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September 2012 Inbox Letters To The Editor

Posted in Features on September 1, 2012
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Cheap Tickled
I have been subscribed to Four Wheeler for about a year now and I think “Low-Buck Bonanza” (June ’12) has been the most useful article to date. It’s chock full of great ideas that are simple and very practical. Keep up the good work!
Chris Pisani
Lake Ronkonkoma, NY

Light Tweaking
First of all let me say you publish a great magazine. Every month you present articles that I use in my work as well as play. Your publication is more useful from a practical perspective than many of the professional publications I receive.

I am the engineer for my ranching/farming family as well as a mining engineer. We use 4X4s, 6X6s and more with a vengeance and we do break them from time to time. Your continual coverage of stronger parts as well as thoughts on other issues saves us a lot of time (and often recovery from far off and isolated places).

Our only concern is something you cannot cope with: Ignorance by some (which most of your readers do not possess) and our occasional lack of even the most basic trails.

There is one bit of information I would suggest you might have added to your article “Let There Be Light,” (May ’12). I realize this data may actually be beyond the desired depth of many readers, but Photometrics data as well as Foot Candles or Lumens would have given a much better picture of the overall efficiency as well as usefulness of the different lighting types. The actual optical perspective and what is required by an average person would also be helpful. I have not been able to easily find this data on websites for the products or for the aircraft landing light lamps we use for some off-road or ranch-road use. Do you have any suggestions?
Lawrence Leckband
Via email

Your best bet is to contact the light manufacturers for that kind of specific detailed info.

Math Whiz
What math did you guys use to figure that the Rubicon package was more expensive than not getting it and going aftermarket for basically the same things (“Weekender Wrangler,” May ’12)? Maybe you should have stated that the Rubicon is a heck of a deal and here is what you can do if you already own a different model. But shop labor alone for some of those items will cost more than the upgrade cost in your article.
Tyler Charles
Via email

The Rubicon is a heck of a deal! If it has the exact features you are looking for. Unfortunately, for the kind of wheeling we do regularly, the 4:1 T-case in the Rubicon is kind of a hindrance. It’s geared too low for the mud and sand in most cases and quite often high-range is too high. Top speed of the Rubicon is only about 25 mph in 4-Lo. Also, you can’t use the lockers in any range but low 4x4 (stock). Our Weekender Wrangler lockers work in any range, even two-wheel-drive, without modifying the factory wiring harness. Ultimately we weren’t going to be keeping the stock Rubicon tires, wheels, rockers, or 4.10 gears. In all truthfulness the only things we would have retained would have been the front and rear axlehousings, the T-case (reluctantly), part of the electronic sway bar, and the Rubicon hood stickers. In the end it really didn’t make much sense since we didn’t even want the 4:1 T-case.

Also, the factory GKN lockers are marginal in strength when coupled with the 37-inch tires we chose to install on our Jeep.

Your needs and wants may be different than ours. This is what made sense for us.

Spotter Fodder
I love the magazine! I have been a reader for many years, but I must write you and call out the previous editor (if you can call him that), Douglas McColloch. I recently found the time to read one of his letters regarding how to direct a driver on the trail; what an idiot! Passenger/driver commands? Really! No true spotter would ever waste that much time saying those long words. It has always been right/left. And by always I mean by those who invented four-wheel driving—the military. Just ask him to come out to the Special Forces Driving School and be schooled on how to command a driver. First and foremost you use hand signals, then voice commands. When you are learning how to call out objects from a plane, like from the rear gunner position on an open ramp on a CH-53, guess what terms you use? And for the new guys just learning that position, you label the back of your flight gloves the opposite so you don’t get it wrong.

Again, I love the mag!
Steve Pulliam
Via email

Thanks for the input. Personally I don’t like having a spotter, at least for recreational wheeling. It takes away a lot of the challenge and fun for me. That’s why I go wheeling to begin with. If I wanted it to be easy, I’d stay on paved roads.

Do As I Say, Not As I Do
I’ve been reading Four Wheeler for about two years now and I don’t have any complaints. There are always interesting articles, and it is a very entertaining magazine for the off-road enthusiast. The content is not, however, the only thing that impresses me about Four Wheeler. If my mother burned one thing into my mind growing up, it was to use correct grammar. Because of that I can be a bit of a stickler when it comes to proper English. Four Wheeler almost always stands up to close examination. But, while reading through Trail’s End in the April ’12 issue, I managed to find a mistake. The second sentence of paragraph two reads, “The back half of the trucks frame...” What I noticed was the lack of an apostrophe on the word “trucks,” as the frame does belong to the one singular T-Rex pickup. In all though, Four Wheeler is a great magazine and I look forward to many more years of good reading.
Brett Wallan
Medford, OR

Funny thing is that I had to make several corrections to this comparatively short letter.

Solid Axle Fan
I am not a hardcore 4x4 guy, but I have always owned Ford F-350 trucks, mainly because they still have a solid front axle. I just bought an ’87 Toyota 4Runner that I am planning to do a solid axle swap with and I am always thinking exactly what you wrote about in the June ’12 Firing Order. Why don’t the automakers manufacture trucks with solid front axles? Besides the Ford, I just bought the 4Runner and already have an ’85 solid axle all cleaned, primed, and ready to go in the garage but the actual swap is going to run some $10,000 to install 37-inch tires, re-gearing, lockers, and so on to finally have the truck that I really want. I am not up to this job and want to make sure it gets done right and that is what it will cost me. We all see how popular the new Toyotas and Nissans are with their V-8 motors, but if they were to make those trucks with solid axles, I bet they would sell even more.
Steve Black
Via email

Solid Axle Revolt
I just read Firing Order from the June ’12 issue. I could not agree more. I am so tired of corporate suits who drive Mercedes cars making decisions about what a 4x4 should be. The crossover market is perfect for the soccer moms and salesmen who want an SUV. So why can’t they let a truck be a truck? Trucks are meant to be rugged, capable, work horses. If the average American is not using their four-wheel drive, then they should be purchasing two-wheel drive vehicles. That way those of us who actually use a 4x4 can get the vehicle that we really want, one with a dependable and easily customizable solid front axle. Let me know when you are ready to start the revolution; I will join you.
Jimmy Hilliard
Wilmington, NC

Tire Tales
In the April ’12 issue you tested 33 different tires and of all those tires I have to ask why did you not rate the Mickey Thompson Baja Claw tires?
Via email

We have put many miles on the Mickey Thompson Baja Claw bias-ply tires over the years. However, a 46-inch version is now the only size available. The Baja Claw has (for the most part) been replaced with the Baja Claw TTC and the Baja Claw TTC Radial. The Baja Claw TTC only comes in a 54-inch version so the market for such a tire is comparatively small and unfortunately we have not put enough miles on the relatively new Baja Claw TTC Radial tires to properly rate them as we have the other tires in the test.

Cutting Brake Question
In “EX-JS” (June ’12), Hollingsworth says his favorite mod is the cutting brakes. I see levers in the console between the T-case twin sticks. A cutting brake and a spool equal 50 percent less braking at both wheels. Does he mean front and rear brake separation? If it’s his favorite mod I want to know more!
Darrell Reese
Via email

We aren’t sure how Hollingsworth has his cutting brakes plumbed, but you are correct if they were plumbed to the right and left rear wheels. The spool keeps both rear axleshafts spinning together regardless of if the right or left rear brake is applied. Perhaps the cutting brakes are plumbed to the front and rear as you have mentioned. This way he could do a front dig with the rear output of the Dana 300 kicked into Neutral. Similar results could be had by kicking out the front axle and locking the front brakes only, especially on a sidehill.

Ring Gear Guidance
Love your mag, but as I’m somewhat older than dirt and have made every mistake that can be made. Regarding “Low-Buck Bonanza” (June ’12), I have some advice on heating the ring gear prior to installation.

1.) Do not let your wife (or mom) see that you use her oven to heat it.

2.) Buy or make some studs that thread into the ring gear to help guide it onto the carrier. The ring gear cools fast and if it’s off by the tiniest amount, you will have to start over.
James Menotti
Via email

Back in the Saddle
I have been a subscriber to Four Wheeler since 1980 with about an 8- to 10-year hiatus until about a year ago. Your February ’80 issue was the deciding factor in the purchase of a new Bronco that year. It finally gave up the ghost in ’03, hence my lapse in subscription. I bought a new ’10 Jeep Wrangler so now I’m back with you. I have noticed content has dropped from an average of 140 pages in late ’90s to 100 pages now. Disappointing, not to mention no more Granville King (nice mention in the February ’12 50th anniversary issue)—and now Willie Worthy is gone, too? It’s gonna be hard to stick with you. But due to the fact that I’m trying to build my Jeep on a low budget, the “Low-Buck Bonanza” and “Carry Smarter” articles in the June ’12 issue were worth the subscription price. Best two articles I’ve read in last twelve months. Do more of the same.
Brian J Villella
Tucson, AZ

To welcome Brian back to the 4x4 world, we’re sending him Steven Spielberg’s iconic action-thriller Jaws; it debuts on Blu-ray August 14th. Featuring a digitally remastered and fully restored picture and 7.1 sound, the Jaws Blu-ray includes an all-new documentary “The Shark is Still Working.”

Where To Write
Address your correspondence to Four Wheeler, 831 S. Douglas St., El Segundo, CA 90245 or send an email to 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.

To welcome Brian back to the 4x4 world, we’re sending him Steven Spielberg’s iconic action-thriller Jaws; it debuts on Blu-ray August 14th. Featuring a digitally remastered and fully restored picture and 7.1 sound, the Jaws Blu-ray includes an all-new documentary “The Shark is Still Working.”

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