When you want to go where the road can’t take you, it is time to look at what your vehicle needs to be able to get you there. Now, when it comes to trail riding, most people’s minds go straight to a Chevy Silverado or Colorado, vehicles built to handle the rough and rugged terrain that the off-road offers. However, in the current circumstances and with the ever-rising cost of gasoline and diesel, more and more people are looking for fuel-efficient vehicles. At your local Chevy dealer, you can find a variety of efficient vehicles. But that still begs the question: how does one go about off-roading in a smaller, more gas-friendly vehicle such as the Chevy Equinox or Trax?
Let’s take a look at what modifications we would need to add to make an off-road adventure happen with a vehicle intended for pavement use. The very first thing that will need to be considered for this is what type of off-roading you are planning on doing. For some, off-road might mean that they accidentally drove down a gravel pathway. For this type of off-roading, most vehicles will be fine, and no modifications would be necessary. For those of us who use off-roading as an escape from our daily lives, off-roading means climbing a mountain, leaving any semblance of a road in the rearview and blazing our own trails. For this type of adventure, you’ll need to make a few bigger changes.
The first of which means considering your ground clearance height. Most Chevy SUVs come standard with a ground clearance of at least 7 inches. That’s plenty high to clear a dirt road but not always high enough to clear rocks and other obstacles. With off-roading, the more clearance you have, the better. One of the easiest and least time-consuming ways to get those extra inches is to buy larger tires. Like with all vehicles, tire size is adjustable up to a certain degree, and larger tires will give you a bit more ground clearance. Just remember that you want larger tires, not larger wheels––large wheels decrease ride comfort off-road and increase the risk of punctures.
Another thing that the off-roader should consider when taking their car up a mountain is their suspension. Installing a suspension lift kit is a bit more costly and time-consuming, but it is also one of the best ways to get the most height on your vehicle. Changing a vehicle’s suspension can be a daunting task, and depending on how much more clearance you want, there are a few different options.
One of the cheap options is to have coil spring or strut spacers installed. These steel or rubber pieces are designed to sit on the spring of your suspension system, which reduces the overall movement of the spring. This means that the vehicle won’t dip as much when it rocks down, increasing the ground clearance up to another half inch.
The next way that vehicle clearance is often adjusted is by having an entire lift kit added to a vehicle’s suspension system. These systems can raise your car upwards of half an inch. If you utilize a suspension lift kit, you will also be able to increase tire size, which means even more clearance! However, it can be difficult to find good lift kits for vehicles that are not commonly used for off-roading.
Types of Tire
We have already talked about tire size, but the type of tire you have on your vehicle will really make a difference in how far off the road you can go and still maintain control of your vehicle. A lot of Chevy SUVs come stock with all-season tires that increase your car’s fuel efficiency. These tires are nice and quiet on the highway and help you save dollars at the pump, but they don’t typically get you up any mountains. To really be able to get out and be in nature, you’ll need some all-terrain off-road tires. Off-road tires in smaller sizes can be difficult to find, but most dealerships near you will carry all-terrain tires, and they will dramatically improve off-road performance.
Clearance is only one important aspect to consider when off-roading in your vehicles. Other modifications can be made to try and make the best off-road experience possible in your car as well. Other things that can be considered are winches. Inevitably, everyone will get stuck once or twice when they hit the trails or make their own. While smooth maneuvering and tactics can save us from some of those situations, there are others where we might need a little extra help. In those scenarios, having a winch can make a real difference.
Another item you may want to add to your car if you are off-roading is a light bar. This is a small modification that can make a world of difference at night when the path you are on isn’t lit. Depending on your vehicle, you can also add extra protection to the exterior in the form of skid plates. These plates are designed to attach to the undercarriage of your vehicle to keep rocks and other hard surfaces from scraping or catching on anything as you drive over it. A skid plate can increase the ability of your car to handle the rugged, uneven terrain that it will face off-road and also increase your peace of mind that going over a rock isn’t going to cause any damage.
While most people will take the time to consider what their vehicle needs to handle the outside, they don’t always consider what they should have on the inside to make the ride experience go a little smoother. A radio is an excellent tool to have inside your car for off-road trips that involve groups of people. This enables you to talk to the entire caravan of cars and can be simpler than utilizing your smartphone devices.
A GPS is another helpful tool to ensure that you don’t get lost while enjoying the trails. Most newer Chevys will come stock with either the ability to link to your smartphone’s mapping application or have an integrated navigation system. However, these systems are designed for the road and should not be relied on off-road, so consider installing some sort of GPS so that you can always find your way back home.
Tools to Have on Hand
When leaving the pavement and hitting the dirt, it is important to have a few things ready in your Chevy. You will want to be prepared for anything that the trail might throw at you. One of the worst possible sounds you can hear off-road is the air whooshing out of a tire. By having a spare tire, jack, and tire wrench handy, you can avoid a lot of the drama that comes with a flat tire. A lot of new Chevy SUVs only come with compact spares, so make sure you find a way to safely secure a full-size spare before heading off-road. You should also consider having jumper cables, a filled gas can, an air compressor, and a tow strap handy.
Fun Vehicle Upgrades
We’ve covered the basics and essentials. Now it’s time to look at the optional but incredibly fun modifications that are available. Something that is really neat is tents that connect to the vehicle. Depending on how long your wilderness adventure is set to last, sleeping in a tent is preferable to sleeping in the backseat of a car. Other cool gadgets are car refrigerators and car microwaves. These plug into USB ports or auxiliary power outlets, depending on what your Chevy has.
The wilderness is an incredible place to explore, and you don’t necessarily need a Colorado ZR2 or a Tahoe Z71 to get there. With a few modifications to your compact Chevy SUV, you can still enjoy it. While you might not be able to tackle the most difficult terrain, you can conquer the wild and high gas prices in the same car.