Ford Raptor Upgrades – A Primer
All generations of the Ford Raptor come from the factory as supremely capable off-roaders, able to tackle almost every task the average consumer would take on without any qualms or complaints. And, since they’re still Fords at the end of the day, there are tons of parts, accessories, and upgrades available for an owner who would like to tailor their Raptor to be a little more specific to their actual uses.
Generally, most folks tend to use their Raptors primarily for recreation and outdoor pursuits: camping, trail driving, overlanding, transporting boats, and visiting rugged places in general. Ford has already given the Raptor a leg up over the standard F-150 for these types of things by including upgraded Fox suspension and All-Terrain BF Goodrich tires, but like any other vehicle, there’s always room for more accessories. Raptor owners seeking to add an extra few levels of capability to their rigs should consider the below upgrades.
One of the most useful upgrades on any adventure rig is a set of high-clearance bumpers. Versus the stock articles, the first thing one will notice is that they obviously lend the truck more favorable approach and departure angles for clearing obstacles. There are other benefits to upgrading your bumpers that might not be readily apparent, though. Most aftermarket bumpers for the Raptor provide extra, pre-fabricated mounting points to install auxiliary lights to use on the trail – but more on those in a little bit. You’ll also commonly find the ability to mount a winch. Anyone who’s ever used a winch in the field will tell you that if you have to even use it once, it has paid for itself. Drivers who live in the snowier states are likely already used to seeing these being used to extract vehicles that have slid off the road, or being used as a “come along” when out having fun with friends, driving through a mud puddle that’s just a little too deep. Cosmetically, they look aggressive, and most show off your front Fox struts a little better than normal.
There are just as many, benefits to upgrading your rear bumper as well. As with the front, you’ll gain an increased departure angle to help traverse rough terrain and a few extra places to stick auxiliary lights to help you when backing up (or simply setting up camp in the dark). Nearly every bumper on the market offers these basic features, but if you do a little looking, you can find a bumper equipped with one or two swingouts to mount a spare and gas can to. This not only frees up tons of room in the bed, but allows easy access to those items in the case of a blown tire, or simply an emergency fill-up. These swingouts are more commonly seen on Jeeps and Toyotas, but the extra carrying capacity they bring to a pickup can’t be denied. One caveat though – many manufacturers don’t rate their aftermarket rear bumpers for towing use, so be sure to shop around and select one that carries a tow rating, if that’s something you require.
Extra lighting (auxiliary lights) is another upgrade that most can’t live without on a purpose-built off-road rig like the Raptor. While we’ve discussed mounting them to your aftermarket bumpers, there are two other common locations used to install these: at the base of the A-pillars (which are known as “ditch lights”), and at the top of the windshield. Brackets for both locations are readily available from a wide variety of manufacturers such as CBI Off-road and KC Hilites, and from there it’s a simple matter of bolting them in and wiring them up.
Another consideration is the exact pattern of light you’d like, and there are three basic choices that nearly all lighting manufacturers offer. These patterns are referred to as spot, flood, and driving. Spot lights are pretty self-explanatory; they’re designed to throw a tight pattern of light a long ways in front of the driver. These are most often used by those who like to take high-speed desert cruises, where that extra distance provides a bigger safety net to anticipate hazards on the open road. The downside to this is that there isn’t much “spill” to illuminate objects on the shoulders and beyond, so spots generally tend to be paired with a wider beam light in order to make sure the whole environment is evenly illuminated.
Flood lights are the exact opposite of spots; a bright, unfocused curtain of light that doesn’t project very far ahead of the vehicle. These are great for lighting up dense forest roads, and helping shed a little extra light on tight corners or objects off to the side of the road. Again, their weakness is projection; if you need to see a good distance ahead, consider pairing these with some spots, or the next variety we’ll talk about – driving lights.
The pattern of driving lights closely resembles that of normal headlights, in that they employ a horizontal cutoff to prevent light from blinding oncoming traffic. In fact, many driving lights will also carry a Department of Transportation certification, which makes them legal for road use and a good option for lights mounted in the front bumper because of that. These are probably the most well-rounded option, but might fall a little short if you’d like illumination well above the roadway.
Bear in mind that incandescent or halogen bulbs are considered old technology, which draw considerably more amperage than today’s efficient LED bulbs. Therefore, it’s recommended to seek out only LED bulbs in your preferred beam patterns from manufacturers like KC Hilites, Hella, or Auxbeam. Doing so will reduce the load on your alternator and kick out plenty of light. There’s no one cut-and-dried solution to fine-tuning your Raptor’s off-road lights, but keeping the above in mind should help make picking them out a little easier.
If you like the idea of carrying an extra spare and some gas but don’t want either of these things hanging on your bumper, consider a Baja-inspired “chase rack,” which keeps the spare securely mounted in the bed of the truck. Originally, these were designed to service off-road race cars on endurance races in the desert, but if you happen to be out by yourself and would like the peace of mind of a securely-mounted, full-size spare tire, this is a great looking way to go. If giving up most of the room in your bed for a tire isn’t a trade you’d like to make, rest assured – there are an almost endless amount of solutions available for you.
One increasingly popular storage tool for truck beds is to use a lockable cover with drawers. Made of sturdy metal, you get a complete pull-out drawer system to organize anything you want, and still get to keep a functioning bed, as these systems are rated for hundreds of pounds of payload. Diamondback, Decked, and other companies have made this drawer system a regular sight over the past several years. A major benefit to these systems is that they don’t preclude the use of the bed for typical truck things – most can support several hundred pounds, so you can still use your bed to haul mulch, or to ratchet strap a spare tire and gas can, too. These products also feature tie-down points, so you can safely strap down your effects so they don’t slide around on trail.
A more traditional way to approach the cargo situation is a simple bed topper, like those made by Leer. Available in a variety of heights, they remain very popular on the aftermarket due to the ease of use and peace of mind they provide – simply throw your gear in, lock the topper, and your effects remain both secure and easy to access. You can combine a topper with one of the aforementioned drawer-based storage systems, too; in addition to hauling whatever gear and equipment you might need, folks also frequently use this setup to sleep in (and on), since there’s no setup time for a tent and the topper keeps you out of the weather.
When thoughtfully accessorizing your Ford Raptor, you will need to consider what exactly you would like to accomplish with it, and how you prefer to travel. And, let’s face it, you’ll have to decide what looks cool to you, as well. Thankfully, Blue Oval owners have a plethora of easily-installable options available to them, and Raptor owners specifically. Whatever memories you hope to make in your Raptor, any combination of the above upgrades will help you do so in comfort, convenience, and style.