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March 2008 4x4 Tech Questions - Nuts & Bolts

Posted in How To on March 1, 2008
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Confused? E-mail your questions about trucks, 4x4s, and off-roading tech using "nuts, i'm confused" as the subject and include a picture (if it's applicable). 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. 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 envelope addressed to the address below. 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.

Write To:
Nuts & Bolts
4-Wheel & Off-Road
6420 Wilshire Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90048-5515
fax 323.782.2704.

E-maiL To:

Question: Yeah I just wanted to know what is the paint code for that orange used on the project uaJk wheels?

Answer: Believe it or not, it's just orange spray paint. We used rustoleum painters Touch real Orange (pn 1953830).

Question: I am a college student and i have been saving up some money to start to build my truck. i have a '94 extended cab chevy 1500 Z71. it is completely stock with a 350 TBi and an automatic transmission. i want to build it for hunt-ing and mild trail use. i want 35-inch tires but i don't know if i should put in a solid front axle or stick with the iFS. if i stick with the iFS, can i put an axle out of a 2500 or 3500 in place of the one it has now?
Greg R.

Answer: If it was me, i would not lift this truck, especially with what i have learned from four-wheeling my iFS chevy truck. I would instead get a small body lift, no more than 2 inches, and/or i would trim the body to clear the 35-inch-tall tires if you are dead-set on that size tires. Many independent front suspensions when lifted do not preserve the geometry needed to keep the iFS axles alive, and even if you could swap in the bigger 2500 or 3500 iFS parts (which is not an easy bolt-in task), they will not survive either if you wheel this truck on anything more difficult than a dirt road. (I've broken my entire front axlehousing.) probably the best advice i can give is to save up to do the solid axle swap and until then try wheeling it stock with a set of 31- or 32-inch mud tires. you'll be amazed at what you can do with it until you get the funds together to really build it right.

Question: I'm looking for a "topless" fourwheel-drive, preferably with the quality of Japanese manufacturing. Other than old Toyota FJs, what are the best options? is it possible to remove tops from Tundra's and the like?
Paul A.

Answer: Topless 4x4s include the following: Toyota FJ-40 and FJ-45s, Suzuki Samurais, and nissan patrols. also consider Land rover Series and Defender models, Jeep cJs, commandos, and Wranglers, pre-'78 Ford Broncos, pre-'76 chevy Blazers, Dodge ramchargers, and international Scouts. The Dodge M37, American Motors Mighty Mite, aM general humvee or M151a1, Mercedes 404 unimog, and Jeep M715 were military vehicles with removable tops offered from the '50s to today. also some 4x4s have partially removable tops like the later Blazers, Broncos, mid- '80s Toyota 4runners, and isuzu amigos. removing a top from a solid-cab vehicle like a Tundra can be a problem because the roof is often an integral part of the body structure and removing it can have dire effects on the stiffness of the vehicle.

Question: I drive a four-wheel-drive '97 Ford F-250 crew cab and was wondering if i can run tire chains on all four tires. Someone told me you shouldn't run tire chains on all four tires because of the difference in gear ratios of the front and back. i hear of all kinds of guys running chains front and rear and never having problems. Can you tell me why or is it just a myth?
Gary D.

Answer: It's a myth. you can run chains on all four tires, no problem, especially in key conditions, and your friends are mistaken because the front and rear axle of your truck should have the same gear ratio. now if you only have one set of chains, i would probably put them on the front axle of your 4x4 and then drive in 4WD in the snow. your front axle steers and stops where your rear only pushes. That being said i would recommend using them on all four tires if possible.

Question: My friend just recently spent a large sum of money on new tires and wheels for his '02 Dodge ram 1500. We mounted and balanced the tires and wheels, but when we went to put them on the truck, we found that the 15-inch wheels wouldn't clear the brake calipers on the front of the truck. The wheel distributor will not honor this mistake on their part and now the wheels are no longer brand new so we cannot send them back. Do you recommend wheel spacers/adapters to clear the calipers? The only other option is to sell the set and start all over with bigger wheels. Thanks for any help you can offer.

Answer: The best solution is usually the most expensive, and in this case selling the tires and wheels and going to a larger rim would be the best and safest bet. Of course there are cheaper options such as wheel spacers or grinding the calipers, but both require a certain amount of personal responsibility by the user. if you run wheel spacers be sure to use some sort of threadlocking compound to keep all the inner lug nuts tight. also pull off the wheels and torque the lug nuts after the first 50 to 100 miles. grinding the caliper where it interferes is an option we have seen done many times, but not one we would recommend as any modification with the brakes could end in catastrophic failure and even death. Maybe rims with less offset would help clear the brakes, but again you are looking at buying new wheels so why not buy ones that clear better and the tires that go with it? a good lesson is to discuss just this situation with the tire salesman prior to purchase, and find out what their return/exchange policy is. Oftentimes shops are more willing to return parts if they are hired to install as well.

Question: I own a '93 Mazda B2600i SE and am very pleased with its abilities offroad. The only problem is the IFS-there aren't any lift kits for it. i would like to do a solid-axle swap, but haven't found much info about it.
Philip H.

Answer: As many of you have found out, independent Front Suspension (iFS) doesn't mix well with abusive off-roading. and in the smaller trucks like Mazdas, rangers, and S-10s, this is especially true as the components are also small to start with. unfortunately, i don't know of a Mazda-specific solid-axle swap kit, but poly performance (805.783.2060, does offer a universal front three-link suspension kit for any vehicle with a 4-inch framerail for around $900. poly can also supply front coilover or air shocks. This would be a great starting point to get rid of iFS on any truck and swing a solid axle into its place as it comes with brackets, links, and joints for three longitudinal links and one lateral track bar or panhard bar link. also check out the "Danger ranger" buildup Feature Editor ali Mansour did in our nov. '07 issue, since rangers are similar to the Mazda trucks.

Question: Whatever happened to those Datsun four-wheel-drive trucks? i know later they where called nissan, but i was just wondering what happened to the socalled mini-trucks of years gone by?
Patrick V.

Answer: you can still get a mini-truck from Datsun, now called nissan; it's called a Frontier. plus the rest of the market has the Ford ranger, Dodge Dakota, chevy colorado, Toyota Tacoma, and Mazda B-Series. There is rumor that Mahindra from india may be coming to the u.S. market soon with a small pickup, and you know darn well that the Chinese and korean car manufacturers are scooping out our country for new business. Not to mention the possibility of both a Jeep and hummer mini-truck. So the mini-truck market is still thriving. however many of these models have grown over the years (especially the Toyota Tacoma, which now rivals the previous Tundra for length and width), and this is something i've been wondering about. Though the u.S. is proud of its fullsize trucks, i wouldn't be surprised if the coming fuel climate doesn't revitalize the mini-truck market, especially if fuel-efficient, yet powerful, four-cylinder gas and diesel engines show up under the hoods. personally i think this would be great as can be seen by the thousands of early '80s Toyota trucks that are on the trails these days. i think a new wave of truly capable, rugged, yet narrow, and shortwheelbased (103 to 109 inches is about right) mini-trucks would sell like crazy.

Question: I have a '42 Jeep flatfender with a Chevy 350 and i am looking to upgrade to a stronger transmission and transfer case. i am on a budget and wondering what would be a good "junkyard swap"?

Answer: Many flatfenders with Chevy V-8s have been built with the older gM SM420 four-speeds because of its very small size and low 7:1 First gear. however, i think another combo for your Jeep would be advance adapters' (800.350.2223, www. new short adapter kit for the SM465 to the Dana 18. The SM465 has a 6.5:1 First gear and is a little bit bigger and stronger than the SM420, plus it is often easier to find one used as they were used from 1968 up until 1991 in gM trucks, and the Dana 18 is the transfer case that you have already. The Dana 18 can survive behind the SM465 stock, but it will be happier with a few upgrades such as a tapered roller intermediate shaft kit and the 3.15:1 low-range kit. you can also use the Saturn overdrive from advance adapters to drop your highway engine rpm. another option is the SM420, SM465, or T-18 adapted to the later Dana 300 transfer case. however, this transfer case would work best with a rear axle that has a center pinion as opposed to the offset versions found stock in most flatfenders.

Question: I have a '56 Chevy pickup body on a '73 Blazer chassis with a '68 four-bolt main block driving an SM465 four-speed coupled to a 205 transfer case. it has a front Dana 44 with ARB air Locker and a rear GM 10-bolt and more than 325,000 miles on it. i found a 1.2-inch-long by 1.4-inch-tall piece of piston skirt in the oil pan. So i started looking around for a different engine and found an '03 camaro with 23,000 miles on it that will start and run and the engine computer and wiring are intact. Will this engine bolt up to my bellhousing/clutch setup? i've been told the bolt patterns will not work together at the bellhousing area and the motor mounts are way different.
Tim b.

Answer: Time for a new engine, eh? The first issue i see is that they stopped making camaros in 2002, but even if it is a 2002 engine you still want it. That engine, if it's a V-8, is an all-aluminum-block LS1 and from what i've seen it's where the industry is headed for aftermarket V-8 swaps. i spoke to the crew at Turn key Engine Supply (760.941.2741,, where they specialize in the newer LS engines and rounded up all the answer for you. First the motor mounts for your '68 V-8 will not work, but Turn key has adapter motor mounts that will allow you to bolt in the LS1. The bellhousing will bolt up to the LS1 but instead of the current seven bolts you have now, only six will be used because one of the holes won't match up, though this is considered Ok. also your exhaust will most likely need to be modified to work with the newer engine. The factory computer is usable but will likely require modification for your application. however, Turn key can supply a stand-alone aftermarket computer perfect for this type of swap as well as a different flywheel. This may seem like a bit of work, but the power gains should be noticeable as these engines are around 320 hp stock and with Turn key's computer they can easily get up to 400. compared to your 325,000-mile engine, i bet you'll be smiling. however, with that much power you may be looking to upgrade that rear 10-bolt before long.

Question: I broke the front output on my chevy 205 transfer case while getting stupid with my Blazer on 42-inch tires. is there an upgrade available?
Wayne S.

Answer: Most chevy np205 transfer cases come with a 10- or a 30-spline front output shaft in the 205. Look for one from a Dodge or Ford np205 as they have a 32-spline front output shaft and yoke. use a rear seal in the front to seal around the bigger yoke and shaft.

Question: I am interested in building a Jeep to tackle the hardest trails around. The vehicle will have a stretched wheelbase and be equipped with Dana 60 axles and 40-inch-tall tires. Do you recommend that i start with a yJ or a TJ? The vehicle will be trailered and only used on the trail.
Harry W.
Rapid city, SD

Answer: Don't you know that the best Jeep ever made is the crew-cab forward-control Fc-170? it has a 103-inch wheelbase, seating for 13, and a supercharged diesel! Of course they are rare, slow, shaped like a loaf of bread, and kind of goofy-looking, but i have one so you can see my favoritism. plus the ladies totally dig 'em!

If I was going to build a trail rig, it would be hard choosing between a TJ and a yJ. Both have strong frames, and there is plenty of aftermarket support to help you build either into an awesome trail machine, though the newer TJ most likely will have more available for it. i like the styling of the TJ better, but that's probably because i never liked the yJ square headlights, but from the driver seat you can't see them anyway. I prefer a suspension that has coils in the front and leaves in the rear, so starting with either would be fine for that since the TJ is all coils and the yJ is all leaves. you can stretch the wheelbase slightly on either, the YJ just needs springs with offset center pins (such as Wagoneer front springs or newer cherokee rear springs), while the TJ would need the spring mounts moved and longer links. gen-right (805.584.8635, www. has a good kit for stretching a Jeep TJ, yJ, or cJ-7 that includes a new fuel tank, steel corners, and rock for engine and drivetrain, i would look for any '91-or-newer as they have the fuelinjected 4.0L straight-six. The four-cylinder engine could also work, but you would need gobs of low-range gearing such as the fourspeed atlas or three-speed STak transfer case and 5.38-or-lower ring-and-pinion gears (maybe even 7.17:1) to turn those big tires off road. i think it really comes down to what you can get the best deal on and I would be surprised if the yJ wasn't cheaper.

Question: I have a '78 Bronco and i am planning on removing the hardtop, tailgate, and doors, and cutting the windshield and top off. i'd weld a front cage onto the existing rollbar and mount my windshield to the front cage via mounting tabs (like Clifton Slay's Suicide Sally, ultimate adventure 2007). Did clifton use plexiglas or glass? Did he seal around the windshield with rTV or silicone? Does it hold up well? Can you drive at freeway speeds without the wind blowing your face off (i.e., eyes tearing up/cheeks flapping)? Would it be legal for me to drive the Bronco on Colorado roads with this type of windshield setup? Would it be better to cut just the top off and retain the stock windshield?
MikE M.

Answer: A clear windshield is an important part of your street-driven vehicle, since it needs to stay clear while also protecting you from flying objects that often bounce down the highway. Many off-roaders and racers use a lexan polycarbonate such as those sold by Speedglass (www.percyshp. com) or pro glass ( now they claim the polycarbonate is scratch- and chemical-resistant and shatterproof and much lighter than safety glass, all of which sounds great to me. plus i know that they can make these windshields in custom shapes and sizes, so i think they could be perfect for what you want. i did ask the california DMV if it was legal to run such a windshield in a street-legal buggy or Jeep and they said no. it has to be real glass, but i am not up on the colorado rules.

As for clifton's window, it is bolted in and i believe sealed with a rubber gasket and i have seen him driving at highway speeds. clifton's windshield seems to hold up well, though i have seen other people's plastic windshields that looked foggy and scratched. i have also been told by other drivers who have had the cheap hardware-store Lexan windshields blow out and break while on the highway. Glass would be a better, safer, and, most likely, legal method, but if you fear you'll be smashing your windshield on the trail, i'd say go with the polyglass and keep our trails clear of broken shards.

Question: I am 15 and looking for a truck. i am thinking of purchasing a late-'90s Dodge ram and turning it into a prerunner. i am building it on a high schooler's budget, but i still want something that i can take on the trails in the Colorado mountains. i am going to use 37-inch tires but i am confused about what to use for the suspension and shocks. i want a suspension that allows me to be able to jump it and run it on the trails. But i don't want anything too harsh since it's my daily driver for a long time to come. i have thought about a basic 8-inch lift, but i don't think that will work too well when i want to jump. So i also considered using coilovers or leaf springs but i am still not sure.
Nicholas H.

Answer: Unless your high-school budget is equivalent to that of a stock broker, let me give you some advice. Jumping your truck costs a lot, can leave you stranded with no daily driver, and is hard on equipment. however, a basic suspension kit will allow you to enjoy your solid-axle truck without too much worry as long as you keep it close to the ground. Every time you take your truck for some air time you have to deal with tires stuffing into wheelwells, drivetrain parts trying to fall out the bottom of the frame, and frames and suspensions dealing with abuse the engineers didn't feel would be that common from truck buyers back in the '90s. We all like to get crazy with our 4x4s, but in some ways the old adage holds true: if you want to play you have to pay. and the harder (or higher) you play, the more you pay. A custom coilover shock suspension is possible with some highdollar fabrication, but let me suggest you stick to a basic suspension kit for now; in fact i'm even going to get rancho to send you some of its great adjustable shocks for your truck to help get you ready to wheel. rancho ( is a name that has been synonymous with suspension since before you were drooling on 4-Wheel and Off-road, and rancho's suspensions are a great starting point for almost any truck you end up buying. Though they are not 8 inches tall, you'll find that whether you're jumping or going fast, a low center of gravity is a major benefit. and like i did so long ago, you need to learn to crawl before you learn to run, so start small, build your truck safe and stable, and then go wheeling. See what it will do and where it can take you before you go hog-wild with a crazy expensive buildup. you'll be a better driver in the long run if you learn to wheel with a truck on small tires and a short lift. Then as your skills progress and propel you up and over things, so can your 4x4.

Question: I want to put my Dana 60s with 4:88 gears, lockers, and 39-inch Swampers under a late-'80s Toyota truck or 4runner. i want to use my divorced np205 to put the output shaft on the driver side. Even with two transfer cases i'm concerned that a 22r or even the 3.0L will not have enough power to turn the tires. Then i was thinking of using a chevy S-10 with the 4.3L. That should have the power, but i'm unsure if the transmission and transfer case will hold up to rough wheelin'. i plan on using two transfer cases on whatever truck I choose. i've researched full-width swaps using leaf springs on these trucks and it's doable, but what are your thoughts?
Should i consider a different rig?

Answer: I have 39-inch tires under my Toyota "clampy" with Toyota dual transfer cases, a Dana 60 front axle, and a Dana 70 rear axle. I think it wheels fine with the 22rE. however, i have 7.17 gears. i have seen many Toyota guys running 5.29 gears in their Toyota axles with dual cases and 37-inch-tall tires, and i think you could make the four-cylinder work, but you need lower gears than 4.88. i'd try 5.86, 6.17, or the 7.17s. however it's never going to be a rocket ship. The V-6 in the S-10 would be a better engine than the Toyota fourcylinder for power, but the frame under the Toyota was built to support a solid front axle in other parts of the world so it would be a better choice than the S-10. I would probably stick with the Toyota over the S-10 simply due to the greater number of aftermarket support for the swap you want to do. i used the Sky's Manufacturing (541.736.3743, com) full-width axle swap kit on clampy and it worked out great.

Also you talk about the 205, and i think it might be overkill for what you are doing. Though big and strong, unless you have big power from your engine it's going to be a heavy transfer case to haul around and the low range is a dismal 1.98:1 versus the Toyota low range of 2.28:1. plus you will need to build a mount to install the 205 and then you will end up with a very short rear driveshaft. i would consider getting the dual cases kit from Marlin crawler (559.252.7295, www. and using a Tacoma chaindrive case, or look into the inchworm gear (530.677.8111, www.inchwormgear. com) "Lefty" transfer case that has the front output on the driver side.

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