake controllers, makes towing large boats and caravans safe under most conditions. Having the right suspension, coupled to towing aids could safe your life. Bush Shower: 12 Volt operated vehicle bush showers will give you hot water anywhere. Available as vehicle mounted under the bonnet system, or portable.