4×4 Performance Parts: Increase Speed and Lower Engine Stress
4WDs and utes might not be the first vehicles you’d want to thrash in a straight line on the tarmac, but for anything else, you’ll need all the performance you can get. This means driving the car loaded to the brim, towing that caravan or boat, or going up dunes and steep, uneven dirt inclines. Most are fitted with diesel engines, and though kicked along by one or two turbos, they’re not the last word in speed. Some cars can feel underpowered (thank emissions regulations), but a few add-ons can liven up even an old, battered 4WD.
Adding a few more horses, or upping the torque figures with 4×4 performance parts can give 4WDs and utes the extra push when it’s needed most. Think overtaking road trains, building up speed for the next hill, and relaxed off-roading without having to nail the pedal all the way down. Smooth, effortless acceleration, along with quick and crisp gear changes is what you want in any car. And you’ll be doing the engine a favour by not having to overwork it.
A range of affordable parts from aftermarket suppliers will get your car the grunt it needs without breaking the bank. Exhaust modifications should be high on your shopping list along with bigger air intakes for more breathing space. For better reaction times look to throttle controllers and if you’ve beefed up the internals, or put in a new turbo, a few gauges will tell you when you’re going too hard. Other minor additions, like oil catch cans and differential breathers, help when expected performance is hindered due to oil issues in the engine or transmission.
One of the first changes owners 4WDs make is changing the stock exhaust. They fit wider and straighter tubing that allows for better exhaust flow translating into more horsepower at the axles. Different configurations are available, from simple axle-back exhausts that include wider tubing from the rear axle and a modified muffler, or a complete exhaust replacement. Going for the latter option reduces the possibility of exhaust backpressure, or gases re-entering the cylinder head. This stresses the engine, blocking it of clean air for combustion and the engine literally runs out of puff. At higher revs, say when negotiating hilly technical terrain, a modified exhaust can be the difference between getting over the top or getting struck.
Increasing the amount of clean air coming in for combustion is one of the easiest ways to up available power. Look for external snorkel combos, or alternately change out the stock filter with a high flow variant. This thrusts more air, but also removes any pollutants, typically dust during off-roading. The benefits of an improved air intake are twofold. More power and cleaner air and fuel mix.
To monitor the work of stock components or any parts that you’ve swapped out, separate gauges are often installed along the driver-side pillars. These provide useful information as to how your 4×4 handles in different conditions. Boost gauges show data about turbo pressure levels and inform when you need to let off the pedal before blowing the engine. Similarly, exhaust temperature gauges tell if the exhaust gases are running too hot and can lead to damage, or too cold and the car isn’t at its optimal working temperature to cope with terrain that demands more grunt. Other gauges monitor oil levels and temperatures in the engine or auto transmission box, voltage levels in car and secondary batteries, water and coolant levels and remaining fuel in modified fuel tanks.
Having the right input from the wheels just as you press the pedal is crucial, particularly when off-road. Diesel engines in 4WDs can suffer from turbo lag and delays in throttle response until revs build up. Throttle controllers are one of those 4×4 performance necessities that add peace of mind when overtaking by reducing throttle lag. Also, when towing or negotiating uneven and difficult surfaces, cutting down on throttle will prove a safety benefit. There’s no uncontrolled wheelspin that can only bog you down or throw you into a corner too fast. With adjustable settings, throttle controllers are a boon wherever you choose to take your 4WD.
What Else to Look For
Oil catch cans, installed between the intake manifold and the crankcase, prevent oil build-up that can make its way into the engine. Pollutants in oil affect both performance and fuel emissions, and left unchecked will deteriorate parts over time. This is typical in newer petrol and all diesel engines, more so when driving off-road.
Air pressure increases in the differential, transmission and transfer case need to be vented, especially when these get hot. Diff breathers are cheap and cheerful methods in relieving pressure build-up and avoiding the risk of damage drivetrain components, especially when trekking through water. Oil pressure remains constant and gears are adequately lubed.
Simple modifications to your 4WD, new or old, will have a profound change on the power on tap, and how that power is used. Diesels make the large majority of new utes and 4WDs, and changing out the stock exhaust, installing a bigger air intake and a throttle controller will see your car breathe and accelerate easier. While driving, gauges keep you informed as to how hard your engine is working, and whether you’re pushing the limits. These and a few other 4×4 performance parts not only let you make the most of your 4WD, but also mean you won’t be needing a mechanic any time soon.