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Body Protection for Your Overlanding Vehicle

In this article, as part of our ongoing series on “Building and Overlanding Vehicle”, we look at some of the body protection options that are available to you and examine the benefits of each of them.

As with every other aspect of building an Overlanding vehicle, it is important to have at least an outline plan on what you think that you will using your vehicle for. Remember that everything that you add to your vehicle will add weight and this links back to our earlier article on suspension lifts for your overlanding vehicle.

Bull Bars
Photo 1 of Body Protection for Your Overlanding Vehicle
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The most common starting place is adding a bull bar, or as they call it in Australia, a “Roo bar”. A bull bar generally serves two functions. It will provide frontal protection and is a mounting point if you decide to fit a winch.

In many countries, the threat of hitting large wildlife is very real and can potentially be deadly. Whilst that threat is less in New Zealand, with a possum being the most common road kill, a bull bar will provide you with important frontal protection in the case of an accident.

The main reason why a bar is important, is that being attached to the vehicle’s chassis it is the mounting point for your winch. In fact, most modern vehicles do not have the possibility of fitting a winch without a bar.

A bull bar will also serve as jacking point and allow you to use a high lift jack to change either of the front wheels. Correctly used, a high lift jack is a quick and effective way of lifting a vehicle, either to change a wheel or aid in a recovery situation.

If you are going to fit a winch, it is important to choose a model suited to your needs and the weight of your vehicle. Winches come at various load capabilities and price ranges. If you think that you will only be using your winch occasionally, you can probably get away with a lower priced model. It is however important to know the weight of your vehicle when fully loaded and factor in other elements such as slope, obstacles, mud, which will all have an impact on the true weight that you are trying to recover.

When it comes to rock sliders, it’s important to understand that most factory side steps will not withstand any impact with terrain and, depending our your use, it may be a good idea to replace them with rock sliders. There are a few companies that sell rock sliders but ours were custom built by Opposite Lock in Christchurch.

Rock sliders will protect your sills from damage which could potentially be fatal to your vehicle. They are generally bolted onto the chassis rail and can also be used as a jacking point with a high lift jack.

Rock Sliders
Photo 2 of Body Protection for Your Overlanding Vehicle
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On the 4x4Explorer vehicle we have 3mm steel bash plates that go right back to the transfer case. Bash plates come in either steel or aluminium. Aluminium is lighter, but not as strong as steel, so they will have to be thicker and probably 6mm.

So what do bash plates do? Firstly, they protect one of the most vulnerable parts of your vehicle, which is the radiator. Many trips have come to a halt simply due to a stone or branch being flicked up and puncturing a radiator. It’s obviously not practical to carry a spare radiator, but it worth considering carrying a product that can repair one. This is normally a fluid that is poured into the radiator filler cap and will bung any holes.

A bash plate will also provide you with some protection for all the parts underneath that keep you moving forward, such as the diff, drive shaft and transfer case.

How many times have you driven a seriously rutted track and seen traces of peoples diffs that have dragged across the centre high point. With bash plates, you will have less to get caught up on, as the plates act like a sledge and present a smooth surface to slide over. This is also important if you get stuck and need recovering. If you’re stuck in a muddy rut, the bash plates will offer less resistance and protect your drive gear.

The two down points of bash plates are that they again add extra weight and will have to be removed to carry out maintenance.

On the Prado, we also armoured the fuel tank as it was extremely exposed and suffered many impacts, to the point where it’s capacity had been reduced by nearly a quarter!

Photo 3 of Body Protection for Your Overlanding Vehicle

After having fitted all these items, bar and winch, rock sliders and bash plates and despite having a 50mm suspension lift, we found ourselves below factory height. Fortunately the shock absorbers were still in good condition and all that needed to be done was to change the springs for stronger ones to regain the original lift.

There are other items that you can fit, including scrub bars and rear bars, although we will not be covering them in this article.

So, when you’re looking at modifications, think about how you plan to use you vehicle and what you really need. Remember that you can also add items as your plans and usage change.

Again, we hope that you have found this article interesting and informative and thanks for reading!!!

This article is part of the Building an Overlanding Vehicle Series.

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