How to make your raptor reliable for off roading

How to make your raptor reliable for regular offroading 

The Gen 1 (2010-2014) Ford Raptor really is an amazing machine. It has a solid drivetrain, it’s proven off road, and it’s a very capable truck. Ford did an excellent job with the marketing and there are plenty of people out there that think you can huck these trucks the same way you might do it in a trophy truck… and you’re an idiot if you think that’s true. 

The Ford Raptor is a production vehicle made for the masses. Yes, it’s been developed for off roading with increased wheel travel, Fox shocks, a wider stance, etc., and yes, it has a 6.2l V8 with 430 lb. ft. of torque and 411 horsepower that makes it fast through the dirt, but like all trucks it’s not a perfect machine. 

If you’ve done any amount of research, you know Gen 1 raptors have a few known weak points that need to be addressed if you plan to take it off road regularly. I’ve done a good amount of research on the forums, talked to people with massive amounts of experience, and I’ve regularly taken my raptor on off road trips through Baja, southern CA, Arizona, Nevada, and Utah for the past few years, so I think I have a pretty good idea what’s needed to make sure you don’t break your raptor off road. 

Here are the essential mods, in order of priority, for maximum reliability:

  1. Replace Fuse 27 using a relocation kit from Ford 

Fuse 27 is part of the fuel system that provides power to the fuel pump. Unfortunately, fuse 27 isn’t large enough to handle the proper load required and can lead to a failed fuel pump. If your fuel pump fails, you’re gonna have a bad day. There is also speculation that a failing fuel pump can lead to engine damage. I’m no engine expert and the 6.2 is awesome, but this is a cheap and fairly simple mod that should be number one on your list of upgrades. 

Luckily, this is a known problem and Ford actually makes a kit to fix it known as the Fuse 27 Relocation kit. You can find the kit on amazon or from aftermarket companies such as Forged Offroad and Krazy House Customs. There are plenty of YouTube videos on how to do this and any legitimate shop can handle it if you’re not comfortable doing it on your own. 

  1. Get an aftermarket bump stop kit

Ford engineers left one significant flaw in the back half of the frame. The stock bump stops are located directly under the frame at the exact point where the width of the frame is significantly reduced and the metal is at its weakest. This means that if you take a significant hit to the rear suspension and the axle slams into those bump stops, you can potentially bend/break/crack your frame. I’ve seen people share quotes up to $4,000 to have it fixed depending on the severity.

Luckily, there are plenty of aftermarket bump stop kits available from reputable companies such as Icon, RPG, SVC, Camburg, Krazy House Customs, etc. All of these kits essentially do the same thing: they relocate the bump stops outside the frame rails, add Fox/King/Icon hydraulic bump stops for improved protection, and cross brace the frame adding rigidity and strength. 

Aftermarket bump stop kits can cost up to about $1,800, but you can usually get a deal on them during special promotions (e.g. Black Friday). The cost of one of these kits is significantly less than the cost of repairing your frame and it’ll prevent you from having a really bad day out in the dirt.

  1.  Upgrade the power steering

Another big miss from the engineers at Ford was a weak power steering pump. I broke my pump the very first time I did donuts… oops. This problem only compounds if you go to 37in. tires and when you couple that with regularly off roading your raptor, you really should upgrade the pump. 

Luckily, just like the bump stop kits there’s great aftermarket support here. The Howe system is the most popular, but the system from Lee is another great choice. I’ve read people still have issues with the Howe system, so I chose to put the Lee system on my raptor and I’m glad I did. Both of them are solid choices and run in the $1,300 range. 

If you choose not to go with a complete system, it’s a great idea to at least upgrade the reservoir in order to increase the oil capacity and even add a cooler. One of the main reasons for the pumps failing is due to the oil being too hot and aerating. You can get a new reservoir from companies like Westside Off Group (WOG) and RPG for around $300. 

While I recommend going with a completely new system that includes both the reservoir and pump, at least upgrade your reservoir if you aren’t able to go with a whole new system… especially if you have 37s or larger tires. 

  1. Install a larger transmission cooler

The 6R80 transmission likes to run hot and it only gets hotter when you’re hammering down off road. Ford actually installed transmission coolers in raptors destined for the Middle East that are twice the size of the ones they installed for raptors anywhere else. Luckily, that means we have access to a genuine Ford part that is super easy to install. You’ll hear this mod referred to on the forums as the “Saudi Arabia” or “Middle East” upgrade. 

I did this upgrade to my raptor and I got the cooler from a company in northern CA called Forged Offroad. They also have a YouTube video on how to install it and it’s super easy. There’s really no reason not to do this. Most of the Expedition X Offroad crew/participants have done this and the highest transmission temps we see, even in 115 degree desert weather while off roading, is about 206 degrees. Without the cooler it’s not uncommon to see temps in the 220-230 range and if you know who the Expedition X Offroad crew is, then you know they have more dirt miles on raptors than almost anyone else and only use proven parts. 

There are also great aftermarket options that run around $400 from companies like RPG and WOG. You can also find higher capacity coolers from companies like Full Race, CBR coolers, and Outlaw Offroad. 

  1. Reinforce the lower control arm mounts

The lower control arm (LCA) mounts aren’t very beefy and the front mounts are particularly exposed. For this reason, I highly recommend reinforcing them. All of the major aftermarket raptor companies make reinforcements, but I recommend the Verja system from Forged Offroad. It’s what I have on my truck and the reason I like it is because it actually reinforces the entire subframe and adds alignment cams at the same time so you don’t knock your alignment off nearly as easily as you do with the stock system. I haven’t seen any other systems that do it this way and it seems like a no-brainer to me.

As with other systems, you can also choose to lock the LCAs in place so all of the alignment is done through the upper control arm, but keep in mind you need adjustable aftermarket upper control arms if you choose to lock the LCAs in place.

I’ve taken some massive hits to the front suspension and there’s no way my lower control arm mounts would have survived without being reinforced. It’s also not uncommon for people to bend them by hitting rocks at speed. So, why not reinforce them from the start so you don’t have to worry about it? It’s honestly one of the top upgrades that has given me the most peace of mind. 

  1. Add gussets to your stock spindles

If you’re using stock spindles, add gussets to make them much stronger. A broken gusset will quickly ruin your day unless you have a spare. There are a few companies that sell gusset kits, such as SDHQ, so it’s just a matter of welding them in and painting them. The stock spindles are cast iron so the welding process requires heating them up before welding the gussets in, but any legitimate off road shop should be able to handle it. You can also go with aftermarket spindles, but gussetting the stock ones is way more cost effective. 

  1. Add gussets to the stock rear upper shock mounts

This only applies if you have 3.0 or larger rear shocks and it isn’t a huge issue.  I’ve seen it happen to two trucks (although, it happened to both shock mounts on one of those trucks on the same trip), but they managed to rip the upper rear shock mounts off. This is due to the increased force from larger rear shocks compared to the stock Fox shocks. My local shop custom made some gussets for my truck, but Baja Forged makes them as well. It’s pretty cheap and provides peace of mind, so why not? 

Those are all the major upgrades and modifications I recommend to make your Gen 1 raptor a reliable off road machine… so go out there, hit the dirt, and have some fun!

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