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July 2010 Nuts & Bolts

Posted in How To on July 1, 2010 Comment (0)
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Signal the Speedo
QI have a '95 Wrangler YJ with the 2.5L, AX5, and NP231. I recently blew Fifth gear in my AX5 and was lucky enough to score an AX15 and a Dana 300 transfer case at a swap meet. I am going to be putting in the AX15 and Dana 300 with a little help from Advance Adapters and Novak when time and money allow. Is it possible to convert the mechanical speed sensor in the Dana 300 to electronic like I have in my NP231?
Ryan O.

A What you need is a signal generator. Painless Performance ( offers one that is perfect for swapping in a Dana 300 with an electronic fuel-injected TBI GM engine ('88-'95), but when going to the Jeep speedo and computer it's even easier. The mechanical-to-electric speed signal generator out of your NP-231 should bolt right into your Dana 300 if it is from an '82-'86 Jeep. If it's earlier than that, you can upgrade to a larger output shaft and it will come with a tailhousing that will accept the 231 speed signal generator. Also remember that the Dana 300 is a passenger-side front output whereas the 231 is driver-side, so you may be swapping in a new front axle or looking into a Stak 4x4 ( Dana 300 Replace-a-Case.

30-Something Quandary
QI have a '97 Jeep Wrangler TJ Sport with the 4.0L six-cylinder, Dana 30 front, and Dana 35 rear. It has 35-inch tires, which I will probably keep. However, 37-inch tires might be a possibility in the distant future. What is my best and (due to current financial burdens) cheapest way to go? I am torn between upgrading my current axles with the Super 30 and 35 kits with selectable lockers or saving a little while longer and buying Dana 44 axles.
Brian R.

A This is always such a hard question to answer: "How much axle do I need?" The stock axles are probably fine for most guys up to 33-inch tires, and maybe 35s if you're easy on them. The problem is what constitutes "easy on them." What terrain do you wheel? Are you always on the throttle? Do you like to jump, bash, and abuse the Jeep or just cruise dirt roads looking at birds and hunting beasts?

I have a general Dana rule: Dana 30/35s are good up to 33/35-inch tires with good parts, 44s are good up to 35/37-inch tires with good parts, and 60s are good up to 40/44-inch tires with upgraded parts. By "good parts" I mean proper gearing, chromoly shafts, upgraded shaft size, stronger than stock U-joints, and so on. Of course each of these is dependent on driving style, terrain, and powertrain.

The Super 30 and Super 35 kits from Superior Axle & Gear (www.superioraxlegears) are a great upgrade for Jeeps, as they're claimed to be 30 percent stronger than stock. And if you figure that a stock Jeep comes with 29-inch-tall tires, then 30 percent taller would be 37 inches. However, I don't think I'd run 37s on these axles with the way I drive. I'd be more inclined to run 33s and maybe 35s with the Super 30/35 upgrade.

I think if you are seriously planning on 37s in the future I'd save up to build some Dana 44s. To be safe, I'd do a high-pinion Dana 44 up front and a low-pinion in the rear, or a high- or low-pinion Dana 60 in the rear.

Many companies (such as Dynatrac, offer both the trail series 44 and 60s that will bolt in, or you can build your own.

Q I am rebuilding my '52 Dodge M37 and need help. I have a Chevy 350 and I want to keep the stock axles, but what transmission and transfer case should I go with for the gearing in the axles? I have been looking into the NV4500 but I want to be sure. Please give me a word of wisdom.
John S.
Spokane, WA

A The M37 uses a divorced transfer case, and since you want to keep the stock axles it would be fairly easy to keep the stock transfer case. You'll just need to put a two-wheel-drive transmission behind your V-8 and a short driveshaft between the transmission and the divorced transfer case. I like your idea of the NV4500 because the overdrive will help with the low stock axle gearing, but for my M37 Project I chose the Ranger overdrive from Advance Adapters (800.350.2223, in front of a GM SM-465 four-speed. I went this route since I had the SM-465 already and I don't like the expensive special oil required in the NV4500.

The differentials in both the front and rear M37 axle are offset to the passenger side of the truck. This works best with an offset transfer case like the stock version in your truck to keep driveshaft angles proper. If you do not want to keep the stock transfer case, you might look into the Orion transfer case from Advance Adapters or an LT-230 transfer case from a late-'80s Land Rover or Range Rover, as they are also offset cases. Both may require special adapters to use behind an NV4500. I think I would lean toward using the stock transfer case. That way if you ever decide to replace the axles, you could also replace the transfer case with a centered rear output, as most heavy-duty junkyard rear axles are centered, not offset to the passenger side.

V-8 CJ
Q Here is a picture of the '78 CJ-7 I just bought with no engine or transmission. I want to build this for sand running. What engine would you suggest? I do have another '79 CJ-7 that has a rusted-through frame but is complete and has a 304 V-8 with headers, but the motor is locked up. Would it be easiest or cheapest to rebuild the 304 and use it, or switch to another engine tranny and transfer case combo? I always have a couple Dodge Ramcharger parts trucks around (I'm a Ramcharger nut!) so I already have a 318 and a 360, 727, 208 available. Or should I go Chevy 350?

Also, what about the stock '78 Jeep axles? Does anything special need to be done for them to handle the sand? Or are they OK as they are? I don't want a sand racer or anything; I just want something I can drive around the dunes in at Little Sahara, Oklahoma.
Rob H.

A The easiest route would be to fix the 304 if that is possible, as it's already equipped to go in the Jeep. Most guys go with the Chevy V-8, as they are cheaper, more abundant, and have a plethora of swapping components available like motor mounts, radiators, and exhaust for putting in a Jeep, but that doesn't mean you can't put the Mopar V-8 you have lying around in the CJ-7 either. The Mopar V-8 swaps are not nearly as well documented as the Chevy V-8 swaps, but that doesn't mean they're impossible. The Mopar engines are arguably lighter and narrower than the old-style Chevy V-8, but also longer. For more information about swapping in a nonstock engine contact Advance Adapters (800.711.6171, or Novak Adapters (877.602.1500,

The stock '78 axles are robust enough for just tooling around the dunes and should be fine, considering they came behind a V-8 originally, though not a fire-breathing one for sure. Adding gears and lockers would be helpful in the sand.

Keep reading the next few issues as we prepare to build a V-8 CJ-7 for this summer's big wheeling trip.

Baby Bronco
Q I am 18 and have recently gotten my project truck, an '87 Bronco II (yes, the Baby Bronco), up and running reliably and need advice on what to do next. I love to wheel it, but I do have some trouble keeping up with the lifted trucks I go with. Don't get me wrong-I love my B2 and it's a very capable wheeler, but I want more.

Right now it is 100 percent the way one would come from Ford. I'm not afraid of doing all the work myself, as I have already rebuilt or replaced everything except the motor, but my main obstacle is money. What should I do? It is my daily driver and I need to keep it reliable and street-legal, but I really need help going through the mud and climbing on the rocks of Long Island (pebbles compared to what you guys go over).

Should I lift it? I need better tires, but If I go bigger I need a lift (cutting the fenders is off limits; I just redid the body). Should I lock the axles? The open diffs aren't helping the traction in the mud. Any other suggestions on what would make it a good dual-purpose wheeler?
Long Island, NY

A There's nothing wrong with your Baby Bronco, but yes, it could be much better. My advice for your budget is tires and a rear locker. Get the most aggressive tire you can afford that will fit under the fenders, and stuff a locker in the rear differential. I recommend Mickey Thompson MTZ tires. I drive on them every day and they ride great, last long, and work off road. If you can afford it, I'd regear the axles a few cogs lower, but that will mean both front and rear axle work, which starts adding up. I know your truck won't be a giant monster, but I'd forgo the lift to start. Lockers and knobby rubber will take you very far and still be easy on the street.

Nuts, I'm Confused!
Confused? Get new tires!
For three months we will be choosing the best tech question from our readers' letters and sending the winning readers a voucher for a set of tires from General Tire. General Tire offers a variety of truck and 4x4 tires, including the new General Grabber tires tested in this issue by Kevin McNulty ("Grabber Exclusive," page 84). General has a strong contingent of off-road racers running its tires, and you can join that group by simply sending us your confusing, funny, technical, or frustrating 4x4 questions. We're looking for a question that will best assist the other readers, and we may be sending some General tires to you. To find out more about General Tire visit

This month's winner is Catherine from Tennessee for her explosive Toyota question. Sometimes we email back our readers with the answers to their questions, but not always. This time the story just kept getting more entertaining, so we had to print it for you to read.

Help! I am a Southern college girl in a dilemma. My recent first taste of wheeling has made me starving for more. Unfortunately, college has caused my bank account to hover in the "dangerously low" arena. Problem.

Maybe where you live there are numerous women who are in the wheeling business. Here in southern-middle Tennessee, I am quite an oddity. Therefore, I keep my passion for anything automotive on the down-low.

An opportunity has arisen. My father recently purchased two first-generation Toyota 4Runners for a song. Neither is running. One is an '87 whose motor was rebuilt some eight years ago. The previous owner said he drove it for about 200 miles after the rebuild until "it blew a head gasket or somethin', and so I parked it." The other is an '85 that the previous owner purchased as a parts vehicle, but still had the title. In my opinion, it could definitely be roadworthy. Its motor (running status unknown) is in the back end. The bodies of both are in fair condition, however. There is very minimal rust on both and interiors are intact

Since Dad already owned a "locked and loaded" '87 4Runner before he bought these, he planned on getting them running and selling them for a large profit. This is where my dilemma arises. I want one of them so badly I could die. He has told me that if I can come up with $400, I can have the one of my choice. I am taking one-time jobs to come up with the money. I know it doesn't sound like much, but I live on borrowed money these days, so I pinch pennies in my sleep. Either one would need many parts to meet my standards for a sweet trail rider. My question to you is which one should I work toward buying?

Please help me! I desperately want to show all of the local yokels at Wheelin' in the Country that "foreign s**t driven by a chick" isn't something to laugh at.
Catherine K.

We replied: Get the '85. It has a solid front axle and is a much better project to start with. Check stuff like the doors, hood, and tailgate and see if any of them are rusted. If so, get those good parts off the '87. The '85 might have fuel injection (22RE engine), but could also have had a carburetor (22R engine).

Catherine replied: I'm going to choose the '85, it has a 22RE and an automatic transmission! All the reviews I've read of the A340H have been pretty good. I know, I know: Most of the wheelers say that is a no-no, but I'm really pretty horrible with a five-speed. I've already looked into some stuff and I've found that lifts for the '85 are much, much cheaper than for the '87. Yay for solid axles!

We replied: The best advice for Toyota buildups of this type are dual transfer cases such as those from Advance Adapters (, Marlin Crawler (, or Inchworm Gear ( A dual transfer case is basically two low-range gearboxes stacked to give you very low gearing. The low gearing makes crawling much easier in rocks and stuff, while still allowing you to have higher gears for mud, sand, and street. Because you have just a four-cylinder you need as much gearing as possible.

Then it's a set of leaf springs and shocks (All-Pro Off Road,; ARB, www.; Skyjacker,; and so on) and lockers. Add a winch for extraction and some mud tires, and you're golden. A small Toyota shop, Toy-Soldiers (818.731.0125,, in Atoka, Oklahoma, could also help with your truck if you need a hand.

Catherine replied: I took the photo of the '85 just today. What you can't see in the picture is the two explosive detonators in the front seat!

As I was removing old beer bottles, about 20 moldy pairs of socks, and random light lenses not even for a 4Runner, I found an old KC light cover. I figured if I kept digging I would come across some lights! A little more prying and-a-ha! Some electrical wires! I began pulling on them to get my prize at the other end, only to keep pulling and pulling. Finally the end came out. What emerged was a small silver cylinder. Having no idea what it was, I brought the thing close to my eyes to read the words printed on the side: "Danger Explosive Detonator." Not one, but two. I set it down, slowly backed away, then ran.

After first calling my dad, I then phoned the local sheriff's department (since we live so far out in the boonies there is no police service). A deputy came out to inspect my findings. He had no clue what they were either. By this point, he and I had messed with them. He called his boss, who immediately told him the bomb squad would have to drive all the way down from Nashville to either detonate them or remove them.

Two hours later a dark Expedition rolled up. Out jumped a G.I. Joe with a "bomb squad" hat. He pulled out his frag bag and put the detonators in it more carefully than putting a sleeping baby to bed.

We were informed that said detonators were actually blasting caps, which can be activated by even the slightest static electricity on your body. My hand would have been blown clean off the limb, followed by a nearly untreatable infection.

Statements were given, hands shaken, and so on.

I know this story is so insane, but I kid you not! If you begin to question me, I invite you to call the Tennessee Sheriff's Department or the Tennessee Highway Patrol's Bomb Unit.

Do I still try to buy the '85?

One last question. I'm wondering if it would be better to try and get the 22RE out of the back end and put it back in under the hood, or get a 3RZ to swap in.

We replied: The 22RE is a great engine and would be easy to put back in, since everything bolts in.

The 3RZ is more powerful but not necessarily a cheap or easy swap.

A Chevy 4.3L V-6 is also a great swap candidate and a good engine, but would complicate things slightly.

I hope your truck is as explosive on the trail as it is sitting still. We'll be sending you a General Tire voucher soon.

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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