Customizing your vehicle is an inevitable part of the ownership experience. These modifications can be as small as minor cosmetic upgrades to radical improvements to the suspension, engine, and exterior of the vehicle. Much thought should be taken before you decide to invest your money in parts that will likely stay with the car for many years to come. To see your prized possession done up in the way you wanted it to be can be an extremely fulfilling and gratifying experience, especially when you count the number of hours of research and money one can spend these days. In the case of pickups, size and versatility haven’t gone unnoticed, and it’s rare to see a completely stock pickup on the roads these days. Some of them are rocking a lift kit or at least an aftermarket set of wheels, and that’s not even counting the ones that go all out and kit out their trucks for off-road duties.
With that in mind, we will touch on some interesting upgrades and cosmetic enhancements that will help you spice up your pickup, or at least give you an idea of what can be accomplished with your hard-earned cash. Remember, as with most aftermarket parts, any stock part that will be replaced needs to be kept in storage. When the time comes to sell the modified vehicle, it’s always a good idea to throw in the parts that were replaced, and give the new owner a chance to revert it to stock form. After all, what’s nice for you may not be appealing for a would-be buyer, and depends on the market you’re selling to.
A new set of wheels and tires
If you want your pickup truck to look and perform a little bit better a new set of wheels and tires is a good investment. It will give your vehicle some identity as well as street credibility. Tire and rim selection can be tricky, however, so make sure the size you choose, and the rim’s offset, won’t lead to tires rubbing on the body.
While going big adds presence, rocking 20-inch wheels can be costly and impact ride comfort and NVH levels in the cabin. Not to mention adding a big set of wheels on a rig will cause your fuel economy to dip considerably. Wrapping those bigger wheels in rubber will be more expensive, plus, recognize there may be compromises or accommodations that will have to be made. Bigger tires may require a lift kit, advanced gearing, or brake upgrades. When upgrading your vehicle, tire size should be the first building block and then other upgrades are chosen based upon it.
Tires deliver the most performance per peso than any other upgrade. The right tires can enable four-wheeling success on various off-road conditions, and control, safe braking, and cornering on the street. Unfortunately, what works best on the streets does not necessarily translate when off-roading as these tires are built differently. If you do plan to take your pickup truck off-road make sure to buy a set of tires that come with a kevlar compound as it will help give the wheels more protection from any sharp objects or instructions especially if you air down on the trail.
As the name suggests, a lift kit is designed to raise the ride height of your vehicle to improve its off-road performance. Increasing the ride will give your pickup truck a better approach, departure, and break-over angles making it easier for you to tackle rougher terrain. This added ride height will also help give your vehicle more room to accommodate bigger and wider tires. There are also leveling kits, which can add anywhere from one to three inches in height. They usually fit on top of the truck’s coil spring strut assembly and will mostly correct the factory-designed rake, where the rear sits higher than the front. These are vehicle model specific, so do some research and find a reputable manufacturer. Allowable wheel and tire sizes are also noted with each kit, so keep in mind how big and bold you want to go.
However, due to the raised center of gravity, it goes without saying that road handling characteristics will be impaired. If you have to take your lifted pickup on the street, don’t take corners at speeds you normally would, and be aware of your surroundings at all times.
An aftermarket grille
We think you’d agree with us when we say that the biggest statement piece of any pickup is the front grille. Slap on an aftermarket replacement and those left lane sitters will finally move to the right. Seriously, though, a carefully chosen front grille can add a ton of masculinity to any truck. The best part is, it serves another purpose aside from looking good. Some aftermarket grilles have light supports that will mount your utility and off-road lighting. There are a lot of choices out there, but pick up a reputable brand that makes one specifically for your pickup - they usually just bolt-on without fuss.
Another modification that can help give your pickup truck a new look while adding an extra layer of safety in the event of a flip are roll bars for the bed. These offer a study support structure at the back that can be used to tie down cargo and can help prevent the cab of the truck from being crushed in an accident. They also give the vehicle a more utilitarian look while still retaining a tough design.
As with stock tires, the suspension that comes in your pickup is designed mainly for street use. When we hit the trail, they are asked to perform beyond the limit in an environment that they were never primarily designed for. High-speed use over rough terrain can lead to the oil in the suspension getting so hot that it foams and you lose all dampening ability. Not good. Additionally, the most stock suspension is designed for use with factory size tires. If you plan on fitting larger tires and/or heavy accessories, you could be exceeding the design parameters of your suspension. This will not only cause them to heat up faster but also adversely affect the vehicle's handling.
Swap those stock units with aftermarket choices. There are a ton of options, but mostly, they all share the same characteristics - they can take more punishment with tougher and thicker components, dissipate heat better, and can be valve adjusted manually or automatically depending on the brand and budget.