Modifications: they're part and parcel of the Australian off-road scene, and what many of us do in the quest for better, more reliable off-road vehicles. While our owned 2017 Nissan Navara SL benefitted greatly from the work we did on suspension and wheels/tyres, there's still scope for some more useful mods. With that in mind, we're back in the workshop for more gear.
The first (and arguably biggest) mod to go on is a bullbar. We opted for the Ironman 4x4 bullbar for a few reasons. I’m a big fan of the bar design, including the sharp angling of the wings. Firstly, it suits the design of the Navara. It’s also well designed for protection, while also giving a great improvement in the approach angle. Cue extra off-road capability.
When the front end gets undressed, you’ll notice how low down the intercooler of a Navara sits. That’s your lowest point, which can’t be improved upon without significant engineering changes. There is no bumper cut required for this bullbar – the front clip is removed and replaced in its entirety.
Comparing stock to modified, you can see that first point of contact in the middle is now better protected, mating up with the factory underbody protection nicely. One look at how much wheel-arch liner gets cut off in this install, shows you how vastly improved the approach angle is in front of the wheels – it’s a vast improvement.
If you’re looking to up the ante once again, you can opt for some stronger underbody protection from a variety of aftermarket providers. We’re going to stick with the stock stuff and see how it goes.
Another advantage of going to a bullbar is the ability to add more gear onto your vehicle. One of which, if you’re travelling solo or taking on some challenging tracks, is a very sound idea – a winch.
With a bullbar going on, we are taking this fine opportunity to fit up a winch to the CarAdvice Navara. Although you can opt for 12,000lb units and steel cable, we are going for a 9500lb winch and synthetic rope.
Synthetic rope is a great idea for recreational 4WDers. It has a significant saving in weight over steel cable, and is a safer proposition under load. Like anything, synthetic rope does have its negatives. It doesn’t deal with abrasion anywhere near as well as steel. Also, you need to keep it away from sharp and rough surfaces, and give it a proper bath in soapy water every once in a while.
You also need to keep in mind UV degradation of synthetic over time. However, good-quality synthetic rope is UV-stabilised and won’t run into issues for at least a decade. When you consider steel cable can kink, fray and rust, synthetic rope is a pretty good long-term proposition.
Our Ironman 4x4 winch weighs 28kg, which is 14kg lighter than a comparable winch with steel wire rope. The winch’s warranty was recently extended from three years to five years, because it’s racked up precious few returns over the years. Here’s hoping it’s a reliable unit for us, because there’s nothing worse than a dead winch when you need it most.
Let’s talk weight: 9500lb of pulling capacity equals 4309kg. That’s more than the Navara’s GVM of 2910kg, but less than the 5910kg GCM. Considering the winch might have to pull you through thick mud or soft sand that effectively increases the weight of the dead pull, you could outstrip that 4309kg rating.
On trips where big loads on the winch might be a possibility, having the gear and knowledge to pull off a double-line or triple-line pull should nullify any chance of really overloading the winch. Never leave home without a well-stocked recovery kit, and of course don’t forget to give your winch cool-down intervals under hard use.
Another essential bit of gear for a touring 4WD is a snorkel, or at least some kind of raised air intake. The benefits are obvious: moving that inlet up higher for an engine that’s sucking in the big ones means there’s less likelihood of water and dust getting in.
We were told by the installers that along with a Volkswagen Amarok, the D23 Nissan Navara is one of the trickiest and intense installs for a snorkel. The airbox gets modified with a new intake location, and two underbonnet ECUs get relocated with a special bracket. The A-pillar and front guard get mercilessly attacked by drills and hole saws, meaning you’ll want to be pretty confident in tackling this job at home.
Rounding out the transformation is a rear bar, which replaces the OEM rear bumper and towbar. You could call it a towbar, or a step bar I guess, but know that all of the important things are there: it’s still got a towbar, two tow points (not recovery points), and two slots for your Hi-Lift jack.
This bar has a great design for protection. The bottom is flat for nice sliding ability, and some tubework protects that vulnerable rear quarter section of the tub really nicely. Our larger (265/75R16) Toyo Rugged Terrain still fits underneath as well.
While the Navara now looks great, all of these mods are done for practical reasons: better off-road capability and general durability in the bush. Panels are much less likely to come off second best to a rock or tree now, and we’ve got additional clearance to take on some challenging tracks.