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August 2011 In Box - Letters to the Editor

Posted in Features on August 1, 2011
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Project Dirt Clod
I just had to check if that was Four Wheeler’s project Dirt Clod peeking its nose into the Ultimate Revival picture of the yellow truck getting loaded on the flatbed (“Ultimate Revival,” part 1, May ’11). Sure looks like it wants to be seen again. I would love a revival of it. Hopefully with a better paintjob this time.
Via email

Sharp eye, Brian. I started helping on old Dirt Clod before I even got a job in this industry 16 years ago. Over the years we have been trying to revive it. In fact, now it actually runs and stops again. We’ll keep you updated on the progress and maybe better paint.

Death Wobble Fix
I own 10 4x4 vehicles. I am the original cut-to-fit, paint-to-match expert, and I love to read your magazine. There is always something in it to make me grin.

I have read your death wobble stories and your suggestions of ways fix them. You left out the most important steps in diagnosis (“Death Wobble,” Dec. ’09). These steps are important: Have your buddy rock the steering wheel back and forth like a kid would play driving a car: moving all the slop in the steering wheel, hitting the end of each left then right cycle with force, but not enough to turn the tire more than an inch or so back and forth. Then, and only then, can you get under your rig and see where the bushings are moving.

Movement in the leaf spring bushing? Tie-rod ends moving with the arm they are attached to simultaneously? Draglink or pitman arm test the same way simultaneously? Steering box mounting bolts and broken framework under the steering box are the cause 70 percent of the time. Look at the biscuit or coupler to the steering wheel shaft. Look for loose frame rivets on GM and Fords especially. Strut rod bushings and bracketry and crossmember mounts under the engine holding the frame halves together get loose. How about the Panhard bar bushings and mounts?

You need to jack it up, taking the load off of the ball joints, and then check for play. Hands on top and bottom, then push and pull for sloppy joints or trunnions, then put a 3-foot prybar under the tire from the side and pry up against the tire. Release a couple times and look for sloppy ball joints or trunnion bushings. You had most of it. I just had to add a little more.
Seattle, WA

Good points, Loren. All these items need to be checked, but swapping tires can show how bad your own set really is. Thanks for the advice.

Reader Rant
Hack This!
I thought I had seen it all. Then I read your article “Van Hack” (May ’11). Leave it to Petersen’s to take a rare piece of automotive history (not just a 4WD van, but one with the exceptionally rare twin I-beam front axle) and destroy it for the sake of selling magazines. To make matters worse, the article seems to make a mockery of safety. People cutting sharp metal without the proper hand and eye protection, blasting through running water, and not a seatbelt or helmet in sight (that metal pie pan on the passenger’s head does not constitute a helmet!). The only thing missing was someone welding in sandals with a Corona in his hand. Is this really the example that you want to set?
Gene Savage
Via email

Darn, we couldn’t find a photo of us welding with Corona in hand, so we missed the trifecta. The fact of the matter is that you didn’t buy the derelict van while it was for sale for nearly a year, and no one else did either. Not only that, but this country is founded on the principle of freedom, which means that a person has the freedom to purchase a rusted-to-the-bone, unserviceable van (rare or not) and do what he wants with it. Why didn’t you save this van? And maybe we will take all the running gear and put it in another rust-free van and turn it into a museum piece. Of course, you will be funding the project, correct?

Do we agree with destroying a piece of history? No, but we detest those who try and strip away our freedoms and dictate what we can and can’t do. What’s next? Every Ford Fairmont made in that rare sea-foam green color with gold interior has to be protected? In the words commonly attributed to Voltaire, “I may not agree with what you write, but I will defend to the death your right to do so.”

And don’t even get us started on the so-called safety aspect. Simply because you don’t see your approved safety measures in place doesn’t mean they aren’t there. Next time we’ll add the tagline “Professional alien on closed planet. Do not attempt on Earth.”

The Great Diesel Shootout
Even though I have no intention of buying a new diesel pickup, the shootout was the first article I read when I got the June ’11 issue today. I especially liked how you guys engineered the test to be as close to an “apples to apples” test as possible. There’s absolutely no way anyone could say you went into it with a bias. You put these trucks to the test doing what they were meant to do, instead of the typical show-and-shine reviews given by other magazines.

One thing has me puzzled, however. You pretty much glossed over the unpredictable nature of the F-250’s exhaust brake. Even more puzzling, you seemed to find the GMC’s locking diff issue to be a bigger problem than the Ford’s exhaust brake. I have to say that I think you have this completely bass-ackwards. Having to apply the brakes two or three times on occasion in order to get the exhaust brake to activate is a much more serious flaw and safety defect than the need for some wheelspin in order to get the rear diff to lock. The need to spin a wheel in order to lock the rear diff doesn’t have the potential to turn the truck and trailer into a runaway on a steep descent, for example.

But other than that, it was a fine article, and just goes to show that any of the trucks will get the job done, regardless of the badges and emblems. Keep up the good work!
Phil Smith
Windham, ME

Thanks, Phil. We appreciate all of the technical features of all the trucks, and do realize how important brakes of any type are. The F-250 exhaust brake system may have been unpredictable inasmuch as how to engage it, but it did work regardless. The GM Gov-Lok? You actually never know when it will work. We stand by our coverage.

Notes From the Throne
I have never written a letter to an editor before, but when I just read one of your responses to a letter in your In Box (May ’11), I felt I must comment. I was in my second office (the kind that flushes), and I almost fell off the toilet when I read your response to Steve Bush’s letter titled “Speaking of Altered Reality.” I haven’t laughed that hard in a while.

Clearly he made statements that he could not back up, but what was so priceless was how you shot him down on every account. That analogy about the unrealistic truck and the Playboy model was one of the best I have ever heard. Obviously, we all don’t have 100 grand to build toys that we go out and destroy, but if somebody (say, a magazine company) can do it to provide the general public with entertainment, some product testing, and a fun story, well, isn’t that the point of auto magazines to some extent? I read other car magazines that frequently showcase $100K-plus vehicles, I don’t get angry with the editors because I can’t buy them all. My Ferrari budget for this year is only $95K—ha ha.

Anyways, great response. Keep up the good work. Also, being a Land Rover enthusiast for the past 20 years, I was thrilled to see a magazine testing a Land Rover and it actually winning (“2011 4x4 of the Year,” Feb. ’11). After all, off-road excellence has always been a Land Rover trademark.
David X
Via email

What can we say? Thanks for laughing!

North Africa Revelations
Regarding 4xForward, June ’11: Since you’re heading out to North Africa, I had an epiphany. I can’t help but notice what these, uh, freedom fighters are riding around in and on. Why not take notes and pics of these 4x4s while cruising the African desert? I’ve seen lift kits, snorkels, and winches on these various trucks, which seem to come with must-have accessories like rocket launchers, .50-caliber machine guns, and anti-aircraft for those pesky desert critters like snakes, bats, and such.

Seriously though, I about fell over when I saw a Libyan rebel Toyota with a snorkel, a lift, what looked like 37-inch BFG Mud-Terrains, and a rocket launcher in the bed. Started looking after that, and there seems to be more than a few of them running around the desert.

Be careful if you do decide to go, especially with Olive Drab–painted Jeeps!
Dennis Price
Via email

I was going to do features on many of these rides, but until the Libyans quit shooting at each other we’ve postponed the trip—and the features on RPGs!

Give Me a Brake
It seems a [sic] automotive magazine writer/editorial staff would know the difference between brakes and breaks. Please read item 3 on page 85 of the June ’11 issue, “Easy Axle Upgrades.” The misuse of breaks seems to happen in every issue. Unfortunately, I find this very distracting.
Great magazine.
David Luinstra
Via email

We know the difference, David. Do you know the difference between a and an? Unfortunately, I find that very distracting. On second thought, let’s not dwell on unintentional mistakes and, instead, do our best to make sure they don’t slip through and just go wheeling. Deal?

No Whiners Here!
I was reading my January issue when I came across an article of a gentleman who was complaining about receiving free off-road DVDs in the mail. He’s one lucky fellow. If you can forward his unwanted DVDs to me, I promise I will not complain. 

I’m from South Africa, living in the middle of the Kalahari Desert. Every month we buy a copy of your mag to keep up-to-date of all the latest off-road news and gadgets. I’ll send you pics of our pickups and maybe we’ll see them in your mag!

Thank you for a great magazine. Keep it up so we here in Africa can keep on enjoying it.
Rudolf Steenkamp
South Africa

We’ll send you some swag so you can fly our colors over there—and thanks!

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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