Your Tech Questions Answered
I see that many of the rigs you feature in the magazine run beadlocks. I understand the off-road benefits of the beadlock, but I am worried that they are not legal. I drive my rig daily and don’t want to get hassled for running them on the street. What do you recommend?
A While I doubt that many Highway Patrol officers are on the hunt for illegal beadlocks, I do understand your concern. Most beadlock wheels, with the exception of a few, are not DOT (Department of Transportation) compliant. This is not to say that they don’t adhere to DOT wheel construction standards, but rather that there are currently no specific regulations or test requirements in place for beadlock wheels. For this reason, most manufacturers sell beadlocks labeled for competition and/or off-highway use only.
Hutchinson (www.hutchinsoninc.com) is one of the few companies to offer DOT compliant dual beadlock wheels for both the U.S. military and recreation sector. The dual beadlock wheel uses a center insert to “lock” both the inner and outer tire beads once the two wheel halves are bolted together. This style of beadlock is better than just locking the outer bead, but cost more than your standard beadlock wheel.
Most traditional beadlocks use bolts to sandwich the tire’s bead between an outer locking-ring and the wheel. These bolts can work loose over time, and if continued to go unchecked, can result in a damaged wheel, tire, or worse. Just as you should periodically check your rigs lug nuts, beadlock wheels require routine maintenance. Each rim manufacturer has specific torque requirements and suggested service intervals. I like to check mine after every wheeling trip and oil change. Some manufacturers even suggest swapping in new bolts each year on daily driven vehicles. The bottom line is, if you are running beadlocks you need to inspect them frequently to make certain they are safe for you and others on- and off-road.
Q I have a ’75 Dodge ¾-ton with a 440ci. I would like to convert it to fuel injection. Do you know of any kits or systems?
A Edelbrock’s (www.edelbrock.com) Pro-Flow EFI system should have everything you need.
Q When setting up the in-dash 730N GPS in my ’12 Jeep Wrangler Rubicon I have the choice of decimal degree or DMS. I don’t have a clue what the difference is. My confusion is further compounded by the Colorado Backroads & 4-Wheel-Drive Trails book by Charles Wells I just received. In the book the GPS coordinates are said to be taken in WGS84. Any help would be appreciated.
A In college I spent some time studying Geographic Information Systems (GIS) and toyed with plenty of GPS devices. I later switched majors to creative writing in hopes of one day landing a job as an automotive journalist. I suppose I made the right decision! One thing I remember from my time in GIS studies is that latitude and longitude is most commonly recorded in degrees, minutes, and seconds (DMS) or decimal degrees. Those are the two display options that your in-dash navigation system is offering.
For example; the DMS for Toledo, Ohio (the city your Wrangler was built) is approximately 41° 39’ 56” N, 83° 34’ 31” W. If you convert those same DMS coordinates to decimal degrees, you get 41.665556N, -83.575278W.
As for the WGS84, it’s a map datum and stands for World Geodetic System. The 84 refers to 1984, as this was the year the new version superseded the outdated 72 version. Most GPS receivers actually obtain coordinates in WGS84 and convert them to DMS or decimal degree values automatically. The coordinates in the book should already be converted to DMS or decimal degree, so you can simply input the waypoints into your GPS device.
Q I’ve been wheeling my ’86 Chevy ½-ton pickup for a while and I am ready to take it to the next level. I don’t have the money for a new engine or fancy suspension, so I was going to try and save up for a set of 1-ton axles. Is there anything I need to reinforce or problem areas I need to address before swapping in the axles?
A Swapping out your ½-ton axles for a beefy 1-ton set is a great idea and something commonly done. There are a few weak spots on the ½-ton frame that you will definitely want to reinforce. The most notably problematic area is around the steering gearbox frame mount. If the frame is not already cracked in that spot, it likely will be soon. The engine crossmember is another area known for cracking. Adding extra crossmembers, boxing the framerails, and dropping in a properly built rollcage are all great ways to strengthen the chassis. Offroad Design (www.offroaddesign.com) makes many of the aforementioned upgrades and fixes for your generation truck and is a great resource to use when building a trail capable GM.
Lock the Back
Q I have a ’98 Toyota 4Runner that serves as my weekend wheeler and daily driver. I would like to upgrade it with a locker, but I can only afford to add one locker at a time. Which axle do you suggest locking first? And do you think a selectable or automatic locker would be best? I’ve read that automatic lockers can be quirky on the street. My wife drives the 4Runner from time to time and I don’t want it to be dangerous for her to drive.
A No matter if it’s a dedicated trail rig or daily-driver, in my experience, locking the rear axle first will always net you the most off-road performance gains. Sure, a front locker makes pulling the frontend over obstacles much easier, but once the frontend is over, your rear will be a one-wheel wonder trying to heave the rest of your rig up. A front locker will also put more stress on the frontend components and steering. And since your 4Runner has an independent front suspension and solid-rear-axle, I’d opt for spending money on the stronger and more reliable rear. Given that the vehicle is your daily-driver and your wife drives it, I suggest going with a selectable locker. The selectable locker will basically be invisible on the street, and when you engage it off-road it will make the wheels spin at the same speed to help with your traction needs.