Kia Mud Whompin'
Reader: Hey, does anybody else out there go four-wheelin' in a Kia Sorento? I hit the dirt roads whenever possible in my '05, and have followed my buddies down a lot of ATV trails (with the A/C on and tunes crankin'). Got it stuck in mud ruts when it was six months old! Only problem is, aftermarket parts are slim to none-K&N filter and Turbo muffler are all I've been able to do, so far.
Lake City, FL
Editor: Seeing is believing. And we thought we were the only ones with enough loose screws to go 'wheeling in a Sorento. Actually, we've spent some trail time in the Kia, and like you suggested, it's a lot more capable in the dirt than most folks might think at first glance. And yeah, there's almost no off-road aftermarket stuff for it, but hey, if you wanna be a Rugged Individualist, sometimes you gotta make sacrifices to have that one-of-a-kind trail machine. Thanks for the photo.
Where To Wheel (And Stay) In Moab
Reader: I am a wheeler in Tennessee, but my buddies and I want to do a once-in-a lifetime wheeling trip to Moab. Don't know anything about it out there, and was wondering if you guys could recommend some places for lodging that would accommodate trucks and trailers (three), as well as some fun places to 'wheel. I drive a Surburban cut to look like an Avalanche with a Dana 60 front axle, Detroit Locker, chromoly axles with 35-spline outers, super joints with drive flanges, and full hydro steering. My rear axle is a Corporate 14-bolt with a disc-brake conversion and Detroit Locker. I also have a Klune-V; my buddies run buggies.
Editor: Most, but not all, of the hotels in Moab can accommodate a certain number of trailers in their parking lots, though obviously you'd need to let them know what you want to bring ahead of time. We've had fairly good luck in the past with trailers at both the Ramada and the La Quinta, both located on the main drag (South Main Street), though again, you'll need to call ahead to see what their current policies are. Check with the Moab Area Chamber of Commerce (435/259-7814, moabchamber.com) for a list of hotels and contact information.
Where to wheel? At Moab, your options are virtually endless. Want super-hardcore? You can't beat Pritchett Canyon. Want lots of slickrock and breathtaking views? Try Hell's Revenge and Poison Spyder Mesa. Want a pucker-factor hill climb? The Rim Trail's the place to start. And that's barely scratching the surface. Sign onto the forums at fourwheeler.com, and you'll get plenty of other great Moab recommendations from your fellow wheelers.
Dodge Dakota Lift Solutions
Reader: First, let me say I enjoy reading your mag, but the main reason for contacting y'all is to see if you could help me. I'm currently in the process of doing a solid axle swap for my 2001 Dodge Dakota Quad Cab; and I was wondering if y'all have found a bolt-on kit for the swap? Any info is greatly appreciated.
Corpus Christi, TX
You guys are the best 4x4 mag. I have an '03 Dodge Dakota 3.9L V-6 five-speed Club Cab (two-wheel drive). I'm having problems finding a leveling kit. Can you guys help me locate parts or a solution to my problem?
Via the Internet
Editor: For some reason, later-model Dakotas are the redheaded stepchild of the 4x4 aftermarket. It's probably got to do with the fact that they've never sold in the same numbers that their fullsize brother Ram has over the years. But based on the volume of mail that we get about these trucks, we'd guess some enterprising fabricator could make a nice business for himself by catering to Dakota owners in search of suspension solutions. To answer your question though, the only leveling kits we could find for your truck are of the air-spring variety from Air Lift and Firestone. We don't know if they'll work on a two-wheel drive, but we can't think of any reason why they wouldn't.
About an SAS kit: Nobody makes anything resembling a bolt-in kit for IFS Dakotas, sorry to say. We found a fabrication shop in Santa Barbara, called Thuren Fabrication (805/866-9250), which specializes in Dodge trucks; they've performed a solid-axle swap for the Dakota using F-250 axles, but it is a one-off conversion. They might be able to give you some advice about how to do it, but it is going to be a lot of custom work either way.
Cherokee vs. Bronco: Which Is Best?
Reader: I have two trucks: one is a 1990 fullsize Bronco with the 302, and the other one is a 2001 Cherokee XJ. I want to build one of them to be my weekend truck. I need your opinion on which one would make a better trail rig. For the Bronco, I would like to run 37s or possibly 38s, of course adding gears and lockers. For the XJ, I would like to run 37s again with gears and lockers. Now, I will be using the truck for very loose sand and deep sticky mud. The only paved road the truck will be driven on is on the way to the beach, which is more or less like 10 to 15 miles. Also, can you help me out on what gearing, and which locker, would be best for my truck? Gas mileage really doesn't matter as this will be my trail rig only.
Editor: As a rule, for most wheeling duties we'd go with the Cherokee, hands-down. It's lighter in weight, its (solid-axle) coil-spring front suspension is much easier to modify than Ford's Twin-Traction Beam design, and there are a ton of aftermarket parts available for it. And lifting a TTB truck by any amount over a couple of inches typically creates all kinds of caster and alignment issues that a lifted Cherokee won't.
On the other hand, if you're mostly looking to drive in deep mud or sand, you're probably going to want V-8 power-which the XJ never did get from the factory. So unless you're considering an engine swap for the XJ, it's the Bronco.
About lockers: Since your truck will see some pavement-even if it's only 10 to 15 miles at a time-we'd recommend a selectable locker such as an ARB, Auburn ECTED, or Tractech E-Locker so you can "run open" on pavement while retaining the ability to lock 'em up in the dirt. True, they're more costly than a mechanical drop-in unit like a Detroit or a Lock-Right, and there are more parts to troubleshoot if the install goes awry, but for vehicles that see "mixed use," we think they're the best way to go. Gearing? The exact ratio will depend on what's available for the axle(s) that you choose to swap in-and with 38-inch tires, you're well advised to upgrade either the Ford 8.8 rearend, or the Cherokee's Dana 35-but assuming your Bronco came with the most-common 3.54:1 axle gears, a ring-and-pinion swap to the 4.88:1 range would be about right.
Just one caveat: Lifting a TTB Bronco to accommodate 38-inch tires without ditching the front suspension altogether for a solid axle or trimming away a fair amount of fender sheetmetal will almost certainly be (a) time-consuming; and/or (b) expensive. It can be done, of course-just be prepared to pay for it.