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August 2006 Letters To The Editor - InBox

Posted in Features on August 1, 2006
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Contributors: Rick Péwé

4-Wheel & Off-Road welcomes letters to the editor. Letters must include an address or a telephone number so the sender can be verified. Once verified, your name may be withheld at your request. Letters published in this magazine reflect the opinions of the writers, and we reserve the right to edit letters for clarity, brevity, or other purposes. Due to the large volume of mail we receive, we regret that we cannot reply to unpublished letters or return photos. Digital photos must measure no less than 1600 x 1200 pixels (or two megapixels) and be saved as a TIFF, an EPS, or a maximum-quality JPEG file.

Write to:
Editor
4-Wheel & Off-Road
420 Wilshire Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90048-5515
fax 323.782.2704

E-mail to:
4wheeloffroad@primedia.com

Winch Comparo
In your Winch Comparison article ("Winch One You Want," Apr. '06), I was disappointed in how you chose to cover this subject. With such a splash on the cover I expected better. You should have printed this article on toilet paper because that's about all it's worth. If you're going to write an article like this you should make it a true comparison of real-world performance and not the manufacturers numbers. All the numbers and specs are fine, but I can get all of those from the Internet (for free). Those numbers don't prove which winch is really the best product for the money. I want to know how these units really perform under real-world conditions.

You do an excellent job with your 4x4 of the Year comparison. I think it's the best evaluation of a new vehicle in the industry. Every year the automotive manufacturer that wins your 4x4 of the Year title parades it around like they found the Holy Grail. Why not conduct a similar test each year (or two) for winches and lockers?

You owe it to the readers to give us the straight scoop on what is really hot and what should be left on the trailer queens. If you prove that the $600 Warn is truly better than the Harbor Freight unit, then great. However, if that cheap winch outdoes the high-dollar units, the world ought to know. If the manufacturers know they are going to be put to a truly fair and equal test they will try harder to be the best. It can only make the industry better for all of us. Either the big manufacturers are going to improve the quality in their products or the el-cheapo Chinese models will improve or drop out of the market.
Keep up the good work.
Long Live Cheap Truck Challenge!
Dennis Fairchild
Oklahoma City, OK

You raise some good questions and common misconceptions. First off, the story wasn't mentioned on the cover-at all! And we didn't write a comparison story, simply a buyer's guide to show what is available, condensed to three pages in your favorite rag instead of 20 different sites on the Internet. And as far as a knock-down drag-out winch off (pun intended), we've considered and are still investigating such a story. The main problem is ensuring that the test is real-world, fair, and equal. That means the same vehicle with the same amount of charge in the battery with the same atmospheric conditions at the same time of the day, and so on and so forth. And then we would come up with numbers that are similar to the manufacturers, and every one of them would complain. (You should hear what some of the OEs say after our 4x4 of the Year test!) But a winch's first pull performance out of the box is easy to test, but isn't always indicative of what the value of the winch is. For instance, what about important factors such as warranty, parts availability, and technical support a company offers? How do you factor those things into a test? These after-the-sale services may increase the price of a winch, but pay for themselves long after the sale, which is a true value. Sure, there are many cheap winches on the market, and some of them may pull just fine the first couple of times you use it, but for my money, I want something I can trust to work every time when I'm hanging off the side of a cliff held by a winch cable.

More Winch Wrongs
In reference to the "Hot Winch Tips and Tricks" (Apr. '06), your explanation of the double and triple line pulls is a bit misleading. A double line pull with the hook attached back to the winching vehicle effectively doubles the pulling power. Fewer wraps on the drum decrease the winch load, as you state. The recovery speed of such a double line pull would theoretically be halved; however, one fact rarely mentioned is that with a series-wound motor, speed increases rapidly as load decreases. So if the winch is not working as hard, the motor turns faster. A triple line pull, as shown in your photo, effectively triples the mechanical advantage, minus losses.
Jim Boucher
Mandeville, LA

Right you are, Jim, and about 30 other readers who took us to task for this error. The key to the double/triple line quandary is the fact that the cable has to be attached back to the load to double the pull, since a single pulley alone will not increase the pulling power. Also, the cable should be attached back to the frame of the vehicle, not the winch since most mounting kits are rated less than twice what the winch is rated-make sure those attachment points are secure! We'll have an in-depth description of winching and line pulls soon.

Missing Copy
I just wanted to let you know that on page 61 of "Airbags and Coilovers" (May, '06), the fourth caption left a little to be desired. It reads, "There are two flat plates that retain the bag setup and hold it in position above the coil spring on the coilover shock. The top is drilled"-and that's where it stops. I am assuming it was meant to say, "The top is drilled and tapped for an air line" or something to that effect. No big deal I'm just busting your chops. Love the mag and I think you're doing a great job! Keep it up!
Riley Blackstock
Clover, VA

You could be a copy editor here for the final checking, since three of us actually missed that one too. We read it in our head, just like you did. Thanks!

Stuck with IFS
I am writing to thank Fred Williams for doing a series on wheeling with an IFS truck ("Can you really wheel an IFS truck?" May '06). Many of us who wheel our daily drivers and need more utility than a Jeep may offer are "stuck" with IFS. While scoffed at on the trail, running IFS is necessary when the amount of time spent wheeling doesn't warrant the cost of a solid-axle conversion. These trucks can be made very capable with a few modifications. As a wheeler of a daily-driven IFS vehicle ('99 Toyota Tacoma on 35s), I can attest to the fact that they can be competent on the trail. I know the reason the truck (The Red Sled) in the article was picked. Cost and availability always drive our decisions. However, to be fair, I don't think it will provide a good comparison to an SFA vehicle because it is too big. You don't see many (although these is always an exception) trucks that large on the rocks (especially on the East Coast). I was just wondering why you all didn't choose something different, like a Toyota, as they can be made more capable easily. Or take a Ford Ranger with a coilover conversion kit for example. These are the types of trucks you often see on a trail. Moreover, these trucks can be built in your driveway (as mine was). In terms of strength, IFS can take a fair amount of abuse unlocked. Once you lock it, the halfshafts will break easily. My front is open, and I have a winch for when I need it. Anyway, thanks for taking the risk of actually testing IFS and giving it a chance. For moderate trail use, I think you will be happy. I want you to get an idea of how us IFS wheelers mod our trucks to make them trailworthy. I also have included a pic of my truck, and here is a list of my mods (the ones that count): '99 Toyota Tacoma V-6 TRD (factory rear electric locker), 6-inch Fabtech front lift with OME 881 coils (about 7 inches of lift), rear Alcan springs with AOR shackles and Bilstein 5150 12-inch travel shocks, 1-inch body lift from 4crawler.com, 35-inch BFG MTs on steel wheels, 4.88 Yukon gears, TJM front bumper with a MileMarker 8,000-pound winch, rock sliders from bentup.com, soon to have full skidplating from front bumper to transfer case from budbuilt.com, air compressor in crossbed toolbox, always carry two spare CVs, and all sorts of stuff.
Joseph P. Piombo
Port Jefferson Station, NY

Thanks for the pix, Joseph, as well as the real-world revelations you wrote about. If you remember, Fred Williams' other truck, Clampy the Toyota, was an IFS rig before he swapped in a junkyard Dana 60. We will continue exploring the IFS world as we are stuck with it pretty much like you are.

Cover Con?
On the cover of your May '06 issue, the header reads "Biodiesel: More Power and MPG." However, the article "Clean Diesel?" and accompanying sidebar, "Biodiesel: The Heartland Alternative," clearly state that biodiesel and ultra low sulfur diesel (ULSD) possess a lower energy content, about 1 percent lower. Although the article also states that reducing sulfur content increases the cetane rating, it does not go on to state what the cetane ratings of ULSD will be. Current offerings at the pump have a typical CN of 40-46, and the article states that the new ULSD will not come close to the European CN ratings in the mid-50 range. A reduction in performance, even by 1 percent, and a similar cetane rating combined with the new emissions control equipment mandated on future diesel vehicles do not seem to add up to the "more power and MPG" claim on the cover of the magazine. In fact, the article makes no claims that these two fuels, ULSD and biodiesel, will make more power or return greater mileage. I'm not trying to get a Petersen's plate out of you guys, I just want to know where the claim on the cover comes from.
Chris Donoghue
Hull, MA

Simple answer, really. The claim was supposed to be "Biodiesel: More Power and MPG?" However, the question mark was left off the final copy and we missed that mistake. Glad you are on your toes, as you were the only one that wrote us back about that fact. Thanks!

Idiot Lights
I have a question about my '98 Suburban, and my husband just can't quite give me an answer or solution that I'm happy with. On my dash, there is a light that says "check gages." No, I did not type that wrong. What I'm wondering is if the engineers at GM can't spell without their computers' spell check, is my Suburban the only one out there with a seriously stupid "idiot light," or am I too stupid to know that there is a part on my 'Burban that is called a "gage" instead of the "gauge" I'm assuming they meant. Is there an aftermarket part to fix "stupid"? Just wondering....
Ginger Esplin
Billings, MT

That's why they are called idiot lights in the first place. And no, you aren't seriously stupid; someone at GM has worse problems with checking their copy than we do!

Safety First
While I do minimal off-road driving, I appreciate your publication's technical and safety articles and comments regardless of brand of vehicle. At least your readers have an opportunity to understand their vehicles, their capabilities, and their safe operation in contrast to the hordes of urban yuppies/yuppettes who would not even know how to open the hood of their status-symbol glammobiles and expect an overload of passive "safety" devices and distracting beeps to save them from their ignorance and irresponsibility while they simultaneously speed (on improperly inflated tires), yap on cell phones, eat, and run red lights.
Kal Besenczky
Scottsdale, AZ

You should be here in L.A. while the cute yuppettes are applying makeup at 75 mph. Talk about scary. Now that's a distraction!

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