Off-road driving can create a dust cloud in your wake – that’s one of the appeals for doing it in the first place. Unfortunately, dust is not the only type of road debris you will produce and encounter off the beaten path. Other debris like small rocks are also prevalent, and if caught by a wheel engaged in full throttle they can become a proper projectile able to damage the chassis. This damage is not substantial, we are talking about a rock that can chip away paint or create a small protrusion in your chassis. It has to be taken seriously regardless, for not only will it ruin the aesthetics of the car outline, but it will also provide an access point for ingress of water and subsequent corrosion.
This is a very common issue, and there are many other 4×4 blokes out there too. You can rest assured adequate and time tested solutions for these issues are also out there. And if you are wondering how these parts will affect the aerodynamic profile of your 4WD, don’t worry. You can’t go wrong if you use the correct aftermarket parts. We will delve into this deeper as we review each part. And as long as you follow road safety regulations, everyone involved in traffic (even off-road traffic) will be much safer.
The greatest threat to your chassis comes from your wheels. The sides of the car are exposed to the barrage and before long you can sustain damage in the form of small dents. You can install aftermarket auto side steps to prevent this from happening. They cover the space between the two wheels on each side of the car. Even if they are only slightly wider than 10 cm, they will have the capability to stop almost all small rocks on their way to your doors.
These aftermarket running boards are useful in day to day driving too. For starters, they will make it easier to climb in and out of the vehicle. And since you can comfortably put your feet on them, you can get rid of the mud and dust in your shoes. No need to take the dirt back into the cabin. These types of SUV side steps also help you reach the roof rack with ease. It’s not unusual to have all sorts of cargo loaded up there and taking it off without a side step is a pain.
In terms of technical specifications, you should keep an eye on several features. It’s best if your truck side steps are made of heavy-duty material –usually aluminium or stainless steel. Some are powder-coated, others are plastic moulded. Having a non-slip checker plate or something along those lines does help too. Going for compatible 4×4 side steps will not only allow you to install them without drilling, but it will also keep your upgrade legal. Do resist the temptation to make them in your garage as this can create a host of problems. Some off-road truck side steps require dismounting of the factory mud flaps, but this is standard procedure.
Both the front tip and the back tip of the auto side steps end at the wheels. Since the wheels (all of them) are the source of these projectiles consisting of rocks, you will need to put up protection around them too. The inner lip of the chassis situated around the wheels will sustain some damage, but that is ok, as this part of the vehicle is designed for it. Your paint above the rim is not, and this is where flares come into play.
Flares are installed to protect the chassis from tires that extend beyond the rim. Though it may seem that they serve only as a cosmetic accessory – and make your 4WD profile tougher and meaner – they have an important role to play. Having a tire that is bigger than the chassis, and not having a flare to cover it is practically illegal and traffic police enforcing such laws can fine you.
As with any other aftermarket part, there is an ample amount of opinions in the community regarding the perfect flares. In essence, you can go with whatever suits you best as long as your vehicle is within legal limits. Some go for fibreglass flares, others go for one of the plastic ones. Common wisdom says plastic is best suited for flares because of its flexibility.
While most people think of bull bars when frontal vehicle protection is discussed, this is slightly off the mark. Bullbars prevent damage from collision, however, they don’t stop the small rocks, bugs, and similar road debris. Bonnet protectors are designed to address this issue specifically. They do this by directing the airflow from the front hood in a way that will deflect any small particle aimed towards your windshield.
The inconspicuous design of bonnet protectors plays into preserving the original aerodynamic profile of your 4×4. The untrained eye will not even notice them on the front hood. And on top of it, they are easy to detach when you need to clean them.
No vehicle has greatly suffered from a bug splashed on its front window, but having a bonnet protector will save you from a lot of trouble. It will complete your road debris protection system and you’ll learn to appreciate having it over the years.