Real Jeeps Have Round Springs ... Don't They?
Reader: I own an '03 Jeep Wrangler X, and I was looking into leaf-spring suspensions. I don't know much about them and I was looking for some information about what they can do for my rig. Pros and cons for this subject are something I am looking for, as well as what are the best types to look for, and what to look for in a good leaf-spring suspension. Any help in this area would be a great help.
One more thing: I was looking for places to go out and play in central Texas, and maybe some clubs. Thanks again-can't wait to hear back.
Fort Hood, TX
Editor: First off, if you're thinking about converting your present Jeep to leaf springs, do yourself a big favor and trade it in for a low-mileage '87-'96 Wrangler YJ, which has leaf springs and all the mounting pads, brackets, and shock towers already in place. Converting your TJ to leaf springs, by contrast, will take a fair amount of time, money, and fabrication skills-and frankly, it probably won't improve overall trailability a whole lot over your stock setup. We could write a whole book about this subject, but long story short: Leaf springs are low-tech, relatively inexpensive, easy to work with, and provide lateral stability as well as load-carrying capability. On the other hand, they're tuned to flex at a certain fixed rate, and ride quality on bumpy trails can often be harsh. Coils require control arms and track bars to help provide stability, and they utilize more complex geometry, but they can also be tuned to variable rates for a smoother ride on uneven terrain. If you're looking for custom spring makers, two of the best are out here in California-Deaver Spring (www.deaverspring.com) and National Spring (www.nationalsprings.com). But once again, if it was up to us, we'd leave your TJ Wrangler just as it is, round springs and all.
Clubs? There are quite a few in Austin, including the Austin Four Wheelers (www.austin fourwheelers.org), the Central Texas 4WD Club (geocities.com/centex4x4club), and the Texas Trail Riders (www.txtrailriders.com). A great wheelin' spot that's not far from you-a two-hour drive at most-is Katemcy Rocks (katemcyrocks.com) near Mason.
Gear Swap For Slight-Lift Silverado
Reader: I currently drive a Chevy Silverado Z/71 with stock 3.42:1 gears. I have added some larger tires, 285/70R17, and figure I've probably got something like 3.30:1s now. My question is, what do you suggest for changing gears? I saw a set of 4.56:1s for a few hundred bucks, but what do you guys think? I am more than likely going to get some sort of lift, larger tires, and start towing eventually (I also wouldn't mind a little more oomph for now), but I figured I would start here. Any help would be appreciated.
Port Jefferson Station, NY
Editor: According to our records, your stock tires should've been 265/70R17s, which is the metric equivalent of a 31.6-inch-tall tire. If your information is correct, your new tires, at 32.7 inches, are barely an inch taller than the rubber they replaced. Given such an incremental gain in diameter, you don't absolutely need to swap gears, but we'd probably recommend going to 3.73:1s anyway since that ratio was standard for '05 Silverados with the Z/85 Towing Package. Otherwise, if we were you, we'd wait until you'd finished lifting the vehicle and installing larger tires before re-gearing any further. One last thing we would remind you about, though: you did recalibrate your speedometer, right?
Wants Old Ford To Pass Cali Emissions
Reader: How can I find out what modifications to my vehicles are legal and will pass the smog test in California. A friend of mine has a '77 Ford F-150. He made a few small changes, and he had to put the truck completely back to original to pass smog. Please help if you can.
Editor: Without knowing what kinds of modifications were made, the engine's state of tune, or the condition of the exhaust, this is a virtually impossible question to answer definitively. One thing to look for is the presence of any aftermarket parts that have been bolted onto the engine to improve power and performance-the intake manifold, carburetor or EFI conversion, air filter, headers and the like. Don't forget the muffler and exhaust. There's also the crankshaft and pulley, camshaft, ignition coil, fuel lines, and filters ... well, the list goes on. Just about any aftermarket component that affects engine performance needs to be "CARB-certified" to have a chance to pass emissions. What's that? CARB stands for California Air Resources Board, and that's the bureau that sets emissions standards for the state-and since California's smog laws are the toughest in the nation, a CARB-certified part should be emissions-legal in any state. Each CARB-certified part will have what's called an E.O. (Executive Order) number, and should come with an exemption sticker with the number on it when you purchase the part. It's good to have all those stickers and numbers handy when you go for the sniffer test, because the folks who administer the test will have no way of memorizing all the CARB-legal parts that are out there.
Now, even if all of your underhood hop-ups are legal, your 30-year-old engine might not pass the tailpipe test anyway, and this could be due to countless factors. (One of the most common is that some of the old '70s-vintage emissions components can fail over time.) Our best advice is to have an experienced engine mechanic have a look at your vehicle and run some diagnostic tests before you hit the smog station. You can also log on to the CARB Web site (arb.ca.gov) and check their database for information.
Wants E-Brake For 205 T-Case
Reader: I'm looking for a parking-brake assembly for an NP205 transfer case. I've heard they are out there, but I'm having trouble locating them. Any info would be great.
Don Terry Jr.
Editor: High Angle Driveline (www.highangledriveline.com) offers a kit for 205s with fixed yokes. Tom Wood's Custom Driveshafts (www.4xshaft.com) also had a 205 kit at one time to fit 1350 CV-joints. They may still have some in stock.
Looking For Blazer Soft Top
Reader: I have a '91 Chevy K-5 Blazer and I'm looking for a soft top for it. I do not wish to drill into the body to install snaps, however. I was wondering if you could direct me to a manufacturer that sells a top where there is minimal drilling required.
Editor: This was a tougher question than we thought. A company called Specialty Tops (formerly Kayline) had a full line of fullsize SUV tops, but the company has gone out of business. Off Road Design (www.offroaddesign.com) lists some discontinued Bestop soft tops for Blazers for sale in its catalog, but otherwise we drew a blank. Readers?