this article, I think is a perpetual Work In Progress, and seems to get revised every time I look at it! Any way, it's is one of those frequently asked question, and it sort of starts with the idea of having bought a Landie, attempting to give it that authentic 'off-road' look, or preparing it to actually use off road.
Now, as the mags keep telling us, your Landy, whether its an ageing Series truck, or the latest Range Rover, probably has far more off road capability than you - chances are you don't NEED any accessories at all.
So the starting point here is to go read Modifying your Land Rover Because you are faced with two ideas, either you modify or accessorise your Landy for 'the look', or you want to actually improve upon what it can do.
In the former case, it's pretty well a case of taste and your bank managers forbearance. In the latter, you really need to apply some thought to make sure that what you do is going to solve the problem you want, and not cause you any you cant live with.
So, first of all, don't try and kid yourself. If you want to get a 'Look' admit it and treat the thing as a styling exercise, other wise, leave it alone until you find something a real problem, then tackle that. Now, I don't want to sound too priggish, but I have to say that a I think that a lot of accessories and mods are done by a lot of people for all the wrong reasons, but at the end of the day, it's your vehicle, and your money, so who am I to judge, I'm merely here to offer a bit of advice. But that doesn't stop me expressing my opinion on things!
So What have we got to look at?
Bridging Ladders and Sand Waffles
Bull-Bars / A-Bars
Diff-Lockers / Limiters
Hi-Lift & Recovery Kit
Jackeable Sills / Rock Sliders
Jate Rings / Recovery Eyes
Jerry Cans / bracket
Kenlow / Pacet Electric fan
LPG / Autogas Kits
Steering Guards & diff Guards
Swing-Away Spare Wheel Carrier
Which I have no intension of dealing with in alphabetical order! So starting with the first thing into my head......
I'm going to start with this one accessory as it seems to be the 'must have' badge of the 'serious' off roader. Blox. There is a deeply divided camp on this matter, and I tend towards the 'anti-winch' party, though I can see their usefulness, and I don't dismiss the idea of getting one out of hand, BUT... The idea of attaching a big powered cable to the front and back of a four wheel drive vehicle and setting off as though you are some demonic god of mud is a bit of an anathema to me.
Bear with me a moment on this one, but what's the point? I mean, if you are going to try driving the 'impossible' and when you get into something a bit difficult, merely go drive a big stick into the ground up front and pull the truck along on a cable, well, why have four wheel drive? You might as well just get the smallest lightest hatch back you can find, and attach your winches to that! Gives the winch an easier time, I mean, at the end of the day, if you are winching, you aint driving, and all the 4x4 is, is luggage!
On the other hand, given that there is bound to be some point where you do get stuck trying to drive properly, having a winch could prove useful, but to my mind, only as a last resort, kind of like admitting that you have reached the limit of your driving skill.
Now, the useful advice. Just how useful is a winch? Well, it CAN get you out of trouble, but it should be as a last resort. One thing that worries me about winch equipped vehicles is that their drivers seem to acquire a dangerous level of over confidence from them.
You regularly see lone winch equipped vehicles out exploring green lanes or heading up trails that it is probably not that prudent to attempt. The drivers seem to believe that a winch is a substitute for both consideration, skill, and another vehicle. So let me just clarify that one. They aren't. Yes, a winch will allow you to accomplish a 'self recovery' where a non winch equipped vehicle would need to be towed by a driving partner.
However, the assurance provided by driving with another vehicle doesn't start and finish with recovery techniques. There will be situations where a recovery, self or other wise simply may not be possible. Imagine over balancing and rolling your Landy down into a gully. You wont get that out with a winch, and even another vehicle may struggle. Worse, you as the driver may be trapped inside, as might any passengers. If you have a second vehicle, you have help on hand. The other vehicle might be able to recover you, but they will also be able to try and get you out of the vehicle, go for help or any number of other means of offering assistance that a winch just cant do.
Next, having a winch is likely to give you the confidence to attempt driving trails that might not be in a derivable state, and need time to 'self heal', as you will consider them more of a challenge, and if they do prove too tough, you have the ability to haul yourself out. Which is pretty much the same argument for them being used as a substitute for skill. They will boost confidence that you can safely attempt driving terrain that is probably beyond your capabilities, because you will believe that your winch will get you out of trouble.
So, as far as I'm concerned, there is little justification for having a winch on Landy that is mainly used on the highway and for green laning. Yes, if you are a pretty ardent green-laner, and you follow the rules and are appropriately conscientious and considerate, and accept that the winch is there only if all else fails, you may partly convince me it's justified. I reckon, the winch has limited use outside working vehicles, in which case you will know you need one, and pay & play 'toys' and 'challenge' events. (and even there I think that they are a bit of a 'cheat', but there you go) So, if you are new to the game, I'd say it's one of the last things to stick on your list of things to get.
Any way; baffling array of winches on the market, and I have no intension of going much further on the topic here. It's probably the subject of another article in its own right. But briefly; two main types of winch are drum winch, as shown on the defender, and the capstan winch as shown on the Series II. The capstan winch is basically a wheel that goes round and hauls on a rope you wrap around it. It has benefits but is fiddly to use. Drum winch has a reel of cable you flake out attach to whatever you are going to pull, and then reel it in again.
Three main ways to power a winch; mechanically; electrically or hydraulically. Mechanically, are driven directly off the engine, via a Power Take Off, or PTO. Electrically, are driven by an electric motor taking its power from a battery which usually gets it's power from the alternator. Then there's hydraulic winches, which are driven by a pump, driven off the engine, either via a v-belt or a PTO.
Or there is the final option.....
Tifor / Hand Winch
These things are always being asked about. And now that the army has decided to retro fit them to all their Landies, I can only see them becoming even more popular.
Right, point of a snorkel is to lift the air intake above the level of the vehicle. There are two reasons you might want to do this, water or dust. If you drive into a pond, then the air intake is going to be the last thing to end up under water.
This may be a good thing, because if the engine sucks in a large quantity of water, rather than air, on the compression stroke, the water wont compress, and can do all sorts of nasty things to the engine, like bend con rods, or blow cylinder heads off the block!
As far as dust is concerned, its pretty heavy, and tends to billow about the air stream about the vehicle, but only up to about waste height. Sticking the air intake up at roof height then means that the air drawn into the engine will tend not to have so much dust in it. This is good for engine wear and filter life. And might have a small effect on power or economy.
However, benefits are pretty marginal. As far as dust is concerned, the reason the army have decided to retro fit them to their Landies, is because of Iraq. There, they found that they were suffering incredibly short service intervals, because the desert sand there is particularly fine.
But lets get this into context. The Army, renowned for using their Landies in the most hostile of conditions and not being particularly kind to them while they are about it, only found them necessary after being in the gulf for nearly two years, and running up high mileage's on patrol in what they describe as 'peculiar' conditions.
Or in other words, I don't think that a few hundred miles a year along Gloucestershire's chalky green lanes will really make one worth while.
Which brings us to the matter of water. Hmmm. Well, 'Hydraulicing' an engine is a worrisome phenominon. But exactly how likely is it?
To be honest, I have only ever come across a hand full of recorded instances. Most of them incurred either in competition, or by idiots!
Assuming a petrol engine, even with a stock air filter, you are likely to encounter two 'fail safes', before the engine is able to ingest a huge quantity of water.
The first, is that the ignition system will be shorted out by water splash or submersion, and stop the engine running before the air inlet is submerged.
The second, is that the air inlet gets submerged, but the waters own mass, and the length of the inlet tract will mean that water, being heavier than air, will not get sucked up the intake with speed, but rather will 'choke' the engine, causing it to stall, before it reaches the cylinders.
So, a snorkle is marginally useful, but really only in conjunction, and almost as the last part of a complete 'wading' preparation exercise. (Keep checking in, I think that is going to be one to add to the 'Work-Shop-General' section. I think maybe wheezil could be done to provide pictures)
I say that, basically, because you are more likely to drown the electrics or flood your axles, clutch or transmission, long before you get to kill the engine, and if you are unfortunate enough to kill your engine in this way, then you are probably going to have a whole host of other problems to think about as well.
Big letters for this one! Probably the easiest mod or accessorisation you can do. And there is lots of opinion on the subject. Probably too much. So where do you start?
Well, the tyres can be the biggest boon, or restriction on finding traction, and as a 'consumeable' service item, they are easy to change to suit what you want to do.
Temptation though is to go for the biggest ruggedest off road tyre you can get. And this is not always helpful. For 'general use', there is a lot to be said for a pretty tame tread patern, it will tend to be quieter, give a bit less roling resistance and drag on tarmac, and probably last a lot longer than a rugged mud terrain. And remarkeably, you can get a long way off road on tame tyres.
So, for the driving hours that you will actually be up to your elbows in mud, are they actually worth it? If you use your Landy mainly for weekend play, then possibly so, but of you need iot to get you to and from work in the week, then it may needa bit of thought.
One tempting solution that is getting more popular these days is to have two sets of wheels. Rather than throwing all your money at a set of smart wheels and impressive tyres and trying to do everything with them, you get a set of more concervative radial road tyres for everyday use. They will be quieter and longer lasting, and give better grip under breaking and the like, so make things a bit more stable. Then, for the 'weekend' you get a set of cheap steel wheels and get them shod with some budget mud plugging tyres. And I'll just say 'Colway MT Remoulds' on that topic. They are cheap, and they work, and they are a favourite among enthusiasts, and as far as I'm concerned are about the best place to start.
Going down this route means that you limit the tarmac miles on the open tread mud tyres, so you'll get the most out of them where you need it, and not have to suffer their drawbacks when they are an inconvenience. It may be a bit of a chore having to go out and swap wheels the night before you want to go mud plugging, and then swapping them back when you get home tyred and blown. BUT, that's actually not such a bad thing. It will make you take some time before you set out to actually look at your Landy, and while yoh have the wheels off, look for things like loose breather pipes on the axles, or brake pipes that hace come free of their clips or whatever, and may encourage you to be a bit more diligent about other things too. Similarly, at the other end, taking the wheels off, should encourage you to get the pressure washer right in to the wheel arch and under neath and make sure you get all the mud and crud off the chassis and running gear, and again, check for any damage or degradation from your offroading antics!
Any way, while I do say that this is probably the first thing on your list, I do say apply consideration and caution. Mud Tyres can be great at increasing the available traction, but they are also great and ripping up the surface and digging you into a hole. I've driven both the Landy and the Rangie through bog holes on AT pattern tyres that have seen MT equipped vehicles throwing muck about and getting stuck, and I've had novices follow me through on nearer road tyres! So its not just a 'skill' thing, its an attitude one.
Steering Guards & diff Guards
Steering guards are another de-rigueur accessory. And hey, don't they just look cool? But what do they do?
Well essentially, they are a bash plate that bolts under the front bumper and hang down towards the axle to deflect rocks and anything away from your axle and steering gear, should you drive over one that's a bit too big or whatever.
This is useful - but remember, the rock is stationary, it has no energy to impart to your steering equipment and do damage.
Its only ability is to absorb and redirect the kinetic energy of your vehicle and direct it at the running gear where it can do damage.
Or in other words, Rocks don't damage Land Rovers, it's the drivers that do the damage, the rock merely acts as a convenient fulcrum to let them do so!
So, in either instance they are no substitute for driving considerately and cautiously!
They do have another benefit as well though, they add a bit of deflection, or probably best describes as 'stream lining' so going through water or deep mud, they can first deflect things down away from both engine compartment and running gear.
On the converse side, in conjunction with mud, they can act as a bit of a baffle to under bonet ventilation, so you may want to look at your cooling arrangements before you fit one.
Differential guards, are similar. Lowest bit of the vehicle other then athe wheels, and the first thing to get clobbered or dragged in normal driving. The axle cases are usually pretty tough though, but bending one of these is a lot less expensive and less hassle than if you were to hole a diff housing. And there aren't really that many drawbacks to them.
Over all, I'd say that these probably ought to come some-where after tyres and before snorkles or winches, diff guards probably before a steering guard.
Hi-Lift & Recovery Kit
Must Have accessory, and yes, for self recovery a Hi-Lift or 'Farm-Jack' can be a very useful tool. Bloody lethal in the wrong hands, but CAN be useful. They are an unstable lifting device and they can lift to much higher than normal levels, making them even less stable than usual. Add in some difficult terrain, and a vehicle in an awkward possition, and if you don't know what you are doing, or are a little bit too cavalier with the things, they can cuase seriouse injury.
Of a good recovery kit, I would actually say that a hand winch was probably a better bet for a novice or newbie than a high lift. The high lift is more versatile and can actually be used as a hand winch if needs be - but I'd put the high lift at the bottom of the recovery kit list, and caution any one to get themselves trained to use one before they buy.
So, what SHOULD you get? Well, ropes are useful. A couple of good lengths. And then you need to be able to attach them. If you don't have recovery cleats on your Landy, then these may be worth fitting, but either way, some 'strops' that are kind of like ling steat belt webbing straps designed to wrap around trees or axles and things without cutting into them are probably a good bet. Then there are the shacles and clasps that allow you to readily goin ropes and straps together.
There are things called snatch blocks which are effectively a simple pulley. These let you make a simple 'hoist' or pulley arrangement from your ropes that can make pulling a lot easier, but again, unles you have got some training in winching, or rope access techniques, they are probably not adviseable.
Bridging Ladders and Sand Waffles
These are the metal 'ramps' that you see attached to the sides or roofs of off-roaders.
The difference between the two is that a sand waffle is basically a big tin sheet, and you put it under the wheels to spread the weight over a wider area to stop it sinking. So they tend to be quite thin and easily stowed.
A bridging ladder does a different job, basically you put it over a hole gulley or ditch to make a bridge, so that your wheels don't fall into a hole that is too big to drive over and too small to drive through.
Becouse they need to take the weaight of the vehicle and support it at eather end and in the middle with point loading, rather than spreading it all about, these tend to be a lot thicker and generally sturdier.
More To Come
This site, seems to be getting more 'work In Progress' the more work on it I do!
Any way, this is a VERY brief intro to a few of the more common off roading accessories.
As and when I have the time & inclination, I shall endevour to include more toys and more detail on them.
'till then though, sorry, but this is all you get!