The relentless pursuit of adventure often leads us to push boundaries and explore the uncharted terrains of the world. Having the right vehicle beneath us magnifies this thrill, especially one that’s capable of conquering any obstacle that stands in its way. The roar of a powerful engine, the crunch of gravel under rugged tires, and the exhilarating feeling of overcoming challenging landscapes—they’re all part of the off-roading experience. Ground clearance plays a crucial role in this endeavor, acting as the unsung hero allowing vehicles to easily navigate rough terrains and rocky paths. Read on to learn more about ground clearance and why it is important for off-roading activities.
The Basics of Ground Clearance
Ground clearance, in the simplest terms, is the distance between your vehicle’s undercarriage and the surface of the road or trail beneath it. It reaches from the lowest point of your vehicle to the ground. Most sedans feature a ground clearance measurement of 4-6 inches, which is optimal for stable and comfortable on-road driving activities. However, most 4x4s—including Jeeps and Broncos—boast 6-8 inches of ground clearance and often offer additional upgrades for upward of 10 inches total. But why is more ground clearance preferred for off-roading activities and overlanding vehicles?
The Role of Ground Clearance in Off-Roading
When it comes to off-roading, ground clearance plays a pivotal role in determining how well your vehicle can handle various terrains. The primary advantage of having a high ground clearance is the ability to overcome obstacles such as rocks, logs, and uneven surfaces without damaging the undercarriage of your vehicle. Essentially, the higher the ground clearance, the larger the obstacles your vehicle can traverse. This ability is essential when navigating through rocky or forested trails where it’s common to encounter large obstacles.
Ground clearance also impacts your vehicle’s approach, breakover, and departure angles—which are all critical for off-road driving. The approach angle is the maximum slope or obstacle that a vehicle can climb onto without scraping the front bumper. The breakover angle, on the other hand, is the maximum crest a vehicle can drive over without the chassis contacting the terrain. Lastly, the departure angle is the steepest gradient a vehicle can descend without the rear bumper contacting the ground. Higher ground clearance improves all these angles, enhancing your vehicle’s off-road (specifically rockcrawling) performance.
However, while high ground clearance provides certain advantages, it’s also important to remember that it can affect the vehicle’s center of gravity. A vehicle with a high ground clearance can have a higher center of gravity, which might make it more prone to tipping or rolling over. This issue is especially noteworthy when driving on sloping terrains or taking sharp turns at high speeds. Therefore, it’s crucial to understand the balance between ground clearance and stability to ensure safe and successful off-roading. Unless your Jeep is exclusively an overlanding vehicle, you should never exceed 10 inches of ground clearance. Sizes above 10 inches become hazardous on roads for yourself and other drivers.
Additional Benefits of Increased Ground Clearance
Apart from enhancing off-road capabilities, increased ground clearance offers several other benefits. One of the most practical advantages is the ability to install larger tires and wheels. Larger tires can improve traction, especially on slippery or uneven surfaces, and absorb shock better, providing a smoother ride. In terms of aesthetics, a vehicle with higher ground clearance often exudes a more rugged and commanding presence, appealing to those who prefer a sportier exterior look. Furthermore, higher ground clearance can contribute to better undercarriage durability. With more space between the vehicle’s underbelly and the road, there’s less chance of damaging critical components located underneath, such as the exhaust system, fuel tank, and drivetrain.
Modifying Your Jeep’s Ground Clearance
Modifying a vehicle’s ground clearance is entirely possible for those who own a Jeep and wish to enhance its off-roading capabilities. This modification can significantly improve your vehicle’s ability to navigate rough terrains, tackle larger obstacles, and provide a more comfortable ride on bumpy roads. However, it’s important to note that any modifications should be made carefully, considering the Jeep’s overall balance and stability. Overdoing it could inadvertently compromise the vehicle’s safety and performance.
How To Measure Your Jeep’s Ground Clearance
Before you start adjusting your Jeep’s ground clearance, it’s crucial to measure it accurately. Ground clearance is the shortest distance between the ground and the lowest point of your vehicle’s undercarriage, excluding the wheels. You can do this by parking your Jeep on a level surface and using a tape measure to check the distance from the ground to the lowest part of your vehicle. It’s beneficial to measure from multiple points to get an average reading.
How To Adjust Your Jeep’s Ground Clearance
Once you clearly understand your Jeep’s existing ground clearance, you can start considering different ways to increase it. The most common method is installing a lift kit, which raises the body or suspension of your Jeep. A suspension lift increases the ground clearance and the space in the wheel wells, allowing for larger tires. A body lift raises the Jeep’s body from the frame, increasing ground clearance but not the height of the suspension. When choosing a lift kit, consider the additional clearance you need, the type of off-roading you plan to do, and your budget. Allow a professional to handle the modifications so that you can maintain vehicle safety and performance.
Other Important Overlanding Modifications
While increasing ground clearance is a crucial modification for off-roading, there are several other changes you can make to enhance your overlanding experience further. One such modification is upgrading your tires. Off-road tires feature deeper treads and more robust construction to provide better traction and durability on rough terrains. They can handle rocks, mud, sand, and other obstacles you will likely encounter during your off-road adventures. Another important modification involves strengthening your vehicle’s undercarriage protection. Skid plates are a popular choice for this, as they protect the underside of your vehicle from damage caused by rocks, logs, and other hard objects.
Additionally, consider improving your vehicle’s lighting system. Auxiliary lights can significantly improve visibility during night-time off-roading or in areas with poor lighting conditions. Finally, don’t forget about recovery equipment. Winches, recovery straps, and high-lift jacks are essential tools to help you escape difficult situations. Remember, these modifications aim to enhance your vehicle’s off-road performance and ensure safety and convenience during your overlanding adventures.
Understanding the basics of ground clearance and why it is important to modify your vehicle’s performance ensures success and enjoyment for your next off-roading trip. Off-roading isn’t just about the destination; it’s about the exhilarating journey and the vehicle that takes us there. But the adventure doesn’t stop at modifications. The experience of enjoying an open-air ride, feeling the wind against your face, and immersing yourself in nature is an essential part of the off-roading experience. And for that, we have the perfect tool. Check out the TopLift Pro, our industry-leading Jeep hardtop remover for the on-the-go off-roader!