How To Build A Buggy For Crawling
Rock crawling enthusiasts are always looking for vehicles that will give them an edge when it comes to climbing inclines and crawling over obstacles. If you’ve looked for the ideal 4×4 crawler for ages and haven’t found one, how about building your own?
What could be more fun than building a rock-crawling buggy? Not only can you take as long as you need to build it but also load it with all the customizations you ever wanted in a rig. This could translate to hours of fun and hard work.
Options for a DIY Buggy Build
When it comes to building a buggy for crawling, you have 3 options:
- buy a ready-made kit so you only have to mount it on a suitable chassis
- take an existing 4×4 chassis and make any modifications you choose
- build the entire thing from scratch
The option you choose is entirely up to you and whatever amount of work you wish to put into your buggy.
Nothing is as damaging to a vehicle as rock crawling. Pitting your buggy against rock will leave you with body damage. Additionally, you risk smashing your transfer case, oil pans, or differentials. Sharp rock outcrops can snag your undercarriage or damage your axles and drivetrain while razor-sharp rocks can slash your tires and other vulnerable parts.
For this reason, when building a buggy for rock crawling, you should put in a ton of research coupled with careful planning and smart shopping.
Tips for Building Your Own Buggy
Here are some pointers for building your rock-crawling buggy.
- The axles
At Red Dot Engineering, we believe that bigger is better when it comes to axles. For rock crawling, you need an axle that can handle any abuse you throw at it without breaking down at the slightest tap from a rock. When making your choice, take into account the size of your tires and the weight of your vehicle. Axle assembly can get a little overwhelming considering all the parts you need to put together from the bearings to the carriers and axle shafts. If things get too complicated, you can always opt for a kit that comes with every component installed instead of doing this yourself.
Along with the axle and suspension, differentials are the most important part of a rock crawler. You need to put in locking differentials so that power can be sent to the wheels that need it the most. You don’t want to be crawling over an obstacle, painstakingly positioning a wheel only to have the differential send power to the opposite one. To avoid this, find a way to lock your differentials or use purchase lockers.
- Low gearing
Rock crawling is all about slow calculated climbing and not speed. For this reason, your rock crawler buggy needs the low gearing needed to help you clear obstacles. It will also help deal with the weight of the bigger tires that you’ll put on your buggy. If you can get your hands on a low-range gear set, do so. This will increase the gearing of stick transfer cases. You may also choose to install a low-range auxiliary gearbox. Just remember to consider what is available depending on whether you’re using a manual or automatic transmission.
You can’t ignore the suspension when it comes to rock crawling. When building your crawler, pay attention to the suspension articulation. The type of suspension to use- whether an independent A-arm or solid axle depends on your preference and what you’re working with. You need to take into account traction and breaking angles, along with articulation. You want a suspension that gives a smooth ride while allowing you to get over obstacles without too much hassle. Overall, this is an area that can get complicated and is best left to the professionals so don’t be afraid to pay to get your suspension or lift kit professionally installed.
- Body protection
We mentioned how crawling over obstacles is the fastest way to sustain sheet metal damage. This is why body protection is important, especially bumpers and rocker guards. The bumper should neatly wrap around the parts you’d want to protect. As for the rocker guards, you can choose to purchase them or build your own from tuber units then weld them into place.
- The tires
You want your buggy to have as much traction as possible if you’re going to be climbing steep inclines and gnarly obstacles. So select tires with an aggressive tread pattern that will grip the ground. Also, choose those that will give your buggy much-needed ground clearance. However, don’t make your buggy so high that it becomes unstable. Find the sweet spot between high clearance and balancing the vehicle.
- A roll cage
Rollovers are extremely common when rock crawling. But just because there’s a chance your buggy might roll over doesn’t mean that you don’t take precautions. Equip your buggy with a strong, sturdy roll cage that ties to the frame in at least 6 places to give ample protection to yourself and whoever is crazy enough to ride with you.
- The Chassis
The chassis you choose has to be able to withstand the weight of the vehicle. Make your chassis have a low center of gravity if you want to make your buggy stable especially in steep places. If the center of gravity is too high, your buggy crawler will roll over too easily.
- The undercarriage
This carries some important and vulnerable vehicle components e.g. the transmission case, oil pans, etc. To protect them and keep them from harm, weld on a durable, heavy-duty skid plate.
Finally, you can’t forget the steering in a rock-crawling buggy. The big tires you install will be difficult to turn so you may want to go for a hydraulic ram assist system to make things easier.
We Can Help Build A Buggy For Crawling
Nothing makes us happier at Red Dot Engineering than seeing a buggy take form. We have the expertise and equipment to help you build your rock crawler to your specifications. Contact us today to get started on your project.