Modify tyres and suspension legally Part 2

Muddy PB Challenger

Modify tyres and suspension legally

In a previous post, I discussed my experience when trying to modify tyres and suspension legally to raise the height of my car by less than 50mm… As you’ll read, I didn’t have much joy.

It’s important to make sure you do keep within the legal boundaries of modifications. If you don’t then you may end up with a yellow sticker, but also your insurance company may have a way out of making payments should anything terrible happen. Although you may find some insurance companies say that they’ll insure your 4×4 modifications, call them up and ask them if they’ll insure something that’s effectively illegal. I’m sure you already know what the answer will be.

My vehicle is fitted with Electronic Stability Control. Most cars have it now days but it may be called something slightly different (perhaps Active Stability Control or ASC). So this post and the previous one focus on modifying the height of a vehicle that is fitted with this technology.

So lets get to it…

VSB14 and the NCOP

VSB stands for Vehicle Standards Bulletin. It’s basically a design guide to make sure all vehicles in Australia comply to a bunch of safety regulations. These regulations are outlined in NCOPs.

NCOP is the National Code of Practice. Each NCOP relates to a particular item.

We’re interested in VSB14 and NCOP11 – Section LS Suspension and Steering V2.1 last edited on 15 November 2015.

Since my last post there have been some changes that relate to vehicles fitted with ASC. The previous version of this document basically said that if your vehicle has ASC, then to raise the height of your vehicle in any way, you’d need to ensure that there is no impact on the ASC by one of the below methods:

  • Get vehicle manufacturer signoff – Never going to happen… Trust me. I tried…
  • Modify the ASC code to allow for the change – Yeah right…
  • Prove it through testing – You can read my previous post to see how much luck I had there.

Now, however, the NCOP clearly states what you need to comply with, and what you need to do if you don’t. And there are 3 different stages. Well 4, if you count lowering your car… Note that raising your vehicle height includes all methods of raising the height. So it’s a total height increase taking into account suspension, body lifts, tyre diameter, spacers… everything.

Raising your car by more than 150mm

The short of it is “Don’t do it”. It’s not legal in any way.

Raising your car by more than 50mm but no more than 150mm

You can do this, but you need to pass a lane change test.

Raising your car by 50mm or less

You can do this without any kind of certification. It’s legal. Go ahead and do it. Have fun. Enjoy the ride.

Lowering your car by any amount

Go for it, but you have to comply with other things. But who really wants to lower their 4×4 anyway?

Now this is my interpretation of the rules so please read the NCOP and make your own judgement. Don’t just trust the stuff you read on some random page on the Internet…

ARB Fridge-Freezer and Battery Life – How long will it last?

Deep Cycle Battery

The ARB Fridge-Freezer and Battery Life – What You Need To Know

Previously, I did a very unscientific test using a 100ah deep cycle AGM battery and my 78L ARB fridge. Since then, I have been contacted by a representative of Ark and given some great information on what you might need to know about your ARB Fridge and battery life.

Do you own an ARB Fridge? Or any car fridge for that matter… Did you know that you probably shouldn’t run it from your car’s battery for too long? Draining your cranking battery will severely limit its life span. In this article, I’ll lay out the information that was given to me by Ark. Hopefully it makes sense!

How is battery capacity measured?

Basically, battery storage capacity is measured in Amp hours (Ah). So if you have 2 x 12V batteries, a 100Ah battery and a 50Ah battery, the 100Ah battery will deliver 12V of power for longer (can you guess how long?). Which means you can power your car fridge for longer between charges.

An amp hour (Ah) rating is just what it sounds like – the number of hours a battery can provide 1 amp of current at 12 volts before the battery is completely dead. NOTE! This metric is not completely accurate! But it does provide a good way of comparing one battery to another. So now we have some kind of understanding of Amp hours, right?

A crucial element to understand when it comes to batteries is the difference between deep cycle batteries and cranking/starter batteries. Your cranking battery is the one that was delivered under the bonnet of your car when you purchased it from the dealer. Its purpose in life is to deliver a huge amount of power for a very short time. Once your engine is running, it maintains that full charge. Whereas a deep cycle battery is designed to deliver low amounts of power continuously for a longer period. So comparing a 100Ah deep cycle battery and a 35Ah starting battery doesn’t make any sense. They’re two different batteries designed to do different things.

Deep-Cycle vs Starter Batteries and Your Car Fridge

Pretty much all cars have a “starter” or “cranking” battery. This is the one that delivers the power to turn your engine over until it fires up. On those cold mornings when your engine won’t start and you hear that “RehRehRehRehReh” while you sit there saying “C’mon! C’mon! C’mon! Start damn-it”. That’s all on battery power. Do it too long and pretty quickly your cranking battery runs out. Starting your car requires a burst of 100 to 200 amps. And 300 amps isn’t unheard of. Your cranking battery is designed to deliver it for a short period of time.

Which is why running your car fridge off your cranking battery isn’t the best idea. The same applies for anything that you use for a long time while your car isn’t running (camp lights for example). If you over-discharge your cranking battery more than a few time then it rapidly stops being able to hold a charge at all. Cranking batteries can’t be discharged more than about 25% before their lifespan is depleted.

Your typical deep cycle battery, however, is designed to store energy and deliver it at lower amperages for longer periods of time. Most can be discharged to 50% of their capacity before their life is compromised. And some of the best ADM or Lead Acid batteries can be run down to 75% of their maximum charge without damage. So these are the guys you want to be using to power your car fridges, camp lights etc. You might think of deep cycle batteries as marathon runners, and cranking batteries as sprinters.

Deep Cycle vs Starter Batteries

How To Power Your ARB Fridge Freezer Without Killing Your Vehicle Battery

Well… Really… the simplest answer to this question is… Use a separate battery to power your fridge. Your starter battery may well be able to manage the load over the short term, you will eventually ruin it. This is not only expensive, but if you’re in the middle of the bush and can’t start your car it can be inconvenient at best and life threatening at worst.

Battery Capacity and Size

The best solution is to get a deep cycle battery, drop it into a good quality battery box (like one of the ArkPack ones) and power your fridge from that. The table below gives you an indication on how long you might be able to run it for without recharging.

ARB
Fridge/Freezer Size
Current Draw
(Amps/hr)
60ah Deep-Cycle
Battery
80ah Deep-Cycle
Battery
100ah Deep-Cycle
Battery
35L 0.85 49hrs 75hrs 82hrs
47L 0.87 48hrs 64hrs 80hrs
60L 0.89 47hrs 63hrs 79hrs
78L 1.07 39hrs 52hrs 65hrs

NOTE: These are theoretical maximums. Lots of factors will affect these times. For example, these times assume you discharge the deep-cycle battery 70% (30% of total charge remaining), and they assume that your battery has 100% of its’ listed capacity. I’d suggest taking a few hours off each estimate just to cover yourself. I don’t want your cursing my name when your beer goes warm! That’s way too much responsibility for even my humungous, muscular, Adonis-like shoulders.

Where to put your Deep Cycle battery

There are a number of options here. Many people install a second battery under their bonnet right next to the main cranking battery. That’s fine if you have the space up there. I found a place behind the trim in my boot to put mine, but for a while I had it in a battery box so that I could remove it if I wanted to.

The battery box I used was a dumb box. It basically held my battery and told me how much charge was remaining. But the ArkPak battery box is a much smarter unit. It includes a top notch battery charger/conditioner to keep your battery in good shape. It also includes the relevant cable work so that you can mount your ArkPak in your vehicle just as you would a dual battery. And it also includes an inverter that converts your 12v into 250v. That’s handy if you need to power things like laptops etc. In addition to this, the built-in, easy to read, digital meter lets you know when your battey is ready to be charged up again and an audible alarm warns you as your charge drops away. Given that a good quality AGM battery is expensive, why wouldn’t you want to get the most life out of it? Makes sense to me!

ArkPak Powering Fridge

As you might expect from a quality batter box, it does more than just run your ARB car fridge. You’ll also find that 240v socket for powering the laptop, coffee machine, or foot spa. You’ve also got a number of 12v power sockets and also a built-in USB port for charging your mobile devices. Now that’s a handy idea!

So I hope this article helps you out with working out not only what kind of battery you need to run your fridge, but also how to actually take your battery with you!

Modifying 4wd tyres and suspension legally

Muddy PB Challenger

After almost 100,000kms, the factory tyres on my 2010 PB Challenger are about due to be replaced. So I thought I’d start looking into Modifying 4wd tyres and suspension legally. I know that the majority of people just do it, but being a model citizen (cough) I thought it would be best to do it as legally as possible. After all, if you modify your car illegally then you run the risk of being issued with a yellow sticker by the police, and you also risk not being covered by insurance.

Lots of insurance companies will state that they cover 4wd modifications no matter what you do… as long as it’s a legal modification. Makes sense really… Why would an insurance company put their hand up to insure something that wasn’t legal. Makes no sense.

If you have an insurance company who has stated that they’ll cover your modifications then be brave, call them up and ask them if they cover modifications that aren’t legal. I bet they’ll run for the hills.

Vehicle Standards Bulletins

Vehicle Standards Bulletins (VSB) are a set of regulations put forward by the federal government. The federal government then encourages the states to adopt these regulations in their entirety. I’m in Western Australia and we have adopted VSB14 in its entirety. Some states have and some haven’t. Please check with your local authority to clarify what has been adopted in your state.

The VSB that we are interested in is VSB 14, which is the National Code of Practice for Light Vehicle Construction and Modification (NCOP). And more specifically, NCOP11 Section LS Suspension and Steering V2. At the time of writing this post, the last update to this document was in January 2011.

There is a whole lot of detail in the document that I found didn’t apply to my situation. Really all I want it to slightly change my tyre size from 265/65R17 to 265/70R17 and then lift my vehicle by less than 50mm. The total height change will only be about 47mm including tyre size and suspension.

VSB 14 as it applied to me

So I sat down and started reading VSB 14. The first thing I noticed was that there is a whole section outlining what modifications you can make without approval, what you need basic signoff for, and what you need further testing to have approved.

In this section of VSB14, it says that I’m allowed to modify my tyres, rims and suspension as long as the total height change does not exceed 50mm, that my total suspension travel is not increased by greater than one third of the original suspension travel, and that my modifications comply with Sub-Section 2 – General Requirements.

Ok so those first two requirements are easy enough for me to meet. I’ll just have to confirm about the suspension travel but I’m sure that’ll be OK. What’s this bit about Sub-section 2, though. What does that mean… Let me take a look…

Hmmm…

Ok so this is where it starts to get a bit strange. In reading it I can see comments like “The roadholding and handling qualities of a modified vehicle must not be adversely affected”. Not 100% sure of what that really means or who decides what “Adversely Affected” really means… But anyway…

It then also goes into minimum road clearance, turning circles, etc. Then it gets really detailed and mostly not relevant to me… So I skipped over it.

And then I got to a section that is all about vehicles with Electronic Stability Control (ESC). ESC is a very important safety feature of vehicles. According to Wikipedia, ESC is the technology that improves vehicle stability by detecting and correcting for loss of traction. When ESC detects loss of traction, it automatically applies brakes to effectively steer your car back on track. Different vehicle manufacturers name it differently so check with your vehicle manufacturer.

Now my car, a 2010 Mitsubishi PB Challenger is fitted with ESC. And according to the Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries, “On 22 June 2009, the Australian Government announced the introduction of an Australian Design Rule, based on Global Technical Regulation No.8, for the mandatory fitting of ESC to passenger cars and SUVs from November 2011 (for new models) and November 2013 (for all vehicles)”.

The way I understand this is if you’re car is post 2011 then it has ESC. Check with your manufacturer.

So back to VSB 14, section 2.6…

Basically, this section outlines what ESC is and then says “For modification codes contained in this Section of VSB 14, evidence should be obtained either from the vehicle manufacturer or through testing to determine the impact on the ESC system. To remain within the scope of this Section of VSB 14, a vehicle fitted with ESC must not be modified if the operation of the ESC is affected unless the ESC system is adjusted accordingly.

Persons wishing to modify vehicles equipped with ESC must contact their Registration Authority for further information and guidance.”

Ok, no problems. I can just head down to the local Mitsubishi shop and ask them to prove to me that what I want to do is going to be OK… Right? *shakes head*… No…

Although it was pretty obvious to me what their response was going to be, I decided to ask Mitsubishi what they thought of me using non-Mitsubishi parts on my car… As you’d expect they came back saying that they don’t recommend using anything but genuine Mitsubishi parts. Of course they would.

So this leaves me with proving through my own testing what the impact on the ESC system is and then adjusting the ESC system so that it’s not adversely affected. How on earth do I do that? The ESC is controlled by the car computer! I can’t just hack into it and change ESC settings!!

Surely the WA Department of Transport will have more information on their website. And they do! It’s a great website that clearly outlines what you need to do. Because I have a vehicle with ESC, I found that I need to submit a vehicle modification application form. Which I did.

The response was basically that because i had ESC, I’d have to prove through testing that there was no adverse affect. And to arrange that testing I’d need to contact an engineering signatory and arrange it with them. I assumed that this would come in the form of a swerve test or lane change test. There is a great video of a Hilux performing a lane change test on YouTube:

But wait… If I want to undertake a lane change test, I need to get my modifications done first… What if it fails??? So many unanswered questions…

Anyway, there are a list off engineering signatories available from the WA department of transport. I contacted one with a general query about the process… Below is the conversation that I had with him (names removed)

From me:

Hi
I have been given your details by the Dept of Transport in regards to obtaining a signoff on modifications that I’d like to perform on my vehicle.
My car is a Mitsubishi Challenger 2010 fitted with Electronic Stability Control. My intended modification is to upgrade the factory suspension which will lift the vehicle by approximately 40mm.
Although it is within the general limits of what is allowed, VSB 14 says that I need to prove either through vehicle manufacturer statement, or through testing, that the ESC has not been affected.
If I can provide a statement from the suspension manufacturer that says that they have performed thorough testing on their product and have demonstrated that there is no adverse affect on the ESC, would that be enough to enable you to sign off on it do you think?
Thanks for your help.
Regards
His response:

Ross

In short, you have a snow ball’s chance in hell of getting this modification through, unless you have a very precise directive from the original manufacturer.   Otherwise, I would not touch it.

Sorry.

Regards

Ok so all I have to do is… No wait… What? Let me read that again…

So if I can’t get a clear directive from Mitsubishi, a statement from the suspension manufacturer isn’t enough, I can’t modify my vehicles ESC settings,  and I can’t get an engineering sign-off, then what they’re telling me is that there is NO WAY to legally modify the tyres and suspension of a vehicle fitted with ESC? in other words EVERY CAR NEWER THAN 2011!

NOTE that this doesn’t just apply to 4wd enthusiasts… What about those people who want to lower their HSV or FPV? Are they doing so illegally? Surely I can’t be interpreting this correctly. This affects the entire tyre and suspension industry WA wide! And potentially in other states as well!

I would love to hear your comments on this! If you’ve in WA or a state that has adopted VSB14, and you have successfully LEGALLY modified the tyres and suspension on a vehicle with ESC, and you have PROOF that you’ve done it legally then please let me know!!!

THINGS HAVE CHANGED! Read Modify tyres and suspension legally Part 2 for more information.

Mitsubishi PB Challenger Turbo Replacement part 2

PB Challenger Turbo Seepage

Earlier this year I noticed some oil leaking from my PB Challenger’s turbo. You can read about it in my previous post Mitsubishi PB Challenger Turbo Replacement. In that post, I mentioned that I was waiting for a call-back from Mitsubishi to let me know if my turbo would be covered under warranty.

Well the short of it is that it was covered and was replaced about a week later. During that week, I took the opportunity to clean my MAF sensor as well as I’d read that this may make a difference to fuel consumption and black smoke blowing from the exhaust.

Did it make a difference? It sure did! Read my article on cleaning your MAF Sensor for more details!

Lightnites – Quality LED Lighting Solutions

If you’re looking for quality LED Lighting solutions for your offroad situation, then let the guys at LightNites (http://www.lightnites.com) help you out. Having said that, the LED lighting solutions provided by LightNites can be used pretty much anywhere from your home, your shed, your boat, your camper/caravan, your car… Anywhere that has a need for light, and access to 12v power. As a small company they are dedicated to providing not only a great quality product, but great customer service, which counts for an awful lot these days.

LightNites was founded on 2008 by Mark Murray from Broome 4WD and was the first sell remote control LED lighting for 4WD’s, caravans cars and boats.  When LEDs were still a new technology and just becoming affordable for the consumer, LightNites were right there selling LED lighting solutions from their online store.

Mark Murray’s background in electronics and a passion and affinity for the outdoors, particularly four wheel driving really guided him in designing his products. And his search for quality products and strong belief in customer service provided the basis for the business today. That philosophy has always been, and continues to be what stands LightNites out from the crowd.

Danny Dellaca purchased the business from Mark in 2013 and continues the philosophy of quality products coupled with excellent customer service. His passion for the outdoors, and in particular the boating world, gives him insight into what his clients want from his products.

Danny and the team came to my 4wd club to do a presentation on some of their LED Lighting solutions. They impressed me quite a lot on the night and so I approached Danny to see if he’d like me to review one of his products.

LightNites Remote LED Light StripHe was keen and so I was lucky enough to get a hold of their LED Remote Light Strip. The product specs for the LED Remote Light Strip are:

  • Colour: Cool White
  • LEDs per metre: 120
  • Power draw: 1 amp per metre of light at full power
  • IP65 rated and coated in a silicon waterproof gel 
  • Working voltage is 12 volts (4-5 amps)
  • 50,000 hour+ lifespan
  • Working temperature -20 degrees C to 50 degrees C
  • Backed with 3M Super sticky stuff (I’m pretty sure that’s the technical term)

So firstly, the LED Light Strip from LightNites is bright. The one I got was a single strip of LED lights backed with 3M sticky stuff that is really, really sticky! I stuck it to a strip of aluminium so that I could move it around and decide where to put it. On our camping trip I hung it up outside above the kitchen area. It was well and truly bright enough to give us enough light to not only to cook by, but we all sat around under it and shot the breeze well into the night. In the end I decided to put it inside the camper, pop-riveted to the cross bar that holds up the tent. Although we haven’t used it there in a camping situation, I’m sure that’s the place for it.LightNites LED Remote Strip Light

Now I mentioned that it’s bright right? That was just up there in the previous paragraph… But the cool thing is that there are a number of pre-set settings that allow you to adjust the brightness! You can quickly jump between 100% brightness to 50% and even down to 25%. Or you can set it anywhere in between! Turn the LED Light strip off and it remembers where you set it to last! Ingenious.

And if you want your camper to be the party place, you can select from a whole bunch of funky flashy modes that range from a cool pulse to an epileptic fit inducing strobe. Not sure how useful that will really be… in a real life camping situation… Maybe you could use it at night to signal overhead planes for help… A disco in the middle of the Aussie outback is likely to attract some kind of attention right?

“Ok”, you might say, “All these modes and brightnesses and stuff are all well and good, but once I’m in my camping chair, nothing gets me out!”

Well that’s perfectly OK. Most of the LightNites products come with a remote that allows you to control the light from quite some distance away. Yeah that’s right… A remote… Yeah baby.LightNites LED Remote Strip Light

So you could be hanging out in your camper in your stubbies and thongs, cooking up the catch of whiting you’d managed to get yourself and sucking on a VB or a XXXX, when suddenly the woman of your dreams walks up. BAM in an instant you’ve dulled the LED light strip down to ‘Mood lighting’… If only you had Barry White on remote as well!!

Or, and much more likely, you could be flumpped in your camping chair, beer in hand, an uncomfortable silence between you and your mates, when one of them says “Gee that light is bright!”. BAM, in an instant you’ve dulled it to 50 or 25% and everyone is not only happy, but now talking about this awesome LED strip light that’s controlled by a remote… What a conversation starter!LightNites LED Remote Strip Light

There are only a couple of minor negatives that come to mind for me with this product. Firstly the remote is coded to the light. So if you lose the remote then that’s it… All over for that LED light. You can’t get a new remote and re-code it. I’m sure you’d be able to pull it apart and re-wire it with a physical switch but then… no instant mood lighting!

LightNites LED Remote Strip Light

The second is that if you have a number of remote lights, say one in the camper, one over the kitchen area, one facing out beyond the awning, a few in the boat and maybe one on the car awning and even inside the car, then that’s a lot of remotes… How do you know which one is which?

Are these major issues? Not really… Just things to be aware of really. (UPDATE! Danny contacted me the other day to let me know that they now have a setup that allows a single remote to control up to 3 LED lights, and the remote is re-programmable. So if you lose one, you can get another one and re-code it to work with the lights you already have! Way to go Danny!)

LightNites LED Remote Strip Light

So what’s the future for LightNites? I’m sure they have their ideas for the future, but I’d like to see a remote with a strong magnet built in so that you could stick it to the camper or your car or something.

Also maybe a small portable LED light that has a magnet on the bottom of it. Something that you could stick somewhere temporarily and then plug into the nearest 12v socket… And with an adjustable head to target the llight towards where you want it…

As a small business, if you’re after a specific LED lighting solution then get in touch with Danny and the crew. They’re a very approachable bunch and are more than happy to help you design a solution for your particular situation.
Want more info? Or to purchase something from them online? Check out their range of LED Lighting Solutions at http://lightnites.com/

Mitsubishi PB Challenger Turbo Replacement

PB Challenger Turbo Seepage

The other day I took a look in my engine bay and noticed that there was some oil seepage around the turbo. It’s worth taking a look and it probably applies to the current model Triton as well. I’d read online about some Mitsubishi PB Challenger turbo replacement but didn’t expect that it’d come to that.

Anyway I had my car booked in for a service and thought that it’d be a good idea to mention it to them. I also had noticed that the car was less fuel efficient and was blowing more black smoke than in the past. I also mentioned this to them.

At the end of the day I went back to pick up the car and was told that the turbo did indeed need to be replaced! I was expecting that they’d replace seals or something but not a full turbo replacement! Luckily covered under full warranty!

They mentioned that it’s a ‘high ticket’ item which either means that it happens a lot so they don’t have many just sitting around, or that their expensive so they don’t have them sitting around, or that lots of people try to get new turbos by falsely reporting them or something… The short of it is that they took some photos and sent it off to Mitsubishi Motors Australia. They then have to approve the work before proceeding. Once approval is granted then the part can be ordered and installed. The service technician indicated that this was just a formality in my case and I should have my car back in the service centre within 2 weeks. In the mean time they have said that the car is OK to drive and I probably won’t notice any performance issues. If it hadn’t been found then it could cause issues much later down the track.
But for now, I’m waiting for the call back to get my turbo replaced.

Here are some photos of what it looked like with the oil seepage.

Read more here!

PB Challenger Turbo Seepage

 

PB Challenger Turbo Seepage

PB Challenger Turbo Seepage

PB Challenger Turbo Seepage

 

Mud Maps M7 Review

Mud Maps M7

NOTE: As of early 2014, Mud Maps have decided to stop manufacturing the M7 to concentrate on the development of their mobile applications for iPad and other mobile platforms. I guess that makes this article obsolete. Thanks for visiting though!

In today’s modern age, navigation using a GPS and electronic maps is par for the course. The days of relying 100% on paper maps are long behind us. Although having paper maps available as a backup is good safety, I’m betting that the majority of 4wd adventures are undertaken without ever pulling out the parchment. So when the opportunity to write a review for Mud Maps M7 device came up I jumped at it!

Mud Maps have placed their M7 as a direct competitor to devices like the HEMA Navigator HN6, and the VMS 700HDS II. The Mud Maps M7 gets you where you want to go both on the highway, and off the beaten track. iGo Primo with the latest street data from NAVTEQ, shows you the way when you’re on the hard stuff, and OziExplorer helps you out when the fun begins.

Whats in the Mud maps m7 box

Your impression of a new toy starts with the box. After all, it’s the first thing you see.

The Mud Maps M7 comes in a very tidy and good quality box that makes you instantly think that significant effort has gone into it. People care about this thing. People have put some thought into it and want you to like it even before you’ve opened it.

Mud Map M7 - Born to get muddy!Inside the box you get:

  • The Mud Maps M7 (of course)
  • A soft pocket to carry it in
  • A 240v power plug
  • A 12v power plug
  • A USB connector to plug it into your computer
  • An AV plug to attach a reverse camera
  • A bracket to stick it to your windscreen
  • A stylus
  • An instruction manual

 The Mud Maps M7

Let’s take a closer look at the M7 itself.

It’s a light-weight device, weighing in at only 201 grams. However despite its lightness, it doesn’t have that cheap plastic feel to it. It feels like a well put together piece of kit. Which is just as well given the punishment that I’m sure we’ll all be putting them though.

The device itself has a number of different ports and buttons on it. Along the top edge you’ll find the power button and two small slots that the windscreen bracket attaches to. There is nothing down the right hand side, but the left has the USB cable port, the Micro SD card slot, the video port for the reverse camera and a couple of other blank ports that are plugged up and not used for anything. Along the bottom are the other slots that the windscreen bracket connects to. And finally on the back is the reset button and the speaker.

The Mud Maps M7 contains 4GB of internal storage, and the Micro SD card slot allows you to expand that. The maximum capacity for the Micro SD card is 32 GB, but please make sure you get a good quality Micro SD card. I tried two. One was an el-cheapo and the M7 didn’t recognise it no matter what I did. The other was a 16GB SanDisk HC Micro SD and it worked perfectly. So you get what you pay for.

Mud Maps M7 peripherals

Mud Maps M7 and accessoriesThe other stuff you get in the box comes in handy at various times here and there. And of course most of them are pretty standard and probably don’t warrant much of a mention beyond the fact that they’re there. Of course some you’ll only use if you have the appropriate devices… For example I don’t have a reverse camera so I won’t be using the video cable.

But the one that I’d like to specifically mention is the windscreen bracket. This is probably something that could be improved on. The bracket only has one pivot point. Which is fine if your windscreen is very upright. But many modern vehicles have windscreens that are on a very steep angle. This forces you to place the device quite high on the windscreen so that it fits above the dash and that can restrict vision a little. I did find a place to put it without too much trouble, but I think that in some situations, and in some vehicles, it may cause a problem. But then again, maybe not.

The windscreen bracket also holds the stylus. Which is fine when you’re in the car, but if you work on the M7 in the camper trailer at the end of the day, you have to remember to bring the stylus with you. And hope you don’t lose it somewhere. In my opinion, it would be much, much better to somehow attach the stylus to the actual M7 itself.

The other item worth mentioning is the instruction manual. Where HEMA have gone with the ‘Document Everything’ philosophy by providing 126 pages of riveting reading, Mud Maps have taken the opposite approach. Their instruction manual is a paltry 21 pages. “Surely they’ve used a very small font to fit it all in!” you may say. But no. It’s a quick easy read that gives you all the basics on how to run the thing. From there you’re largely on your own. However the software is very intuitive so it doesn’t take much to find your way around. And if you get stuck there are some web links at the end of the instruction manual to help you out. I think it’s a very good approach.

The M7 software

The M7 comes bundled with two very popular and well known pieces of software:

  • OziExplorer CE
  • iGo Primo

 Mud Maps M7 iGo PrimoiGo Primo

iGo Primo gives turn by turn directions when you’re on the black top. It’s a great piece of software that you can update from the NAVTEQ website. Ongoing updates are subscription based and are well worth it if you ask me. Roads around me seem to change daily so it’s nice to know that updates are readily available.

The software is very user friendly and intuitive so working out how to use it is easy. I won’t go into any detail on how to use it. There are plenty of online resources if you’re stuck. Mud Maps even provide this demo video:

OziExplorer

OziExplorer is very common among 4wd enthusiasts so having it on your mobile GPS unit is invaluable. The CE version means it’s designed to run on Windows CE (which is the Microsoft operating system that runs the Mud Maps M7 device). You can use your PC software (available separately) to plan your tracks from the comfort of your home, and then transfer your plans to the Mud Maps M7 for when you’re out and about. You can use your M7 to plan trips of course, but the smaller screen may make it harder than a nice big computer screen, that’s all.

Need a video tutorial for OziExplorer as well? Mud Maps have kindly provided one and here it is:

Price

In terms of price, the M7 is streets in front. When you compare the features and prices of its nearest competitors, it’s very difficult to beat. According to the Mud Maps website:

VMS 700 HDs II HEMA HN6 Mud Maps M7
Screen Size 7 Inch 6 Inch 7 Inch
Onroad
Software
iGo Primo with
Aussi maps
iGo Primo with
Aussie and NZ Maps
iGo Primo with
Aussie and NZ Maps
Offroad
Software
VMS OziExplorer CE OziExplorer CE
Price RRP $699 $799 $499

 The Wrap

So what do I think of the Mud Maps M7 GPS navigator. Well in short, it’s awesome.

Mud Maps M7 OziExplorer CEThe only things I’d like to see changed are

  1. Put the stylus into the device itself. That way you can leave the bracket behind and not have to remember to carry a tiny little stylus around with you.
  2. Put a 2nd pivot into the arm of the windscreen bracket. It would just give it a little more versatility in terms of where the device could be placed.
  3. Windows 8. I’d love to see the Mud Maps M7 running Windows 8 in the background. I realise that Mud Maps probably doesn’t have much say in the matter. OziExplorer and iGo Primo may not be available on Windows 8 but one day, I’d hope that changes.

But apart from that, the software that the Mud Maps M7 runs is exactly the same as the HEMA HN6. And I mean exactly the same! Not some cut down version… It’s Exactly The Same! So really why would you pay $300 more?

Using the device is simple and intuitive and the GPS, as you’d expect it to be, is very accurate.

The device is very light weight, but is solid and comes with a 12 month warranty.

The Mud Maps M7 is available online and a 14 day, no questions asked, money back guarantee gives you the confidence to buy it and see what you think.

Although the last page of the Mud Maps M7 manual says “Now go and get Muddy” I’m pretty sure that refers to you, and your 4wd. Not the Mud Maps M7 itself…

My recommendation: Get yourself one, then go and get muddy.

4wd Rims and Tyres Explained – Tyres

Tyre Measurements

Welcome to the second part of my explanation about 4wd rims and tyres. In my previous post explaining 4wd Rims, I mentioned that I run 285/75/R16s on a 16 x 7.5 steel rim with a +10 offset. I don’t by the way, but it’s a perfectly valid example for us to use…

If you’ve read the previous post then you’ll understand the last part… 16 x 7.5 steel rim with a +10 offset. In this post, I’ll explain the rest of it and also some other common terms that you’ll hear regarding tyres.

What does the rest mean?

Tyres are measured in a couple of different ways; imperial (inches) and metric (millimetres). The example above is the metric system… Kind of… Except that some of it is in inches… Crazy I know!!!

So what does it mean? Ok. Lets get into it. Its actually not that difficult to understand.

Tyres are measured in width of the tread, side wall size and rim size. In our example:BFG All Terrain Tyre

  • 285 is the width of the tyre in millimetres.
  • 75 is the height of the sidewall as a percentage of the width of the tyre. Otherwise known as the Aspect Ratio.
  • R16 is the size of the rim it’ll fit in in inches.

So there you go. Simple. Thanks for coming. Wait… what? You want more? Ok then…

Calculating tyre diameter

So lets say you want to know the rolling diameter of our tyre. There are two ways you can do this. Lets have a look at the first method.

In our example, our tyre is 285mm wide. The sidewall is simply 75% of 285 (285 x 0.75) which is 213.75mm high. But that still doesn’t give us the full diameter, it only gives us the height of the tyre. The distance from the rim to the road, so to speak.

To get the full tyre diameter, we need to also add the rim size. In our case it’s 16 inches. There are any number of places on the internet to convert inches to millimetres. But I’ll do it for you this time. Just this once, ok.

16 inches = 406.4mm

So our total tyre diameter is 213.75mm + 406.4mm + 213.75mm = 833.9mm

When talking about tyre diameter, most people talk in inches for some weird reason. So then we convert 833.9mm back into inches… Which comes to 32.83 inches.

The second method would be to visit a website that does it all for you. Like this one at RimsNTires.com, or this one at ExploreOz.

But hang on… You’ve seen tyres measurements that don’t seem to look like this at all! You’re right! Sometimes tyres are measured only in inches!

So for example your tyre might be a 33×11.5R16. In this case, 33 inches is the total diameter of the tyre in inches. 11.5 is the width of the tyre, and R16 is the rim size. If you did the calculations, you’d find that it’s very close to our original example of 285/75R16

Other tyre talk

Some other terms you’ll hear when people are talking about tyres are:

Carcass – According to etyres.co.uk, the tyre carcass is basically the black bit, including the tread, the sidewall, the steel belts if there are any and everything else.

Tread – This is the bit that keeps you stuck to the road. There are all different kinds of tread for all different types of terrain.

Sidewall – This is the side of the tyre. The bit you kick when you’re telling people about your tyres. it keeps the tread away from the rim.

Bead – This is the part of the tyre that comes into contact with the rim. You’ll hear people talking about popping the bead off the rim. This basically means that their tyre has come off the rim and all the air has escaped. It can be difficult to get it back on again if you don’t know what you’re doing.

Footprint – This is the area of the tyre that comes into contact with the ground. One of the best 4wd tricks to get you further is to reduce your tyre pressure. This increases the foot print of your tyre and gives you more traction.

Profile – The tyre profile is the aspect ratio. The height of the sidewall.

That’s basically it really. There are many more terms that you might come across but these are probably the most common.

 

*Feature Image from ExploreOz

4wd Rims and Tyres explained – Rims

Cooper Tyres Prado - Fraser Island

4wd Rims and Tyres

How often have you talked to a 4wd enthusiast about their 4wd rims and tyres? Have you managed to make head or tail of what they say?

Have you ever seen a post on a forum asking for advice about what 4wd rims and tyres to run? The strings of numbers that people come out with are sometimes harder to follow than the ideas of Sheldon Cooper from the Big Bang Theory!

If I said to you that “My 4wd rims and tyres are a set of 285/75/R16s on a 16 x 7.5 steel rim with a +10 offset” (which I don’t by the way) would that send you stark screaming crazy?

If that sounds like you then read on and maybe I can clear some of it up for you. Firstly, lets start with 4wd Rims.

4wd Rims Explained

So firstly lets start with the basics. There are essentially two types of 4wd rims; Alloy and Steel.

The difference between Alloy and Steel Rims

Alloy and Steel rims are pretty easy to tell apart. Most modern 4wd rims now days are alloy. With the movement towards soccer mums and urban four wheel drives that never leave the bitumen, alloy rims have more visual appeal. They’re usually silver and shiny and look nice. According to Drive.com.au and Jax Quickfit Tyres, the main differences between alloy’s and steelies are:

  • Alloy rims are made of lightweight metal alloys (hence the name)
  • Because they’re lighter, they have less rotational resistance and therefore allow the vehicle to accelerate faster
  • Alloy wheels shed heat better than steel wheels
  • Alloy rims tend to be stronger
  • Alloy rims have a lower melting temperature.
  • Alloys are usually much more expensive

Another thing to keep in mind when 4 wheeling, is that if you damage an alloy rim, then it may be more difficult to repair out in the bush. Or in fact at all. On the other hand, if your steel rim is dented or deformed, then you can generally tap (bash) it back into shape.

So what’s best for us 4wd enthusiasts? Well that’s up to you really. 4wd Action have compared alloy vs steel rims. The article  goes into a bit more detail to help you make up your mind.

What does Stud Pattern mean

Very basically, the stud pattern of a rim is how many nuts you have to undo to change your tyre. Most 4wd rims have either 5 or 6 studs, or nuts, that hold them on. Understand? Pretty simple really, right?

Well there is actually more to it than just that. A stud patter is expressed as two numbers.

So for example, on a rim that has an even number of bolt holes, a stud pattern of something like 6 x 125 would mean that there are 6 bolt holes and the distance between the centres of opposite bolts is 125mm.

On a rim with an odd number of bolt holes, for example 5 x 125, there are obviously 5 bold holes. But the measurement of 125 is taken from the back side of one bolt hole, to the centre of the most opposite bolt hole. Confused? Take a look at the pictures. They’re worth a thousand words. Thanks to Wheel-Size.com.

6 bolt stud pattern – Measure from centre to centre

5 bold stud pattern – Measure from the back of one to the centre of the most opposite one

 

Wheel Bold Patters

4wd Rim size

The size of your Rim is measured usually in inches and is made up of two parts. The diameter and the width. So in the example at the very top of this page, I mentioned a Rim size of 16 x 7.5. This means that the diameter is 16 inches, and the width is 7.5 inches. That’s not to difficult either right?

Rim Offset

Rim offset is a measure, in millimetres, of the distance between the hub of your rim (where it actually mounts to your car) and the centre line of your rim. Why are diameter and width measured in inches, where offset is measured in millimetres? No idea. If you find out then please comment below!

So imagine you’re looking straight at your tyre as it’s rolling towards you. You’re looking at the tyre tread. Imagine a line drawn from top to bottom, splitting the tyre in two, length-ways. The offset is how far away your hub is from that centre line.

Rim Offset Diagram
Rim offset – http://kgm.tiwing.com/calcs/offsetcalc.htm

There are three kinds of offset.

  • Positive offset – A positive offset means that your hub sits outside the centre line if your rim. Effectively this pulls your tyres back in towards your vehicle. It also makes the rim appear ‘flatter’ from the outside.
  • Zero offset – A zero offset means that your hub sits exactly on that centre line of your rim.
  • Negative offset – A negative offset means that your hub sits inside the centre line of your rim. So closer to your car. This effectively pushes your tyre out away from your vehicle giving your car a wider stance. Your rim will appear more ‘bucket-like’. Or hollow.

The image to the right shows this perfectly. Note that the right hand side of each rim in the picture is the outer side. The one that you’d be able to see if it were on a car.

4wd Rims

That basically explains 4wd Rims for you. Hopefully you’re a little less confused about the whole thing now. If I say to you that “I run a set of 285/75/R16s on a 16 x 7.5 steel rim with a +10 offset”, at least you’ll be able to decipher half of it now.

Take a look at my article about Tyres. Then you’ll be a full bottle!

 

*Featured image – Cooper Tyres Prado – Fraser Island

MaxTrax Paper 4wd Models

MaxTrax Paper 4wd

While cruising around the internet the other day, I stumbled across the coolest thing. The awesome people at MaxTrax have provided us with a way to pass an hour or so of time when we’re not out in our exploring.

And I’m talking about their paper 4wd models! What a great idea!

MaxTrax have created two downloadable PDFs that you can print on your home printer. You then get out your scissors and glue and a bit of patience and start creating.

There is an FJ Cruiser with optional bulbar and spare tyre on the back, and a twin set of MaxTrax. There is also a 100 series Land Cruiser with a bunch of accessories such as dual spare tyres, a snorkel, and awning, a bull bar, a rear bar, spotties and shovels.

Both models used to be available from the MaxTrax website below. But they don’t seem to be around anymore which is very sad.
http://www.maxtrax.com.au/maxtrax-fj-cruiser-paper-model

I decided initially to put the FJ Cruiser together because it looked simpler. I’ll do the 100 series cruiser next. If you’re going to have a go at it then here are a couple of tips.

  1. Print the PDFs in colour. I really can’t see the point in making black and white ones, right?
  2. Print onto good quality paper. Or even something a little thicker. Not quite cardboard, but whatever goes through your printer.
  3. Cut accurately. I accidentally cut part of the rear bumper off my FJ Cruiser. Not really a big deal but if you’re going to go to all that effort, then you want it to come out OK.
  4. Take your time and do it right. Once again, if you’re going to do it, you may as well get a good result.
  5. Have fun!

Here are some photos of my end result. I’m pretty happy with it!

MaxTrax Paper 4wd

MaxTrax Paper 4wd

MaxTrax Paper 4wd