Reader: About Sean Holman's "Be Prepared" (June '07): I wheel a lot in Arizona with my '06 Rubicon and I carry three additional mandatory items:
1. A portable handheld spotlight that has a long power cord. Ever tried to air up or repair something when it is darker than a well-digger's butt?
2. A cheap small tarp to lay on when you have to work on a vehicle.
3. Emergency flares. I once ran into a badly injured person in the Bradshaw Mountains and had to call in air rescue to take him out. Saw the chopper a ways off and popped a flare.
Reader: Your list of "must haves" was quite good, but I have three critical additions that I've used many times:
1. Hose to transfer fluids (I carry 10 feet of 1/2-inch tubing).
2. Tow straps (snatch 'ems).
3. Toilet paper!
Editor: Well, for the article we assumed that tow straps, flashlights, flares, and the like were obvious no-brainers, so we didn't bother including them on our list of "overlooked" items ... but we still can't believe we forgot that last one.
Reader: OK guys, I get it. I know the FJ Cruiser is out now and that it's a capable 'wheeler, and that the super-awesome best automaker from Japan makes it, and I don't need to be reminded of it every other page. Those stiff-paged Cruiser ads are driving me nuts! I know you gotta sell ad space, but come on-it's like I'm being slapped in the face every time I turn the page. Otherwise, great mag-keep up the good work.
Editor: You're not the only reader who's written in about those FJ Cruiser ads. But hey, we are in the business to make a buck, and we're not exactly inclined to turn down a company like Toyota, especially when they're willing to cover the extra costs of printing and binding that an ad like this requires. We weren't too crazy about those ads, either, in terms of aesthetics, but hey, the folks at Toyota help pay our salaries too. (And hey, at least they're not advertising male enhancement pills.) Thanks for your patience either way, and for writing in.
Reader: I am not a hard-core 4x4 fanatic. The only wheeling I do is work-related, but I do like to keep up on the latest parts and product reviews. The question I had is, have you seen anything more retarded than 20-plus-inch wheels with low-profile rubber on a lifted 4x4? Why is this even a fad? Why does the aftermarket even contemplate such a thing? Doesn't anyone know that wheel damage or worse can be the only outcome if the truck is used for anything even remotely close to the image that the lifted truck is trying to project? I am also tired of automakers offering the best trim package that is only available with 18- or 20-inch wheels. The aftermarket tire selection is limited, and any mud buildup results in extreme wheel shake and a visit to the car wash in the $25 range. I have scratched or bent more than one set of factory 18s just trying to get to work (off-pavement, northern Canada).
Rocky Mountain House AB
Editor: Why are lifted trucks running low-profiles and 20s (or bigger) a fad? Good question. Why were Pet Rocks a fad? (Remember those?) Probably because, in their owners' minds, they look different from everyone else's rig, and that desire to be "unique" is one that's driven a lot of 4x4 buildups over the years. Eventually, so many guys will end up building the same "unique" vehicle that the novelty will wear off and the fad will subside. As far as we're concerned, they're good for a hoot-and occasionally, you find one that's pretty well built in terms of suspension, axles, drivetrain, and the like-but otherwise, with rare exceptions, we'll leave 'em to the boulevard crowd.
Reader: Oh ye gurus of the awesome four-wheelin' world, why is it that the Detroit Electrac locker/limited-slip unit is never mentioned in any ads or articles, in either Four Wheeler or the other comparable magazines? The Eaton E-locker is there. So are the Auburns-and of course, the other Detroits, ARB, Ox, and others-but nary a word about the Electrac. Is it that bad? I hope not, because the Auburn wasn't available for the Dana 44s on my '72 Scout II, and the sales rep pointed me to the Electrac. How about a couple words of wisdom on them? Please?
Editor: The Electrac has been replaced in the Eaton lineup by the Detroit ELocker, which operates as an open diff when "unlocked" and as a full-on locking diff when engaged. We've heard stories that the older Electrac, which functioned as a limited-slip/locker, had some premature wear and reliability issues, particularly with tires larger than 35s. You can still find some Electracs via mail order or retail, but we think you'd be better off going with the newer, stronger model. Andif your Scout's D44 is a 30-spline unit running 3.92:1 gears, there's a locker for your application available.