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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
Rebuild Or Wrecking Yard?I have a '99 F-250 two-wheel-drive with the 5.4L V-8. I know, I know. A two-wheel-drive? Well, it was in good shape, and I had the cash, so that's how the story goes. Anyway, my truck has some miles on it - 208,000 to be exact. Everything seems sound now, except for a rapid clicking during the first few minutes after startup. It sounds like a valve. What are my options going to be when this truck gives up the ghost? What would be the better option: to rebuild the engine, or simply buy the same engine off a wrecked vehicle and install it as is? If I have my motor rebuilt, I'd like to have the cylinders bored 0.030 inches over for some added oomph. Would it cost more to keep it and bore it out than to buy a new one? Would a rebuild be better, or should I see what the local wrecking yard has to offer? This truck isn't seeing any heavy use - no mud bogging, just some field play on the weekends.
Spencer Bates via e-mail
SpencerSalvage yard specials are always a gamble. Of course, a gamble means you could win, too. You just may score a motor that is complete, comes with all the brackets you'll need, and uses the exact same wiring harness as the one that's already under your hood. The winning gamble would also net a motor that's never been run hot, low on oil, or subjected to high-speed strafing runs on the local backroads. Another winning gamble is an engine that wasn't damaged in the accident that sent the donor truck to the bone yard in the first place. If we sound skeptical, that's because we are. Our first choice would be a new crate motor from the factory, which would come with all-new parts and a warranty. If that's out of the question, we'd suggest finding a local rebuilder who does quality work and stands behind the product produced. A couple of indications of a good rebuilder to work with are the demeanor of the person on the phone and cleanliness of the workshop. If you call and the staff seems unfriendly, or seems as though its used to a constant peppering from dissatisfied customers, hang up and call the next potential rebuilder. As for the cleanliness of the workshop, if the floors and machines are grimy and shavings are everywhere, there's a good chance that some of the grit will end up inside your "finished" engine block or cylinder heads. One more caveat: Ask about turnaround time. We've worked with a local shop that does excellent quality work, but we've had to wait, wait, and wait some more for the shop to rebuild our engine. As for two-wheel-drives, hey, they make great tow rigs, haulers, prerunners ('til you get stuck in a deep silt bed), and superb trade-ins on a four-by.
Desperately Seeking SuspensionI recently picked up an issue of Off-Road and was shuffling through the pages, when I noticed your article on off-road suspension setups. As I was reading through it, I noticed that you had no diagrams of the setups or the different linkage systems. I ask that you produce a follow-up article that details different suspension types for the common off-roader to see. I enjoy the fact that you don't feature the same old straight-axle applications. Instead, you feature desert buggies, prerunners, and Trophy Trucks. I feel that these are more fun to drive than the common live-axle trail rider. Please keep up the good work. I hope to become a subscriber.
Colin Bonathan, Wayne, Michigan
ColinYou, yes you, could become a subscriber. It's actually a quick and painless way to keep Off-Road coming every month to your doorstep and it saves a ton of cash compared with buying a copy at the newsstand each month. As for the suspension diagrams, we don't have such an article in this issue, but keep a close eye out for the captions that go along with the various suspension stories and prerunner features. We make every effort to explain the way each suspension system works, with the features and benefits of various designs.
Straight-axle trail rigs with leaf springs do give up ride quality compared with IFS trucks, but the payoff is dirt-simple suspension and a durable frontend. Cost is lower, too. Leaf-sprung solid-axle frontends have a forte, and that forte is in the world of slow-speed 'wheeling and 'crawling. We recently had the chance to take a ride in a Class 7s race truck with solid axles front and rear. While the ride was not cushy, it was an experience that gave us new insight concerning the capabilities of solid-axle trucks. Having said that, both double A-arm and twin-traction-beam frontends offer better suspension action than a live-axle frontend suspended by leaf springs, but they are not as durable in stock form and are more expensive to lift or modify into a long-travel form. When the subject is rear suspension, a properly designed linkage system allows a truck to reach speeds that are unattainable while using leaf packs. The drawback is cost and usually the loss of a usable truck bed.
We love going fast and we've also spent many a fun mile going slow on tight trails. Just the same, the saying "speed costs, so how fast do you want to go" is as true as ever, so we make an effort to show trucks and products that cover both extremes in the spectrum of speed. Bear with us - you'll find the wisdom you seek in the pages of OR.
Worth While 4x Conversion?I recently bought a '78 GMC Jimmy 2x4 with a 350 V-8. I plan to transform it into a 4x4. Do you have some advice for me? I want to know if I need to change the rear driveline. I have a Posi-traction on this, and the 4x4 has six-lug wheels, while the 2x4 has five-lug wheels.
Benny, Quebec, Canada
BennyWe hate it when people tell us to sell our truck and buy one that will actually meet our needs, but that unwelcome advice seems appropriate here. Why? If Quebec is anything like the U.S., Jimmys and Blazers are a dime a dozen. Your local used-truck market should yield a clean, mechanically sound 4x4 that's ready to go, complete with the transmission-to-transfer-case adapter, transfer case, front axle, matching six-lug rear axle, and all the bracketry to mount the 4x4 parts and front drive axle. The only 2x4 parts you may want to keep to put on a 4x4 would be the 2x4 steering box, engine, and body (if it's in good shape). The 2x4 steering box can be bolted into place on the 4x4 frame and uses the correct pitman arm clocking for a crossover steering conversion. Crossover steering is an excellent upgrade compared with the stock 4x4 push-pull steering configuration. For crossover steering, call Dynatrac [(714) 596-4461] or Off-Road Design [(970) 945-7777]. We're sorry to rain on your 2x4-to-4x4 conversion plans, but we really think you'll be way ahead, both in terms of time and money, if you buy a 4x4.
Letter Of The MonthMore Toyota Stopping PowerI have a '93 Toyota pickup, and I would like to add a rear disc upgrade. The fourth-generation Toyota 4Runners have rear disc brakes. Can the disc-brake assembly be swapped to the earlier rear axles? Did Toyota design its new rear disc-brake assembly to fit its current design axlehousing, or can the complete rear axle be swapped with modifications to the spring perches?
Ron Foster,Camarillo, California
RonThe fourth-generation ('96-and-newer with a coil-sprung front suspension) axlehousings are wider than the earlier housings. As such, the newer 'Runner axles won't fit inside your '93 rear differential if you want to bolt the new-generation brake assemblies onto your '93 pickup's axle. Swapping the entire rear axle assembly will involve substantial cutting and grinding to remove the four-link bracketry, along with the Panhard bracket and coil buckets. You'll then need to obtain rear spring perches and weld them onto the prepped housing. Hopefully, this can all be done without warping the housing - cutting, grinding, and welding should be performed a little at a time, letting the metal cool down between applications of the torch and grinder.
Gears and lockers are another issue. Depending on the gearing you're currently using, gears that match your front differential may or may not be available for the 4Runner rearend. All-Pro Off Road [(951) 658-7077] makes a rear disc conversion kit that includes brackets, disc rotors, and calipers. All-Pro advises that Cadillac El Dorado calipers with an integrated parking brake should fit its caliper brackets, but that the Caddy parking brakes themselves are pretty poor performers. If you have a four-cylinder motor with a five-speed tranny, you can also use All-Pro's transfer case-mounted parking brake. All-Pro does not currently offer a transfer case-mounted parking brake for V-6 Toyotas. Another source for a rear disc conversion is Front Range Off-Road Fabrication [(970) 881-2418]. Front Range offers a full-floater rear axle conversion that includes a disc brake upgrade. The Front Range Kit uses early Supra calipers, which have an integrated parking brake.