Jeremy Clarkson or better known as Jezza and the Orangutan is the face of the original Top Gear and its 2002 reformat. Despite his many controversial actions throughout the years, he does have the best words to describe the cars he reviews, and even better lines for terrible cars! Take a look at this old Lincoln Town Car review from Jeremy Clarkson’s Motorworld show.
Just a few weeks ago, a friend of mine got a bit too excited in pickup truck ownership, his father recently bought a second-hand 4WD Toyota Hilux with a turbo-diesel engine and all he does now is mash the go pedal just to hear the engine whistle.
This is his newly bought Hilux, clean pickup right? His father bought it for a sweet bargain. At around 26 grand, my friend’s father got a really decent, mildly lifted and clean pickup truck. These nineties Hilux are commonly seen converted into super deep off-roading 4x4s, capable of swimming in rivers and crawling through thick mud. Now the reason for getting one of these is of course, you’d want to get away from the boring tar roads (which are often full of holes here) and into the dirt trails, but as a beginner in the off-roader life, what should you expect and do? I’m no off-roader myself but here are some things to know if you’re interested.
What should you get?
Just get a Hi-Lak (Hilux). Period. Interestingly, in Malaysia every pickup is simply called a Hilux regardless of what it actually is, similar to all camera films are called Kodak.
The Toyota Hilux is the definition of indestructible, Top Gear proved it by drowning, burning and burying one. The Hilux is easily one of the most common sights in Malaysia, all generations of the pickup truck can still be seen driving around, from being a contractor’s work truck or a even a family runabout, it’s reliable and aftermarket parts are extremely easy to get. Aftermarket support is something you may want to consider when you’re going off-roading, but we’ll get back on that later.
If you don’t want to get a Hilux for whatever reason, there are plenty of other choices. Now if you have the budget for a brand-new off-roader such as the new Ford Ranger (Ranger Raptor included), Nissan Navarra, or … a Hilux, just pop on to your local dealer and get one, Isuzu even offers a tiny 1.9 litre diesel D-Max pickup, which immensely cuts down on road tax. Plenty of hardcore off-roaders purchase new trucks and immediately attach off-roading mods on them, though you might have to check with your warranty and dealer to see what mods voids it. Having a brand new 4×4 would be a breeze because you don’t have to worry about anything breaking or manually engaging things, everything is electric and at the comfort of your leather lined cabin.
But if you’re looking for 4x4s in the second hand market, there’s a huge list of potential off-roaders you could get. However, there are some important factors when choosing a second hand off-roader:
- It must have four-wheel drive (the ability to make your car either power all four or only two wheels, hence the name 4×4).
- Most 4x4s should also have differential locks and a transfer case (a second gear lever or dial with 4-low, 4-high settings) This will allow you better control when crawling or climbing inclines.
- All-wheel drive is acceptable (though you can’t control the selection of where power goes to the wheel).
- Make sure it has good ground clearance, most 4×4 vehicles do.
- Automatics are generally better for off-roading, you spend less time focusing on balancing the clutch. Go for manual if you’re hardcore (cheaper too).
- Make sure the truck has never been too damaged from previous ownership.
- Try finding a truck that has never been or only been used in light off-roading. This gives you less risks of anything breaking or any additional, sketchy add-ons from the previous owner.
- If you want an already capable heavy off-roader, be sure to check for any previous issues, some owners off-road or drive them hard and the interiors are completely covered in uncleanable mud.
- Check for any alignment, suspension, bent wheels and frame issues to make sure your vehicle drives straight
Now for a list of possible off roaders you could get, check out these links from Carlist.my to see what you fancy:
- Toyota Hilux
- Mitsubishi Triton
- Ford Ranger
- Mitsubishi Pajero
- Isuzu D-Max
- Mitsubishi Storm
- Mazda BT
- Ford Everest
- Toyota Fortuner
- Suzuki Jimny
- Land Rover Defender
- Toyota Land Cruiser
- Isuzu Trooper
The pricing for the vehicles are listed from the cheapest to the most expensive, with most of them not being almost stock. Some owners may swapped the original bumpers for a more angle design bumper which makes it easier for tackling steep inclines. The second-hand market is filled with capable 4×4’s, with some selling for less than RM 10,000 (Isuzu Trooper), while some sell for over RM 60,000 (Land Rover). Your choice is really a matter of your own preference, though you may want to search on forums for additional info such as how these vehicles drive, fuel consumption, spare parts and reliability issues, I don’t have doubts on anything Japanese, but mechanical issues can still happen, especially higher mileage vehicles.
Insurance and road tax is also another factor, my friend’s Hilux total cost of purchasing was around RM 26,000, inclusive of the RM 900+ worth of road tax and insurance for his 2.5 litre turbo diesel engine. Insurance and road tax might vary depending on your choice of vehicle, so choose wisely. Getting something unique is cooler and suits your personality but at the cost of possible higher tax and other expenses.
When you purchase your 4×4, the first thing you need to do is to understand it. Learn how it drives on and off road and get into forums where people talk and share information about your vehicle. You’ll also need to learn how to use the four-wheel drive system or any other electronic aids (such as traction control system, which should be turned off when off-roading for maximum manual traction control) that comes equipped with your vehicle.
A basic rundown on how to use four-wheel drive is; 4-high is mainly used on the roads while 2 -high works the same, the only difference is 2-high only uses two wheels to power and gives a slightly better fuel economy. Although it is better to switch into 2-high while driving as it reduces wear and tear for the front-wheel system. 4-low is where you only use it for off-roading, particularly when you’re on deeper muddy trails that require low end torque to dig yourself out, which is what 4-low does.
Another off-roader control is the differential lock, this may be equipped on your vehicle. A differential is a set of gears that makes your wheels move, on a normal vehicle, the diff turns independently of one another to maintain a smooth and balance wheel rotation and turn. If you engage this when stuck in mud, the diff will lock into place and turn simultaneously on each end, meaning if one wheel gets stuck, the other end will continue spinning. Diff lock should never be engaged when driving normally because this will ruin your steering dynamics, fuel economy and make your 4×4 shudder and vibrate.
Always consult your owners manual or the previous owner/dealer on how to engage four-wheel drive, some 4x4s have another gear lever while newer ones have rotary dials or buttons for four-wheel drive engagement. There are also several ways to engage them, be sure to familiarize yourself or things will start to break.
Types of off-roading
Off-roading isn’t just going off your normal roads and into the dirt, there’s actually a broad selection of what type of off-roading you might want to get into and of course the various terrains you will encounter. There really isn’t much variety in terrain here in Malaysia, I doubt we have sand dunes anywhere in the 14 states. Here are some types of off-roading you should check out and maybe match your style with it.
The name says it all, light trails are the most easily accessed type of off-roading and will give you a general feel of what your 4×4 can do. Gravel surfaces, puddles and ditches are common if you live in or know any Kampung areas. You might not even need to use four-wheel drive and normal tyres or all-terrain tyres would do.
Now this is mainly aimed for those who have 4x4s that are just big tall boxes with mud all over though beginners are always welcomed to the challenge. Most of these deep trails will have some amount of mud, which is mostly wet here in Malaysia. standing water and deep rivers will also be an obstacle. this type of mudding requires some skills and foot finesse. Throttle modulation is important here to overcome getting stuck and flipping over, and this gets more challenging if you’re doing it at night. You will certainly have to use four-wheel drive here and you’re gonna need beefy off-road wheels and some extra kit for this adventure.
An increasingly popular trend around the world, because #lifestylegoals or whatever. Overlanding or camping is essentially the same as normal off-roading. It’s entirely based on you whether you want to hit difficult trails or not. Though instead of going back home, it goes beyond that, overlanding focuses on exploring isolated or deep trails and camping there inside your 4×4. Some overlanders set up cross-country or cross-continent trips, this means preparing a lot of supplies for you and your vehicle as you’d be relying on your vehicle to get you around and back home, getting to know basic mechanical stuff about your 4×4 is also very important. This is by far the most expensive of all the off-roading types but the most #lifestylegoals for the gram.
Personally I’ve only seen two rock crawling 4x4s, exiting a trail in Tanjung Malim, which is a big hotspot for these types of vehicles. Rock crawling is much more specialized than mudding, because as the name implies, the goal is to crawl and climb through uneven, big and sharp rock trails. Rock crawling is also much slower than normal mudding because of the danger it poses to the driver, one wrong move and your 4×4 will flip or get a puncture. The preparations are also different, your vehicle needs a much higher lift kit, winches, high clearance (or no) bumpers, beadlock wheels (holds the tyre firmly) and plenty of skid plates. Some rock crawlers have insanely modified and narrowed bodies to allow more flexibility.
What you should prepare your 4X4 with
As a beginner, there’s no reason for you to really go full out off-road build for your 4×4, chances are, you’ll only be off-roading during the weekends and might actually use it for more daily things. Even my friend said his almost stock Hilux is plenty good for normal to medium trails, but if you want to add on a few things to your 4×4, here are some basic things to add on:
- Off-road bumper.
- Roof-racks with lights.
- Stronger side steps made for tackling rocks.
- Spare wheel (make sure you have the stock one ready).
- Different wheels for off-roading (mostly for aesthetics though steelies are cheap and easy to fix if bent).
- Basic tools.
- Whatever you can throw in your cargo area.
But what if you want to get a additional kit as your off-roading hobby grows? Here are more extra things you may want to consider that can be bolted on your vehicle:
- Jerry can.
- Rear/roof/extra mounted spare wheel.
- Better roof-rack (bed rack if you have a pickup truck).
- Spare water for radiator.
- High-lift jack and better tools.
- Shovel and other ground tools to clear excess mud.
- Tow ropes.
- Off-roading lights
- Skid plates.
- Snorkel (for wading through rivers and letting the truck breathe through dense forest).
- First-aid kit.
- Higher lift kit.
- Better shock absorbers.
- Better/bigger all-terrain/off-road tyres.
- Full aftermarket bumpers and bush guards.
- Different wheels (mostly aesthetics unless opting for larger tyres).
- Full exoskeleton cage (super hardcore).
The list above doesn’t have to be completely fulfilled, you need to take into consideration of things like how often you will be off-roading, the length and terrain you’ll be going into and of course your budget, these things aren’t cheap.
Expect to spend around RM 10,000 to 50,000 on adding aftermarket mods and be wary of some mods such as lift kits and bigger tyres, because those too will affect your daily driving similar to turning on four-wheel drive constantly. Bigger tyres means more weight, while it’s great for slow off-roading pavements, on the road, your 4×4 will suffer from power and fuel consumption loss, this also applies to installing knobby off-road tyres and driving them on the road, they’re also very loud, so only install them when you really want to go off-road. Tyre replacement alone will cost you quite a bit of money depending on the stock or modified size.
Taller lift kits also have an effect on your driving dynamics due to the different height, other components such as gear ratios and axle strength may be affected from the increase height with fuel economy also taking a toll. Be ready to change and adjust a few other things if you’re looking to lift your 4×4 higher. Always consult a professional off-roading mechanic because you don’t want anything creaking, vibrating or snapping off while driving.
Where to go after you’re ready
When you’re all set up, you can’t just simply go to any dirt trail unless it’s your own property, thankfully, Malaysia is full of beautiful scenic trails to bring your 4×4 to. If you want a better outlook into the off-roading community, join one of the many groups out there, you might learn new tips and tricks on how to go off-roading and clubs might offer extra parts for your vehicle at a cheaper price. It’s also safer and much more exciting to off-road in a convoy, which is what most off-roading clubs to.
Each state has its own trails with varying levels of difficulty, check out this website, Wikiloc to see trails all over the country and around the world. The site even gives you information such as photos, terrain elevation, angles and difficulty level, you can even download the trail map on your phone!
Off-roading is a fun hobby and lifestyle, I myself might consider getting a 4×4 if I have an extra budget laying around, because it just brings out our inner child to play with big trucks in the mud. Any hobby is going to cost some investment but if you manage it right, you should come up a decent 4×4 rig and it’s up to your personal taste to keep upgrading it as long as the parts you install on your vehicle are reliable and safe on and off road.
Always be responsible when driving your much bigger and powerful vehicle because it’s much easier to get out of focus driving a high torque turbo diesel engine that practically floats on the road. 4x4s, especially Rangers and Hiluxs have been very notorious lately for being involved in major accidents with motorcyclists. Stay safe and have fun getting in dirty on the trails!
Just look how happy he is!