How Much Does It Cost To Build A Mud Truck?

A lot of people ask me how to build a mud truck and the answers vary. I asked a few of my friends and they quoted everything from $3,000 to $30,000. We did not include labor in these quotes because labor rates vary greatly depending on where you live.

You can buy a turn-key rig for $20k or less if you shop around. If you are very skilled and have a lot of spare time then $3k is possible, but that will require some blood, sweat, and tears.

The first thing to consider is the used truck market where there appears to be a truck for sale at any price point. Ford F-250 and Silverado 2500HD trucks come standard. They have big block engines that have insane torque.

It all depends on how far you want to go. Do you want to build a daily driver for work with the occasional hobby mud run or do you want to go all out and compete with the big boys? The price is going to be different depending on what your goal is.

If this is your first rig then it would be wise to choose something that will require little investment in parts beyond normal maintenance. This way you don’t end up with a pile of expensive metal that will need to be gutted if you plan on doing major modifications.

Mud Truck Suspension

A lot of people choose to start off with a solid axle rig. This is not my first choice but I understand that not everyone wants to make life hard on themselves right away. Even if you are planning on highlight–related-topic”>mud racing, short course truck racing, or mud bogging in the near future you still want a solid front axle because it has fewer issues and is generally simpler and easier to work on.

Solid axle swaps cost about $1,500 for a complete front-end swap minus the steering box that you will probably need. It might be cheaper if you do not include engine or transmission mounts or an electrical system.

Here is a list of other things needed to get your rig up and running:

  • Engine and transmission
  • Transfer case (if not part of powertrain assembly)
  • Axles and hubs
  • Brake system and components
  • Wheels and tires, spare parts, and miscellaneous hardware. Remember that you will need a full set of wheels. You can buy used rims from tire shops if they have bead locks and lug nuts.
  • Slip Yoke Eliminator kit, driveshaft, slip shaft, or Spicer U-joints
  • T-case shifter linkage assembly (If separate from transmission)
  • Radiator, hoses, and clamps

$3,000 buys you a new solid axle so if you are wanting to go with independent suspension or a spring-over, you should add $1,500 to the total. That puts your rig at around $5,000 but don’t forget that you still need an engine and transmission to make it go!

There are plenty of people out there who will tell you that you have to have this part or that part in order to have a safe rig. Well, I can tell you that my first truck was built on the cheap and it worked just fine. The key is not being wasteful of your money or of your time. We are all here to have fun so spend within your means even if it takes you longer to accomplish goals.

If you are already into racing or plan to go pro then the sky is the limit on what you spend. Any good rig can easily cost $20k but I have seen some people spend well over that amount. There are hundreds of companies out there making parts for trucks and buggies so do your homework and buy what you think is best for your needs and budget.

You can make this as expensive as you want but remember the old saying: “Something always breaks”. I don’t care how good of a driver you are, everything from motors to transmissions to axles will fail at some point. It is just a matter of time. When you build on the cheap, these failures are not as big of a deal because you have invested little money into it, to begin with.

Mud Truck Suspension Basics

A suspension for mudding is pretty unique. You will need to think about the extreme end of truck builds, off road builds, rock crawler builds. This is the ultimate off road build. You can make it as expensive or as thrifty as you like.

If you are going the route of a more expensive build remember that this is your rig and you will be making memories in it so don’t cut too many corners as far as safety goes. I have seen people laugh off spending money on safety only to have their truck totaled from a major rollover and then they wish that they would have spent the money upfront.

If you want to go thrifty then here is a way to do it: buy a cheap frame from eBay or elsewhere, don’t cut any corners when building the suspension (or do if you like living dangerously), buy used solid-axle parts such as air locker, Chromoly axles, used shocks, etc. Spend the money on good tires and rims because they are the only things standing between you and your next obstacle.

Now that we have covered cheap vs expensive let’s get into some of the key components that go into a solid build. Keep in mind that just about anything can be adapted to fit.

How To Build A Mud Truck

A Note on larger tires/rim size: This is where it all begins. Mud tires are much different than street tires and you want big ones for this type of build, the bigger the better so look at what top-tier 1/8 scale buggies are running/using.

You want at least an 18″ rim in the rear. There are several companies out there making these rims with big lug pockets to fit huge tires so don’t be afraid to spend a little extra for something that is made well.

Ride Height: Here is where people start getting into trouble on building a mudder by basing their ride height on what a rock crawler or trail rig uses. Mud terrain tires are not the same as rocks so forget about your trail rig’s ride height and start from scratch here.

Long Travel Mud Truck

Ride Height: If you have a 4wd build then I would recommend that you set it up with as much ground clearance as possible. Think in feet instead of inches. Mud truck suspension is long travel, they are more similar to a highlight–related-topic”>monster truck than an off road Jeep.

I would recommend that you never go less than 6″ of suspension on both sides. For 2wd builds I would aim more towards 12-18″. The reason for this is simple, big tires ride close to the frame rails and if you don’t give yourself enough travel then your truck will be that much closer to sticking a tire up inside of your frame rails.

You also want to make sure that you have at least 6″ of suspension travel between the high and low spots in order to get full articulation during extreme angles. If you are running bigger tires then I would recommend 8-12″ on both sides for 2wd builds.

A Note on Axle Locks: They will break, period. If you don’t lock your axle it may be fine but if you want the full potential of having a manual locker then go for it and plan on breaking an axle or two in your lifetime.

How To Build A Mud Truck Suspension

This is where we get into the nuts and bolts of building a proper mud truck suspension. First, let’s start off with links to purchase all of these components at a discount:

Innovations Air Locker

This is going to be the key component in making your air locker work properly. I have yet to test a different brand but will do so as soon as I get a chance.

Innovations Chromoly Axles

The key to any good build is good components and these are no exception. They are strong, lightweight, include high-quality seals/clips, etc. I would recommend the chrome molly axle over the steel for obvious reasons especially when you are going to be running mud tires that chew up the steel ones.

Lakewood 80/20 Long Travel Shocks

These are top-notch shocks designed for this type of application and they include preload spacers so you don’t have to source those on your own.

Pro Comp Wheels

Get yourself some 17″ Pro Comp wheels and roll with something that is going to last. Not only are they strong, but they have lug pockets that are big enough to fit mud tires properly out of the box.

Mud Tires

This is the real key here, after all, you can’t run without something under your rims right? I’m not going to hype up any certain brand because it is really what will work well in your area and how big of a tire that you want to run.

I ran the Baja Claws for a little over a year and will run them again just because I’m stuck on those, but whatever works best for you is going to be what you should go with. The bigger the better so don’t be afraid to put on a 35″ or bigger tire.

Mud Truck Steering System

This is where you are going to want to start with your hard parts list.

You can pick up an entire steering system for around $300 if you shop carefully. The biggest thing here is trying to find something that will steer a 36″-38″ tire after you have raised your truck up to the proper angle. The last thing that you want is for your tires to rub on everything in sight so it helps a ton to have a properly designed steering system.

What I recommend is going with a double-ended ram because they have better caster control and can turn much closer to the axle without getting too close to the tire. The reason why you want to do this is that if you are running big mud tires then it makes turning much harder which is exactly what you are trying to avoid!

Pro tip: I recommend 1+” of offset on your wheels if you are using 17″ Pro Comp Wheels. If you are running 18″ wheels then I would recommend between 1-2″ of wheel offset to avoid any potential issues.