Which Upgrades Make Sense for a Rugged Off-Road Vehicle?


Because there are literally thousands of options, choosing the appropriate upgrades for your vehicle can seem like a daunting task. Some products are functional while others are cosmetic, and it can be difficult to know what to focus on first. Here’s a list of some essential upgrades for your consideration.


Designed to deflect rocks and debris away from the vehicle, fender flares provide extra coverage for larger and oversized tires. There are several style options to choose from. If you prefer a sleeker look, then the low-profile models may be the correct choice for you. If you want something bigger, then the extended flares may be more your style. If you are going for a rugged look, then pocket-style flares may be more your speed.

Most flares can be painted to match the body of the vehicle or Kevlar-coated. They can also come with a textured finish. Many are available for bolt-on configuration that uses the pre-existing holes on the vehicle. However, some styles may require cutting and drilling.


A grille guard looks great and is designed to protect the front grille and headlights from rocks and brush. It can also minimize damage in the event of a minor collision. A full grille guard provides coverage for the center and the headlights, and the bars over the headlights won’t obscure your visibility.

This style is usually best for most off-road options. They’re available in a variety of styles and finishes, including a black powder-coat, chrome and polished. A polished finish may be the most practical, since minor scratches can be buffed out. Most grille guards should be easy to install, and normally mount to the frame of the vehicle.


If you enjoy off-roading in muddy or extreme environments, a winch may be a necessary add-on — especially for rescue operations. Hopefully, it’s not something you’ll need to use often, but it can be a very effective tool if your rig gets caught between a rock and hard place. Winches mount to the bumper, so make sure you have a good, strong setup before you install it. A winch mount or plate may be necessary and a standard bumper may not accommodate a winch.

They’re available with steel or synthetic rope. Steel rope can rust and it can kink, but it’s less likely to fray. Synthetic rope is lighter and safer to handle, but it can break or hold water. Once you make a decision, be sure to follow proper maintenance and safety techniques.


A recovery kit is also essential for seasoned trail-hounds. These kits normally include block pulleys, recovery strap D-rings, tree straps, gloves and other items. The kit should be stored near the driver’s seat or in an accessible spot.


Another smart investment for off-roaders is body armor or rocker panels. These panels are placed along the sides between the front and rear wheels and secure in place with automotive-grade, 3M tape or some other reliable adhesive. The panels are available in ABS or stainless steel and come in black or chrome finishes. They’re also very easy to install.

Once your vehicle’s outfitted with the basics, you should make sure to pack a few common-sense items for the trip — a first-aid kit, some extra drinking water. At that point, there are no more upgrades necessary, so get going and have fun.