Owning a 4 Wheel Drive Vehicle in Malaysia – What You Should Know

If you like going off-road, fishing, camping or just owning a muscle car that is safe for you and your family, then you would probably have thought of getting a 4×4 vehicle. But before you go out and purchase one, there are some things you should know.

Most of the 4×4 vehicles on the market that are designed for the purposes listed above are of the 2.5 or 3.0 litre capacity. Your first concern would be the cost of road-tax. Unlike a small capacity car that has a road-tax cost of around RM150 to RM300 a year, the cost of a 2.5 litre vehicle is more than RM800, while the road-tax cost for a 3.0 is more than RM1,600. The insurance depends on the value of the car and can be more than RM2,000 per year. If that’s not a constraint on your budget, then you should enjoy owning either a SUV version or a truck for your adventures.

If you like really rough and tough off-roading, you should probably go for a pre-owned vehicle to avoid the heartache when you go through terrain that puts scratches on the paintwork. Although some of these vehicles may be more than 20 years of age, you have to remember that they were made to last.

If your intention is light off-road use, then you could go for a new or relatively new vehicle that will last you for many years to come.

Although there are many makes and models of SUV and pickup trucks, not all are 4×4. Some are 4×2 models that are intended for businesses to carry heavy loads on the roads. Also, there are some all-wheel drive vehicles that are designed for great road-holding but will not fare well in rough terrain.

What’s the difference between an all-wheel drive (AWD), 2-wheel drive (4×2), and a 4-wheel drive (4×4)?

As the name suggests, an AWD is driven by all 4 wheels without the option of switching to two wheel drive. A 4×2 is only driven by 2 wheels. A 4×4 is usually powered by 2 wheels but allows you the option of using all 4 wheels when the need arises, especially in rough terrain with rocks, loose sand and mud. If any wheel gets stuck, the other 3 will help get the vehicle out and moving. However, you should never engage 4-wheel drive when driving on the roads. Please note that even though an AWD has all 4 wheel being driven, it is not meant for rough off road driving.

A standard 4×4 will get you to most places that a car cannot reach. If you want to go to the hard to reach areas, then you will need to do certain modifications to your vehicle. The most important will be to raise your vehicle by means of a body-lift or a suspension-lift. A body-lift involves lifting the body off the chassis by means of suspension blocks. A suspension-lift raises the entire vehicle by means of spacers on both the front and rear suspensions, or by fitting longeer absorbers and springs. The purpose of lifting is so that bigger tyres can be fitted allowing the vehicle to pass over rocks, potholes and mud without the underside of the vehicle getting damaged or stuck.

Heavy duty side-steps attached to the chassis helps protect the sides of your vehicle in rocky or narrow trails where you might scrape the sides of hills. You can also jack up the vehicle under the side-steps in case of getting stuck in a hole or when a puncture occurs.

Metal bull-bars replacing the front and rear bumpers are good protection, but it is up to you if you want to fit them. Some people do not want to add the additional weight to their vehicles as these metal bumpers are quite heavy. If you do opt for a bull-bar, ensure that it is designed to allow you to fit a winch.

A heavy duty winch is a very useful piece of equipment to help free your vehicle or hep get it up steep slopes when driving up on 4-wheel drive fails. A 9,500 lbs. winch is good enough for most vehicles. This is also optional as you can usually be towed by another vehicle when you travel in a group.

A snorkel helps protect your engine from water as well as lets cleaner air in due to the elevated position of intake. A snorkel also gives better performance.

Tyres are important in getting your vehicle through rough terrain. Standard factory models are usually fitted with highway terrain (HT) tyres. All terrain (AT) tyres allow you to get through some of the off-road trails but mud terrain (MT) tyres will do the job for almost all conditions. The cost of tyres can be anywhere from RM400 to more than RM1,000 per piece depending on make and model.

The cost of these modifications can cost anywhere from RM15,000 to more than RM50,000 for the more rugged modifications. Usually you can do them part by part until your vehicle is fully equipped for the purpose of your choice.

Finally, you may be wondering about the fuel costs. Owning a petrol version can be quite costly. A diesel version on the other hand can be much lower. Some of the newer 4×4 vehicles these days have about the same fuel costs as some of the saloon cars running on petrol.

Before you make your final decision as to the make and model, browse a few forums to get the feedback of other 4×4 owners.

Happy off-road adventures!