Questions or comments?
Write to us at 4 Wheel Drive & Sport Utility, 774 S. Placentia Ave., Placentia, CA 92870, firstname.lastname@example.org.
Q: I own a '99 4WD 4Runner with the V-6 (stock) and an '89 2WD pickup with a 3-inch body lift and 30-inch BFGs, a 22R engine, and a five-speed tranny. Of any of the trails I've read about in SoCal and Arizona, do they have trails a 2WD can make - or survive might be the better word? I've taken the 4Runner out on a few desert roads, but if I put so much as a scratch on it, my wife would kill me, so my pickup gets most of the trail use. I'm mainly interested in the Johnson Valley area because that's where I'm closest to. My future plans for the pickup are a Fabtech 3-inch suspension lift, taller gears in the rear, and 31x12.50 SSR Super Swampers - and, if I have to, the 4WD conversion.
Speaking of tires, it seems that almost every vehicle I see in the mag has Super Swampers (mainly Boggers or TSLs). Is there something about Swampers I should know? I've seen a few articles on testing different tires but never about Swampers. Is there a possibility that we could see some test results on the entire line of Swampers?
Thanks, in advance, and keep the good information coming.
A: Pat, it sounds like you should probably leave the 4Runner at home to keep the wrath of your wife at bay, but you shouldn't have any troubles finding 2WD-capable trails in your area. Johnson Valley is a great place to start because it offers everything from wide-open fire roads, dry lakebeds, and sand dunes, to near impossible 4x4 trails for extreme 'wheeling. You also might venture up into the San Bernardino Mountains for a taste of mild to extreme fire roads, water crossings, and snow 'wheeling during the winter months. For more information about California OHV areas, check out these Web sites: www.desertusa.com and www.calohv.ca.gov. You also might consider a rear locking differential and a long-travel suspension kit in lieu of doing a 4WD conversion since the cost is significantly less. Though you can't beat a 4WD in most cases, you will find that these items will significantly improve your off-road capabilities. As for the popularity of Super Swampers, there's no denying that these are some of the premier off-road tires on the market. Much of its fame comes from the fact that Swampers were one of the first oversized production tires to be offered to the off-road community. That, along with its wide variety of sizes, styles, and tried-and-true performance on the trail, establish it as the tire of choice for many off-roaders. For a good overview of the Swamper lineup, check out the National Tire and Wheel Web site at www.ntwonline.com
Backspacing to the basics
Q: I have a question about wheels for my Jeep Cherokee. I have a '91 Cherokee with a 4-inch Tomken lift and 32-inch Mud T/As. I am currently running the stock 15x7 aluminum five-spoke wheels with, naturally, some rubbing on both the control arms and sway bar on full turns. My question has two parts: First, what is the backspacing for the stock wheels? I've heard 5 and 5-1/2. Second, what offset would you recommend to get the tires out just far enough to no longer rub control arms at full turn? Again, I've heard varying numbers from 3-3/4 inches up to 4-3/4 inches as being proper for 32-inch tires. I also realize that the more I bring the tires out to avoid the control arms the more I'll have problems with fender clearance when the tires get stuffed up into the fenderwells during a turn. So, I want to come out to a minimum. Right now, I'm looking primarily at the Weld Outback in 15x8 with a 4-5/8-inch backspacing. Any assistance you could provide would be greatly appreciated. And please keep up the great work on the best 4WD magazine on the market.
Robert L. Day
A: Robert, according to the crew at Rubicon Express, the stock backspacing on your Cherokee is 5-1/4. The preferred setup when running a 4-inch lift and 32-inch tires on 15x8 wheels is to drop down to a 4-1/2 backspacing. While you may still rub the control arms a bit, any more tends to set the wheels and tires way too far beyond the fenderwells. Weld should be able to accommodate your wheel needs in this configuration.
Which Jeep To Jeep?
Q: I have just recently started looking for a Jeep to turn into a trail rig or bogger-style machine. I have been looking in the magazine and was wondering if I should get a Willys or a Cherokee. Which would be a good or better project for on- and off-road applications? I planned on buying one and lifting it 4 inches and adding Mud Trac radials. I would rather have the look of a Willys, but the problem with it is that it tops out at 45 mph. The Cherokee would have better speed with almost an even price tag. What should I do? Please help me in telling me which would be best to do easy trails and some major mudding with.
A: Nathan, we know a guy who was once such a big fan of Jeep CJs that he vowed to never set foot in a Wrangler. He had his reasons for liking the CJ, but he never really could spell out why he didn't like the Wranglers, except for the fact that they replaced the CJ. Well, he kept bellyaching for a long while until he eventually landed his rear in a Wrangler as a passenger. What's this? Air conditioning? Why is this seat so much more comfortable? You're doing 80 in the fast lane? Why's this cab so quiet? Needless to say, the guy bought a Wrangler less than a month later and had built it up to be meatier than his CJ ever was. The moral to this story: A Jeep is a Jeep is a Jeep. It all comes down to preference, because no matter what, you'll still be driving a vehicle that enrolls you in one of the largest vehicle co-cultures in America, if not the world. As for whether you want a Cherokee or a Willys (we're assuming you're referring to a flatfender), it comes down to a few basic factors. You mentioned highway speed as an issue, so we figure you'll be using the vehicle as your daily driver. That being the case, you'll probably be a lot happier in the Cherokee. Also, since Willys have been out of production for a number of years, you'll probably find that working on the Cherokee and finding parts for it much easier than for the Willys. So, for your needs, a Cherokee would probably be the best bet. Best of luck to you, Nathan. We'll see you on the trail.
UP Your Throttle Response
Q: I'm interested in upgrading my intake and exhaust on my '98 Cherokee 4.0L after reading your article. You wrote about two ways to increase horsepower and throttle response with Turbo City's Stage II kit, and PowerAid's throttle-body spacer. Could I use both methods together? I e-mailed Turbo City, and they said that if I used the spacer, their air tube would not fit in my Cherokee. Could you tell me which would be more beneficial, using just the Stage II kit and no spacer, or using the Stage II kit without the air tube but using the spacer and stock air intake tube with a high-flow filter? I'd really appreciate your help. Keep up the good work!
A: Shawn, be assured that we will continue to provide the latest and greatest information on 4x4s for many years to come, so keep on reading. Your letter was rather timely since Turbo City recently introduced its Rock-It Spacer to work with the Stage II power package. You are right that the PowerAid spacer runs into hood clearance problems (especially on older Cherokees outfitted with hood pads) when used with the Stage II kit and the aftermarket air tube, but Turbo City is on the ball and ready for your business. Check out the latest parts from Turbo City at www.rock-it.com or contact them at 1137 W. Katella Ave., Orange, CA 92867, (714) 639-4933.
Functional as Designed?
Q: I drive a 2000 Jeep Grand Cherokee with the 4.0L six-cylinder engine. It idles with extreme roughness when the weather is damp and cool. The idle also drops to approximately 600 rpm. The dealer states that this is "functional as designed," but my mechanic tells me that it is nearly misfiring at idle and that this is not normal. Again, it only acts up when damp and cool. I've had three other late-model Jeep vehicles with the same engine and have never experienced this problem. Anything that you can recommend would be greatly appreciated.
David M. Beck
Cliffside Park, New Jersey
A: David, we're a bit leery of that "functional as designed" moniker that your local Jeep dealer assigned to your idle troubles. The best suggestion we can give you is to find a new dealer. Your mechanic is correct that this is more than just something to be tolerated. If we were experiencing a similar problem, we'd look to the ignition system first. Since the problem only occurs in damp and cool weather, you might check your distributor cap and rotor for any corrosion. The plug wires would be next, looking for corrosion or a possible arc within the plug wire boot. Another consideration might be an engine sensor sucking in moisture. Beyond that, we'd have to take a look for ourselves, and, even then, we'd probably look to a certified mechanic for the solution. Once you diagnose the problem, check with a Jeep dealer to check and see if it's something that might be covered under warranty. We can tell you for certain, however, that it is not "functional as designed."