Is a Manual or Auto Tranny Better Off-Road?
I am thinking of buying a 2010 Jeep Wrangler Rubicon and am considering buying this vehicle in an automatic transmission instead of a manual transmission. Do you suggest buying this vehicle in an automatic transmission or a manual transmission. Which is best for off-roading? Thank you for your suggestion.
New York City, NY
Joe, this type of thing is really up to you. What do you feel comfortable with? Personally, I really like manual transmissions-so much so that I like manual trannys even in traffic. But all my off-road trucks have autos in them.
Why? Well, I'm not out to prove anything to anyone when I go off-roading; I just go to have fun. When off-road, I am using many more senses and am doing much more (control-wise) with the vehicle than I am on the street. Therefore, I want the minimum amount of controls to mess with when I am in the dirt because I'd rather pay as much attention as I can to traversing the terrain around the vehicle.
There are a lot of hardcore Jeep guys out there who will tell you that "real men drive stick shifts." That's stubborn, old man B.S. Automatic transmissions are good enough to hold up to hardcore off-roading these days, and an auto tranny actually acts as a nice fluid dampener between your engine and the rest of the drivetrain.
I hope some of this helps you when making a decision about which transmission to get. But remember that the best transmission choice is whichever one you like driving with more.
Yeah, I'm That Guy on 44s!
When I recently picked up an issue of your magazine at the store I was surprised to find an article about daily-driven 47s. In your recent March 2010 issue. I was about four lines into the paragraph and just knew I had to write you. The quote being something like, "Who in there right mind would drive on the street with 44s...." or something of that sort.
Well, that someone is me! My daily driver (or ex-daily driver, I should say) is a mid '80s Chevy riding on 44s with 20 inches of lift. I'm glad to see you are featuring a article dedicated to running redonkulous huge meats and what it takes to get the job done, and how you are showcasing all the little problems that arise, such as need for wheel spacers,bigger blocks, etc. Well if I may, I'd like to put in my two cents and back your guys' article by saying that just because a tire is large and bias ply doesn't necessarily mean it won't be decent on the street. My tire of choice on my truck is the Super Swamper Truxus STS bias ply 44x21. The tire runs down the road nicely and is surprisingly quiet for such a tire. But after looking at your article, I must say the 47-inch Pit Bulls will be next for me.
Another thing to note is that the mileage you can get out of these tires is not as bad as the stereotype dictates. Most people think soft rubber compound and largely-spaced lugs equals poor mileage. People underestimate the value of proper inflation and proper rotation! Example: One of my friends somehow kept tread on his Boggers for roughly 75,000 miles from rotating and keeping his pressures in check.
Well, thanks for letting me rant; I could go on about oversized tires all day. My ride is no longer daily-driven thanks to the local CHP and a frame height that's over the legal limit by about a foot. But keep up the good work and keep the rubber side down! Thanks again.
The author of this Letter of the Month is getting a copy of The Wolfman. Academy Award winners Anthony Hopkins and Benicio Del Toro star in the stunning re-imagining of the classic thriller. on Blu-ray Disc and DVD on June 1, 2010.
Letter Of The Month
Where's the Rollcages?!
Thanks for putting out a magazine dedicated to prerunner trucks and do-it-yourself fabrication. This is the only truck mag I buy and I look forward to reading it many times each month. The reason I am writing this letter is that I am bummed to see trucks featured with thousands of dollars worth of built engines, long-travel suspensions, bypass shocks, and hydraulic bumpstops...and no rollcage at all. We all know how fast these trucks are and safety should come first-it's like riding a dirt bike without a helmet. Ever since I rolled my first truck, my last four off road vehicles have all had a 'cage done before the suspension mods. The pic is of my current ride. I hope you can encourage your readers to protect themselves and their passengers.
D. Ose, I couldn't agree with you more, and I feel guilt every time we show an off-road vehicle without a rollcage in it. It is a shame that we enthusiasts build such impressive vehicles but then stop short at the safety aspects.
Unfortunately, we cannot always dictate the way some people build their trucks (for feature vehicles), but we can certainly do our damndest to make sure that we spread the gospel and be good examples by ensuring that every one of our project vehicles has a rollcage in it. We often make the same excuses to ourselves that most 'cageless truck owners do-we drive them on the street all the time, and rollcages make entering and exiting a vehicle a pain in the butt. But that is a poor excuse in lieu of safety.
I am going to make a goal of getting some type of roll protection into every project vehicle that OFF-ROAD actively works on.
Thanks for poking us in the side about the rollcages, D. Ose, and for that I'm going to make yours our Letter of the Month. You'll be receiving a copy of The Wolfman.
TB Efficiency Improvements
Great mag! I have been a subscriber for the last year and like the emphasis you put on desert. I am building a '97 XJ to be Jeepspeed spec in the long run. So far I've put 33s on with a 4.5-inch Currie short-arm lift using Deaver race packs in the rear. I am still using it as a daily driver as I plan the full build and cage to be done in a few years.
Since putting the bigger tires on I have obviously seen a huge loss in power and mpg (I am waiting to re-gear until I have enough saved for a new rear axle.) I read about the Painless throttle body long term update and have some questions. I already have a K&N cold air intake on the 4.0. I noticed about 1 mpg improvement with the intake when stock. I am assuming that your "reputable tester" had a cold-air intake on his jeep w/ the Painless throttle body? Was this 1-2 mpg improvement on top of or combined with the mpg improvement from the cold air intake? Another question: I have seen that there are a few reputable companies that make a throttle body spacer for the Jeep 4.0 with the same bore. Most of them appear to be quality products as I would expect from these companies. So if the bore is the same from one throttle body manufacture to another, shouldn't the performance be the same across brands? Why not? Thanks.
Whoa, good questions, Jeff! Without chastising anyone in particular, I will definitely say that I've had good success with particular throttle bodies, throttle body spacers, and air intakes on 4.0L Jeep engines, while others have clearly not made a dang bit of difference at all. The Painless throttle body made a big difference by itself, and our tester tells us that the 1-to-2-mpg improvement was based on only the throttle body installation.
As for TB spacers, I've had excellent luck with the Poweraid and Lite Grip units. That being said, I will tell you that I've seen no improvement with a TB spacer when used on a '99-to-'06 4.0L intake manifold. The TB spacers are basically making up for a deficiency in perfect airflow into the engine, and when Chrysler revamped the intake manifold design, they improved the air flow passages and made the TB spacers unnecessary.
Where's the Nissan Love?!
What's up guys? I have an naturally aspirated '03 Xterra that I love and I can't wait to start building next year when it's all paid off. Right now, it's modified with a custom-made snorkel and cold-air intake, Toyo Open Country ATs, and the rear sway bar has been removed. I know it's not much, but it's a start!
I don't understand why more magazines don't build an Xterra. The Xterra is a very capable machine.
I'm wondering if you guys could do an first-gen Xterra build for prerunning. I would love to see an Xterra prerunner!!!
Sioux City, Iowa
Well, Dan, we honestly just don't have that many inquires about Xterras, and that's why we don't build one. The Titans were big for a while but we haven't seen too many more built since the economy took a turn, and we just built a Suzuki Equator (which is basically a rebadged Frontier), but the Xterra is something we rarely see in a prerunning uniform. I see Xterras all over the place for being driven by "outdoorsy" people to national parks and on light trails, but I haven't seen too many hardcore Xterra builds. When you finish yours, please send us some pics for the magazine!.
Editor's Note: If you want to say or ask something, email Unloaded at email@example.com 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!