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Off-Road Unloaded - Letters to the Editor - September 2012

Ring And Pinion Set.gif
Posted September 1, 2012

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.

Letter of the Month

Our Letter of the Month author is getting hooked up by G2 Gear. We made a couple calls and tailor-made Bill George a Letter-of-the-Month prize of a G2 4.56:1 ring-and-pinion set and install kit. It should be everything he needs (providing he has the correct hand tools) to do the gear swap and his house.

Smart Axle Swapper

My 18-year-old daughter recently wrecked her ‘97 Explorer, leaving me with some extra bills and the need for a ride for my daughter. After finding a cheap no-motor carcass on Craigslist for $500, I was able to swap over the engine and transmission and put together an even better Explorer than she had before. On top of that, I now have an extra Ford 8.8 axle with disc brakes, and I think it’d be the ultimate swap for my Jeep. In the end, I felt great because I recycled, reused, and was able to get my daughter an even better ride for the price that I’d pay for a bare disc brake Ford 8.8 (plus I still got the axle!).

I was recently on your website,, and I saw that you built one of these axles. How is it working out? I know you put a C-clip eliminator and chromoly shafts in yours, but I just want to start with a gear swap for now and learn to wheel a little better with the open differential before switching to a locker. Thanks for any info you can provide.

Bill George
St. George, Utah

Bill, we are impressed. Big props to you for being able to fix a big problem, while reusing and recycling, and at the same time getting yourself a clean Ford 8.8 axle for a decent price. And we really like the fact that you’re going to learn how to drive in the dirt better with an open diff before switching to a locker—that’s smart thinking. For those reasons, yours is our Letter of the Month and G2 Gear is hooking you up with a 4.56 gearset and install kit for your Ford 8.8.

As for our Ford 8.8, it’s doing great save for one big issue we’re having with the differential damaging the passenger-side axleshaft. We’ll likely change out to a different locking differential to keep this from happening anymore. Otherwise, the strength of the overall package has been excellent, and we love that disc brakes are already on the axle. We will tell you that we needed to change out the master cylinder/ABS setup in our Cherokee to push enough fluid to engage the rear disc brakes, as the stock setup was meant to power drum brakes.

The Tacoma is How Old?!

When was the first year of the Tacoma? My buddy says 1994 and I say 1995?

Drew Helios
Via email

Drew, Toyota first produced the Tacoma in 1994 as a ’95 model year. That is likely where your guys’ confusion comes in. The first generation of Tacoma was produced until the ’04 model year, when the second generation (and the current model) started being produced (’05 to current). It had minor changes like grill and headlight differences throughout the years, and added a Prerunner model in 1998 and a crew cab to the available line-up in 2001.

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