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March 2013 Techline - Tech Questions

Posted in How To on March 1, 2013
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Photographers: Courtesy of Jeep

DOT Beadlocks
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?
Greg Lane

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 ( 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?
Jim Tarvestad

A Edelbrock’s ( Pro-Flow EFI system should have everything you need.

GPS Lingo
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.
Bob Farrell

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.

More Tons
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?
Travis Kerr

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 ( 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.
Ed Rebels

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.

C-clip Woes
Q I’ve been told that I have a C-clip rear axle and apparently that’s not a good thing. Is there anything I can do to get rid of the C-clips or do I need to get a new rear axle?
Brandon Bond

A C-clip axle is still a semi-float axle that uses a C-shaped clip to secure the shaft inside of the differential carrier. Unlike other semi-float axles that use a bolt-in-style backing plate to secure the axle in place, the C-clip-style relies solely on the clips to keep the axleshafts from shooting out from under your rig. C-clip-style axles can be found under everything from Jeep Wranglers and Cherokees to Chevy pickups and SUVs. There are companies that manufacture C-clip eliminator kits depending on what type of axle you have. Ditching the C-clips won’t necessarily improve the axle’s strength, but it will make for a safer and more secure way of affixing the axleshafts in place. Tire size, use, and whether you run it open or with a locker will all play a part in how reliable your C-clip axle will be.

Manual vs. Auto
Q I am looking to get my first Jeep Wrangler and wanted to know if a manual or automatic transmission would be better? I grew up on a farm and have experience driving both types of transmissions. Most of what I have to wheel in my area is mud, but I would like to do some rockcrawling once I get a Jeep. Most of the Jeeps in my price range have been four-cylinders with five-speed transmissions. I don’t mind the four-cylinder, but I want to make sure that I won’t regret the manual.
Jessie Taylor

A The manual versus automatic debate is one that has raged since the first automobile was produced. A manual transmission gives you great control over your vehicle and is way more fun to drive in most circumstances. In your case, a Jeep Wrangler equipped with the four-cylinder is already underpowered, and putting a power-robbing automatic transmission behind the inline-four will only exaggerate the situation.

With that being said, the AX-5 manual transmissions that were fitted behind the ’87-’02 four-cylinder Wranglers don’t have a great reputation for strength or longevity. Fortunately, with a little work, you can upgrade it with a moderately stronger AX-15 five-speed manual. If you find that you are doing more rockcrawling than mud bogging, I suggest upgrading the Wranglers stock transfer case with a 4.0:1 kit from TeraFlex ( The Wrangler’s NP231 2.72:1 low range ratio is excellent for just about everything except rockcrawling. The 4.0:1 will act as a torque multiplier and allow your Jeep to more easily crawl over the rocks. While the 4.0:1 can be a tad low for playing in the mud, you can always use Third or Fourth gear to churn through the slop (another benefit of the manual). Ultimately, a manual transmission in your case is a no-brainer.

Hardbody Lift
Q I have a Nissan Hardbody pickup and would like to install a body lift. I have heard that body lifts are not as good as suspension lifts. I am on a tight budget and plan to do the install myself. Any advice is appreciated.
Carl Genes

A Body lifts come in many shapes and sizes. Did you know that at the OE level, manufactures have been known to install mild body lifts to make room for larger powertrains? In general, we tend to shy away from body lifts over 2 inches. A 1- to 2-inch body lift often provides that extra bit of space needed to tuck underbelly components out of harm’s way. For those looking to place more cubic inches under the hood, it is a great way to free up space. Of course, body lifts are also an effective way to clear larger tires.

A body lift simply raises the body above the frame via spacers, while a suspension lift modifies the suspension geometry or architecture in some way. As with most modifications, there are advantages and disadvantages to both. One of the best benefits of a body lift is that you don’t have to modify any of your suspension components. This means that your factory driveline and steering angles all remain the same.

As for installing the lift yourself, it can be an at-home install, but it will be a time consuming process. Be sure to soak every body-mount bolt and nut with penetrating lube like WD-40 or PB Blaster a day or so before the install. And while the concept of reading the directions may seem obvious, it will be especially important when installing a body lift. Since you are extending the gap between the body and the frame, items such as wiring, fan shrouds, and hoses will all need to be addressed. Failure to remove a hose or un-clip a harness clamp can result in a costly mistake.

GM Spacing
Q I just purchased a used ‘95 GMC pickup that has a 6-inch lift and 35-inch tall tires. I noticed that the front stance seems wider than the back by a few inches. I was thinking about putting on a set of wheel spacers on the rear axle to even things out. Is this a good idea or is there something that I can do to make the front not as wide? My plan is to use the truck for hunting and do a little mud wheeling.
Harry L

A It sounds like your truck is equipped with what’s known as a knuckle-style lift. Those lift kits became very popular in the late ’90s as they proved to be a more efficient and cost effective way of lifting IFS (independent front suspension) trucks and SUVs. The drawback on many of the kits was that the new knuckle made the front of the truck wider than the rear. There isn’t much you can do to change that, barring installing a different style suspension system, which isn’t a cheap or easy option. Wheel spacers used to be a rare upgrade, but they are now commonly used (especially in the Jeep community). So long as you follow the install instructions and use Loctite on the spacers, you’ll likely be trouble free. As is the case with anything that is secured by a nut, you’ll need to check and make sure everything is tight from time to time.

Where To Write
Address your correspondence to: Four Wheeler, 831 S. Douglas St., El Segundo, CA 90245. All letters become the property of Four Wheeler, and we reserve the right to edit them for length, accuracy, and clarity. The editorial department can also be reached through the website at Due to the volume of mail, electronic and otherwise, we cannot respond to every reader, but we do read everything.

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