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July 2011 Willies Workbench

Posted in Features on July 1, 2011
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The Internet is a great reference source and I often use it when researching answers to reader’s tech questions. Two of the biggest problems I encounter when using the Internet are what I will refer to as “information overload” and statements that send my “bull meter” to the high side of the scale.

For instance, a reader asked me a question on early Ford suspension changes and the effects they will have on steering. Before I started an answer, I thought I should double-check myself on a couple of issues. Because I was sitting in front of the computer at the time, I Googled something like “Ford suspension modifications.” Okay, I’m not sure those were the exact words, but it was something like that. Anyway, I came up with almost 1,500 hits! Some of these were in reference to past articles on suspension modifications in magazines such as Four Wheeler. There was even one that I had written many a year ago. After sorting through several dozen articles and forum pages, I still hadn’t found exactly what I wanted.

Oh, and about “forums.” Some of these really got my “bull meter” going. Yes, there probably is some good information on forums, but there is also some bad. A lot of it seems to be someone just wanting to see their words in print on the Internet. The answer one person gave on Ford suspension modifications was so far out that it was actually dangerous. A lot of what is written on forums is just what I call “parroting information,” which is people repeating stuff they got from another source, usually another forum, and then passing it along, whether it’s right or wrong. No, I really shouldn’t badmouth all of the forums, as I have actually got a lot of good information off them. One just has to learn what to accept as right and what is wrong. A lot of it comes down to plain common sense.

Another problem that I have with the Internet is that I get lost. While I was looking up the aforementioned “Ford suspension modification,” I came across a link to Ford Model-Ts that had been modified to fit on railroad tracks. That led to steam locomotives—and well over an hour later, I had to take a break and get back to the subject at hand.

I went to my library of service manuals and books. Being old as dirt and born the first year that Jeeps rolled off of the assembly line, I have acquired over the years a pretty good collection of manuals. The first few I looked at didn’t provide the needed answer, either. Then I went to my file cabinet. Instead of saving old magazines because “I just know I will go back and read it someday,” I cut out the article out, put it in a folder, and save it in my file cabinet or in a loose leaf binder, depending on the subject. I also add appropriate notes from other information sources. A quick count shows 22 binders and four file drawers full of stuff that I have collected over the years.

I finally picked up what perhaps I should have looked for in the first place—my binder of various suspension manufacturers’ catalogs. The first one I turned to was Superlift’s master catalog and tech book. This nearly-300-page catalog not only lists the various suspensions they have available but photos of the lift in action, as well as all the components used. Spread throughout the catalog are various technical tips and reference notes, shock lengths, and accessories that may or may not be needed.

This is not an advertisement for Superlift, even if their catalog offers more information than most. You can learn a lot from the catalogs produced by numerous other companies such as Rancho, Energy Suspension, Skyjacker, BDS, etc.

And yes, I found exactly the information I was looking for.

It’s just not suspension companies that put out catalogs. There is a lot of great information to be learned from the catalogs that various companies produce about winches, bumpers, tire carriers, roof racks, transmission and transfer-case adapters, as well as engine performance products. Best of all, you’re getting correct information on what fits and what works. Yeah, you may have to pay a few bucks for the catalog because they do cost a lot to put together and to mail, but it’s worth it.

The point I’m trying to make here is that the various manufacturers of aftermarket equipment publish some very excellent catalogs on their products. Sure, perhaps you can find some or maybe all of the information on their company websites, but I personally would rather read a catalog than stare at a computer screen. I can easily leaf through a catalog during a TV commercial, while eating lunch, or during a break in work. While you may not become an expert on what fits, works, and performs, you will have a much greater knowledge on the subject.

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