Before You Spend Your Hard Earned Money on 6th Gen Bronco Mods, These are the Top 5 Things to Consider
After months of waiting, countless iterations of how you envision modifying your Bronco, and more eye rolls from your significant other than you can count, the day is finally here. Your new Ford Bronco is in your driveway and ready for the mods to start rolling in.
But what first? A rack? A lift? Wheels and tires? With so many things to do to one of the most modular vehicles ever offered by Ford, the options are almost limitless. But there are a few things that you need to consider before you delve into the world of modifications.
1. What’s The Primary Use?
The Bronco is such a capable and versatile vehicle, so it is almost impossible to say that it is only going to do one thing. A vehicle, by nature, will fill multiple roles. But the first thing you need to do is think about why you got the Bronco in the first place. It could be as simple as you like the looks or maybe you had one in the past and nostalgia got the best of you. But I would imagine there is a purpose beyond that.
Do you plan to go Overlanding? Is it going to be an off roader? Is it going to spend all its time on paved roads hauling the family from A to B? If you are anything like me, while you were waiting for your Bronco to arrive, you were dreaming of the experience that your Bronco was going to allow you to have. What is that experience you are seeking?
The Bronco’s secondary and tertiary purpose and the associated mods may overlap heavily with the primary purpose, but having this clearly defined will help you prioritize what to do and when to do it.
2. Testing & Learning Before Modding
What is preventing you from using it as such right now?
So now that you have defined what your Bronco is going to be to you, it is time to use your Bronco for that purpose. The MOST IMPORTANT thing you can do before modifying your Bronco is to use it the way you intend to and identify its deficiencies. Get it out on the trails, load it up with all your gear, take a long road trip. USE it.
Whatever it is you do, really analyze your experience with it. What could make the Bronco better for this purpose, and even more important, is there anything that prevented you from being able to fully use it for what you want? If something stopped you from being able to use your rig the way you wanted, then this is going to be the first thing that you need to tackle.
For example, I knew that my Bronco was going to be my Overland rig, so after I took delivery, I packed it up and headed to the mountains for an overnighter. Typically, I use a roof top tent but for this trip, since I did not have a roof rack, I slept in the Bronco. This experience taught me a couple of things. One, I already knew I needed a roof rack and after sleeping inside of the Bronco, the need for a rack was solidified. But two, space and organization, specifically while cooking, was something that desperately needed to be addressed.
On this trip I also discovered that the lighting was wildly insufficient for anything other than perfect conditions. I knew it was something that I was going to do eventually, but having taken it out and used it the way I knew I was going to, I now knew where to focus my efforts. I knew what the biggest gaps were that needed to be addressed first and I knew what other areas I might be able to improve at the same time.
3. Common Terrain Types
What is the most common terrain/environment you will be in?
We have an incredible amount of land to explore throughout North America. It varies widely from flat, featureless desserts, to the tall, snowy peaks of the Mountains and everything in between. Trails may be well taken care of in your area, or they may be unmaintained and heavily wash boarded. They could be super muddy and wet, or they could be extremely rocky. The environment itself could be very hot and dry, or it could be freezing temps that experience a lot of snow and ice. These are all the things to consider when modifying your rig.
The most obvious example of how the terrain affects your modifications is the wheels and tires. I spend most of my time on forest roads that are maintained but also can have aggressive wash boards on them. The spur roads are typically grassy from disuse, muddy, and overgrown. I see very few large rocks or major obstacles that would require me to upgrade to larger tires. However, if you are in a place like Utah where rock ledges are abundant, stepping up to 37” tires or larger may be more appropriate for you.
There are less obvious things that need to be considered as well. For example, if you are primarily in a hot environment, it may be important for you to consider an escape for yourself from the sun so an awning may be high on your list. Maybe you are also rock crawling or doing high speed Baja runs in this harsh climate. If so, you may need to upgrade your cooling system to better handle the demands you put on it.
Tires are something that I want to touch on again really quick before we move on. The first set of tires I got were BFGoodrich K02s which everyone raves about. They are an excellent tire for most people and most conditions. However, for me in the environment that I found myself in the most, they were underwhelming. I found that the performance of the tires in the rain and on the road were not what I needed. I felt the front end push a lot. I moved to Falken Wildpeaks, and it solved this issue and still performed amazing off road. Just because a solution works for one person, doesn’t necessarily mean it will work for you and the terrain and environment is going to influence that, so do not overlook this aspect.
4. Overlanding Solo or With a Family?
How many people/how much gear does your Bronco need to be able to Accommodate?
Most of the time, I travel solo in my Bronco. But on occasion, my wife, my two-year-old son, and my two 80-pound dogs will accompany me on a trip. When that is the case, we ground tent it. If you have a toddler, you also know that packing for them takes up a lot of room as well. So when I think about all the gear that I need to take along with my family and how I pack it all in, it is a drastically different solution for when I am going out solo.
A solo trip is easy. I have two totes with all my camping gear that I throw in the back along with my Iceco Fridge (https://youtu.be/f7D3_ooNIyc) and I am good to go. When the family comes, I no longer have that space for gear, so I start to look to the outside of the Bronco for storage. The iKamper skycamp mini comes off the roof and two ROAM 95L rugged cases take its place. They are able to house most of the gear, including the tent and chairs that we will need, with some smaller personal items being stored in the Bronco. The fridge moves from the very back, just behind the driver’s seat, opposite my son’s car seat.
This also means that I cant permanently mount my fridge and I can’t have a drawer system in the rig, as much as I want to, because it would take up too much vertical space for when my dogs are back there. Had I not fully thought all of this through and used my rig before modding it, I very likely would have ended up with a drawer system that would have to come out.
5. Drivability and Warranty
How will these mods affect its drivability and Warranty?
This one is frustrating, I’m not going to lie, but it is something that really needs to be considered. Dealers and shops are in it to make money and there is very little money in warranty work so it is not uncommon for a shop to point at a modification as the reason something as failed in order to bill you directly at a higher rate.
Suspension is not something that inherently voids your warranty, but it does change the geometry of various points in your suspension and drivetrain. It is not uncommon for a shop to point to these things in order to deny a warranty claim. CV or half shafts is a really good example of this as the added angle increases wear on the bearings causing premature failure.
There are other things that will void your warranty as soon as you do it. An engine tune is a pretty obvious one, but an intercooler upgrade, something I didn’t think would affect your warranty, will void it immediately. This one doesn’t make sense to me because you are actually improving the efficiency of the motor and the intercoolers cooling ability, but the fact is, is it will void your warranty.
There are also modifications that will affect the way your Bronco Drives and suspension is a good example of that. While it greatly improves the performance off-road, it can compromise handling and braking characteristics of your Bronco while on-road. After market suspension can be quite a bit softer than your stock setup which helps a lot with comfort and performance off-road, but that can lead to excessive body lean or poor braking performance due to the weight not being as supported as from the factory. The topic of suspension is a fair greater topic than I have time here, but this is a good example of a modification potentially negatively affecting the on-road drivability.
So consider these things before your modifications begin. Even if it doesn’t directly void your warranty, consider what a dealer might say if something were to happen and decide if that is a fight or cost you are willing to take on.
If you only get one thing from this article, please let it be this. Test your vehicle and define its deficiencies based on YOUR needs prior to spending any money on modifications. By getting out and using your vehicle before modifying it, you will be able to prioritize your modifications. This also allows you to make more informed decisions on what specific modifications you choose.
It is really easy to get caught up in social media and what everyone is doing with their Bronco and want the same for yours. But everyone else is not you. They don’t have the same needs as you might. And the ONLY way you are going to figure out what they are exactly is by simply using your rig.