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August 2004 Off-Road Mail Box - Letters

Posted in Features on August 1, 2004
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Harvesting a Lift Kit
I'm pretty new to off-roading, and I'm starting on my first project truck. It's kind of a hard one for a 17-year-old first-timer, but I want to give it a try. I have a '75 International Harvester 150 4x4 with a 345 V-8 and four-speed manual. I have a handle on what I'm going to do with the engine, body, and interior, but I'm stuck on one key element: the suspension. The only thing I've found that I think may come close is a lift kit from Skyjacker for the Scout II, but it's only 4 inches. I recently learned that my budget was freed up a little bit because I got a full-ride scholarship to Ripon College, but I still don't have a ton to spend. I probably want to look at something around 6 to 8 inches, and I'm not sure where to go from here. Do you know of any lifts that would fit my truck? Is there a way I can work with what's already out there? I appreciate any help and will send in some pictures when I get further along.Karl G., Lomira, Wyoming

Lifting any straight-axle 4x4 can be done easily with lift blocks, longer U-bolts, and new shocks. Due to the way the differential interacts with the shackles, the ride will get rougher as you go taller. A set of new leaf springs would be the proper way to get the job done. Of course, there are always the issues of driveshaft lengths, steering, brake lines, and emergency brakes. International and GM manufactured their trucks using many of the same vendors for outsourced parts. This included differentials, steering boxes, and a variety of other items. Adapting some of the Chevy parts to your IH may take some mild fabrication, but it's not uncommon for Scout fanatics to use some of these parts to achieve their off-road goals. The front axle is probably an open-knuckle Dana 44, and the steering is a Saginaus steering box. You could easily go as high as 8 inches of lift with a 4-inch riser in the steering knuckle and an adjustable drag link from a Chevy Blazer lift kit. You'd need to re-adjust the emergency brake cables and use an L-bracket to remount the emergency-brake cable lines to the lower section of the frame. The brake lines would need to be rerouted on both ends of the IH. Run a new hard line from the left and right side to the top of the differential. Here, you'll need to have two extended lengths of soft brake line made to accommodate the lift. Try calling Mike at I.H. Only [(661) 728-9552]. He has a plethora of parts and resources for International Harvester parts.

Hot Dog
I have an '00 Quad Cab 4x4 Dodge Dakota with a 4.7L V-8 engine. Overall, it's an awesome truck. However, since I moved to Southern California from central Illinois, I've been having overheating problems. I pulled a U-Haul trailer the distance and noticed it started overheating at the Arizona-California border. When I arrived, the local Dodge dealer said there was nothing wrong with the cooling system. Unconvinced, I took the truck to a five-star service center, where the crew immediately noticed that the cooling fan clutch was going bad. With this fixed, I went on my way and all seemed well. About two months later, I noticed radiator fluid leaking from underneath. I took the truck back to the five-star dealer, where the guys found a crack in the radiator. With a new radiator, I was off once more, convinced that my cooling problems were cured. About one month later, I was in stop-and-go traffic and found the temperature-gauge needle starting to creep up into the hot zone again. Fluid started boiling over shortly after, so I immediately pulled over and let the truck cool off. The problem went away, never to return until today. All was good while driving up to Big Bear, even on the steep grades. Oddly enough, while running around Big Bear, which is a flat area, the truck started to overheat at idle, but then went back down after I started moving. These random overheatings at idle speeds are really starting to bug me, and my warranty is now up. At this point, I'm not sure what to do or where to look for accurate help. Any information would be greatly appreciatedJim C., Pomona, California

OK, you have a new cooling fan clutch and radiator, yet you still have the overheating problem in slow to not-moving traffic. Sometimes strange, hard-to-fix problems can be the simplest component in the system. The radiator cap is a spring-loaded device. As the water in your radiator heats up, it expands. If it gets hot enough, it'll push against the radiator cap's spring until it starts to collapse. This breaks the seal on the cap and allows the water to boil out. This spring is made to release pressure at a certain temperature. If this spring is exposed to high heat, to the point of overflow a few times, the heat will fatigue the spring and reduce the spring's tension. This inherently will make the blow-off work incorrectly, reducing the efficiency in the cooling system. It'll also allow fluid to leak out of the cooling system, which again reduces the efficiency. The more coolant that leaks out of the fatigued cap, the hotter your vehicle will run, making it overheat. If you used the old cap on your new radiator, that could be the culprit. Either way, have a pressure and leak-down test done on the system. Also, pull the thermostat out of your engine and put it in a pot of cold water with a cooking thermometer. Let the thermometer stabilize in the cold water for about one minute, then put the pot on the stove and turn the burner on low heat. Watch the thermometer and thermostat closely. Take note of the thermometer's position when the thermostat opens. This will give you some indication of whether or not the stat is opening at the right temperature. The final thing you should check would be the water pump. Most new water pumps have what's known as a weep hole. It's a 1/4-inch hole drilled into the housing just behind the bearings and seals. If there's any indication that this hole is dribbling coolant, or if calcium deposits are built up on the hole, the pump is bad.

Editor's note: If you have any questions, comments, rants, or raves, please feel free to contact us at off-road magazine, Mailbox, 774 S. Placentia Ave., Placentia, CA 92870. You can e-mail us at

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