What Kind of Engine Should You Swap Into Your Off-Road Rig?

In the off-road world, everyone knows you don’t need a showroom-fresh vehicle to rub shoulders on the trail. In fact, one of the most unique things about off-roading is that you can modify just about any vehicle to fit your needs. From trucks to SUVs, off-roaders can build the 4×4 of their dreams to travel any terrain they want.

There’s not a one-size-fits-all solution when it comes to picking the best off-road engine for your vehicle during the rebuild process. However, there are a few main areas you will need to bear in mind. Let’s take a look at the main criteria to consider during the selection process.


When you’re out on the trail, your fun only lasts as long as your fuel tank does. Your engine swap depends on how far and how long you’ll want to stray from civilization when off-roading. For this reason, some off-roaders stick to smaller four cylinder engines rather than more powerful V6 or V8 engines if fuel-efficiency is a priority for them.

Fuel mileage is also the main reason a lot of off-road enthusiasts choose diesel engines over gasoline. Diesel vehicles are far more fuel-efficient, containing 10% to 15% more energy than gasoline and traveling 20% to 35% farther on a gallon than their gasoline counterparts. Though diesel vehicles are more expensive to maintain, most buyers believe the fuel efficiency and durability are worth the extra cost.


Are you planning on crawling through rough terrain at low speeds? If so, high low-end torque will be critical for keeping the engine from working too hard when you need to maintain momentum without a lot of speed. High low-end torque doesn’t need a lot of revolutions per minute, which means you don’t need to press as hard on the throttle to keep your vehicle moving forward—or upward.

Having the right amount of torque is often the key to getting yourself out of difficult situations off road. Off roaders don’t need acceleration as much as they need force. Big-block diesel engine swaps shine here because they produce powerful torque at low engine speeds. This gives you more control in low-traction situations, which by definition, is most off roading!

Reliability and Easy Fixes

Once you have decided the level of power and fuel efficiency you want from your off-road vehicle, another area that will help narrow down your engine options is to categorize them by how reliable they will be as well as how simple they will be to fix.

Do you have a better idea about what you want from your off-road engine? At Crossley’s, we know there is more to building an engine than simply picking out parts. Give us a call to discuss your project—we’ll create a custom engine design that is sure to exceed your expectations.

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