Is Heavier Better For Off-roading? The Answer May Shock You

All off-roading vehicles aren’t created equal; some are better than others. Different characteristics can help your off-roading experience depending on your vehicle. One feature that can make a big difference in off-roading is weight. Some off-roading vehicles, like trucks, have very little weight in the back and are very light compared to vehicles like Jeeps. 

Is heavier better for off-roading? Heavier is not better for off-roading. Heavier vehicles have no immediate advantage for off-roading over lighter vehicles. Heavier vehicles wear out parts faster, have a more challenging time climbing steep inclines, and have a higher center of gravity which can contribute to rolling. 

Many off-roaders prefer different weights for their vehicles. Some off-roaders prefer lighter vehicles; some prefer heavier ones. There is an ongoing argument about which is better. Many argue that heavier might be better than lighter vehicles. However, this claim isn’t agreed with by all off-roaders. Both light and heavy vehicles have their advantages and disadvantages. The question then becomes which advantages and disadvantages outweigh the others. 

Why Heavier Isn’t Necessarily Better For Off-roading

Though having a heavier vehicle can help when off-roading in some situations, there are many instances in which it is a disadvantage. Going up steep inclines or driving sideways across slopes can be a disadvantage for heavier vehicles as they often have higher centers of gravity (which means most of the vehicle’s weight is higher above the ground than with lighter vehicles). Heavier vehicles have a higher probability of rolling than light vehicles. 

Heavier vehicles will have a more challenging time going uphill simply because they have more weight to drag up the hill. You will need a more powerful engine with a heavier vehicle than you will require with a lighter vehicle. Though heavier vehicles usually have better weight distribution and can get better traction on the rear tires, they will demand more torque to get up hills. 

Another drawback of heavier vehicles is that they tend to need more repairs. The most significant car part that will need replacing is the brakes; they will wear down faster on heavier vehicles than on lighter vehicles because the brakes have more weight to slow down. Other car parts like ball joints and tires also take a beating when on heavier vehicles. There is more weight and force that pounds down on car parts. Cracks and breakages will be more common in heavier vehicles than in lighter vehicles. 

What Vehicles Are Considered “Heavy” While Off-roading?

Most off-roading vehicles are trucks and SUVs. These types of vehicles are going to weigh something between 3,800 and 5,000 lbs. For a vehicle to be considered “heavy” in the off-roading world, it needs to weigh more than 4,500 lbs. Newer stock vehicles like Ford Broncos, Jeep Wranglers, and even most Tacomas will fall into this category of heavier vehicles. Older versions of these car models are going to be considered lighter.

If it is your long-term goal, then there are options to make a vehicle lighter. Making your vehicle lighter does provide some advantages while off-roading. I will go into depth about techniques for making your vehicle lighter later along in the article. 

Any vehicles that weigh more than 5,000 lbs are extremely heavy and will take a lot of work to off-road in. Heavier vehicles will have less grip and have a more difficult time making it up steep inclines. When it comes to off-roading, you want to find a vehicle that is light enough that it can move without any problems and heavy enough that it doesn’t bounce around everywhere. These heavy vehicles can be frustrating to handle on inclines. 

Other Ways You Can Get Better Grip While Off-roading

Grip is one of the most crucial aspects of doing well in off-roading. Having a good grip on your tires is essential when getting out of the mud or getting up a steep hill. Tires slipping makes your vehicle feel useless. Torque will do you no good if it’s being transferred to bad tires. But there are things you can do to help give your vehicle more traction. 

The first thing I would do to get more traction is to get a good pair of off-roading tires. There are many options to choose from when it comes to off-roading tires. They even make tires that were designed for specific types of terrains. They have mudding tires, tires for sand, and snow tires. I suggest going with a pair of all-terrain tires. These tires are designed to work for a large variety of terrains and have excellent traction. Getting good tires is probably the easiest way to improve your vehicle’s grip. 

If you have problems with your rear end sliding out, another thing you will want to look at is weight distribution. A common problem with off-road vehicles, especially trucks, is that all of the weight is at the front end of the vehicle. Meaning that the front is pushing into the ground more than the rear is. This causes the rear tires to not have the same amount of traction as the front tires. Putting more weight in the back, whether it be placing tires or fuel in the back, will help distribute that weight and give the rear end more traction. 

One other thing I want to mention that doesn’t necessarily increase grip, but increases handling and control is having 4WD. Most off-road vehicles already have 4WD installed but if your vehicle doesn’t have it I would strongly suggest getting a vehicle that has it. Offroading in a 2WD vehicle is possible, but it’s generally not considered safe on moderate to challenging trails.

How Can You Make Your Vehicle Lighter For Off-roading? 

Many things can be done to help make heavier vehicles lighter. For one, you can strip the interior. Many off-roaders and rally car drivers that are serious about cutting weight in their vehicles will strip the interior of all extra seats, finishings, infotainment systems, and anything else unnecessary to get down to the bare metal frame. Racecar drivers use this same strategy to make their vehicles lighter to go faster. 

Another way to make your vehicle lighter is to replace heavy electronic components with lighter equivalents. Depending on how serious you are about making your vehicle lighter, you can drop quite a few pounds by removing things like air conditioning and entertainment systems. These are just added comforts and aren’t essential to run the car. There are also equivalents for things like headlights and taillights that perform the same job but are lighter. 

Replacing body panels with lighter aluminum or fiberglass panels will also reduce the weight. I would not suggest this method for off-road vehicles, however, because these vehicles are meant to have steel armor or reinforced panels to help protect the passenger while off-roading. Off-roading vehicles can take a beating so it might be a good idea to have some body panels that can handle some damage. 

Windows are another quite heavy component of vehicles. Replacing glass with polycarbonate sheets, which are just plastic sheets, can reduce the weight. I like this option for off-roading vehicles because when you replace the glass, you won’t have any windows shatter either. Shattered windows can be dangerous and very expensive. There is a high probability of someone getting cut once a window is broken. 

Related Questions

Why is All-wheel drive not good for off-roading? AWD vehicles are not good for offroading because the All-wheel drive system cannot be manually turned on or off, but the computer decides when to send power to the front or rear tires instead of the driver.  AWD vehicles do not have high and low gearing options in their drive system, making them inferior for off-roading situations. Click here to view the full article.

Is there a difference between 4×2 and 2WD? There is no difference between 4×2 and 2WD (two-wheel drive); they are essentially the same thing. Manufacturers have created the term “4×2” to make a vehicle seem more capable.  You’ll often see 4×2 on larger vehicles such as trucks or SUVs. Click here to view the full article.

Kyle Cannon

Kyle currently works as a mechanical engineer and graduated with a minor in automotive engineering. His passion for cars is his daily motivator and is constantly working on his projects such as restoring his 1966 Bronco, 1968 Firebird, or modifying his 2022 Bronco.

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