Reader: Something I wanted to bring to your attention. Many of your European/Australian articles have rigs that run Simex tires, and through all my searches, I have never been able to find them in the U.S. I was wondering if you could elaborate on this and if you have any further research about the non-availability and any reasons why?
Walla Walla, WA
Editor: Based in Malaysia and a joint venture of Continental AG, Simex is a leading manufacturer of tractor and heavy-equipment tires for the Asian and European markets. They do produce some aggressive light-truck tires which are quite popular among 'wheelers in the UK and Australia, but to the best of our knowledge, those treads aren't DOT-approved for sale here. Why not? Well, getting a tire approved by the Feds is a costly and time-consuming procedure. The latest NHTSA tire-approval regulations we've seen run 75 pages and require literally dozens of tests before approval can be granted. Given the added costs of shipping and distribution-not to mention organizing a dealer network in the States-it's likely the folks at Simex have concluded that it doesn't make good business sense to export these tires to the U.S. at this time, given the likely demand. But we'll keep you posted if we hear of anything.
Reader: In "Letters" (Oct. '07), there was a letter about a "wandering" '03 Ford Super Duty. My buddy's '03 Super Duty started doing this at around 40,000 miles, and when he took it to the local dealer, they said that they had a bunch of trucks with this problem and it was the ball joints. They replaced them under warranty and the problem was solved. Hope this helps!
My '04 Crew Cab Super Duty shortbed had the same wandering problem since it was new, even though the dealer said there was nothing wrong with it. I replaced the springs with Deavers and the shocks with Bilsteins, hoping to improve the handling, but the new suspension had no effect on the wandering. At 35,000 miles, I took it to another dealer, who replaced all the steering parts including the steering box. The parts were all worn out due to constant correction input to combat the wandering. After replacing all the steering parts, the dealership did a four-wheel alignment and found the thrust angle to be out by 3/4 inch on the passenger side. (Of course, the dealer blamed this on the aftermarket springs.) I did extensive measuring and mapping of the chassis and axles, and found the rear axle to be out of square to the frame and front axle. To correct the problem, the axle needed to be moved forward about 1/4 inch at the passenger-side spring centerpin. This measurement is difficult to figure because a small movement at the spring centerpin will increase further out on the axle and wheel. Also, moving one side forward will move the other side back! I made this modification by tack-welding a drilling jig onto the axle spring perch, drilling a new hole 1/4 inch back, and filling the forward part of the original hole with weld. The truck now drives straight and does not wander. The key thing is to have the dealer do a four-wheel alignment.
Editor: We searched in vain for any Ford Technical Service Bulletins regarding steering problems with '03 Super Dutys, so we're passing along both of your experiences as a service to our readers. Thanks for writing in with your tips.
Reader: I have an '06 F-150 SuperCab. I want to put a 4-inch lift kit on it. I also want between 30- and 33-inch tires, approximately 10 inches wide, with 20-inch rims. I would like a performance exhaust and intake system installed also. I also know that larger brakes should be used to cover the changes. I have approximately $10,000 to play with, including installations. I have heard horror stories about incomplete installs, including parts that have been left out and should have been changed. With my budget, what would be the best options for my plans, knowing that the correct parts are being used and installed?
Mt. Vernon, IN
Editor: Sounds to us like you've got plenty of money for your project. The upgrades you listed shouldn't set you back more than five or six grand at the most, and that's assuming you opt for premium parts. For installing the suspension kit and hop-ups, well, any reputable 4x4 shop should be able to handle it. Ask some of your 'wheeling buddies for advice on shops in your area. Once you've got a list of shops you'd like to consult, check to see if the wrenches there have any experience working on your type of vehicle. If they don't, it might be best to keep looking.
The only other thing we'd advise you is to be sure and visit a good alignment shop after your tires and wheels have been installed. Misaligned tire-and-wheel assemblies can cause a myriad of problems down the road if uncorrected.