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March 2011 Inbox: Letters to the Editor

Posted in Features on March 1, 2011
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What is a Prerunner?
I salute the Potentate of Power and request his infinite wisdom.

I've been grinding gears off-road my whole life, but I don't get the word prerunner. It's used often in your magazine, your great magazine, to describe everything but a Toyota truck. You even called the Raptor a "factory-built prerunner"! What gives, O great one?

I run 285/70R17s on my Dodge. What's the "285"? I know it is tire height, but 285 of what? Is it just foolishness like the old F70 or D78 designations or what? What gives, my leader? Don't use "metric equivalent" or "arbitrary" in your answer, please.

My tires have gone up from 25 to 45 bucks this year. Are the tire company guys doing us like the oil companies? Is it the Feds? They sell 100 million tires a year and that's some serious revenue, Daddy-O! What gives, boss?

Free my tortured soul from ignorance.

A prerunner is a style of truck used to prerun a race, common in off-road desert racing. The equipment used to modify the truck is intended to allow the vehicle to go faster over extreme bumps and terrain while providing a safe and controlled ride. It isn't supposed to be a flat-out desert racer, but at least close.

On your tires, the sidewall size designation is indeed the metric equivalent of the old F70 style of markings, but hardly arbitrary. In fact, it's quite sensible. The "285" is called the section width as measured from sidewall to sidewall, in millimeters. The "70" is the aspect ratio, which is a percentage of the section width to the height of the sidewall. So your tire's sidewall is 70 percent of 285 mm, or 199.5 mm. The "R" indicates a radial tire; a bias tire might be marked with a "B," a dash, or a space. The "17" is the rim size in, yes, inches. So your tire's total height is 32.75 inches because 199.5 mm multiplied by 2 is about 15.75 inches, and you add that to a 17-inch rim. Go to and check out the whole story.

Lift Laws Feedback
Hey guys, I was just reading your October issue and was reading up on the New Jersey lift laws. I just took my newly acquired '90 Chevy Blazer on a 6-inch lift with 35s through the stability testing. The Asbury Park location where you photographed the tilt wall is where I had my truck on the 19th of August. I have a listing of applicable rules and regulations provided by NJDMV on oversized vehicles. You hit the nail on the head but missed a few things.

New Jersey has moved away from safety inspections, only doing emissions testing now, so it is the owner's responsibility to ensure safety. Overall, the testing of the stability takes 35-45 minutes to load the truck onto the scales then balance it with the driver-side wheels up on the comedy act of a bump and the passenger-side wheels on the scales. After that, the truck is measured on the front and rear bumpers and in the inner doorframe on the driver side, the wheel height and width are checked, and everything is crunched in a computer.

Now the real adventure is the mud flaps. They will penalize you and fail you if they do not come fully down to the bottom of the rim. I found out the hard way, as I was 1/8 inch short. In all, though, you hit it dead-on, like I said. There were just a few things you missed. Keep up the great work, and keep the muddy action rolling.
Bayville, NJ

Man, we need to move to Bolivia to get away from red tape. I hear you get more for your money there. Thanks for the N.J. update!

Dangerous Photo
Love the mag. I have been an on-and-off subscriber for years (now an on-again-forever subscriber). Just a comment on a picture on page 32 of the Nov. '10 magazine (why I get a November edition in September is another question entirely). Anyhow, on page 32 you have already chastised a driver for having his hand out the window holding onto the rollcage. In the picture below, there are two winch cables in use, one running right beside the driver's head, yet I see no snap-arresting devices placed on either of these cables in case one happens to snap. I have read your warnings in other issues about placing a blanket, jacket, anything draped over the cable, to use as a safety device. To me this is a potentially far more dangerous situation. The guy in the top picture could severely damage his hand; the guy in the bottom picture could lose his head. Just thought I would point that out.

Oh, and as a Dodge Dakota owner (picture attached), I was proud to see the truck make the cover. More articles on Dakotas, please. We need to get the word out that there is a whole subculture of proud Dodge Dakota (third-generation) owners who are starving for aftermarket support. There is currently no suspension lift kit offered for our trucks.
Thanks for the great magazine!
Kent Eaton
Winston Salem, NC

We were concerned with that photo too, but there were safety measures applied to the cables after the photo was taken, and little stress was placed on them. They were mainly stability cables. Thanks for noticing and mentioning it. It gives us a chance to repeat our safety mantra.

Axleshaft Fix
First off, great mag! I look forward to my new issue every month. I just wanted to add a quick comment on your article "Jeep Trail Tech: Dana 30 Axleshaft Swap & Trail Safety" (Dec. '10). It is not a bad idea to make sure you can separate your unit bearing from the knuckle before you snap a shaft on the trail. I would suggest that you check it when you are doing your next brake job. I live in the Great White Northeast, and in every unit bearing replacement I have done, the unit bearing rusts itself fast to the knuckle. Separating the two usually requires a big hammer, a few chisels, and bunch of time. Since the unit bearing is such a tight fit in the knuckle, even a little rust can make removing it difficult. Better to spend a few hours on the driveway, where you have the time and the tools, than on the trail, where such things can be scarce.
Adam Stella
Plains, PA

No doubt that rust will freeze the unit bearings in the bore over time. The best solution would be to assemble them with antiseize in the first place, but I doubt that will ever happen!

CJ-17 Brakes
Your magazine is great. I can't wait for the next issue! Your CJ-17 rig looks just like what I have in mind for my CJ3-B ( I know, I know, it's the Ugly One). Can you help me out with any info or suggestions about the brake pedal/booster/master/cylinder swap? What type of equipment did you folks use?

My frame has been boxed front to rear. I have a small-block Chevy, a Turbo 350 trans, and a Dana 44 and Ford 9-inch (both cut down and reworked by Dave Adams' Extreme Off-Road & Repair in Clovis, California).

Any help would be greatly appreciated.
Mike Barrett

We used the stock CJ-7 pedal, which had an auto and power brakes. The master cylinder and booster are from Off Again 4x4, (505.325.5761,, which are Navajo Brake units. We've used these on many of our Jeeps with great results.

Tire Math
I'm interested in the new Erod LS3 for a swap into my CJ-7 and was wondering if, on your UACJ ("Erod Action" Sept. '10, page 58), you changed the default settings for the gearing in the computer to match your actual setup. Or would that prevent it from passing smog? The install guide states that the drive ratios are programmed for 3.55:1 and are good for 3.08:1 to 4.11:1. Tire diameter needs to be 26-30 inches. I live in California.
Mike Gibbel
Aliso Viejo, CA

Mike, we didn't need to change anything in the computer, and it works great. As you state, we could have 28.19-inch-tall tires and 4.10 gears. Doing some quick tire and gear math verifies that this is the same as 37-inch-tall tires with 5.38 gears, which is what we are running.

Reader Rant
Dandy Diapers
I am a longtime subscriber who spends more time drag racing than thrashing around in the mud, but I had to finally write to help with an idea you guys might not be aware of.

I will start by saying I love the magazine. I have been a subscriber for a long time, and though the magazine has changed/added/dropped some features I am still very happy.

Do you guys ever want to go postal at some of the letters written in? I can't count the times I have screamed at my current issue because of somebody with a keyboard and no brain:

"How come you didn't put the Honda CR-V in the running for 4x4 of the Year? Are you afraid it would beat the Jeep Rubicon?"

"How come you don't have any tech articles on the Subaru Outback? With a couple hundred grand it would beat any rock buggy."

This one is my personal favorite: "I never see any AWD Astro Vans in your magazine." Seriously, I'm a diehard Mopar man and I squeal like a girl if I see a Ramcharger or someone mentions Jinxy, but I don't threaten to cancel my subscription if I don't see a Dodge in every issue.

To the reader who mentioned UA Lite, sign me up! A 33-35 tire size, only a rear locker, and milder trails-I love the idea. I know it's a huge job for Rick, but he does such a great job with the whole trip, not just the trail stuff. I know guys with more hardcore vehicles will call it Ultimate Pansy Adventure, but it could attract a new/rookie crowd to help the hobby.

Finally, why I wrote in the first place. I mentioned above that I am a drag racer. Due to the sport becoming a lot more commercial, many steps have been taken to reduce downtime in the action for the spectators when an engine lets loose. There are all kinds of engine diapers that do exactly what you think they would do. They keep the fluids/parts contained when an engine explodes. I haven't seen any mention of this in any article, so I wasn't sure if it had been incorporated into the off-road world. I think something like this could definitely help to keep the environmentalists off our backs.

Once again, great mag, and thanks for letting me rant.
Frank DeVeglio
West Islip, NY

Thanks, Frank, we appreciate your rant and the kudos! It so happens that we have actually used diapers and absorbent feminine products on various cracked cases and leaky engines over the years. We always carry some in the toilet paper section anyway, and oftentimes it makes the difference between leaving a trail and actually cleaning up ATF when it dumps out or boils over. I doubt we'll have a Pampers shootout, but we do recommend carrying these kinds of items on the trail to keep us green.

Submission Information
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, 831 S. Douglas St., El Segundo, CA 90245; fax 310.531.9368 Email to:

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