In Part 1 of this series, we talked about researching 4×4 options and making a budget for your rig. Don’t worry though; I wasn’t born yesterday. I know that research and finances don’t get you on the trail. What does get you on the trail are the next steps for novice gearheads on the journey to debuting their first trail trail rig.
Once you’ve got a pick-up or SUV in your garage that suits your needs, as well as a basic budget outlined, it’s time to get to work. What kind of work you ask?
I’m not talking about hitting the mall for a new pair of sick kicks. I’m talking about hopping online, pulling out every auto parts catalog, wheel brochure and four wheeling magazine you’ve amassed over the past year and heading down to your local parts counter for some good ol’ fashioned parts runs. You need stuff. After you’ve purchased the essentials to get your rig at least running, if it didn’t come to you that way, it’s time to refer to your budget for the major purchases. Will it be a lift kit, tires, shocks, suspension components, a winch? What you buy is up to you, however the first step is purchasing a part or two and setting to getting them on.
Mind you, there’s no need to go crazy. You won’t be completing your build in a weekend, so there’s no need to buy all your parts on way day. Buy as you go – you’ll stretch your budget, and be able to make adjustments as you find products that better fit your needs.
Finally! The part where you get your fingernails dirty and feel like more than just a four wheel drive parts collector. Do you hear the angels singing? They sound like the sweet hiss of a blow torch! Ha-lle-lu-jah! Wait, what’s that? You’ve only ever changed a flat, huh? Okay. Here’s where it can get a little tricky. When it comes to actually installing parts, you’ll need to gauge your level of comfort and accurately try to predict your ability to complete a project.
Every mechanic was a novice fumbling with a socket wrench at some point. If you ever want to become comfortable with working on your own rig, I am an avid advocate of learning by doing. There is no harm in attempting smaller projects on your own. Thanks to instruction pamphlets and internet resources that show most common installations with step-by-step directions from real people, there’s lots of help if you go awry. This is also a great time to enlist the help of friends who are comfortable with their mechanical skills. Ice down some Coke and learn from your buddies. There are few gearheads who are opposed to hanging out in garages, working on junk and talking trucks.
However, let’s face it: there are some things that it’s probably not so safe for you to install if you don’t feel comfortable with it and all of your friends are experts in World of Warcraft, not Toyota pick-ups. The last think you want is you front end falling apart because you weren’t sure those last few bolts were torqued properly. That said, you also want to find a shop that you’re comfortable working with. Local 4×4 shops aren’t hard to come by in most towns, so ask the guys and gals at your local four wheel drive club where they get work done and establish a good working relationship with a reputable shop. The last off road mechanic I went to looked like one of the Clampett’s and reeked of Copenhagen, but he knew his stuff. And when you’re on the trail, that’s all that matters.
Sooner or later, after a few improvements have been made, you’ll be ready to hit the trail! Enjoy your first time out by taking it easy, learning the current capabilities of your rig and your driving skills and take the time to think about what that next upgrade will be to boost your performance!
Building your first 4×4 is a learning experience that will continue until you build your last. The best advice: don’t be afraid to start. Stop staring with envy at everybody else’s rig and start the process to build your own!