Mudding, or, as some folks over in Canada call it, mud bogging or mud drags, is an incredibly fun and popular sport. Basically, you have to push through the mud behind the wheel of your truck/SUV. And, the first driver to cross the finish line gets the price. However, to participate, you’ll need a lot more than just a regular vehicle with four wheels and a mediocre engine. I’m talking about building a mud truck, of course.
You gotta commit, because that will take a lot of time, energy, and big bucks. Mud drivers swap the factory tires, brakes, suspension, and engine with aftermarket goodies. Without the proper equipment/gear, you won’t be able to compete with fellow “mudders”. So, let’s get right to it. We’ll start with customizing the wheels, and go from there.
There’s no conquering any muddy trails unless you’ve got a set of larger-than-life wheels. That’s right: if you’re serious about mudding, you’ll need at least 35-inch tires to make this work. Most experts claim that 38-40 inches is the sweet spot, and I couldn’t agree more. As for the tire pressure, there are no 100% wrong or right settings. I’d recommend starting with 2-3 PSI in the back and 5-10 PSI in the front to get things going.
For optimal results, you might have to try different combinations before finding the perfect one. The rule of thumb here should be lower PSI when it’s wet outside and a bit higher when the road is dry. When you drop the pressure in the tires, you get more traction and better control over the road. A quick note: owners of lightweight vehicles will greatly benefit from wider wheels, while narrow tires are better with big and heavy trucks and SUVs.
For mudding, the lighter the vehicle, the better, because heavy bodies create a lot of extra work for the powertrain. Another thing to remember: make sure there’s a decent gap between the lugs. Otherwise, the tires will get clogged before you make it to the end of the road. Some drivers even equip their steel horses with kick-out bars for extra protection against mud, snow, slush, dust, and dirt.
It’s safe to say that without a brand-new suspension system to compensate for the monstrous tires, you won’t enjoy the muddy adventures a single bit. First of all, it’s not possible to fit really large tires with the factory suspension – the new wheels will “eat into” the fenders. So, don’t forget to buy a set of spacers (four in total) to achieve a good enough lift. This is important: the stock gear can handle up to 33-inch tires.
For 35-inch wheels, go with 2-3 inches of lift. As for 38-40-inch tires, the lift should be 4-5 inches, or even more. That’s not it for the suspension, though. I highly recommend investing in brand-new control arms. They will greatly improve the ride quality, steering, and maneuverability of the vehicle, no matter how large and tall it is. A pack of shock absorbers should be a part of the deal as well.
As the name suggests, they will absorb most of the harsh impact with the road, dampening the bumps, steep climbs, and more. In my experience, nitrogen-charged shocks are best for mudding, along with long-travel springs. Leaf springs aren’t at all suited for mudding. They require a very, very high lift to be efficient (10-12 inches), which will cost you a lot of money. The installation process will be a pain as well.
The worst thing you can do here is to install a really stiff suspension, as the vehicle will be shaking and wobbling constantly. This is one of the most important tips for building a mud truck: make sure the suspension is up to the task. Otherwise, it will ruin all the fun.
No, the stock brakes won’t cut it for a muddy road, no matter how happy you are with them on the road. Vehicles behave differently on city streets, highways, rocky terrain, and muddy trails. That’s exactly why you’ll need a new set of brakes. Big trucks and SUVs put a lot of pressure both on the axles and the brakes. Therefore, they should be sturdy, durable, and include protection against rust/corrosion, and mud.
And don’t forget to grease the axles before joining the competition! The #1 job of the axles is to support the weight of the car. They also play a huge part in improving steering, handling, and making the driver feel like they are in control. As for the brakes, most experienced “mudders” claim that discs are a far better choice than drums. They just perform better.
And what about the engine – can you ride out with the factory unit, or not? Well, not quite: the new brakes, suspension lift, and bigger tires require a really strong engine. In mudding, torque is even more important than raw power (I’m talking about horsepower). The wheels need enough spin to make it through the toughest layers of mud. Otherwise, you’ll get stuck every step of the way.
So, forget about four-cylinders, and even V6 motors. To enjoy the muddy trails to the fullest, you’ll have to invest in a big, mean, and highly capable V8 unit. When it comes to choosing the right transmission, go with your gut. For example, manual transmission in higher gears provides a bit more “oomph”, which can be very important for a mud truck. On the other hand, an automatic transmission lets you focus on the road and is, overall, smoother.
Wait, why would you even worry about water when you’re behind the wheel of a monster of a truck or SUV? Can it really cause any trouble? Yes, it can, especially to electronics. Mud (the wet and soft kind) mostly consists of water: it can create a short circuit, damaging the electronics and leaving you stranded in the middle of the road. The best remedy against that is silicone.
Use it to safeguard the water-sensitive components so that mud can’t squeeze through and ruin the day. Water can also damage a brand-new set of axles, control arms, and every other part of the suspension system. With that said, the higher the lift, the better, because it will keep all this gear away from the destructive moisture.
As for the engine, if it gets overwhelmed by soft mud, it will stop working. In the worst-case scenario, you’ll have to pay a hefty check to have this fixed. To safeguard the motor, use snorkels and “re-route” the air intake system. Plus, after each race/run, give the vehicle a “bath” and clean it from mud, including the suspension system that gets all the abuse on the road.
And that concludes our journey into the world of mudding. As we learned today, you can’t just go ahead and hit a muddy trail unless you’re prepared for the challenge. Full-size trucks and SUVs are best for this, but they won’t be able to make it too far without the right gear. So, be ready to invest big bucks in a new engine, better suspension, advanced brakes, and a set of big tires.
That’s right: mudding is a rather expensive hobby, but if you’re really passionate about it, the joy of making it through to the finish line will make it well worth it. In this post, we talked about lift kits, axles, brakes, and suspension systems briefly. If you want to learn more, check out my detailed reviews and guides!