RWDs, 4WDs, and even some 2WDs have designs or features that make them safe and reliable to drive on off-road trails and during harsh weather conditions. You can also improve their capabilities by adding accessories and changing some parts to match your specific needs and lifestyle. Surprisingly, you can see upgraded and modified all-terrain vehicles being driven daily on your local or national highways, leading to the prevalence of mall crawler memes and stickers.
So, what is a mall crawler? Also known as a “bro-dozer” or “street princess,” a mall crawler is an SUV or pickup truck loaded with rugged and great off-road features but is only used to run daily errands like buying groceries and fetching kids at school. Meaning, all the upgrades made were just meant to improve its aesthetics.
But can you label all “beastly” or monster-truck looking 4WDs, RWDs, and 2WDs that you see on the road and parked at the malls, schools, churches, and the like as mall crawlers? Definitely no, since some owners use their cars all around. That said, there are actually signs that can tell you whether or not a particular vehicle is a street princess.
What Is a Mall Crawler Truck and SUV?
Most off-road enthusiasts have seen many upgraded and modified pickup trucks and all-terrain SUVs that made them cringe and shook their heads. Hence, the popularity of the term mall crawler. You might have heard it a few times but are still confused as to what it really means, so here is a short list of tell-tale signs that a cross-country vehicle is a mall crawler:
Spotless Body and Rims
From the name itself, most people purchase off-road vehicles primarily to climb rocky and muddy hills, cross rivers, drive around woody areas, and enjoy nature without feeling endangered. In these areas, you’ll encounter stones, rocks, branches, and other small environmental elements that can hit your vehicle.
It’s no surprise then that you’ll see scratches, dings, and small dents on real cross-country vehicles. Dirt is also inevitable, but of course, you won’t expect these cars to be dirty every day since owners do not always use them off-road. Likewise, they also need to be cleaned regularly to prevent any damages.
That said, if a loaded pickup truck and 4WD, RWD, and 2WD SUVs have no signs of any external body imperfections, you can say that it’s either newly bought or a bro-dozer.
Even with the stock tires installed and without other protective upgrades, an off-road vehicle’s distance from the ground ensures the parts underneath are protected. Therefore, a lowered all-terrain vehicle with or without any other off-road-type upgrades and modifications deserves a mall crawler sticker. A real off-road vehicle would either retain its height or slightly lifted for easy and safe driving.
In contrast to being lowered, an authentic off-road vehicle must not also be lifted too high. Lifting any car at a very high level requires time and skills. If improperly done, it would endanger the driver, especially if you start driving it on rough and difficult terrains. Similarly, this kind of lift upgrade is quite expensive, so it would be impractical for a real off-road adventurer.
Stick-on or self-adhesive chrome helps enhance the look of a vehicle and protect the original parts from possible scratches and other minor issues. The best thing about it is it won’t require any drilling and specialized tools to install it. That is why you’ll see many vehicles with stick-on chrome on their door handles, front grilles, mirror covers, and more.
A true off-road enthusiast or driver, though, would know that self-adhesive chrome becomes a problem rather than a solution when traversing the unpredictable and challenging road. That is because you’ll expose the car to mud and other forms of dirt and debris. Specifically, it will make cleaning and keeping the car shiny more time-consuming and challenging than usual.
Fancy Looking Suspensions
In this day and age, it is not surprising to see vehicle parts being sold in different colors because a certain population of each gender loves to modify and customized their cars. However, a true off-roader will not purchase and install colorful suspensions.
The reason is that these suspensions are costly, so they would rather spend the money on more important off-road accessories. Likewise, the suspension would collect dirt, dust, and mud easily and quickly and get scratched over time, depending on how often one goes off-roading.
With all those in mind, you would probably see many mall crawler memes featuring a Jeep or pickup truck with colorful, sparkling clean and scratch-free suspensions.
All-New Skid Plates and Rock Slider
Skid plates are steel or metal pieces installed under the vehicle to protect delicate parts, such as the fuel tank and transfer box, when you drive your car on rocky and other difficult terrains. On the other hand, rock sliders are installed along the car’s rocker panels to protect the underside from stumps, rocks, branches, and other elements.
With that in mind, if such vehicle parts have no scratches or dents, the unit might be a bro-dozer. Nonetheless, there is also a possibility that the car just got its rock slider and skid plates replaced.
Tires are among the essential parts of an off-road vehicle to ensure safety while you’re in the middle of nowhere, driving on a snowy or wet road, or traversing floods and rivers. That is why some people think that those Jeep Wranglers and Grand Cherokees they see with monstrous tires are true off-roaders.
However, most of these vehicles are actually mall crawler Jeeps because they have mismatched axles and tires. For instance, you’ll usually find a 40-inch tire attached to the car’s standard D30 axles. This kind of modification can lead to broken axles when you drive the vehicle on rough roads. Bro-dozers can also have the original plastic tire carrier with a 35-inch spare tire. Surely, at a wrong angle off-road, the car’s tailgate will collapse. A true off-roader with large tires (view on Amazon) will usually have upgraded axles and carriers to ensure their safety and prevent car damage.
Besides that, a street princess will also have low-profile tires. These tires just won’t work off-road since they have little traction; the moment you drive these vehicles on off-road trails, they start to bend.
Nice and Flawless Rims
Much like the tires, skid plates, and rock sliders, your car’s rims are among the parts that get easily exposed to dirt and other elements. They are also the ones that will quickly have scratches once you take your vehicle to your cross-country adventure.
Thus, if there are no signs of scratches on upgraded and modified off-road vehicles, they’re most definitely street princesses. Similarly, very expensive, white, or colorful rims might indicate that the unit is not a real off-road vehicle because of impracticality.
A vehicle part that shines usually indicates that it is newly installed, but if not, you would expect it to lose its shine over time. That is mainly due to its exposure to multiple elements on the road and in the environment.
The exhaust is one of the parts that quickly lose that shine, especially if you drive on difficult and dirty terrains. Hence, you’re probably looking at a bro-dozer if it has tons of off-road features but has a shiny exhaust.
Perfectly Spooled Winch Cable
A high-quality, high-capacity winch (view on Amazon) is one of the most important accessories that most off-roaders purchase. It will help you wind out and wind up your wire cable or wire rope that you use for towing and other tasks.
With that in mind, a Jeep or pickup truck equipped with off-road features, but has a perfectly spooled winch cable can indicate that it is not a true off-roading car. That is because most outdoor adventurers won’t really mind spooling the cable neatly since they would most likely use it again.
Unhooked Auxiliary Lights
Undoubtedly, lights are essential for all types of cars because they ensure your safety during rainy, foggy, snowy days, and when driving at night. Not only will they help you see where you’re going, but they also make sure other drivers can see you.
Since nature and weather are unpredictable, most off-roaders will add fog, flood, and other auxiliary lights. That is to ensure they are prepared when they get stuck in the middle of nowhere during the night or when the weather suddenly starts to go bad.
Being such a critical add-on, you can label a unit as a mall crawler Jeep if it has a lot of auxiliary lights that are not correctly hooked or worst, completely unhooked. Similarly, a true off-road vehicle won’t have a striking LED light kit on top of it since it can distract other drivers.
The Mall Rated Sticker or Badge
Jeeps with off-road capability have a Trail Rated badge, which indicates that they underwent some tests and passed specific standards. Meaning, users can have peace of mind regarding the vehicle’s safety and reliability when driven on different terrains and during inclement weather.
With the growing number of street princesses and proud owners of these vehicles, a mall crawler sticker or badge has been created. Popularly known as the mall rated badge or sticker, it’s a Trail Rated badge spoof that “qualifies” a Jeep for mall cruising.
Of course, to deserve this badge, you should have a modified or upgraded Jeep that you have no intention of driving off-road. Even if your RWD, 4WD, or 2WD is of a different brand, you can now still stick the badge on your car.
What Is a Mall Crawler: The Conclusion
To sum it up, a mall crawler is simply an all-terrain vehicle that can’t or had never served its real purpose. That is because of the impractical and aesthetically-pleasing modifications and upgrades made by the owner, which, in turn, made the unit unsafe and unreliable for cross-country driving and adventures, towing, and other heavy tasks.
Although some features, such as new rims, skid plates, and rock gliders, indicate that the vehicle is a street princess, you can’t quickly jump into conclusions because the parts might have just been replaced. Hence, it is always best to look at other signs, especially the definite ones like lowered height and incorrect tires installed, to make sure you’re truly looking at a bro-dozer.
Nowadays, though, some mall crawler owners purchase a mall rated badge and stick it on their cars so you won’t have a problem identifying them. Most true off-roaders might never understand this, but we all have specific reasons for owning a car. It might be for daily transportation, an addition to one’s collection, or an outdoor adventure buddy. Likewise, modifying and upgrading a car might be a hobby or a way of making the unit more reliable.
Kris is an avid off-roader and outdoor enthusiast who loves to brave the elements and take on challenging terrain. He also enjoys sharing his passion and knowledge with others so that they, too, can appreciate the ride.