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Flared Fenders Made Easy
I've been a fan of OFF-ROAD magazine for years and love your coverage of real hard-core off-road racing. I especially dig the long-travel prerunner trucks you feature because I'm into desert racing and these trucks are so much more functional than the disco-lifted giants that don't ever leave the pavement. Onto my question: I have a '96 Ford Ranger and want to slap on a set of wider tires. I know I need to flare my bedsides, but have no clue how to go about doing it. What's the deal?John M., San Diego
Thanks for the kind words, John. The answer to your question is easier than you think and can be accomplished with a minimal amount of effort and tools. Check out the pictures of this Ford Ranger bedside and how it was flared. After placing the truck on jackstands, the wheels were removed to gain access to the inner fenders. The inner fenders were then cut in half, separating the outside of the bed from the inner bedwalls. A bottle jack was placed against the inner bedwall, with a flat piece of wood placed between it and the bedside. The jack is used to push the bedside outward evenly, while the wood prevents the jack from creasing or bending the bedside. Once the bedsides were flared the desired amount, short sections of sheetmetal that are 1-inch wider than the gap in the inner wheelwell are screwed into the inner and outer sections of the inner wheelwell, which we cut before. These sections of sheetmetal secure the wheelwell at the newly flared locations. Before the bottle jack was removed, the bed supports were appropriately lengthened. That's all there is to it. This can easily be accomplished at home using handtools and a reciprocating saw.
The Missing Link
I'm confused regarding three- and four-link suspensions. My '91 Ford F-150 has an IFS and leaf-spring rear suspension, and I'm wondering what the advantage of converting the rearend to a three- or four-link would be. Thanks for your time.Louie G., Middletown, New York
Depending on how it's set up, a three- or four-link rear suspension can give the rear axle more up and down travel versus one that is suspended with leaf springs. While we have seen several leaf-spring packages that cycled as much as 19 inches of travel, it's not uncommon for a linked suspension to cycle as much as 2 feet of travel. A link-type suspension will also allow more articulation of the rearend in off-camber situations and prevent axle wrap. A linked suspension definitely offers performance advantages compared with a leaf-spring suspension, but it is a high-end modification. It's really easy to build a linked suspension, but much more difficult to build one with the correct geometry so that the truck handles properly. Look for an upcoming article on linked suspensions.
Big Tires = Big Brakes?
I'm new to lifted trucks and want to outfit my Ford F-250 Super Duty with a large lift and tires. My dilemma is whether or not to upgrade the stock braking system. I've heard that if I add 40-inch tires and wheels that I should use bigger brakes, but I've also heard that I don't need to do anything. What should I do?Ryan S., Indianapolis
It's a good idea to upgrade your brakes whenever you increase the rotating mass on the axles with a larger wheel and tire package. Ideally, we should all install larger brakes to make up for the difference in weight that is added to the truck with bigger wheels and tires, but it's not always practical to do so. Automobile manufacturers build trucks with heavy-duty breaks because trucks are designed to haul heavy loads; adding larger tires might not be that big a stress on the braking system if the truck isn't constantly hauling a heavy payload or towing. If you plan on towing excessive loads, lifting your truck, and adding 40-inch wheels and tires, then it's a good idea to upgrade the brakes. The brakes aren't going to fail immediately, but they'll wear faster than normal after the new rolling stock adds 100-plus pounds to the axles.
More, More, More!
I love the magazine and was wondering why you don't do more coverage of ATVs, dirt bikes, and buggies. The title is OFF-ROAD, and the toys do go off-roading, right? Everyone I know who drives a lifted truck also participates in these other activities, so why not give them what they want? I'm not knocking the mag because I really like it; I'm just saying it could be better. Thanks for listening.Matt L., Fayettville, Arkansas
We couldn't agree with you more, Matt. We'd love to feature more off-road toys, but the magazine only has so many pages. Besides, there are already larger magazines dedicated to dirt bikes, ATVs, and buggies. Don't worry, though. In the coming months, we'll be giving you more of what you want - the best coverage of hard-core dirt action.