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

Posted in Features on September 1, 2010
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AWD Issues
I am currently building up a 2008 Sierra Denali AWD. Recently I had a 2.25-inch leveling kit installed (roughly 2,000 miles ago) and am now experiencing CV axle failure. Assuming this will be an ongoing issue, I am looking for something stronger than stock. Thus far I have come across RCV Performance and they seem to have an outstanding product, but at $480 each they are expensive. My question to you is do you know of another manufacturer that has an economical replacement? I would need something compatible with future additions like ICON coilovers, BMS upper A-arms, etc. I appreciate your help.
Todd Albrecht
Bradenton, FL

Todd, without personally looking at your truck, I can only guess what your issues are. I've heard of issues with all-wheel-drive (AWD) vehicles being lifted before. Usually it's a transfer case issue or a front drive issue (like you're having). In your particular instance, I'm guessing that the reason you are having issues (where other trucks with 2WD are not) is because your CV shafts are constantly propelling the vehicle as drive axles. Even though a CV shaft in an IFS 4x4 is always turning, they're not being "powered" or propelled in 2WD. And I'm guessing you'll have the same problem with the coilovers or a leveling kit, even if you use new BMS A-arms (the arms will help with camber though).

And unfortunately, it's not guaranteed the RCV shafts will fix your issue, though they are fine products. The angle may just be too great for those shafts to be constantly driven. I also don't know of any cheaper heavy-duty replacement for the stock CV shafts on your GMC. There are stock replacements available, but it'll just be replacing what you already have.

Old-School Cool
Hey guys! I go way back, to, as they say, back in the day. Riverside Raceway was epic with Vessels, Iron Man, Walker, and for me, Sherman, Balch.... Yeah, I had a Scout (one of those IH weirdos). But near the end of Riverside (before the freakin' mall went in), Sherman won in a Scout with Don Adams, in his Jeep, all over him. And, well...those were the days. Pre-prerunner, pre-Trophy Truck.

Where are the Founders? Larry Schwakafer (spelling?) in his '56 Chevy Bel Air Sedan. He had a Quiver of old '55-to-'56 cars in his pit-all so cool. It makes me want to say the old Cali word that you don't relate to unless you grew up with it: bitchin'. Just plain bitchin'. You and your crew are workin' it, and as a 20-plus year subscriber, thank you for keeping OFF-ROAD, just really....( fill in the "cool" still cool?).
John "Re-subscriber" Clements
Peoria, AZ

P.S. I really miss the '76 Scout-had it from new for 20 years. Don't ask why. I raised two girls, and someday soon I'll get a buggy and I'm gonna see you all at Glamis soon (with grandkids, too)

Rebuildable Ball Joints Any Good?
Hello, I read the article on the Dynatrac Pro Steer Ball joints that were installed in a Dodge Ram 2500 heavy duty truck. I am very interested to know how these joints are holding up so far? Any further "bombing" around the trails of Colorado? I am in dire need of some ball joints and it's between the Dynatrac or the Carli units. I would really appreciate an update (I know it is probably in the works for an up-and-coming issue) but I will be ordering the parts by the end of this week. Please help!
Thanks in advance,
Chad Brebis
Arvada, CO

Chad, right you are! You can find the ball joints in this month's Long-Term Updates. And we have definitely not let up on this truck yet. Besides towing duty, it's still being off-roaded and beat on harder than most diesel trucks. And so far, those Dynatrac ball joints have been holding up excellently. There is no play in them after 10,000 miles of use, and they've never come loose at any point where they are rebuildable. If you're having ball joint issues, I'd suggest trying these out. Unfortunately, we have no experience with the Carli ball joints, so I can't comment on those.

Blocks or Leaf Springs?
Hi, I currently own a 2006 Dodge Power Wagon and have been toying with the idea of buying a lift for a while. On several online 4x4 forums the general chatter seems to be that using blocks to the lift the rear end can cause potential problems and even be dangerous. I've noticed in several of your builds that you use pretty tall blocks in place of custom leaf springs so I'm assuming they can't be all bad. I was just wondering what the advantages are using new leaf springs over blocks (if any) and if it's worth me shelling out an extra $800 or so for them? Thanks for the help and keep up the good work.
Best Regards,
Beryl Stefanic

Beryl, those are some great questions! We have used blocks in the past, but I must say that leaf springs are almost always preferred. Blocks are a cheap way to lift something, or a way to "fix" or bandage a suspension that is not quite at the right height. We used 5.5-inch blocks on the fullsize Cherokee because our rear custom leaf springs were not quite tall enough to meet up with the front leaf springs' height. Once we get around to it, we will probably take our custom leaf springs to get reworked and modified for the correct height so we can ditch the blocks. You are correct in thinking that blocks will allow the leaf springs to wrap, as it puts a larger leverage arm on the leaf spring. We compensated for the axle wrap on the springs by putting traction bars on (but again, that's a bandage as well).

You're lucky because you're a Dodge Powerwagon owner and both Deaver ( and National Spring ( have something called a "mini pack" available for your truck. The mini pack replaces your overload leaf, gives you a little bit of lift, and greatly improves the ride of your truck. I'd suggest going that route.

Tire shot?
Do rock-crawlers use lead shot in their tires for balance? How often do you see rock-crawlers with that?
Via email

Brian, I haven't seen the lead shot in the tires trick for some time. It is done to keep a lot of weight very low in an effort to keep the rock-crawler from tipping over. Now, obviously this can be a double-edged sword if a rock-crawler gets his tires up high enough for the extra weight to tip him over. More often than lead shot, 'crawlers use water in their tires. A lot of guys seem to be getting away from that though (it does add a lot of unsprung weight) and instead find other ways to better balance their weight.

This issue's Letter of the Month author is going to get this cool Baja Bin aluminum reinforcement cage for the 8-gallon Action Packers, from The Baja Bin not only strengthens the box itself, it also has a hinged lid that makes sure the Action Packer doesn't fly open. On top of that, it has multiple tie-down points so it can be secured and have things secured on top of it when available space is a problem. Check them out at

Thanks for the Anchor!
Hi Jerrod, my name is Shane. I was in Gorman about a year ago in a green '71 GMC short bed truck. Your front end broke and I helped get you out by anchoring myself. I was wondering if you still have those pictures? I would love if you had time to email me them if you do. Did they make a magazine? That would be awesome! Thanks
Shane Melvin
North Hills, CA

Shane, it's been a while! Thanks again for the extra anchor. When that driveshaft snapped on the company Super Duty and the winch kept dragging my friend's Tahoe 4x4, I didn't know what we were going to do until you came along and hooked up to the Tahoe to give a big enough anchor. Unfortunately, I was so concerned with getting the truck out of that mudpit, I didn't snap a single picture of the happenstance. But, we did get a good picture of your truck that day. Check it out!

And since you saved my butt out there, the least I can do is make yours our Letter of the Month, so you'll be receiving the Baja Bin for an 8-gallon Action Packer. The Baja Bin is of the highest quality, and is a nice little bling piece to add to your off-road storage plans.

Editor's Note: If you want to say or ask something, email Unloaded at or write:
Unloaded, OFF-ROAD Magazine,
1733 Alton Parkway, Ste 100, 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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