Weak Links, Strong Readers
I really liked your article about the "Weak Links and Strong Fixes" (Aug. '10). I am in the middle of fixing a weak link in my '06 Dodge Ram 1500. Have you heard about the weak A/C recirculation and blender doors? A few years back (when it was under warranty), my recirculation door broke. It's made of cheap plastic and is controlled by a very strong little motor. Over time, the dang thing will snap off and block the A/C vents. This is very frustrating because you can hear the A/C blowing hard and not much air comes out. Luckily for me, I had the dealer fix it under warranty. Well, it broke again last month, just before a six-hour road trip. I hate losing my truck for an entire day for a job I can do in two hours, so I searched for a fix online and found some guys that make a strong fix for Dodge, Jeep, and Ford A/C parts. Unlike Mopar and Motorcraft, their replacement parts are made out of metal.
Check out heatertreater.net. They have a guide to help you diagnose your A/C problem, a parts guide, and a video to walk you through the installation. I found out exactly what is wrong with my truck and how to fix it on my own, thanks to these folks. Another good place to get a Stong Fix that I have found and bought parts from is Steiger Performance. They make a Strong Fix for the notorious Jeep Liberty window regulator, as well as other models with cheap plastic parts. It's good to see folks out there who refuse to pay an arm and a leg at the dealer for more plastic junk. Keep up the great work with the magazine.
Huber Heights, OH
Your Aug. '10 article on Jeep TJ "Weak Links" left me, as the owner of an '03 Rubicon, with these unanswered questions. First, the SYE conversion: Is there one for the Rubicon's NP241 transfer case? Second, for the front driveshaft, is there a replacement greaseable front CV-joint, or do all driveshafts need to be replaced? Third, the U-joint retaining straps: The Rubicons already have Dana 44s, but are these different? Most of the items that said "all TJs" were correct, and many have already been upgraded on mine.
I wanted to let you know that you have a great magazine and I have subscribed since I was 13! I am now 18 and I have my own 4x4. It's a '92 Nissan Pathfinder SE 4x4. I am disappointed because there never is any coverage on the first-gen Pathfinder, which is a great 4x4 SUV. I was wondering if you could do a "Weak Links, Strong Fixes" on it? I would really appreciate it.
El Paso, TX
Thanks for the suggestion, and duly noted. We'll be reviewing some Strong Fixes for Pathfinders and Hardbody pickups in a future issue.
About the TJ: (1) Your Rubicon already has a slip-yoke eliminator, straight from the factory. Cool, huh? (2) For a greaseable replacement front CV, Spicer part number 5-213X is what you're looking for. (3) The Rubicon's beefier Dana 44 U-joint retaining straps are fine as they are. Thanks to all who wrote in with Strong Fixes.
Dakota = Dead?
I recently heard that the Dodge Dakota will be discontinued for 2011. Is this true? Will the truck just be getting a new name? Or will Dodge exit the compact pickup segment? Please tell me that the Dodge Dakota will not be discontinued!
Via the Internet
The Dodge Dakota will not be discontinued. The Dodge Dakota will not be discontinued. The Dodge Dakota will not be discontinued. And dinosaurs will return to rule the earth.
Actually, it's more like "yes" and "no." Yes, Dodge (er, Ram) will discontinue building the current Dakota in 2011. However, Fiat is looking at the possibility of replacing the Dakota in the Ram product line with a unitbody, all-wheel-drive SUT a la the Honda Ridgeline, possibly powered by one of Fiat's small-displacement diesels for 2012 and beyond. To the best of our knowledge, no final plans have been made as yet, but if your definition of a "pickup truck" is something that's based on body-on-frame architecture, then sorry to say, it looks like Fiat/Chrysler is going to bail on the midsize truck segment next year. We'll keep you posted either way.
Long-Term Ram Gets How Many MPG?
I'm reading the long term report on the 2009 Dodge Ram 1500 TRX4 (Aug. '10). You claim you got about 13 mpg towing a 9,000-pound trailer. Your long-term numbers in the article included a test-best tank of 17.56 mpg, and a worst tank of 10.05mpg. That would put the average tank of gas at just under 14 mpg (believable), but there is no way that truck gets 13 mpg towing 9,000 pounds. My 2001 Ram 4x4 with the 5.9L gas engine gets about 8 mpg pulling 6,000 pounds on flat ground. It would be nice to get 13 mpg pulling 9,000 with the gas engine, but I doubt it's true.
Sean P. Holman replies: We did indeed record about 13 mpg (highway) on that tank of fuel where we were testing different settings of the truck's electronics while towing. We only towed at about 55 mph, used cruise when appropriate, and did not select Tow/Haul mode for that particular tank of fuel. When Tow/Haul is not selected, MDS (four-cylinder mode) still activates, which is where we saw the fuel savings. Granted, that mode is not as nice to tow with as Tow/Haul selected (which gives better engine braking, shift points and control over the transmission). Also keep in mind that this towing was done from Los Angeles to San Diego on a very flat section of Interstate 5 at sea level. Your mileage will vary-this was a best-case scenario for our road conditions and weather, and we were trying to see what the truck was capable of delivering.
Elves We Love. Trolls, Not So Much
In his "No-Drill Cargo Storage" (Aug. '10), Gary Wescott mentions "a special silicon sealant" which shows a tube of E6000. E6000 is neither silicon (a black crystalline element used for microchips, etc.), nor silicone (a synthetic material used for grease and rubber). Nor is it marketed as a sealant-its manufacturer describes it as an "industrial adhesive." And considering that it's available at most craft, hardware, parts, and department stores for less than $5 a tube, it hardly qualifies as "special." Furthermore, neither E6000 nor anything else known to man can "prevent any possibility of rust or corrosion."
I liked the rest of the article, but it might as well say the basket is made of unobtanium refined by Keebler elves.
Wants Chevy To Build a Power Raptor
Is there any way to tell GM that we want a solid-axle 3/4-ton Chevy again? Dodge has the Power Wagon. Ford has the Raptor. I want Chevy power in Power Wagon form.
Joe in WI
Sounds great to us, but we doubt it's going to happen, considering that GM disbanded its high-performance division in 2009. But we'll pass along your wishes to them whenever we get the chance.
Wants Jeep J-Truck Info
I have an '80 Jeep J-20. I love almost everything about this truck, except finding the lift kit I want and certain parts. I'm sure I'm not the only one having a hard time finding full-size Jeep parts. I am running 33x12.50-16.5s now with the stock suspension. I have a set of 37-inch tires but want to leave room for 39s in the future. I don't want a spring-over conversion, so I've been looking for a 6-inch lift with no luck at all. I am also rebuilding both the engine and tranny (360 V-8 and 727 TorqueFlite), and I have no clue what transfer case and axles are under it. I'm planning on using it as a mud runner/daily driver. Any advice, tips, tricks, and axle ratios that would be optimal would be very helpful. I also have spent a lot of time at BJs Offroad and International Full Size Jeep Association.
Your transfer case is (we're best-guessing here; fullsize Jeeps ran a lot of gearbox combos over the years) the full-time chain-drive New Process 219, which is relatively rare because it was only used for a couple of years in fullsize Jeeps; these vehicles also came equipped with the NP 208 part-time 'case, but only with the six-cylinder/automatic and/or manual combo, not the V-8/auto. Your axles are six-lug 30-spline versions of the Dana 44 with 3.73:1 gearing-and frankly, the axles will be iffy in terms of strength with 39-inch tires. But if you don't hop up the 360 and drive reasonably sanely, they will probably hold up.
If you've gotta have a 6-inch suspension lift, Rusty's Off-Road offers a 6-inch kit for your Jeep. Superlift, Skyjacker, Rancho, Rough Country and BDS also have suspension kits available, but they are all in the 4-inches-and-under category. For ring and pinion gearing, it all depends on what tire size you go with. For a ballpark estimate, divide your new tire size by the original tire size, then multiply that number by your current ring and pinion ratio. If you go with 39s, then the formula would be: 39 ÷ 31 (your original tire size, 9.50x16.5, not what you have now) = 1.25 x 3.73 = 4.66, which means you can go with either 4.56:1 or 4.88:1 gears and keep the V-8's cruising revs within their optimal range. For greater flexibility when wheeling in low-range or under a load, though, we'd go with the lower gear set. We'd also ditch the transfer case for a 205 instead, but that's for another letter.
TH 350/Dana 18 Clearance Issues
I was wondering if you know of any company that makes a transmission pan for a GM Turbo 350 that has the right edge cut off at an angle so the front driveline will not hit the pan off a Dana 18 transfer case. I made mine, but it leaks some, and I would like to have one professionally made. I have looked online but could not find anything.
We don't know of any companies that manufacture a custom one-off part such as this, though it's possible that a company that specializes in mating and adapting gearboxes, such as Novak Conversions or Advance Adapters, might be able to point you in the right direction. As an aside, Novak recommends installing the engine (assuming it's a GM) 11/4 inch offset to the driver's side to ensure proper transmission pan-to-front drive yoke clearance with the TH 350/Spicer 18 combo. Which is another way of saying, you may need to relocate the engine (and trans) to make this driveline setup work optimally.
Claps For Clunkers
I was quite pleasantly surprised with your tech article on the "Long Range Clunker" (Aug. '10) and wondered when the next installment will be forthcoming. That is just the kind of article my friends and I enjoy. I have an '88 GMC Suburban that currently has over 352,000 miles on the clock. I've never changed the engine, but the previous owner may have. I bought it from the original owner (a retired Air Force pilot), with 98,000 miles on the clock. He was a fanatic about maintenance as am I.
San Antonio, TX
Glad you liked our newest project rig. The Clunker will return in next month's issue.
They're Still Waiting for Real Truck Challenge
We are still looking forward to this event having a possibility of a return. We (as a group) would make the trip every year to spectate. I know there is still a demand for this event, especially since all your events tend to be held in California, or some other place out west. Believe it or not, there is a demand to hold competitions here in the Midwest. The Top Truck is great and all, but what about a "realistic" competition? As I recall, one of the Top Trucks attempted Real Truck Challenge. He failed miserably.
There are a great many people who support a "run what you brung" event. The problem with the past attendance was this: The only way people could find out when it was held was with deep digging. I am a firm believer in the fact that you buried RTCC long ago. There were no advertisements, mentions, or posts on your website about Real Truck Club Challenge when it was running. By contrast, you promote the Top Truck for several months before it takes place. The RTCC had a whopping half-page article to promote it, in the August issue. Remind you, it was held in August, so Mr. and Mrs. John Q. Wheeler never had a chance to make it.
I have this letter posted in an online forum, as well via email. I look forward to a definitive answer.
The members of the Full Throttle Off Road Club
Oak Harbor, OH
Off the top of our pointy little heads, we don't recall a TTC competitor ever running at Real Truck, but we'll concede most of your other points. We didn't do the best job of promoting RTCC since we had no prior experience at organizing publicly-attended events. We didn't really have the know-how or the budget for much advertising in local (Indiana) newspapers, radio, or TV. We also didn't do enough homework to research possible scheduling conflicts (the last year we held it, there was a big Busch-Series Supertruck race in Indy on the same weekend). And back then our website was a kind of "unfunded mandate" that had no editors and which none of our magazine staff could access. But we did learn a thing or two from the process, and if we can rustle up sufficient sponsorship to cover our costs (which are a lot higher than TTC in every regard), we're certainly open to running Real Truck at Attica (or another Midwest venue) again. And we'll certainly do a much better job of promotion next time either way.
Where To Write
Address your correspondence to: Four Wheeler, 831 S. Douglas St., El Segundo, CA 90245. All letters become the property of Four Wheeler, and we reserve the right to edit them for length, accuracy, and clarity. The editorial department can also be reached through the website at www.fourwheeler.com. Due to the volume of mail, electronic and otherwise, we cannot respond to every reader, but we do read everything.