prepare your volkswagen for off-roading: equipment & knowledge

For thousands of Volkswagen owners, the urge to explore the untouched trails leads them to perform a wide range of modifications to their vehicles. While most popular campsites and landmarks can be accessed through roadways, reaching the pristine vistas that lead to to the most exciting and unique experiences still require you to venture off-road. 

Luckily, doing so is now easier than ever. You don’t have to spend years modifying your Volkswagen, and there are many models and makes that come equipped for the off-road that you may not ever need. That’s why most people prefer doing their own modifications, and the aftermarket community is full of options for all budgets. Here are some of the essential Volkswagen accessories you should consider and things to have in mind before going on your next adventure.

Necessary Off-Road Equipment

Off-Road Tyres

Just like many people think a 4WD will automatically make their vehicle perform on any type of terrain, others think that a locking differential or transfer case will overcome any road-tyre shortcomings off the road. However, the reality is that if you ever try going over rocks, sand or mud in summer tyres, you’re bound to get stuck at one point or another. 

As is with any essential Volkswagen accessories and parts for off-road use, aftermarket off-road tyres are designed to handle different types of driving situations. Mud terrain tyres will be noisier, but they’ll also remove the snow, sand or mud quickly, allowing you to coast through the looser surfaces. All-terrain tyres are another great choice for those who expect to transverse through different types of terrain. 

The size of the tyres should fit and easily turn your Volkswagen’s wheel wells. Larger tyres are better for increased ground clearance and contact patch. But don’t go overboard as you might need to re-gear your transmission or axles to avoid poor mileage and power loss.

Recovery Equipment

The right set of tyres will help keep you out of trouble most of the time, but you still might get stuck, and you’ll need a way out. This is where recovery equipment comes into play. Whether it’s a winch, MaxTrax pads, high-lift jack or straps to attach to another vehicle’s recovery points. Personally, I’d recommend getting at least two pieces of recovery equipment. 

Besides the basic fwd accessories for recovery, make sure you have work gloves, a headlamp or torch to illuminate the area (especially important and helpful if you drive at night), and a jump starter kit to overcome a faulty battery.

Aftermarket Lights

You’ve probably noticed the weekend warriors with over a dozen LED, HID and halogen lights. You don’t need to follow their steps, unless you have a good reason to. All you need is a quality set of driving lights that provide a wide beam far enough into the night. Your stock headlights may be enough, but if they aren’t, get a set of off-road auxiliary lights and install them on your front bumper with a switch on the dashboard. 

If you want to take it a step further, get search or spotlights that are mounted close to the door mirrors and will illuminate the sides of your Volkswagen. LED light bars are some of the most popular fwd accessories on the market, but they can become problematic if they aren’t mounted and used properly.

Understanding Your Vehicle

 

prepare your volkswagen for off-roading: equipment & knowledge

Depending on the model, make and year of your Volkswagen, you have a wide range of buttons, switches and levers at your disposal. What do you use and when?

Traction Control

If your Volkswagen isn’t more than 10 years older, it has some type of traction control, regardless whether it’s a 4WD, 2WD or all-wheel drive. In most vehicles, turning the traction control on and off is as simple as flipping a switch. However, vehicles designed to take on different types of terrain and climates feature more complex configurations that adjust braking, throttle mapping, power distribution, etc. If your Volkswagen has a simple on/off switch, you want the traction control off when you’re driving off the road. 

Locking Differentials

A 4WD will take you places you otherwise couldn’t go with a 2WD or all-wheel drive. However, if you want to have the best experience possible, you should consider locking differentials. Open differentials (the opposite of locking differentials) make it so each wheel on the axle can spin independently, meaning if one tyres doesn’t have any traction, you lose all the power that would go to it. Locking differentials, on the other hand, forcibly link the two wheels, so if you lose the traction on one of them, all of the power goes to the wheel that has traction.

Know Your Limits and Get Some Company

prepare your volkswagen for off-roading: equipment & knowledge

If it’s your first time exploring the Australian outback with your Volkswagen, make sure you understand your capabilities and your vehicle’s limits, and try to get a buddy to tag along with you. Otherwise, you can damage the vehicle, hurt yourself and get left stranded in the middle of nowhere. Even if you’ve went down a certain trail, only to come across an obstacle you aren’t sure how to pass, most of the time it’s better to turn around than to get yourself into an expensive or dangerous predicament. 

This is also where having an extra set of hands, brain and knowledge can come in handy. What may end up being a bad call when you’re alone, having someone weigh in on the situation can go a long way. If you both decide to be daredevils, at least one of you can be your spotter and safely guide you through or over the obstacle. And if your buddy has a vehicle, they’ll pull you out of any sticky situation, as long as you have the appropriate recovery gear.

You Don’t Need a 4WD

Even if your Volkswagen isn’t 4WD, you can still manage to have some fun off the beaten trail. However, there are some people who’ve tried to rock crawl with a Prius, and that’s something I personally don’t recommend. Even if you have a 2WD, as long as it has decent clearance, equipment and off-roading techniques, you can get very far.

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