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Off-Road Unloaded - Letters To The Editor - June 2010

Posted in Features on June 1, 2010
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Searching for Escape Options
I have been building a new suspension for my 2008 Escape 4WD (Intelligent 4X4) So far I have changed my rear OEM shocks by cutting the stock Ford bottom mounting brackets and adding some old Willy's rear brackets to fit a set of Rancho RS 9000 adjustable shocks. I am looking to get the feel of a stock 2000 4X4 Ford Ranger. The Rancho set up has allowed me to do this with the nine different settings in the rear suspension.

So far on the front suspension I have added stiffer coil springs from Canuck Motorsports that were also 1.25 inches larger than the OEM coil springs. This enabled me to level the Escape. Even with the stiffer coil springs, the front suspension remains fairly bouncy when on the fire roads or at the off-road park.

I have contacted every custom shock manufacturer from your magazine with no luck. Since I have needed to replace the struts I have only received replies stating they do not make any aftermarket product for the Escape.

Is there a way I can stiffen the front suspension while at the same time using KYB/Monroe struts, or is there a way I can replace the struts with a shock that has the same measurements?

For an SUV with only 4-High the Escape handles off-road terrain pretty well. I have added stiffeners to the frame since it's a unibody, and replaced the stock 29-inch tires with Firestone Destinations 30-inch tires. I ran the Firestone ATX on my '94 Jimmy and '87 Toy. I really wish the Escape had solid axles and 4-Low as well. Once I win the lotto I plan on building a '67 Bronco. At this point I'll just make the Escape as comfortable as possible when on the dirt!

Phil Van Valkenburg

Phil, I am dissapointed to hear that no aftermarket shock company would help you out and take your money. The shock business must be good right now! Since I have absolutely no information about Escape suspension, I contacted suspension guru Shane Casad over at Bilstein. This was his reply:

"We don't have any direct replacement struts for the Escape. But we do sell "Motorsports" strut inserts. We have a fair amount of competitors in the domestic off-road rally circuits that have utilized and had much success with these inserts. The Motorsports inserts that I am referring to....require a custom-built strut housing. There is a shop in Bend, Oregon, that we work closely with that can build such a housing.

"They are called All Wheels Driven and can be reached (541) 419-7022."

There website is The part number for the motorsports insert is #AK1020.
Shane Casad
Bilstein Shock Absorbers

Snow Rangers
Let me start off by saying that I love this magazine. I have been a subscriber for about 10 years now even though I am only 19. As with most guys with trucks, both of mine (even the daily-driven one) are non-stop projects. I'm writing to you because I have a couple questions about lighting. I currently daily drive and weekend wheel a '97 Ford Ranger Ext. Cab 4.0 with a five-speed. I have done some things here and there to make it a better all-around truck, including putting a Trac-Lok in the rear, some 31x10.50R15 Kuhmo Road Ventures on 15x8 American Racing Daytonas, some Skyjacker Nitro 8000 shocks, and a new Centerforce Dual Friction clutch kit. I recently installed a rollbar on the truck and I put my blue "courtesy" light in the center (I am a volunteer firefighter). My original plan was to weld two more light tabs onto the rollbar but now I realize I do not have the room. What brand light and diameter would be the best for me? Money is not very much of a problem. I was thinking of looking into Lightforce, but am unsure. Also, does anyone make an HID kit for my truck? I would love to put HIDs in my truck. And one last question: I am going to install a front mount receiver, and I want to have a receiver-mounted winch that I can switch from the front to the back as needed. What would be the best capacity for what I am looking to do? I would be using snatch blocks to double my line back to maximize pulling power, but my strength depends on that of the hitch pin. Thanks for any help, and keep the magazine going the same way! I was never really interested in prerunners 'till I saw the articles here , and now I want to build one!
Dan Neal
East Pembroke , NY

Hey Dan, thanks much for the props! As for where to find some HID headlights, try or BF Xenon at

As for auxiliary lights, if you're working with only a small amount of room, I'd say try the Baja Designs ( Fuego lights. They have HID and halogen versions and are packed into a small housing.

And for winches, I'd say a 9,000-pound unit would be great for your Ranger. But please check carefully on the hitch pin you buy as some are not as strong as others, and you're right to be wary of this as you plan for your removable winch.

Hauling Air Clarification
In the March 2010 tech article on Haulin' Air. I noted the F-350 air kit allows the F-350 truck to haul a 30,000-pound trailer. Am I missing something here? I went to Ford's website and found the GCWR (Gross Combination Weight Rating) much lower. Even with the fifth-wheel option this GCWR to be a total of 18,700 pounds. In other words, the weight of the truck, luggage, passengers, fuel, and gear and then the weight of the trailer cannot exceed 18,700 pounds! Not to mention the weight rating of the tires can only hold so much. Longtime reader. I'm always looking forward to next month's issue.
Sheldon Padelio
Windsor, CO

Hi Sheldon, nah, you didn't miss anything. And thanks for pointing out the problem!

Here the deal: What's legal, what the factory rates their trucks for, and what aftermarket equipment can allow them to tow are often different things.

This is the best way to look at it:

The factory stays within legal specs on their door stickers (the GCWR). Stay within those parameters and you should be safe.

As far as the air kit's rating, I am not disputing that it makes the truck capable of balancing a trailer that big (30,000 pounds) in back of the truck, but it does not do a thing for the engine power, the braking ability, nor does it increase the actual weight of the truck itself. It only modifies the suspension to be able to take this much load. Towing over what the brakes and chassis can safely manage is just asking for trouble. And our author probably should have covered that point better in the story. I'll take him out back and beat him after work. Jerrod

Building for the Love
Hey Jerrod, I just got the March issue and I have to agree with you. I have had my Ranger since 1990. It was my first truck that I bought and it has taken me almost 20 years to get my truck were it is today. I could not afford to pay others to work on it so I learned, went to school, and now build rides for myself and others when we have the extra cash (Ha! Who has extra cash?!). I truly understand where you are coming from with Jinxy. Even though they break, we fix 'em and make them better. And then it becomes a passion and part of a lot of memories, and then it is like family! How many times have you said "Argh! I'm just gonna sell it!!!" Exactly.

I have finally named my truck after my 3-year-old daughter Emilie. Why? Because although she can be a little pain in the ass, I love her to death.

Well have fun on your trip north and hopefully we will see you in the desert sometime.
Rich Hobbs
High Definition Motorsports

This issue's Letter of the Month writer is going to be sporting some new OFF-ROAD magazine gear. We're sending you a couple hats, T-shirts, and some license plates. And we appreciate you representin'!

What Type of Steering Ends?
How do you feel about crossover Heim joint steering on a daily-driven Jeep? I ask because you recently did it on your red Ram project. I am currently running the stock Dana 30 knuckles and was planning on drilling them to 5/8-inch and running 3/4-inch Heims from Ruffstuff Specialties to save some money. I don't do too much crawling, and I plan to eventually make a go-fast desert rig out of it once I get back to SoCal. The only problem is that I am currently in Tennessee where it hardly snows , but they seem to go overboard with the salt. What is the best way to protect Heims from salt and the elements? I have seen various boots and seals to protect the Heims but it seems as if they would pick up and hold crap in causing premature failure. Do you think I would have a problem or should I just go for it?
Daniel Noda

Dan, this is a great question, and therefore this is our Letter of the Month.

I'll tell you what: Rod ends like Heims are really cool, but if you can find big enough conventional steering tie rod ends and make those work in your setup, I'd say use those. They'll last longer in a daily-drievn setup than the Heims ever will. We used Heims on the red Ram because of the way we stacked the draglink and rod end onto one bolt on the passenger side. Before this, there were normal tie rod ends on this truck, but they were giant 2-ton units. You can get some really big tie rod ends-bigger and stronger than you'd ever need. They also have more angularity that Heim joints.

And you're correct in thinking that those Heim joint rod ends will get eaten more quickly than a conventional tie rod end in all that salt. About the only way to protect them would be to get under your jeep with a can of WD40 or Pam cooking spray and douse them every single day that you drive it (and that seems a bit ridiculous).

By the way-just to give you a personal experience: my first time trying to use Heim joint rod ends for a steering kit, a fabricator ended up charging me $900 for a tie rod and draglink system that I wasted and wore out in a few days. Conventional steering tie rod ends would have survived and been much cheaper.

Editor's Note: If you want to say or ask something, email Unloaded at or write:
Unloaded, OFF-ROAD Magazine,
1733 Alton Parkway, Irvine, CA 92606.

Remember, we're giving away swag every month to the author of our favorite letter. Be sure to include your address, so we know where to send your goods. And because we lost our copyeditor, please know that we are not going to be copyediting your letter if you are going to be hating on us, so you better check it over well before sending it our way! Thanks!

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