While SUV accessories are meant to enhance your vehicle's capabilities given the right environment, they do more harm than good when installed with no purpose.
Contrary to popular belief, the SUV is a relatively new concept. While the go-anywhere, carry-everything vehicle type that we ‘call’ an SUV has been around since the Western war-time era, the use of the term SUV or sport utility vehicle only came about as a marketing gimmick by American company executives in the 80s. Back when SUVs were still known as utilitarian terms like a 4-wheeler, off-roader or station/utility wagons, these types of vehicles were a necessity to cross rugged terrains and traverse unknown territories of allies or enemies. Fast forward 40 to 50 years in the future and the vehicles known as SUVs have become more luxuries, more comfortable and more suited to adapt to their new urban lifestyles. So naturally, with the onset of better SUVs and more disposable income, people started willingly venturing out into the wild. This is where the birth of true SUV accessories lie. They were bolt-on parts which increased your SUVs capability in one way or the other, helping you get farther away from the monotony of domesticated lifestyles. Eventually more and more of these rugged, purpose-built accessories started finding their way onto SUVs of city slickers which have never even once stepped out of their comfort zone. All for the purpose of aesthetics. While subtle modifications can still be forgiven, there are some SUV owners who can’t help themselves to take these mods to over the limit. Today, we’ll be counting down a list of common SUV accessories which may make you look good but serve no real purpose and you should avoid. We’ll also be pointing their true purpose, so you can rest easy if you have one of these installed on your SUV but are using it in its right way.
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The purpose of bull-bars started in countries like Australia and USA where owners of these big-burly off-road vehicles, not only muck around in dirt and bush trails but also travel great distances in order to get there. These make complete sense when speed limits are high and chances of animal strikes on these roads are equally high. Yes, I agree we have plenty of animals scattered on roads but we don’t go nearly as fast to actually justify the use of a bull bar. In fact, if installed incorrectly, the bull bar can end up doing more harm to your car than good. You see, a bar’s anchor points are bolted straight to the chassis and are purpose-built to protect vital engine components from damage, which means not only do they sacrifice the chassis’ health in doing so but also mess with the forward impact sensors of your car’s airbags. Therefore, if you did have an impact on our roads in your brawny SUV, chances are that you might now need to replace or repair a chassis, replace your electronic sensors and get new airbags. All this, as opposed to replacing some damaged aesthetic parts like a bumper and a plastic front grille if you didn’t have a bull bar to end up doing all that damage in the front.
Auxiliary light bars
If you have never been overlanding, you are definitely missing out a crucial experience in one’s life. However, the purpose of overlanding is to endure through thick and thin, be it day or night. For this and this purpose only is where the use of the first auxiliary lights came into play. They were needed when your standard halogen bulbs on your stock headlight just weren't enough to provide illumination to save you from going over a cliff, when in the unknown and surrounded by complete darkness. India is a country where we first abused the power of high-beam capabilities of our headlights and now we’re throwing in roof-mounted blindingly-bright lights to the mix. The electronics on a modern day car are the backbones of its functioning, it also happens to be a key area of neglect by the mechanics in our country. Not only is it a bad idea to fiddle around with the electronics, but it also happens to be illegal to have illumination lights placed above the height of headlamps, in use, on public streets.
Snorkel type air intakes
The importance of breathing in air is as important to your car, as it is for you. Just like we breathe in air to help us break up our food to use as energy, cars operate quite similarly. The air intake is responsible to take in all the oxygen it needs to burn up fuel (the car’s food) and use it as a source of energy for propulsion. Now, what happens if you try to breathe in air under water? That is the reason, serious off-roaders swear by the use of snorkel-type air intakes. They know they will be driving across small lakes and rivers where the level of water will be well above the bumper level. This is why snorkels are installed well above the arches of the wheels to give these SUVs as much depth wading capacity as possible, much higher than they need than at stock height level. However, use of these snorkel in SUVs which never have and never will go off-road isn’t just a serious automotive crime and illegal, it actually collects more sand, water and debris when left uncovered. So not only will you have to clean it more but also be careful about the easy entry into breather pipes.
Lowered or raised suspensions
When manufacturers decide to develop a car, each and every configuration has to be tested with each and every car part in order to determine what is the exact right fit for that vehicle. This is an expensive and labour-intensive process which the car manufacturers have to carry out in order to achieve exactly the right balance between car capability and conformity to government safety regulations. So, if you have an SUV with a certain height, that means it has been tested and optimised to function with its configured set up. Serious off-road junkies and natives of villages with remote access definitely have a need to alter and raise their car’s ride height, on the other hand, Monty, your city-dwelling show-off of a neighbour doesn’t. Not only is it now illegal, but the danger of toppling over is a very serious threat to occupants safety when driving in the kind of fast-paced roads that we usually do in urbanised areas.
Lowering your SUVs suspension, on other hand, serves no purpose at all and needs to be protested against. The mod is meant for race cars to sit lower, and at high speeds, divert the air around the vehicle rather than under avoid aerodynamic lift. In an SUV, it robs the vehicle of its basic purpose and if you feel you need to lower your off-road vehicles to make it faster, I recommend smaller, more nimble and overall, cheaper alternatives. Either a hatchback, a coupe or even a sedan - any of these three are faster to begin with anyway.
Oversized, knobby tyres
Like the suspension, the size and kind of tyres that manufacturers have decided to choose when launching a new car is a decision taken after many thorough tests. From real world development to specially designed offroad testing facilities, every manufacturer goes to high hoops to choose the right tyre which provides the right balance between ride and handling, performance and fuel efficiency. Knobby tyres have one purpose and, in all fairness to them, they are very good at it - that is to give SUVs the best traction possible is the worst conditions possible. However, using these tyres on SUVs that are forced to ply on just city streets is not only risky but very harmful for your car. These SUVs will not only take a hit in fuel efficiency but also end up causing serious damage to its suspension and drivetrain components.
Oversized alloy wheels
Alloy wheels on race cars not only look good but have a very important task of reducing unsprung mass. However, they have no purpose other than to look good on mass-produced cars. Then there are those that choose to fit oversized alloy wheels on their SUVs in the bid to stand out from the crowd. This can be dangerous as alloy wheels are meant to provide lightweight alternatives to the rugged steel construction generally used for building off-road ready wheels for SUVs. Therefore, a very sharp bump or deep pothole can end up causing precious damage to your expensive alloys. Add to that is the fact that the government has now banned any alloys larger than the ones the manufacturer specified in your registration and any plus-sized alloys become an automatic big no-no in our country.
When going too far away places and in general overlanding trips, adventurers who are also car enthusiasts generally tend to prefer sleeping in car roof-mounted tents. For general ingress and egress from and into these tents, they like to use the convenience of ladder installed conveniently at the back for easy reach. However, the recent trend of accessorizing SUVs has also included the use of these adventure ladders fitted to provide the aesthetics of an adventure vehicle without the actual adventure bit involved. They serve no real purpose and end up looking rather cheap than enticing.
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