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September 2011 Inbox - Letters to the Editor

Posted in Features on September 1, 2011
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Winch Wins and Winces
Robin Stover and the Four Wheeler crew are really on a roll! First, you gave us the best mud-tire comparo of all time, and then you do a hardcore ’til-it-breaks test of winches (“Multi-Winch Shootout,” July ’11). Four Wheeler seems to be the only magazine unafraid to call a spade a spade!

I wish arrangements could have been made to get replacement winches from Badlands and Summit in time for testing, and since Smittybilt’s winches have proven to be so popular, it would have been nice to see how they perform, too. Perhaps a follow-up article could be published at some point in the future in which the Smittybilt, Badlands, and Summit winches (as well as any untested newcomers) could be subjected to the same battery of tests? Hopefully, Ramsey and MileMarker won’t be flakes next time around.

Keep up the good work! With tests like these, Four Wheeler stands head and shoulders above the other mainstream 4x4 mags. Keep looking to 4WD Toyota Owner and Overland Journal as your benchmarks.
Geoff Beasley
Concord, CA

I just finished reading the winch shootout in the July issue. You guys totally got it wrong. Look, I realize that Warn is a big corporate sponsor, but does it have to skew shootouts that much? The Warn made it a whopping 43 feet before it drained an Optima dead that was on a 195-amp charging system. Then on the stall test, it broke! It is also very convenient that this shootout does not include price as a judgment factor. That is the biggest factor in buying anything for those of us who work for a living. The Engo costs roughly one-fifth as much money and went 25 feet further than the Warn. Oh, and it didn’t break like the Warn. Who cares about looks, packaging, and how well the controller fits in the hand? The cheap winch is more reliable and takes you further than the grossly overpriced Warn (at that price, I could buy a whole other 4x4 to pull me out). At $1,484.99, it is expected that it would come with a planetary that can handle the motor’s stall. No, for that one must spend a mere $329.99.

Then it gets praised for running the coolest. It only went 43 feet! Yeah, the Superwinch ran hotter, after 92 feet. It got hotter because it was doing work, the Warn ran cooler because it went half the distance (a.k.a., not doing work).

It was also disappointing to see the Harbor Freight and Summit winches being left out. I understand they were both DOA, but Summit would have overnighted a replacement, and a quick trip to HF would have given a new winch. These things do come with warranties, after all. I couldn’t care less about any of the $900-plus winches—it is the cheapos that are intriguing. So let’s try it again, but this time let’s throw a Smittybilt and Viper in, ensure they operate upon arrival, and do a more objective test. A cheap-versus-overpriced shootout would be cool (I know the corporate sponsors would hate that).
Roy Hawkins
Tallahassee, FL

I have been a subscriber to Four Wheeler for many years, and the July ’11 issue is why I read this magazine. In the past few years, I had lost interest in the magazine. It seems that it had lost track of what it was all about in the first place. Past issues that have been all about the Top Truck or some $50,000 truck are just plain depressing. Please print more like this issue; it has challenges that not only involve expensive vehicles but articles that have great information (“Winch Anatomy,” “Recovery Gear Buyers Guide,” “Vehicle Recovery Devices”). Thank you for giving me a copy of Four Wheeler that will get worn out, and not just stuck on a shelf.
Anthony Dillon
Manteo, NC

After reading the winch test, I had to wonder why a winch that failed the test won First Place. While Warn winches are known around the world, the new Warn winches do not seem to be the same as the old ones. The two winches that survived the test should be First and Second, with the Engo E9000 most likely First. As I’ve had a Superwinch mounted on one truck, I know of their quality, but a winch that cost $966.23 and broke on its first test is not a “great deal of winch for the dollar.” Keep up the good work, but let’s be real.
Wally Burkhart
Myrtle Beach, SC

We anticipated some criticism when we went to press with the July issue, so briefly, our replies:

First, yes, the winning winch “failed,” but it took a 16,000-pound pull for a winch that’s only rated to pull 9,000 to stop it. We don’t consider that a case of “catastrophic” failure, though two other winches in the test managed to keep pulling at that load rating.

Second, we think that a number of non-objective factors—such as ease of remote-control operation and the legibility of the instruction manual—need to be included in scoring criteria for any evaluation since the “user experience” in assessing the value of any product seldom comes down to pure numbers. To give you a hypothetical: A Suzuki SUV will give you a lot better mileage than a fullsize GM, and it costs a whole lot less, too. But if you’re a big, tall guy and the dimensions of the Suzuki cab are simply too cramped for you, are you really gonna buy the vehicle simply because it costs less?

But we understand the point here, and that’s why we published all of our numbers, both empirical and subjective, so readers could make up their own minds about our test procedures and draw their own conclusions.

Finally, we had the same concerns about the winches that didn’t perform out of the box. Unfortunately, time constraints didn’t allow us to delay our test to order replacements, so we’ve invited those manufacturers, and several others, to participate in another winch comparison test, which Robin Stover is currently working on and we’ll be publishing in a few months. This time around, all of the winches that participate—we’re guessing around 10 in all—will have sticker prices of $500 or less. Call it a “Budget Winch Throwdown,” if you like. How does that work for everyone?

Where Are the World Jeeps?
I’m not a wheeler, so I’m not a steady Four Wheeler reader. When I do pick up a copy, many of your articles go right past me, but your July ’11 issue was a standout. The “Bring It Back Alive” feature first caught my eye, since even though I don’t go off-road, I do get stuck in snow and am always concerned about getting out. Learning the ins and outs of winches was interesting, but even more so was the “Budget Cherokee Build,” because if I ever become a wheeler that would be the way I would have to go—no $100-grand FJs for me.

Also interesting was Sean Holman’s column about Jeep “going soft,” which brings me to the reason I’m writing. When I read stories like “Ladoga Trophy 2010” or see movies, news reports, nature treks to the African hinterland, etc., I don’t see Jeeps. There are Toyotas and Land Rovers galore, but no Jeeps. Am I getting a censored view, or is there some global aversion to the vehicle that won World War II?
Ronald Weinger
Berkeley Heights, NJ

What you’ve seen hasn’t been censored. You can find Jeeps overseas—particularly the Liberty, still known abroad as the Cherokee. But their numbers, compared to Toyotas, Suzukis and Land Rovers, have been limited due to a number of factors, including (a) strong-dollar exchange rates that have made Jeeps expensive to purchase in much of the developing world, (b) the lack of a global dealer network to keep their owners supplied and serviced, (c) the lack of economical (i.e., diesel) powerplants, and (d) restrictive import quotas, particularly among some Asian nations. That’s all about to change, however, now that a weaker dollar makes U.S. exports more affordable overseas, and Chrysler now has a global partner (Fiat) with a worldwide dealer network and a stable of small-displacement, fuel-efficient engines that will find their way into the next generation of Jeep vehicles. In addition, the biggest consumer market on the planet (China) dropped its import quotas on U.S.-made cars a few years ago. Chrysler announced recently that they plan to substantially expand its sales presence overseas by marketing Jeep as a global icon, so in the years to come, we expect to see quite a few more Wranglers, Libertys and (eventually) Jeep pickup trucks in our coverage of events overseas.

One-Stop Shop for ’73-’87 Blazers and Jimmys?
Is there a source you all deal with that specializes in aftermarket products for the ’73 GMC Jimmy or Chevrolet Blazer? I know that LMC Truck Parts has everything OEM, but I’m looking for aftermarket brush guards, etc.
Tiger Bryant
Memphis, TN

There’s no exclusive “all-in-one specialty shop” for aftermarket parts for these trucks that we know of. Luckily for you, just about everybody in the 4x4 aftermarket makes something for these vehicles. Our best advice would be for you to check some of the bigger mail-order sources, like 4-Wheel Parts or Summit Racing, as a starting point. You’re bound to find plenty of goodies for these rigs just about anywhere you look.

Budget Buildup for Older 4Runner
I recently purchased an ’86 Toyota 4Runner for use mainly off road, but not extreme or aggressive. It is factory-stock, and I would like to do some minor modifications to it. I would like to lift it an inch or two, without an all-out lift kit—possibly a leveling-type front end and maybe blocks or a new spring on the back? I’m also interested in a rear locker. I like the idea of the G80 locker on a Chevy, but I am told all aftermarket lockers work differently. Budget is, of course, a concern, but so is dependability. Any ideas?
Randall McConnell
Rock Spring, WY

There are plenty of options for your vehicle. For a modest 1- to 2-inch lift, we’d suggest taking a look at kits from Old Man Emu or TJM; both are Toyota specialists, and both have the kind of suspension upgrade you’re looking for. There are plenty of choices for locking diffs as well. Eaton doesn’t manufacture a G80 locker for your application, but they do make the legendarily stout Detroit Locker for your Toyota 8-inch rearend; ARB also makes an Air Locker for your truck, Powertrax offers the Lock-Right, and a company called Aussie Locker makes, well, an Aussie Locker. Whichever you choose, know ahead of time that most locking diffs aren’t exactly cheap—you should plan on budgeting several hundred bucks for a (new) quality part, and possibly more for the installation—but once it’s installed, you’ll probably never need another one. As an alternative, ’95-and-later 4Runners were offered from the factory with an electronic locking diff, but it’s our understanding that you need to modify the axlehousing to make it fit in your older truck, and it’s not inexpensive, either.

Wants S-Blazer ZR2 Buildup
Every time I open up your magazine, it seems like I learn something new. The only thing that I haven’t seen in your magazine is a Chevy ZR2 buildup. I own one (well, actually it’s a Sonoma Highrider), and these little devils are awesome. In fact, the only real issue is that there’s never any coverage of them, apparently they aren’t extremely popular. Now I understand that it’s your magazine, and you decide what content goes in it, but really, the ZR2 is an untapped resource for an off-road publication. I mean even just a quick mention would be nice, with maybe a project build being at the other end of the scale. Regardless of your decision, I still love the magazine and hope to hear back from you.
Lyndon Gaither
Stanford, KY

Hey, we agree with you. The ZR2 was a fun little truck to flog in the dirt, with 31x10.50 BFGs, Bilstein shocks, and 4.3L Vortec engine. The problem is that there were enough chassis differences that there was very little aftermarket support. If any of our readers see some built specimens that they think would be look good in this magazine, we hope they’ll let us know.

Antioxidants Aren’t Only for Humans Anymore
Been reading your great magazine for years, and something that I’ve been noticing a lot is pictures of new trucks with their undersides already rusted. For example, in “Heavy-Duty Altitude” (April ’11), I see a rusted axlehousing, driveshaft, etc., on an ’11 Denali HD. There should be no excuse for any truck to have this issue when it’s brand new! It’s a shame that this happens. What will the manufacturers do about the situation? Would love to see a lot more rust prevention done to these vehicles, especially ones in the Rust Belt.
Mike DuPlessis
Meriden, CT f

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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