Bearanoia & Great Escapes
Comment: Great job on the February 4Word. I really enjoyed it. I know you guys have to write about buildups and parts, but these kinds of columns really put a guy in a better mood to face the day. Hearing your take on the "bearanoia," the fly-fishing, and the getting-away-from-it-all makes me want to read the magazine all the more. I was fortunate to get some wild country in this year on behalf of the Blue Ribbon Coalition and the Alaska Extreme 4x4 Club. Anyway, I just want to say thank you for a great read.Del AlbrightBlue Ribbon Ambassador, Blue Ribbon Coalition Life Member,State Environmental Affairs Coordinator, CA4WDC Trail Boss,Friends of the Rubicon (FOTR)Mokelumne Hill, Californiawww.delalbright.com
Comment: I loved the Feb. '06 4Word. You have figured me out. I am a Jeep freak, but the Jeep is just a tool to get me to the secret places I find while exploring. I love your mag because you put an emphasis on the adventure, not just the vehicle. I also have found little known trout pools, abandoned mines, cabins, caves, antique cars, and have even found a small undocumented ghost town. No, I won't tell where they are either. I'm living in my own private Idaho, and my '04 Rubicon is the dream machine that takes me there.Dan KellyKuna, Idaho
A: Del and Dan, I'm glad that you both enjoyed Kevin's Feb. '06 4Word and are digging the direction in which the magazine is moving. We realize that there's more to four-wheeling than just building your vehicle, and that you should never forget why you built it in the first place. Kevin is a nomad at heart, and when he isn't in his office (aka cage) he's usually out in the dirt somewhere or hiding out in his top secret desert compound planning his next adventure. The best part about the recent 4Word is that it rings so true for so many. We all have our favorite off-road, or escape-from-the-9-to-5, destinations that we only share with a small group of pals if anyone. And as long as these spaces remain accessible we're all sure to revisit these locales time and time again. It's what our sport is all about. Anyway, glad you guys like what we're doing. We'll keep it coming as long as you keep reading it. Wheel on.
Black Mountain Winches
Q: What do you think of the Black Mountain winch? They have a great sale price on the 8,000-pound unit with all the goodies. Have you done an article that I missed? As always, keep up the great work.
Big O Tires
A: Andy, we haven't reviewed the Black Mountain winch offerings (8,000- and 10,000-pound models are available), but I have spoken to a few people who have used these units on their own vehicles with great results. The Black Mountain winch you mentioned uses a permanent magnet 12-volt DC motor with a 1.8hp output and a rated line pull of 8,000 pounds. On top of that, the price of these units is much lower than what more premium models go for. For that matter, you probably shouldn't expect to get all of the perks offered with those models, but rest assured that you will be getting a capable winch that should last quite awhile as long as it's properly maintained. Black Mountain winches are distributed through a variety of sources, but Collins Bros. Jeep is the main supplier. For more information, check out: Collins Bros. Jeep, (800) 699-5337, www.collinsbrosjeep.com.
Dodge Dakota Lifts
Q: I was wondering why I can't find a 6-inch lift for an '04 Dodge Dakota? I have looked everywhere and only found one 6.5-inch lift (made by Truckin Suspension) but it lowers the upper A-arms as well, and I'm skeptical because of the alignment going out. The big companies just don't see the potential in Dakotas. I wanted a small truck with a stock V-8 because I thought it would be a good combination for a new 4x4 enthusiast like me, but I can't find many aftermarket parts, including a lift! Is anyone planning on coming out with a lift for the newer Dakotas, or can you suggest how I could get one on my Dakota? Thanks.
A: No Name, first of all, any time you lift a vehicle, elements such as alignment and how the vehicle handles will be affected. Though suspension manufacturers do their best to produce systems that match the factory ride quality, some of it will surely be lost after you alter the stock suspension configuration. That said, the 6.5-inch lift kit you mentioned, made by Truckin Suspension, a division of AIM Industries [(888) 761-0252, www.truckn-store.com], may create alignment issues, but it just might be your only option. Reason being is that Dodge changed the Dakota in 2000 to use rack-and-pinion steering and ball joints, which rendered the available previous-model Dakota lift kits useless for the later models. Truthfully, I can't tell you if I've ever seen a Dodge Dakota on the trail. That's not to say that they aren't out there being used, just that they aren't as common as other rigs. This is probably why you can't find a lot of aftermarket parts for your '04, since suspension manufacturers typically design and build kits based on demand, and chances are not that many Dakota owners are putting their foot down.
To learn more about your Dodge Dakota truck and meet other Dakota owners who may be dealing with similar issues, check out the online forum www.dodgedakotas.com. Good luck.
Jeep Rubicon Upgrades
Q: I am in the planning stage of upgrading my '04 Jeep Rubicon. It will see more road use than trail over the next two years due to my work schedule, but it will see at least two Jeep Jamborees a year in that time and Deadwood, South Dakota, during 2006 for sure. So far, I have selected the Skyjacker 6-inch Rock Ready long-arm lift with the pinion angle cam kit, a Tom Wood's Rubicon CV rear driveshaft, and Dick Cepek tires on 16x10-inch wheels. My question is: Do I need a transfer case lowering kit and/or shifter bracket? Also, do I need to modify the front driveshaft? I'm looking at 33- or 35-inch tires. Which would be better off-road? Do I need to change the 4:10 gears for 35s? Your impressions and pros or cons on this setup would be appreciated.
A: Dennis, those all sound like great mods for your Rubicon. Concerning the additional parts you mentioned, the 6-inch Rock Ready long-arm kit uses a two-piece subframe assembly that incorporates means for lowering the transfer case. Skyjacker also includes a shifter relocation bracket with this kit. It's also a good idea to upgrade the front driveshaft when installing a lift kit of this height.
As far as axle gearing, the stock 4.10 gears should be sufficient for 33-inch tires, but you'll want to install 4.56 gears if using 35s. Also, Skyjacker indicates that its 4-inch Rock Ready long-arm kit will permit use of 33- to 35-inch tires (depending on desired suspension articulation), so if the 6-inch kit is what you're after you'll most definitely want 35s. If you're still considering 33-inch tires then go with the 4-inch and upgrade to 35s when the time is right.
Though I haven't wheeled rigs equipped with every available Skyjacker suspension system, I have spent a good deal of time riding in Jeep TJs equipped with Skyjacker systems. I've typically found the kits to operate as intended and do a good job of increasing vehicle capability in difficult off-road situations. Also, most of the impressions I get from those using Skyjacker products are favorable.
If you have further questions about Skyjacker suspension systems, contact the company's tech line and ask away. They should be more than happy to help you decide which lift is best for your vehicle and what extra parts (if any) are required for installation. For more information, contact: Skyjacker Suspensions, (318) 388-0816, www.skyjacker.com.
Send questions, comments, and suggestions to: 4 Wheel Drive & Sport Utility MAGAZINE,Attn: Christian Lee, 2400 E. Katella Ave., 7th Floor, Anaheim, CA 92806, or email@example.com.