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Reader: In Letters (Apr. '07), reader N. Smith asks about the 4WD actuator on his '89 GMC Sierra. Assuming your suggestion to replace/upgrade the often-faulty actuator didn't fix his problem, I had a similar situation with my '96 Chevy 1/2-ton. The truck would engage-the gear reduction was obvious-but the 4WD was not working. I purchased a new actuator (mine was already the upgraded version), and still nothing. I checked the fluid, and found metal shavings in it-never a good sign, in my experience. I disassembled the front axle and found that the stub shaft that engages the front axle had twisted and broken in half. This could be the solution to his problem as well.
Reader: I read the letter from N. Smith, and it reminded me of a problem I had with my '90 1/2-ton Chevy. Four-wheel drive wouldn't engage, and I found that the actuator that engages the front axle is controlled by a switch that screws into the top of the transfer case. This sends power to the actuator when the transfer case is in 4WD, and this switch had quit working. The switch is a little hard to find, so be sure you don't change the variable speed sensor by mistake. (The VSS is on the side of the transfer case, but the switch you want is on the top. It has a connector with two wires going in.) Just unplug the connector and use a wrench to unscrew the switch, then screw the new one in. It cost around $10 for the switch at my local GM dealer. Also, make sure your front driveshaft is turning when 4WD is engaged-if not, the problem is not with the front axle. Another thing to check is that you don't have a broken axleshaft inside the housing. This is simple-just grab the axleshaft where it bolts to the CV, and try to pull it away from the axlehousing. If it moves much at all, you have a broken axleshaft, and only 2WD.
Reader: This is in response to the letter "How to Convert" (March '07) from Andre about swapping a 454 GM gas engine in place of a 6.2L diesel in an '82 pickup. I have done this conversion many times, and the swap is way easier than the suspension conversion. If your truck has a manual transmission, you need the 454 flywheel and clutch assembly. If you have the automatic, you'll need the 454 flexplate. The motor mounts should slide forward with the bolt holes already there. The diesel radiator is more than enough to cool the 454. The 1-ton rearend will bolt under the rear. Then find yourself a 1-ton or 3/4-ton front end, and there you have it. Be sure and check your driveline length in the rear. Napa carries the conversion U-joint if you need it. I have built Chevys for over 25 years and have done everything from putting a solid axle under a '93 1-ton Chevy with a 500 Caddy engine to this diesel swap.
Editor: Thanks to all who wrote in with tips for your fellow readers.
Reader: I'm a pretty avid reader of your magazine. Unfortunately, my '05 Tacoma TRD has been neglected due to school (high school), and has remained pretty stock sans some 31-inch Goodyears. I just wanted to thank you guys for the great in-depth profiles you did on each truck of Top Truck Challenge (Nov. '05). While skimming through your past coverage, I really only noticed how it lacked the details. Thanks for the great coverage on specs and techs of each vehicle. You guys have a great magazine and are definitely living the life, although you do seem to bitch about it sometimes. Keep up the great work, can't wait for the next issue. Thanks to living in the 'burbs, my wheeling is limited to some pipelines and power cuts, where I've a earned quiet a reputation with the local John Law, along with a few trespassing warnings.
Editor: Well, you know how we feel about trespassing and otherwise Treading Unlightly ... OK, consider yourself scolded. And hey, if you worked for a boss like McColloch ("Everyone be quiet-can't you see I'm thinking?"), you'd bitch a little too. But yeah, we know there are plenty of worse ways to make a living than what we do, and we always try to be mindful of that. Thanks also for the kind words about our TTC coverage.
While we're on the subject, we're considering a future project that you might find of interest. See the next letter for details.