How high is high enough when venturing off-road? This is a very valid question, however, to answer that question, you need to determine what type of off-roading you plan on doing since it’s purely a case of horses for courses. Dunes vs rock crawling vs graded mountain tracks will require vastly different configurations and the minimum ground clearance will differ substantially.
Recommended ground clearances:
Table of Contents
Minimum Clearance Explained
Ground Clearance refers to the minimum ride height of the vehicle. It is one of the most basic but very important dimensions of a vehicle used for off-roading and Overlanding. Ground clearance is measured as the minimum distance between the lowest part of the vehicle and the road surface.
Ride height is measured from the lowest hanging component of the vehicle i.e. the subassembly or differential or chassis and the ground.
If you are not intending on doing any serious rock crawling, 4×4 trails, or deep ruts, this is usually referred to as soft-roading. Well in this instance you can get away with a lot less clearance. However, other factors will influence how deep into the mountain you can venture. Read How much lift is required to fit 33-inch tires.
The approach angle signifies the maximum angle between the lowest part of the front bumper and an obstacle. A vehicle with a low approach angle risks scraping or damaging the front bumper and undercarriage when tackling obstacles. It dictates the steepest slope or obstacle a vehicle can climb without bumping or scraping its front bumper.
The departure angle is measured from the vehicle’s rear lowest point as it exits an obstacle. A low departure angle can lead to snagging or damage to the rear, possibly causing the rear plastic bumper to tear off.
It signifies the steepest descent a vehicle can manage without scraping or hitting its rear bumper against rocks or slopes. Enhancements like a lift kit and larger tires can significantly improve this angle.
The break-over angle is the angle formed between the front and rear wheels and the vehicle’s lowest middle point. Imagine an invisible triangle viewed from the vehicle’s side, encompassing the wheels and chassis.
It signifies the steepest crest a vehicle can conquer without getting stuck at the center. Enhancing ground clearance, particularly by increasing tire size, enhances break-over angles.
The most important vehicle requirement, in my view, for “soft-roading” is decent all-terrain tires. Soft-roading is not as demanding as many people think it is, but whenever you are off-road, you’d be wiser to err on the side of caution if you do not have a mate to recover you.
Ground Clearance Needed For 4×4 Without Risking Damage
How you measure or determine ground clearance can be done in 2 ways. Measure from the chassis or measure from the diff housing. The distance between the chassis and the wheels will be reduced when you include the weight of additional fuel, passengers, and other offroad gear.
Ground clearance is only reduced from the diff or axle housing once you start deflating your tires.
Below is a list of popular off-road 4×4 vehicles and their factory standard ground clearance measurements. The improved ground clearance will allow you to clear rocks and other obstacles much easier. Ground clearance measurements, break-over angles, and your vehicle’s off-road capability can be increased in 3 ways.
- Taller Tires
- Suspension Lift
- Body Lift
The below table has been sorted from highest to lowest ground clearance.
|Jeep Gladiator 2020
|11.1 inches (281mm)
|Toyota Hilux 2019
|10.9 inches (279mm)
|Jeep Wrangler Rubicon 2019
|10.8 inches (274mm)
|Toyota Tacoma 2019
|9.4 inches (238mm)
|Land Cruiser 200 2019
|9 inches (228mm)
|Ford Ranger 2019
|8.9 inches (226mm)
|VW Amarok v6 2019
|8.8 inches (226mm)
|Jeep Trailhawk 4dr 4×4 2019
|8.7 inches (220mm)
|Dodge Ram 1500 2019
|8.4 inches (213mm)
|Land Rover Discovery Sport 2019
|8.3 inches (210mm)
|Jeep Grand Cherokee 2019
|6.6 inches (167mm)
Ground Clearance For Over-Landing
In overlanding, focus on terrain consideration and ensuring a ground clearance of 8-10 inches for vehicle reliability and passenger safety.
Expedition-grade tires with strong sidewalls are crucial. Beware of overloading your vehicle’s roof racks, maintaining a lower center of gravity.
For better approach and departure angles, consider a body lift, though it won’t increase ground clearance – taller tires do that.
Overlanding emphasizes exploration more than conquering obstacles. Tracks are pathways to explore new destinations, whether on a short weekend trip or a long cross-continent expedition.
Equipment and vehicle customization can range from basic to extravagant, depending on budget and personal overlanding philosophy, aiming to explore history, wildlife, culture, scenery, and self-sufficiency.
How Much Difference Does Ground Clearance Make Off-Road
When embarking on challenging off-road adventures, ensuring sufficient ground clearance between the vehicle chassis and the terrain is crucial. Inadequate clearance may result in costly underbody damage when encountering rocks or obstacles, risking harm to body panels, brake lines, and the oil sump.
The level of clearance required depends on the intensity of the off-roading activities planned; more extreme terrains necessitate higher ground clearance.
Technical off-road terrain can be enjoyed throughout any outdoor journey, and you as the explorer might be in search of a challenging route or track to test your skills and the capabilities of your vehicle as part of your experience, but overland travel is not the same as “weekend warrior” and recreational “four-wheeling”.
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