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June 2010 Nuts & Bolts

Posted in How To on June 1, 2010 Comment (0)
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This month we return to the regular Nuts & Bolts format, and it's time to round up your tech questions. To entice you to send in those questions, we are giving away a set of General tires for the "Nuts, I'm Confused" letter of the month for the next three months!

So send in your emails to nuts@ and letters to:
4-Wheel & Off-Road
Nuts & Bolts
831 S. Douglas St.
El Segundo, CA 90245

We'll pick the lucky readers with the best tech questions and reward them with new rubber!

Power Toy
I'm 16 and live in South Carolina. I have always loved going mud riding or to mud runs, so I recently decide to build my own mud truck from the ground up. I just bought an '83 Toyota pickup with no engine, transmission, or transfer case to use as my project truck. I was thinking about swapping a Chevy 350 into it with an automatic transmission for the horsepower and torque. I was also going to gear it and lift it to sit on 34s or 35s. Could you tell me what the best transmission, transfer case, and gears would be to run? Do you think the swap will be worth the time and money in the long run, or is there a better way to build my Toyota?
Eric W.
South Carolina

I see nothing wrong with the direction you are going with your little mud truck. A V-8 engine in a small lightweight Toyota truck should be perfect for mud racing/romping. The Toyota frames are pretty strong, and the engine swap you are looking at has been done before by many Toyota owners. In fact, a shop in Oregon specializes in these swaps and can supply parts: Gold Coast 4x4, 541.543.7693,

As for the transmission and transfer case, I think a TH350 and a Jeep Dana 300 would make a simple, lightweight, and strong setup. Maybe upgrade the 300 to a lower gearset and stronger output shafts if possible. The stock axles will be seeing more power and torque from the V-8 than they were designed for, but I would run them until they break; then you can upgrade to aftermarket chromoly shafts and Birfields joints or swap in bigger axles from a larger truck.

For gearing I would run 4.88s or 5.29s with a spool in the back and some type of locker up front for strength and simplicity. There are adapters to go from the GM automatics to the Toyota transfer cases also if you want to go that route.

The V-8 is a tight fit in the '83 and earlier Toyota trucks so you may need to modify the firewall. The 4.3L V-6 engine from Chevrolet is also a great option and less likely to break axle parts, and it can fit in the engine bay as well. Swapping in a later-model fuel-injected Toyota four-cylinder isn't a bad idea, but when it comes to mud, wheelspin and power are your friend and that means more motor.

Another issue to consider is cooling, but a dedicated mud truck could be plumbed to use a bed-mounted radiator if need be, and this will both protect it and help cooling when mixed with a set of electric fans.

I am looking at a new project truck. It is a military truck that isn't currently running, but I'm confused about something. The previous owner told me it uses a 24V system and needs two batteries. I realize most trucks are 12V, but how do I set up this 24V deal? And what if I want to put a radio or winch in it? How do I hook them up?
Randolf R.

You need to install two 12V batteries in series. This will add up to 24V. To wire the batteries in series, run a jumper wire from the positive terminal of one battery to the negative terminal of the other. Now the negative terminal of the first battery is your vehicle's ground, and the positive terminal of your other battery supplies the 24V for the military engine and the 24V accessories.

In order to run a 12V accessory there is a right way and a wrong way to hook up the wires. I have often hooked up my 12V accessories directly to the positive terminal of the ground-side battery. And though this has worked and given me 12V, it is not really the correct way to get 12V from a 24V system. It will work in an emergency, but over time it will create an unequal voltage drop across the two batteries. Eventually the second battery tries to compensate for this drop, and this can shorten the life of both batteries. I can attest to this happening in one of my military trucks. An electrical engineer friend of mine recommended to me that I instead use a 24V-12V converter. He explained how the converter takes in 24V DC, inverts it to AC, multiplies the AC frequency to a very high frequency, divides the new frequency, then inverts it back to DC, and voila! You have 12V DC from 24V DC and no worry of battery damage. He also recommended a Samlex America ( converter, as they are available in 10- to 60-amp models.

Late-Model Man Plan
I currently own an '03 GMC Sierra SLE (5.3L V-8, auto, 4x4, Extra Cab) and was wondering if there was any way to convert it to a manual transmission. Any information, links, or places to start would be greatly appreciated.
New Mexico

Sierras and Silverados stopped using manual transmissions behind the 4.8L V-8 around the '05-'06 model years, so you should be able to modify your truck to a manual transmission with nearly all factory parts. We recommend getting the clutch and brake pedal components from a local dealership or junkyard. You will also need the hydraulic master and slave cylinder/throwout bearing for the clutch. The 4.8L V-8 was followed up with an NV-4500 five-speed manual, and this is a good choice for your Sierra, but any manual transmission with a standard GM V-8 bellhousing pattern will bolt to an LS series engine like your 5.3L. You will also need to be sure the output on the transmission works with your transfer case.

Dana Drain?
I have an '03 Jeep Wrangler Rubicon with the factory Dana 44s front and back. I had an axle oil change done by the dealer, and they removed the diff cover to drain the fluid (returning it to me with a major leak, then a shoddy re-repair). Anyhow, I noticed a 3/8-inch ratchet bung at the bottom of the housing, and when I asked the dealer if it is a drain plug, they didn't know. Their exploded computer diagram only had the axle "guts" without the housing, or the labeled plug, shown. Is this a fluid drain plug, or does it have some other purpose?
Dave T.

Yes, that is a drain plug (arrow). In fact, you do not need to remove the differential cover to change the gear lube since there are both drain and fill plugs. However, many axle experts believe that when changing the gear lube it is a good idea to pull the differential cover to inspect everything inside.

Run from the Grease Spray
My '97 4Runner SR5 4x4 has 119,000 miles and a torn CV boot on the right side. There's CV grease all over the shocks and control arms. I also noticed that the left side is about to crack. When I changed the oil, front differential, and transfer case fluid at 117,000 miles, the CV boots were fine. Since that time I haven't engaged it in four-wheel drive. Will the axle halfshaft need to be replaced if the 4Runner has been driven 2,000 miles with the torn CV boot?

Six years ago I bought a 2-inch suspension lift kit from a company that is now out of business. Are there any other reputable companies that will sell aftermarket CV boots and axleshafts for my 4Runner, especially one that is compatible with the lift kit I already have? Or will going with a stock OEM factory CV boot/driveshaft be sufficient?
Chris H.

If I had a torn CV boot I don't think I'd keep driving it. The grease will just continue to spin out, and eventually the joint will heat up and fail. I have done a trail repair on a CV where we packed it with grease and wrapped a leather chamois cloth around it with some good zip ties. It got us about an hour's drive home, but after that it was time to replace it.

Most 2-inch suspension lifts do not require new halfshafts. Having the boots fail after 119,000 miles doesn't seem too incredible to me, as that rubber boot is constantly spinning and can build up heat and degrade over time. Some suspension systems, such as the Total Chaos long travel kit for 4Runners, offer longer A-arms and require using longer Tundra axleshafts. RCV Performance ( also offers a replacement axleshaft that it claims offers more CV angle and is stronger than stock.

I asked a good friend of mine about CV shafts and boots. Chaplain Steve Hanson attends many desert races and rockcrawling events representing Racers for Christ ( in his '96 Toyota 4Runner. He logs many thousands of miles in the dirt off road and had this to say:

"When it comes to CV boots I would be happy if I got 12,000 miles on a boot. It seems like I am going through a boot every trip out lately, and it gets old and messy changing them out. Total Chaos says I have more trouble with boots than any of their customers. That could be something I'm doing or it could be the fact that I use my 4runner off road more than any of their daily driver customers.

"I have used both Bates and Empi Porsche 930 high-angle boots. Right now I'm back to using genuine Toyota boots and have had no problems so far. However, I only have one real trip on them, but then again that trip was the SCORE Baja 1000. Kartec ( has a kit that contains a 930 rubber boot that fits inside of a leather boot for perfection. I have thought of going this rout but they are costly.

"Here are three tricks I have learned/picked up from the pits/buggy guys: (1) Keep the boots clean, but keep cleaning products away from them, such as grease cleaner and car wash stuff. (2) I stopped using a hose clamp on the boot/shaft connection. This limits the boot's ability to slip up and down the shaft as the suspension travels, and under severe travel the boot rips. (3) The rubber boots seem to seal better than the Toyota ones, so to keep a good seal I use a zip tie instead of the hose clamp when I have to."

Submission Information
Confused? Email 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 website (, 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, 831 S. Douglas St., El Segundo, CA 90245 fax to: 310.531.9368
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