Click for Coverage
  • JP Magazine
  • Dirt Sports + Off-Road
  • 4-Wheel & Off-Road
  • Four Wheeler
Subscribe to the Free

December 2010 Nuts & Bolts

Posted in How To on December 1, 2010
Share this

Warn Warning
Q I recently acquired a Warn 5,000-pound winch, which does not work. I plan on fixing it and mounting it on my truck, an '82 Chevy 1-ton with 36-inch H1 wheels and tires. Once I bring this dead electric puller back to life, how can I help it survive while towing my seriously heavy Chevy from the muck? I was thinking that some sort of pulley would help.
Matt T.

A Before you spend a dime on that winch, let us warn you (Get it? Warn you. Warn, like the winch. OK, sorry). Warn recommends that you use a winch with a rating 11/2 times the weight of your vehicle. I had the same truck as yours, and I know it weighed 6,600 pounds with 37-inch tires on it. That 5,000-pound winch of yours is about 4,900 pounds under Warn's recommended rating. The 5,000-pound winch is barely enough for something small like a Willys Jeep CJ or a Suzuki Samurai.

Either fix it and use it around the shop in the bed of the truck for pulling stuff like quads or boats aboard, or sell it and save up for something in the range of 9,500 to 12,000 pounds. Yes, a snatch block will increase the capacity of the line pull, but it also reduces the line speed and adds complexity and danger to the extraction with multiple winch lines.

Spacer Eraser?
Q I have a question on wheel spacers. I run 11/2-inch spacers on my '06 Tundra. Do they reduce the towing/load capacity of the truck?
Ben R.

A Since wheel spacers push the mounting surface of the wheels out farther, unless you are adding the same amount of backspacing to the wheels to keep the tires at the same position outside of the framerails, I would say that, yes, they effectively reduce your towing and load capacity. If you figure that you are adding leverage to the wheel bearings, then you are in effect making them work harder to carry the same amount of weight. Exactly how much wheel spacers reduce the load and whether that is any concern is a question for a certified axle engineer. If you use wheel spacers that are not extremely wide, keep them properly torqued and check on them regularly, and they can be very reliable.

Truck Trailer Tires
Q I have a question regarding tires. I have a '99 4Runner with a 2-inch lift and the factory electric rear locker. I run 265/75/16 Terra Troopers, which is the largest size they have in that tire. It has been an excellent off-road tire in the snow, rain, mud, and any other two-track trails I can throw at it. On-road they are OK, but they do what I want them to do on the trail. I love the tire, but I am hoping for a little larger size next time, like maybe a 285/75/16, but they don't offer it.

I was reading your Sept. '10 issue and looked at your "Tow Behind Tires" article, and to my surprise you have the BFGoodrich tires mounted on your trailer with the same exact tread as is on my Terra Troopers. The only difference I can find is the name on the face of the tire. I am told that because of the tariffs they are no longer importing this tire. Can I buy a BFGoodrich "trailer tire" and put it on my 4Runner for tail duty? I drive my 4Runner to every trailhead, so it must be a safe tire too.
Mickal G.

A Yes, the BFGoodrich Commercial T/A tires we put on our trailer are a commercial truck tire, not a specific trailer tire. You can put these on your truck, and they do have an aggressive tread. I think I would recommend the BFG All-Terrain, Mud-Terrain, or Krawler if it were me since they offer a more aggressive tread.

Coil Confusion
Q It seems like a lot of the tube cars in your magazine use coilover or air shocks instead of a traditional leaf springs or coil springs. What is the advantage to using a coilover instead of a coil spring and separate shock, like I have on my TJ? What about air springs? Are they better yet?
Gene S.

A The trend toward coilover shocks and air shocks has definitely taken the off-road world by storm the last 10 years, but while the coilover shock should give you more performance tuning capability, I'm not sure it is always the best choice. Understand that the coil spring supports the weight of the vehicle, whereas the shock controls the movement of the suspension to keep if from bouncing out of control. Leaf springs are dirt-simple. Little to no additional links are required to locate the axle, and they are relatively cheap. However they do have approach and departure angle faults and require additional mounts for shocks and the possibility of requiring a traction bar of sorts.

A separate coil-spring and shock setup, such as what your TJ came with, is great. It will require three, four, or five links to locate the axle, depending on what fits and what type of performance you desire. However, you also need mounts for the coil springs and mounts for the shocks, which can start taking up a lot of room under your chassis and along your axlehousing.

Coilover shocks are simple to mount, requiring as little as two tabs on the chassis and two on the axle. But as with the coil spring, you will also need suspension links to control and locate the axle movement. Unlike the coil and leaf spring design, a coilover shock integrates the shock and spring mounting in one so it must be strong enough to support and control the weight and movement of the suspension. Also, most coilover shocks are rebuildable, allowing you to adjust spring rate, valving, and pressure to fine-tune your suspension. But this comes at a cost. An average coilover shock with springs is over $300 each, whereas leaf springs can be less than half that. Also a coilover shock needs to be charged with nitrogen. This can be done when purchased, but every time you adjust your valving you need to recharge the shocks, so purchasing a nitrogen tank is suggested.

Air shock is commonly used to describe a charged shock with a large shock shaft that replaces both the spring and the shock. These seem like a great upgrade: simple, less expensive, and easy to use. But they are not as tunable as a coilover, and most air shocks are an emulsion-style shock, where the oil and the nitrogen charge can mix, making them less than perfect. Imagine an air shock as a Swiss Army knife, a coilover as a giant Snap-on toolbox, a coil and shock setup as a small Craftsman toolbox, and a leaf spring as a hammer, a screwdriver, a pliers, and an adjustable wrench. Each of these tools can get the job done, and some are better than others but also cost more.

161/2 problems
Q For my 16th birthday my uncle gave me a '58 Studebaker pickup that was placed on a '73 Dodge W200 4x4 frame. The truck came with 161/2-inch rims, which I have found makes tires hard to find, and the tires I have found are somewhat expensive. In your magazine I found that I can get 15-inch rims with the 8-on-61/2 bolt pattern. I was going to buy a set of them, but when I talked to a guy who also wheels a Dodge truck around my area, he said that the steering setup on a Dodge axle knocks the wheel weights off of the inside of the rim. Is this true? If so, is there a way I can change the steering setup so that the weights won't get knocked off? Or should I just get a set of 16-inch rims and live with the price difference in tires? I'm 18 now and leaving for college, so I do not have a lot of money lying around. A somewhat cheap fix would be very helpful.

A Wow, that is one sweet-looking truck! My first advice would be to get some 17-inch wheels and tires. Many new trucks come with 17-inch wheels and the 8-on-61/2 bolt pattern (Dodge and Chevy), so the selection of 17s increases every year. I don't like the idea of going to 15-inch wheels on your 1-ton axles, as there are a bunch of clearance issues.

If that purchase is outside your price range, why not check out some 38x12.5-16.5 Super Swamper SXs tires? These are really tough-looking, have a very aggressive tread, and will bolt onto your rims. I'm not sure what size tires you have now, but judging from the photo, you may be close to 38s currently.

If these tires are too expensive, the next best bet is to search for military surplus tires. Places like Boyce Equipment ( and 100Dollarman ( both sell used military tires, and many of the Humvees ran 161/2-inch tires in a 36- or 37-inch size. These tires aren't bad, but the 37s are usually the better of the two.

MS. Smart Body
Q I am having some difficulty understanding the benefits of a body lift. It is my understanding that the only purpose is to allow more room for the tires, especially when the axles are flexing. Wouldn't it make more sense to just trim the fenders? After all, doesn't the body lift permit more body movement separate from the frame, versus what the stock body mounts allow? And trimming the fenders gives you an excuse to buy fun new tools.
Colorado Springs, CO

A You're a woman after my own heart.Body lifts are cheap, and some people don't like to cut their 4x4 bodies. But I don't recommend any big body lift, as it raises the body away from the frame and requires work to the steering column, shifters, and other controls. You are also correct: The body will have more leverage against the mounts, as there are longer bolts holding the body to the frame.

I'm all for new tools, so let's make a list of tools you could modify the body with:
•Plasma cutter
•Sheetmetal nibbler

Made 4 Moab
Q I have been dreaming about making my first pilgrimage to Moab for years and now might have the opportunity to make it come true, but dreaming is the easy part. I was hoping you could suggest the modifications needed for my Jeep and things I need to bring in order to run moderate trails such as Fins and Things (3 to 3-plus trails). I have a bone-stock '98 Wrangler with the 4.0L, manual transmission, a Dana 35 rearend (yuk), 3.07 gears, and 31-inch Mickey Thompson Baja Claws. This would be my first time on the rocks, and I have a very limited budget for modifications. Anthony M. via

A The first two upgrades I recommend are gears and lockers, but this isn't a cheap endeavor. Since your budget isn't huge, how about you find a friend with a Jeep and take a towstrap? It's amazing what you'll accomplish with a spare vehicle there. A winch is a great upgrade too, but you need something to hook it to, and there aren't a lot of designated trail anchors in Moab. If you could afford to put in a front or rear locker and some lower gears-say, in the 4.10, 4.56, or 4.88 arena-I think you'd be very happy and capable in Moab. That said, Moab has some very reasonable trails (such as those you mentioned) that can be run in a stock Wrangler like yours with judicious driving and maybe a helpful spotter.

Nuts, I'm Confused
Lockers, Front Or Rear
Q I am building on my '87 F-150. It was just a stock 4x4 on 195/60R15s with running boards and a canopy, a real grandpa grocery getter. I got it when I was 18 and have been wrenching on it ever since (I am 22 now). I have since taken out the 302 and swapped in a 351W, and taken out the AOD and swapped in a ZF five-speed, and last year I put on a 6-inch lift and took out the 8.8 and swapped in a 9-inch. Everyone wants me to just build my rig with 1-ton running gear, but I'm trying to keep my pickup different by just running heavy half-ton running gear and prove what low weight, high clearance, and some driving skill can do.

My project for the next two months is the solid-axle swap going into the front. I have a Dana 44 out of a '78 F-150 and am building a custom long-travel front suspension for it. I have the axle ready to get worked on (setting up my 4.10s from the local salvage yard). For someone who uses their vehicle as a daily all-season driver and is looking for a big improvement in trail/mud driving, what is going to be a better option for me, a front or rear locker? I would think a front would be better, as it would help pull my truck along, but at the cost of high stress on the axle and steering components. So would a rear be better? I really want to go selectable either way. That way, driving in winter won't send me on "fun" trips across three lanes of highway.

With the way I'm building my truck, especially with it being my DD, I'm not only building on a budget but want to build it right and reliable. Any help and input you guys at Petersen's can provide will be greatly appreciated. Thanks again and keep up the great mag!
Nicholas L. K.
La Grande, OR

A Usually I would recommend a rear locker first, but since this is your daily driver and you are about to spend the time and money on the front axle for a regear, I say just do the front right now. As for which locker, most off-roaders will say to put a selectable up front and an automatic in the rear, but I'm starting to think just the opposite. I don't think the automatic front locker hinders steering that much. In fact, I believe the automatic rear locker probably makes it harder to steer because it pushes the truck straight. By putting a front automatic locker in when you regear the front axle, you'll save some money. (I'm not saying don't put the selectable front and rear if that is what you want.) If you had no locker and were starting from scratch, I'd tell you to put one in the rear first for the reasons you said, to reduce stress on steering joints and help in hillclimbs when the weight transfers to the rear. But in your case, stuff a locker up front while you're in there.

Connect With Us

Newsletter Sign Up

Subscribe to the Magazine

Browse Articles By Vehicle

See Results