Many new 4x4 vehicle owners have big dreams of touring Australia, confident that their new set of wheels can handle anything they come across in this great big country.
Unfortunately, that’s just not the case. Even the most capable of stock standard four-wheel drives need to be fitted with a few basic 4x4 modifications in order to safely explore Australian dirt roads.
Having just upgraded to a brand new Ford Ranger XLS, we caught up with our mate Scott to see some of the modifications he's recently made, and to find out more about some of the changes he has planned for the future.
Mod #1: Canopy
When you’re carrying valuable electrical equipment in the back (Waeco fridge, TV, espresso machine etc.) a tarp just doesn’t cut it. If you’re running a ute like Scott’s Ford Ranger XLS, the smart thing to do is to install a canopy to keep your gear and electrics secure and safe from the elements.
Scott has chosen the ARB Classic Canopy for his Ranger, colour matched to perfectly compliment the metro / grey finish of the vehicle’s body. It’s best to get a professional mechanic to install your new canopy. Scott booked in at his local ARB shop to get his canopy installed, no fuss. The Classic Canopy not only keeps everything secure and dry in the tub but allows for accessories to be added in the future such as roof racks for carrying bikes or recovery gear.
Mod #2: Tow Bar
If you plan on towing anything, be it a camper trailer, caravan, or a utility trailer loaded with rubbish headed for the local tip, you’ll need to get a tow bar installed by a professional on your 4x4. You could choose to pay for a tow bar to be installed when purchasing your vehicle, but there are benefits to waiting and upgrading to an aftermarket system later.
Scott has chosen the ARB Summit Rear Step Tow Bar system because he’s done his research. The Summit is superior to standard tow systems for a number of reasons.
Firstly, it beefs up the rear end of the Ranger adding the rear step and increasing the overall profile without looking like it’s been stamped on.
And being an integrated step and bar system, Scott avoids the annoying tow-bar-sticking-up-above-the-rear-step situation, making it easy to climb up on the back of the ute when loading and unloading gear.
On top of all that, the Summit features the capacity for trailer camera wiring, it allows for the addition of an ARB air compressor, and comes with 50 amp Anderson and trailer plug wiring connections as standard.
Mod #3: Electric Brake Controller
With a baby on the way, safe towing is of paramount importance for Scott. But installing an electric brake controller isn’t simply a wise decision in the name of safe towing. In Australia, if you are towing a utility trailer, caravan, boat – if you’re towing anything that weighs more than 750kg (loaded), you need to have a brake controller system installed on your tow vehicle.
Whether your trailer features electric or electric / hydraulic brakes, an electronic brake controller is a must because it allows the driver to control the amount of stopping force applied to the trailer’s wheels.
Some systems, like Scott’s new Redarc Tow Pro Elite brake controller are capable of automatically adjusting braking pressure based on the relative deceleration of the tow vehicle. This makes the Tow Pro Elite one of the most versatile brake controllers on the market. It carries the bonus of being relatively easy to install and compatible with both 12v and 24v vehicle electrical systems.
Mod #4: Dual Battery System
Finally, Scott needed a way to power all of the additional equipment and accessories he plans to use while touring Australia. For that, he’s upgraded to a Redarc BCDC 25a in-vehicle charger which keeps his Optima Yellowtop battery topped up throughout the trip.
When you’re travelling long distances and spending a great deal of time away from major centres, you’re going to want to be able to power all of the devices and accessories you enjoy at home. Scott keeps the fridge cold 24/7 using his dual battery system, confident that he’s not relying on the vehicle’s main battery for additional jobs that require power.
Where to from here?
You’ll be pleased to learn that this is really only the first stage of modifications that Scott is planning for his Ford Ranger XLS. You might also be wondering why he chose these mods to begin with.
What it really comes down to is how you intend to use your vehicle. In Scott’s case, he’s planning on towing his custom built camper trailer on extended journeys across a range of Australian terrain: he needs to be able to tow safely both on and off-road.
Scott and his family love getting out past the beaten track, hence the importance of a battery system that can cope with powering a range of devices and that eliminates the possibility of being stranded due to a flat main battery.
Over the coming months, Scott plans to make upwards of 40 modifications to his Ranger. So far, he’s ticked off the four essential upgrades that you need to be able to tour and tow a camper trailer in the Aussie outdoors, but he plans to continue to transform his ute so that it's even safer and more capable over rough terrain.
Some future upgrades he has planned are simple to install, such as better tyres for off-roading. Others will require the hands of a professional mechanic, such as the ARB Summit Bull Bar that will not only protect the Ranger’s front end but will make it look the business.
We hope this gives you some ideas around how to start upgrading your four-wheel drive to make it more suitable for Australian touring. Don't forget to share photos of your fourbie on Facebook and Instagram - we love to see what you get up to when you're out exploring #aworldofoutdoors!