Driving off road vehicles requires a lot of preparation and knowledge; otherwise, you may be left stranded on top of a rock, stuck in the mud, or utterly broken down. And while there are various factors to consider before heading out on the trail, ground clearance is on the top of the list.
Vehicle ground clearance is essential if you plan on tackling any significant inclines or obstacles. Without an acceptable amount of ground clearance your rig can get hung up or bottom out (even with the best of shocks or the beefiest tires). So to prevent any unnecessary damages, we want to share a few ways you can obtain enough clearance to have a successful trailrun.
Optimize Your Approach Angle and Departure Angle
Ground clearance involves three crucial angles: approach, break-over, and departure. If you are new to these terms, here’s a quick explanation:
- Approach angle – the point at which your vehicle’s bumper or front end will hit the ground before your tires can make contact. Imagine you approach an incline and your bumper hits, preventing your tires from gripping the climb.
- Departure angle – the opposite of approach angle. It is the point at which your rear bumper or back end will make contact with the ground. Imagine coming off of a steep decline, and your rear bumper catches the edge before your tires do.
- Break-over angle – this is the clearance of the center of your vehicle. While it’s important to approach your obstacle, it’s just as important that your rig’s center belly can also clear it. Oftentimes, a successful approach can still result in damage if break-over is not sufficiently comparable to approach or departure.
Therefore, it is vitally important to set up your rig with equitable/balanced approach, departure, and break-over angles for the terrain – the bigger the obstacles, the more you will need.
Add Bigger Tires
To increase these angles, a larger, taller tire will be very helpful. When choosing an upgraded tire, ensure it is suitable for lift kits or wheels you’ve installed (reference manufacturer guidelines), and your current brakes and gears. It is possible you may need to upgrade other parts of your rig to complete a tire upgrade.
Get Rid of Bulky Bumpers
Bulky stock bumpers can be a nuisance, standing in the way of good approach and departure angles. However, a custom front stubby bumper that is made specifically for off-road terrain will actually help maximize your approach. Similarly, a custom low-profile rear bumper can decrease potential impact during departure and will be much more durable if it does happen to catch a little turf every once in awhile.
Install Skid Plates, Diff Covers, and Rocker Guards
Body armor upgrades will help maximize your break-over angle by protecting the underbelly of your rig and securing any potential debris or snaggable parts. Custom skid plates guard vulnerable areas (like the transmission) and also provide a smooth surface for sliding. In addition, rocker guards protect the tub, rocker panels, and doors. Adding a differential cover will also encase and secure the differential parts of your axle and provide a smooth bottom surface.
Test Your Ground Clearance Upgrades
The last step in any upgrade project is a test run. Before you attempt an crazy climbs or try to dominate jagged boulders with your shiny, new skids, test your approach, break-over, and departure angles gradually. This way you know if any adjustments need to be made and you can avoid accidents or damages.