Q: I'm 15 years old and I got into off-roading about a year ago. I have a few questions. I drive my dad's Chevy Tahoe a little now, but am looking into buying my own rig soon and I have about a $4,000 budget for a new, almost-stock truck or SUV. My parts budget is not a huge concern. I'm looking to buy a Jeep, Bronco, Ford Ranger, or a stepside pickup. I would like to know, if I got a stock rig, what things I should purchase first? I'm into lots of mud, rough terrain, hills, and rockcrawling. Can you please give me any info about axles, driveshafts, the differences between air lockers and regular lockers, ring-and-pinion, and U-joints, and anything you can offer about front and rear axle setup and stuff. Thanks for any suggestions you can offer.Mikevia e-mail
A: Mike, you have a good chunk of change to start things off, and that's a good thing. In our experience of buying used 4x4s, though, it's usually best to budget a portion of your money toward vehicle licensing, insurance, and miscellaneous parts you may or may not need to tune the engine or other vehicle components once you've completed your purchase. If it were our four grand, we'd most likely start our shopping in the $3,000 range and move up from there. Not to say that you should look for a junker or something inferior to what you desire, just that an extra $1,000 goes a long way toward gathering the necessary stock or aftermarket parts that you're sure to want after driving your rig off-road for the first time. Considering your budget, we'd suggest looking for an early-to-mid '90s Jeep Wrangler YJ, a Toyota pickup or 4Runner, or a Ford Ranger. Ford Broncos are awesome, especially the early models, but you might find those to be out of your budget, and the later models are often larger than most find suitable for trail use. The same goes for the stepside pickups. As for information on the remaining laundry list of questions you presented, there's a great magazine called 4 Wheel Drive & Sport Utility that offers tips and tricks about all that stuff on a monthly basis. Get yourself a subscription and start reading. It should provide you with the answers you're looking for. 'Wheel on.
Grand Cherokee Bumper/Tire Carriers
Q: I have a '94 ZJ with the spare tire on top for more space inside. I can't find a rear bumper/tire carrier for this anywhere! I saw another ZJ with one locally, but couldn't stop the guy to ask him where he got it. I'd like to be able to use the roof rack for roof-rack stuff. Do you have any idea where I can find a bumper/carrier for this thing?No namevia e-mail
A: No name, you've come to the right place. Proto Fab [(928) 632-0216, www.protofab4x4.com] in Dewey, Arizona, offers exactly what you're after. The company manufacturers front prerunner-style Jeep Grand Cherokee ZJ bumpers, as well as rear bumpers with or without a tire carrier. For more information on bumpers for ZJs and many other applications, check out the bumper buyer's guide in this issue.
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