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March 2006 4x4 Tech Questions - Nuts & Bolts

Posted in How To on March 1, 2006
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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. Always check state regulations before modifying a vehicle with pollution controls or one that will be driven on the street. We will answer as many letters as possible each month, but due to the large volume of mail we receive, we regret that we cannot reply to unpublished letters or return photos.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:
Nuts & Bolts,
4-Wheel & Off-Road,
6420 Wilshire Blvd.,
Los Angeles, CA 90048-5515,
fax 323.782.2704

E-mail to:

Hey, folks, Dave Kennedy recently left your beloved 4-Wheel & Off-Road, and other than leaving a big hole in our hearts (no, he didn't shoot us), he also left this Nut & Bolts section empty and a pile of letters going unanswered. As luck would have it, bossman Rick Pewe offered me the job, and I quickly asked how much of a raise I would get.

He just laughed, and said "go answer those questions, and have it on my desk pronto."

So here it goes. Don't expect the same answers Kennedy used to drop with ratios quoted to the tenth point. Nope, I'll never claim to have the photographic memory that he does, but on the other hand, I've done my fair share of wheelin', wrenchin', welding, and cattle rustling. Plus if I don't know the answer, I'll find someone who does, and pass it on to you. So Dave is gone, but we're still here to answer your questions-be they about engines, axles, plumbing, or any other topic you feel is somehow related to your 4x4.

Plus I'll be rewarding my tech letter of the month with some cool prize (could be an engine or set of tires-but more likely a sticker or hat). I'm not looking for the hardest question, but rather the most innovative and entertaining that will help the most confused readers. Example: Want to know the radius of the pilot bushing in a Cummins diesel? Yawn. Want to know how to swap a Cummins into your Chevy Luv, and do it on your pizza delivery budget? Cool.

Oh, and one more thing, send your questions by e-mail to, use "Nuts I'm confused" as the subject and include a picture if it's applicable). Also, I'll be checking the forums on our Web site,, and if I see a question that I think more of you might want to have answered, I'll print that as well. Otherwise, drop it old-school style with the postal service addressed to: Nuts & Bolts, 4-Wheel & Off-Road, 6420 Wilshire Blvd., Los Angeles, CA 90048.

Reader: I am looking into swapping a Dodge NV4500 into an '83 Chevy 1-ton. The Chev currently has a 454 with a four-speed manual and a 203 (or 205) transfer case. The big question is if a 4500 will stand up to the 454. I have been told that the swap is common, but that I can't use a heavy-duty 4500. Any feedback on this would be appreciated.
via the 4WOR forum

Editor: This is a great swap; you will be gaining an Overdrive versus the four-speed you currently have (most likely an SM465, maybe an NP435), thus making your 454 that much more efficient, which will help in fuel economy. As for whether or not the 4500 will hold up to the 454, that should not be a concern since 4500s are found behind Cummins diesels. Just be sure to stay out of Overdrive when towing, especially on uphill climbs with heavy loads. We discussed this swap with the folks at Advance Adapters Inc. (800.350.2223) and determined that the biggest issue is that you have a Dodge NV4500, and the swap would be much easier and cheaper with a '96-and-up Chevy version NV4500. Although the Chevy transmission would require an adapter to bolt up to either your bellhousing or the factory GM NV4500 bellhousing, the Dodge version would also need the bellhousing adapter as well as the input shaft changed and a retainer (diesel only) or a complete adapter bellhousing, and a clutch linkage bracket with a slave cylinder.

On the transfer case side of the Dodge transmission, an adapter kit and a mainshaft swap will be needed to couple it to the GM NP203 or 205, and this will require complete disassembly of the transmission (an easier option is to find a Dodge transfer case). The GM NV4500 does not require a new mainshaft, though an adapter kit will be needed to couple the 32-spline GM mainshaft output to your 10-spline GM NP203 or 205, unless you find the latter (and rare) Circular 6 TH400 32-spline GM NP205.

Reader: I have an '00 GMC Jimmy with a bunch of pushbuttons that control the transfer case. From what I have read, the encoder motors in these transfer cases are known for going out at anytime as I just experienced. I am currently stuck in two-wheel drive and have no way to shift into four-wheel drive. Does anyone make a rebuilt encoder motor for these units? Or is there any way to convert it back to a floor-shifter shift?
M. Moore
Gainesville, FL

Editor: As far as we know, all New Venture Gear transfer cases that are shifted with an encoder motor can be shifted manually in an emergency. Simply pull the encoder motor off the side of the transfer case and twist the shift shaft with a pair of pliers to select any of the four ranges. You should be able to convert your transfer case to a mechanically shifted case by swapping in a new shift shaft and adding a lever to the floor of your Jimmy.

To start things off I'm sending this month's tech tip letter of the month writer a copy of the new DVD "Roll Models" by BFE films. It has a bunch of footage of wild antics and rowdy off-roaders, but should be just fine for our underage correspondent Joe V who writes:

Reader: Hey, guys, 'sup? Last spring I got a fullsize '87 Bronco for 10 bucks, which is now sitting in my parents garage because I'm 15, and don't have a driver's license yet, and because it has a few problems, which is why I'm writing. First, it has an electrical problem(s). It won't start on its own battery power, although once jump-started it runs fine on 9 volts. Second, it won't shift into four-wheel drive, and when I tried it made a grinding noise, and spat ATF. Third, I'm doing this on a $300-a-year budget. I'm 15 and don't have a real job. Anyway, any advice you have is welcome.
Joe V, Wisconsin

Editor: Excellent job, Joe. You finally learned to throw away those little kid toys and join the ranks of us cheap-truck challengers. I'm 32 and I don't have a real job either, but that doesn't stop me from trying to play with trucks. I still have one sitting in my parents garage, so don't worry about that. Now before you go any further, grab yourself a shop manual for that bucket of yours, because your going to need it. In fact, spending part of your $300 on some tools and a book about your year truck will be very valuable. Plus you'll learn to read and follow instructions, which is a great skill for any young man.

First issue sounds like either a battery problem and/or a charging issue. I called the guys at Bronco Graveyard in Brighton, Michigan, and their vote is battery. Pull that battery out and get it tested and charged up at a local garage or by some neighbor who has an automotive battery charger. If it's fine, then next you need to get the alternator tested. Most auto parts stores will test them for free, or you can test it yourself with a voltmeter as per your shop manual. Again, a voltmeter can be purchased within your $300 budget, but better yet, borrow it from your neighbor, local cheese farmer, or dad. Your alternator's job is to recharge your battery as well as supply the charge needed to run your truck, and since your gauge is only reading 9 volts, one of those two may be having an issue.

As for the grinding when engaging four-wheel drive, you didn't mention if it is a shift-on-the-fly that uses a button and a motor on the transfer case, or manual shift that has a lever. If it is shift-on-the-fly, the motor on the transfer case may be dead, and with the manual you need to be at a stop when shifting into 4x4.

The ATF leakage is a tough problem, since both the automatic transmission and transfer case in that truck use ATF lubricant, and if they are leaking and grinding, it's starting to sound expensive, which brings me to part 3 of your letter.

Your budget may be a bit low for your goal, so start looking for odd jobs to raise some funds. Since you're from Wisconsin, the land of cheese, I'd assume some dairy farmer up there needs extra hands milking Guernseys. My dad is a farmer and I am always quick to recommend farming as a great part-time job for young folks that want to go four-wheeling. You will learn to drive off-road on a tractor, fix just about anything with next to nothing, stay physically fit, and if you're really lucky find a private wheeling area in the back 40. Plus, you'll get some cash in your pocket so you can get this pile of yours ready for the trail. Then next year when you get that license you can start wheeling.

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