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March 2011 Inbox: Letters to the Editor

Posted in Features on March 1, 2011
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Fond Memories Of Impending Death
I enjoyed Ken Brubaker's article driving the Black Bear Pass in Colorado ("Mineshafts & Axleshafts," Jan. '11). I remember standing in the exact same spot the two-page photo was taken overlooking Telluride some 25 years ago. The view looking to Telluride is magnificent. What can't been realized from the photo is the terror of the angle of descent on wet, slippery rocks, along with instant death should you slide off the road! Thanks for the memories.
Dave Clausen
Cottage Grove, MN

More Top Truck Suggestions
Great idea to have the Top Truck Challenge of Champions for 2012 (Limited Articulation, Jan. '11)! I look forward to seeing the old rigs again, or whatever those past champions are running now. Just for fun, have some new challenges with some orienteering, mechanical repairs, or extreme skills (Weighted teeter-totter? Drive thru a waterfall? Night "maze" runs?) to keep the competitors off guard.

For 2013 and beyond, I would like to offer a suggestion. With the debate over buggies versus trucks, I would like to see both. Make the Top Truck Challenge be buggies and custom creations, but have at the same time a Real Truck Challenge for the regular trucks. Skip the "club" part of the challenge (immaterial to me). I would like to see more night runs, too, for the buggies-just to mix things up. The camaraderie of all those competitors in Hollister at the same time would be astounding, and because it would be held all at once, the logistics of two separate events would be combined.

Good luck-sign me up for another three years!
John Reitz
Elyria, OH

This is in reference to "Top Trucks, Stock and Extremely Modified" (Limited Articulation, Dec. '10). I loved the idea of five trucks and five buggies divided into separate classes. Not to mention that the coverage was great. The Frame Twister and obstacle course looked brutal this year. Furthermore, it just isn't interesting to me at least, looking at 10 shop-engineered rigs going against each other. Kind of like how today's monster trucks aren't as cool as the originals. But if you guys do make it a "beat the best" competition, Real Truck Challenge better come back.

And just so you know, the "Border to Border" articles were awesome!
Tim Joyce
Brewster, NY

Thanks for the suggestions. Due to California noise-abatement regulations, however, we can't run Top Truck at night anymore, unless we were to find another venue besides Hollister Hills, which we don't think would be a good idea for an event like a Champions' Challenge. But obviously, if we decide to pull the trigger on this event, our judges will work overtime to construct the toughest Twister and the most radical Rubicon that Top Truck Challenge has ever seen. And we imagine there's a good chance of introducing some brand-new obstacle that nobody's seen before, which would make for a good "equalizer" between the competitors who've won in recent years and the guys who won 10 or more years ago.

You'll also be glad to know that our Border to Border series generated a ton of reader "love mail," and we'll be covering similar overland treks over the course of the coming year. The author, Chris Collard, is joining us on a monthly basis starting in this issue, with a brand-new column called Notes From the Road that's dedicated to Living the Backcountry Lifestyle. You can find his debut column on page 90.

Jeep Wranglers = Leather Interiors? I am writing to you all before I write to Jeep, regarding the horribly inappropriate interior they have apparently designed for the new Wrangler, as pictured in the Dec. '10 issue (RPM). What the heck are they thinking? This is ridiculous! If I wanted an interior like that, I'd buy a Grand Cherokee. When I buy a Wrangler, I want the simplest vehicle possible-not another fancy-dancy, prissy-pants car!
Paul Wright
Huntsville, AL

We feel your pain, sort of. In the case of Jeep, we think it's simply a matter of expanding available options to meet consumer demand, i.e., the mass of prospective Wrangler owners who are never going to take their vehicles off-road. For what it's worth, all Sport models have cloth seats; leather is an option in Saharas and Rubicons, with cloth seats standard. So the choice is yours, and no matter what you get, they all still have hose-out interiors. Feel better now?

4Runner Backcountry Bumper Source
In your Dec. '10 issue, you stated that no one builds a rear bumper/tire carrier for the 2010 Toyota 4Runner. I would like to recommend Perkins Performance in Puyallup, Washington ( I worked there for a couple months and they do awesome work. They have built exactly what you are looking for, for a customer with a '10 'Runner. All their bumpers are laser-cut, MIG-welded 1/4-inch plate steel, with TIG-welded tire carrier pivots. They do any kind of metalwork, made to order. All of it gets powdercoated with two layers to ensure durability.
Mark Bulger
Kent, WA

We found a shop that's closer to our (Southern California) home to fab up a custom rear bumper for our 4Runner, and you'll see it come together in an upcoming installation piece. But thanks for the tip, and we've included your letter for folks in the Northwest who might need some Toyota fabrication work.

He's Got a Spark of Inspiration
I enjoyed your article on the "Ford Three-Valve Broken Spark Plug Blues" (Dec. '10). I have an '04 Ford Expedition with the 5.4L 3V engine with 100,000-plus miles. I have been wrenching for over 25 years, and have worked on everything for lawnmowers to jet engines. Having heard about this problem with the plugs, I was going to have the dealer do the tune-up due to the fear of breaking one or more of the plugs. I was worried that I would break the plug and then have to remove the head or tow the truck to a shop to have the plug removed. Your article was very informative, and having information on the removal tool from Lisle, I am going to order the tool and do the job myself. Thanks for a great article.
Mike Vickers
Jacksonville, FL

Worthy Advice To Avert Engine Failure
Techline and Willie's Workbench are my favorite parts of Four Wheeler. I look forward to each month's edition and always learn something. The reason I'm writing is that I haven't seen you address anything concerning proper engine break-in. It's too late for me. My engine builder put together a very nice small-block 383. After many frustrating hours of tuning, I finally got everything dialed in . . . I thought. With less than 50 hours on the engine, it became impossible to tune. Engine teardown showed that half the cam lobes were nearly round, and all but two lifters had the crap beat out of them. My builder was able to save the crank, rods and pistons. The valves were okay as well. What could have done this? I happened to pick up a copy of Mechanics Illustrated and in the tech column was a letter describing my symptoms exactly and a solution. It appears that the oil companies are removing an additive that is very necessary for cam-on-hydraulic lifter engines. The chemical is ZDDP and very necessary for engine break-in. It was an expensive lesson for me to learn, though addressing this may save someone else an awful lot of heartache and expense.
Chauncey Hood
Via the Internet

Zinc dialkyl dithiophosphate (ZDDP) was a common antiwear agent in engine oil though the end of the 20th century. During the last decade, however, changes in OE catalytic converter designs, along with EPA Tier II emissions mandates in 2004, forced the oil companies to come up with newly formulated engine lubricants with significantly reduced levels of zinc, sulfur and phosphorus. The new formulation, designated "GF-4," has been the industry standard since 2006 when it was licensed for warranty by the American Petroleum Institute. Modern-day engines run fine on the new ZDDP-free oil, but older (flat-tappet cam) engines require a certain amount of zinc to prevent premature wear of cam lobes and lifters-as you discovered a little too late. Fortunately, there are plenty of ZDDP additives available on the market to address this problem. Frankly, we're a little surprised that your engine builder wasn't more aware of this-it's not exactly a brand-new development-but your point is well taken, and your words of warning are wise ones. We've forwarded your letter to Willie as well. Thanks for your praise of his work-he's truly one of a kind.

Wants TTC Download For PC
I was wondering why you guys haven't thought of selling the Top Truck Challenge videos online thru digital media for download. It would save on shipping to the customers and be "green" at the same time, (i.e., not having to burn DVDs).

I live in Ontario, Canada, and if I were to buy a TTC DVD, it would cost me $24.99, but the shipping costs are $22.69, and extra Canadian fees make the total close to $50. You should seriously think about making it available for downloads; I think you would sell a lot more.
Robert Gagnon
Geraldton, ON, Canada

Thanks for the suggestion. We've forwarded it to the responsible parties in our digital/video production department, and we'll let you know if anything shakes out.

Trails Minus Trailblazers
What is it about the Chevy Trailblazer that discourages people from upgrading them for off-road use? I don't see them lifted and I don't see any magazine articles about their off-road capabilities. They have a great turning radius and some have locking rear axles. But the aftermarket parts are just not there.
Hank Jerrell
Ozark, MO

Well, if you don't see many Trailblazers on any actual trails (and neither do we), there just might be a good reason for that . . . but we have no idea what that reason might be.

How To Upload Pics To Our Site
I want to inquire about sending a photo or two of my truck. I've put a lift and some TSLs on it, and have future mods such as more lift and 38-inch Boggers. Please let me know how I can upload my photo to your Readers' Rigs site.
Daniel Steppe
Niceville, FL

Sure. Set your browser to Click on the "Readers' Rigs" link at the top of the homepage, then click on the "Sign Me Up" window when the next page loads. (Don't worry, it's free to join.) Then simply follow the instructions, and you'll be uploading pics of your truck to our site within minutes. How awesome is that?

The Return Of Cheap Tricks?
I notice from time to time that all 4x4 magazines publish quick or cheap fixes. I came up with one while wiring a trailer connector into my taillight wiring on my '90 Chevy pickup. One of the wires broke off flush with the weatherpak connector. I know you can buy a tool, but it only compresses the locking prongs-you still need to have the wire attached to be able to pull out the pin, which I didn't. I took a piece of brass tubing that I had, about 3 inches long, that was a snug fit over the pin. I then ground the point off of a common nail that was a close fit inside of the brass tube. A tap with a small hammer, and out came the pin. That's my idea for a good shop fix. The tool now resides in my electrical toolbox.
William S. Mader
Omer, MI

Thanks for sharing the tip. For several years, we ran a monthly column in this magazine devoted to readers' cheap tricks and on-the-fly fixes. We only stopped running the column because reader submissions dried up, but if we see more great low-buck fixes flooding our mailbox in the future, we'd be happy to bring back the column from time to time. Readers, what say you?

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 Due to the volume of mail, electronic and otherwise, we cannot respond to every reader, but we do read everything.

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