Al­most ev­ery mod­i­fi­ca­tion to make our 4x4 ve­hi­cles more bush friendly in­volves some type of com­pro­mise, says Mic van Zyl.

Go! Camp & Drive - - CONTENTS -

An in­ter­est­ing as­pect of rep­re­sent­ing a ma­jor 4x4 brand is how, quite of­ten, there seems to be a wave of in­ter­est in a cer­tain prod­uct and then it qui­etens down and an­other prod­uct sud­denly en­joys the lime­light. I’m con­vinced this is partly driven by so­cial me­dia and the keen in­ter­est many off-road en­thu­si­asts take in their choice of hobby.

Re­cently, we’ve had a spate of en­quiries about side steps and rock slid­ers. After speak­ing to many of these en­thu­si­asts,

I can see there’s a mis­con­cep­tion around side steps and rock slid­ers. More im­por­tantly, there’s an alarm­ing lack of knowl­edge and un­der­stand­ing about side cur­tain airbags and how the fit­ting of af­ter­mar­ket side steps or rock slid­ers can af­fect the cor­rect op­er­a­tion of this crit­i­cal safety de­vice.

FIRSLY, THERE is a fun­da­men­tal dif­fer­ence be­tween the orig­i­nal alu­minium and plas­tic side steps on a new ve­hi­cle and the sturdy af­ter­mar­ket steel re­place­ment ones. Typ­i­cally, the orig­i­nal side steps are light­weight and look great – they’re de­signed to in­te­grate with the de­sign of the ve­hi­cle as a whole. They are also at­tached to the body of the ve­hi­cle as op­posed to the chas­sis.

Their pri­mary func­tion is to as­sist with the ingress and egress of the ve­hi­cle. Sec­ondary to this, they of­fer a small amount of pro­tec­tion to the side of the ve­hi­cle, par­tic­u­larly from road de­bris that gets flicked up by the front tyres. They do not, how­ever, of­fer any sig­nif­i­cant pro­tec­tion from a ground strike when travers­ing rough ter­rain. They bend and buckle at the first sight of a proper rock.

En­ter the af­ter­mar­ket steel side steps and rock slid­ers. The fun­da­men­tal dif­fer­ences are very heavy-duty de­sign, con­struc­tion and ma­te­rial com­pared to the orig­i­nal steps, as well as the fact that they are bolted onto the ve­hi­cle chas­sis with some heavy­duty brack­ets.

In the case of a prop­erly de­signed and man­u­fac­tured rock slider, you can in­deed slide over rocks with the weight of the ve­hi­cle with­out any da­m­age to the ve­hi­cle sill. They don’t look any­where near as good as the orig­i­nal steps but, for the se­ri­ous off-roader, they are al­most manda­tory due to the pro­tec­tion they of­fer.

SO HOW DOES THIS af­fect your side cur­tain airbags? The sen­sors that con­trol the ac­ti­va­tion of these airbags are sim­i­lar to the sen­sors that con­trol the ac­ti­va­tion of the frontal im­pact airbags. They mea­sure G-force and ac­ti­vate ac­cord­ingly. The orig­i­nal side steps are de­signed to not af­fect the cor­rect op­er­a­tion of these airbags. Fit­ting a set of strong, solid rock slid­ers to the ve­hi­cle chas­sis will nat­u­rally change the dy­nam­ics of a side im­pact. In test­ing, we found that, with the af­ter­mar­ket rock slid­ers, the side airbags de­ploy in any event.

So, no prob­lem there. What does be­come a prob­lem is that one can pos­si­bly have pre­ma­ture or un­nec­es­sary de­ploy­ment of your side cur­tain airbags while clam­ber­ing over rocks should you come down hard on the solid rock slider. I have per­son­ally ex­pe­ri­enced this in a Pa­jero that was fit­ted with rock slid­ers.

A good com­pro­mise are side­cur­tain-airbag-com­pat­i­ble steel side steps. These can with­stand rock im­pacts bet­ter than the orig­i­nal alu­minium prod­uct but not to the ex­tent of proper rock slid­ers. They are also at­tached to the ve­hi­cle chas­sis, but by means of engi­neered brack­ets that do not al­ter the cor­rect work­ing pa­ram­e­ters of the side-cur­tainairbag sys­tem.

As al­ways, al­most all mod­i­fi­ca­tions we make to our 4x4 ve­hi­cles to get them more bush friendly in­volve some type of com­pro­mise. This com­pro­mise should, how­ever, never put at risk the safety of you, your fam­ily, your ve­hi­cle or other road users.

Fit­ting a set of strong, solid rock slid­ers to the ve­hi­cle chas­sis will nat­u­rally change the dy­nam­ics of a side im­pact.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from South Africa

© PressReader. All rights reserved.