With so many options out there for choosing a good truck to use for off-roading, it’s hard to know which one will be best for you.
Equipment packages and vehicle specifications all matter in terms of vehicle capability, but how?
More importantly, when you’re ready to buy, how can you tell that an off-road-designed truck will be able to perform as it’s being advertised?
To figure out which vehicle is going to be more versatile and capable to do more on the trail, you have to start with measurements.
No matter what added equipment it may have, the only thing that can give you an accurate idea of what you can expect from any off-road vehicle out there as well as what modifications will help it most is knowing its measurements and similar criteria.
1. Ground Clearance Height
The most basic of all determinants of what you can and can’t do with your 4X4 is its ground clearance, or the height from the ground to the lowest point on the axles.
The higher your ground clearance, the bigger the obstacles you can clear with the vehicle as it comes from the factory, and vice-versa.
Thankfully, you can slightly increase your ground clearance by adding bigger wheels and tires.; if you need more than that, add a suspension lift that raises the axles on your off-roader.
2. Tire Size
Larger tires with taller sidewalls are preferred for off-roading for a number of reasons.
- They give you a little more ground clearance than stock tires.
- They improve your traction, especially when tires are larger with a meatier tread.
Adding 34” tires to a stock vehicle is an easy and affordable way to increase traction and clearance for average off-roading activities.
If you’re doing more extreme activities, you can go even bigger if you make the other required modifications to the suspension and fenders so there’s no tire interference.
3. Wheel Articulation Range
Articulation range is the distance your wheel can travel, up and down and side to side, while you’re driving the trails.
Greater articulation means better capability with your weekend warrior, so it’s another important measurement to know.
It’s especially important to understand articulation if you’re going to add bigger wheels and tires, as the larger the tire, the greater the chance of interference under the fender.
If you want an off-road truck with better articulation, think about adding open fenders or even doing a suspension lift.
Driving angles refers to approach, departure, and breakover angles, all of which are critical measurements to know if you plan on doing any hill climbing or rock crawling with your off-road truck.
The lower your ground clearance, the longer your approach and departure angles must be and the more limited your vehicle is to climb or descend steeper angles.
The longer your wheelbase, the more limited your breakover angle.
It’s critical to know your limitations before you start climbing to prevent scraping the front or rear ends of your off-road truck or end up high-centered at the crown of a hill.
All of these angles improve with higher ground clearance and/or a suspension lift.
5. Differentials and Gearing
The last measurements you need to determine when choosing a great 4X4 vehicle are differential types and gearing; they can’t be determined with a tape measure, yet are just as important to research.
A differential with lockers is going to give you greater 4WD capability and prevent tire spinning by locking your two axle wheels so they spin together, rather than independently.
Strong low-end gearing produces more torque, which gives your off-roader power for things like rock crawling and hill climbing.
If those are things you want to do, compare factory gears and what kind of locks come on each vehicle you’re considering so you choose more useful ones for your level of activity.
Let 4X4 Measurements Guide You
Choosing the right 4WD vehicle that can keep up with your off-roading activities is a decision to be done with care.
Yes, any vehicle can be modified after the fact so it’s more capable than its OEM version; however, you’ll get more bang for your buck if you start out with greater capability to begin with.
Know these important measurements and performance criteria and how they apply to the activities you want to enjoy so you understand what you’re getting with each specific off-road truck version.
You’ll have a better understanding of what you can expect from your weekend warrior before you have to think about putting more money into it!