Know the down­sides be­fore you start.

WE’LL LET YOU IN ON a dirty lit­tle se­cret. Ev­ery mod­i­fi­ca­tion you make to your rig has a down­side. That flexy sus­pen­sion might work great on the trail but be a hand­ful on the free­way. And those ag­gres­sive tires may hook up in the mud but howl like a prop­jet go­ing down the pave­ment. Ide­ally the only down­side to a prod­uct should be cost. Many high-end prod­ucts are de­signed with the purpose of min­i­miz­ing com­pro­mises. What’s ac­cept­able on a flat­fender is not nec­es­sar­ily ac­cept­able on a new JK, since a higher level of re­fine­ment is ex­pected with a new ve­hi­cle.

De­spite the click­bait ti­tle (hey, it worked if you’re read­ing this on­line), there aren’t a lot of sin­gle mod­i­fi­ca­tions that will ren­der your ve­hi­cle in­ca­pable of safely trav­el­ing down pub­lic roads. Slower ac­cel­er­a­tion? Yes. In­creased turn­ing radius? Sure. But you can adapt your driv­ing style to com­pen­sate for these changes. Most is­sues com­pound, though, such as worn steer­ing joints and a bad align­ment re­sult­ing in death wob­ble, or drive flanges with square drive­shafts cre­at­ing vi­bra­tions.

Here are our top 10 mod­i­fi­ca­tions to avoid if you want to daily drive your 4x4 while sip­ping a latte and stream­ing mu­sic on your way to work.

1 Bead­lock wheels are so pop­u­lar that many stan­dard wheels now mimic them. True bead­locks al­low you to air down your tires to sin­gledigit pres­sure on the trail without fear of los­ing a bead. Weld-on bead­lock kits ac­com­plish this just like wheels de­signed as bead­locks. The dif­fer­ences with DIY kits are that they are of­ten not per­fectly bal­anced on the wheel when they are welded on, and they also don’t cen­ter the tire on the wheel rim and can lead to vi­bra­tion at speed.

2 Drive slugs are sim­pler and less ex­pen­sive than qual­ity lock­ing hubs, but they cause the in­ter­nal com­po­nents of the front end to turn all the time. This ac­cel­er­ates the wear of axle and drive­shaft U-joints, po­ten­tially makes steer­ing more dif­fi­cult with a front locker and in­creas­ing noise and vi­bra­tion if the front drive­shaft is not per­fectly bal­anced. Stick with lock­ing hubs if you drive a mod­i­fied 4x4 on the street.

3 An old rock­crawl­ing trick is to take two pieces of box tub­ing that fit in­side each other and weld­ing yokes on the end to make a driv­e­line with a su­per-long slip. In­ex­pen­sive? Yes. Strong? Ab­so­lutely! But don’t try to drive fast with a square driv­e­line. There’s no way to bal­ance them and you will wipe out your T-case and pin­ion bear­ings and seals in short or­der.

4 The ad­van­tages to full-hy­draulic steer­ing in­clude added power to turn big tires, but re­mov­ing the me­chan­i­cal sys­tem also al­lows more free­dom in sus­pen­sion de­sign without con­cern about bump­steer. Fully hy­draulic steer­ing can be driven on the street, but it doesn’t pro­vide the same steer­ing feel and re­turn to cen­ter as a tra­di­tional me­chan­i­cal steer­ing box, so your full at­ten­tion is re­quired at all times to keep your rig trav­el­ing straight down the road.

5 Weld­ing to­gether the spi­der gears in a dif­fer­en­tial is an in­ex­pen­sive way to en­sure that both tires turn at the same speed. Draw­backs in­clude in­creased tire wear and a larger turn­ing radius, but a welded dif­fer­en­tial is pre­dictable on the streets. The strength is di­rectly re­lated to the qual­ity of the weld­ing job. Do a poor job and you’ll have to re­place ev­ery­thing in­side the dif­fer­en­tial when it lets go.

“Here are our top ten mod­i­fi­ca­tions to avoid”

7 Some GM trucks came equipped from the fac­tory with a Quadras­teer sys­tem, but that doesn’t mean that you can (or should) just add rear steer­ing to your ve­hi­cle. While the added ma­neu­ver­abil­ity greatly im­proves trail prow­ess, the com­plex­ity of rear steer­ing makes it im­prac­ti­cal to retro­fit onto street-driven ve­hi­cles. Leave rear steer for the com­pe­ti­tion rock bug­gies.

8 Older four-speed trans­mis­sions like the SM465 and NP435 have a rep­u­ta­tion for be­ing bul­let­proof, and their stubby length makes them per­fect for short-wheel­base ve­hi­cles. The shift­ing is far from per­fect, though. These trans­mis­sions lack an over­drive and in many cases a syn­chro­nized First gear. The granny gear is of no use any­where but the trail, es­sen­tially turn­ing these into three-speed trans­mis­sions.

9 If you have a leaf-sprung 4x4, go ahead and throw the sway bars in the trash. The in­ter­nal fric­tion of the leaves pro­vides sta­bil­ity that coil springs lack. If you have coils, coilovers, or air shocks, you will likely want to run a sway bar on at least one end of your ve­hi­cle. Sway bar dis­con­nects are a great way to get more ar­tic­u­la­tion on the trail without any com­pro­mises to han­dling on the street.

10 Adding wa­ter to your tires is an old trick that farm­ers use to keep their trac­tors sta­ble. The same ap­plies on the trail, where the added weight down low in­creases sta­bil­ity and trac­tion. At low speeds the wa­ter is all at the bot­tom of the tire, but as you speed up it goes for a ride. What hap­pens when you en­counter a bump or hit the brakes? The wa­ter can move un­pre­dictably and cause a loss in han­dling.











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