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

April 2011 Nuts & Bolts

Posted in How To on April 1, 2011
Share this

Q I am a young-at-heart, healthy grandmother who has been married for 33 years and now owns our own business. I am fortunate to own '05 and '06 Ram 4x4 Power Wagons, an '06 Jeep Grand Cherokee LTD 4x4, and an '08 Chevrolet Limited SE Custom High Top Conversion Van.

During the recent holiday we received 26 inches of snow. The Power Wagons and the Jeep drove right through, but the van needed to be completely dug out. Thus, I am writing you.

My daughter and son-in-law have awakened a hidden passion in me for four-wheel-drive vehicles. I go so far as to sneak my son-in-law's monthly copy of your magazine and read it intently.

I would like to know if it is possible to convert my '08 Chevrolet Conversion Van into a 4x4. This way, the next time we get snow, at least the van will have some control. My 7-year-old granddaughter and her friends love the van and all its amenities as much as I do, but having greater control in the hazardous weather would be a pleasure.
Anna P.
Little Egg Harbor, NJ

A It is never too late to get into four-wheeling. Yes, you can convert your van to 4WD. In fact, I'm really interested in 4x4 vans these days, as I'm starting to see them everywhere. I have found many companies that specialize in 4x4 van conversions, but most concentrate on Ford vans because of their more robust body and frame work. But have no fear. Some companies out there can still upgrade your '08. One well known company is Quigley Motor Company (800.233.9358, Quigley has long made a business of transforming brand-new Ford and GM vans into 4x4, but just recently the company began converting used '03 and newer GM vans to four-wheel drive. Quigley does require the van to have less than 50,000 miles, and the conversion can cost between $10,000 and $12,000 depending on the van you start with. The nice part is the company is located in southern Pennsylvania, not a long drive for you.

Another option is Salem Kroger in Red Bluff, California (530.366.3105, I spoke with them, and they have done 4x4 conversions on Dodge Sprinter vans, Ford Econoline vans, and GM vans.

'Burban Beef
Q I have an '86 Suburban that needs to get an engine transplant or rebuild. I want to have an all-around on/off-road truck that can haul my 22-foot enclosed trailer safely and still do some semi-serious desert off-roading and mild wheeling on Colorado trails. Any input on engine modifications and suspension tips would help greatly.

Also, I know this is a dumb question, but does an ES9000 shock get mounted with the rod on the high side and cylinder on the low side, or vice versa?
Colorado Springs, CO

A If I had a Suburban I would first look into rebuilding your engine. Next, I would look into either a late-model GM 6.0 or 8.1L engine, as either would make a fairly straightforward swap in your truck and will give you reliable power. A diesel would be neat, like a Dodge Cummins or a Chevy Duramax, but these will both double your engine swap costs and require considerable fabrication. As for a suspension, any of the major suspension companies can supply a kit for your truck, or you could contact Offroad Design (970.945.7777,, which specializes in these square-body '70s/'80s GM 4x4s.

Yes, it's True
Q Seems to me I saw an article where someone in your organization helped a traveler along the road change a flat tire (wheel), and in the picture was a battery-powered drill with the lug nut socket. Are you in fact able to loosen and tighten lug nuts with a battery-powered drill? If so, what power/size/strength drill is needed? Is this your normal field method, or do you usually have an onboard compressor or electric converter to power a hammer drill?
Via email

A I have removed and installed lug nuts with my 19.2V Ingersoll Rand IQ series rechargeable 1/2-inch impact gun ( many times. It is not a drill as you mentioned. Prior to the Ingersoll I had a 28V Milwaukee impact gun ( that worked very well. With a full charge it will break loose most any properly torqued lug nut on your standard 4x4. Yes, I take it with me on the trail often just in case I need to remove a tire. I have also used onboard air compressors or a CO2 tank with an pneumatic impact gun, though a breaker bar is usually lighter than everything else. It is important to always retorque the lug nuts to the appropriate setting when installing them.

My First Ferd
Q I am 15 years old and in the process of building my first truck, a '77 Ford shortbed F-150. It has a Dana 44 front axle and a Ford 9-inch rear, both with limited-slip differentials and 3.50 gears. It also has an NP205 transfer case, C6 transmission, and a 400M engine. My dad and I are going to put in a 300ci straight-six with four-speed manual transmission. We are building it from the bare frame up, and I want it as my daily driver, but it will also see some trail use. I would like to know what lift I should put on my truck. I want to be able to clear 33s or 35s without cutting the body. Do you think a body lift, suspension lift, or no lift is best? I am on a high-schooler's budget, so it has to be affordable.
Alex T.
Virginia, IL

A Alex, I have just started a very similar project, my blue '79 Ford F-150 I call BluFerd (see "BDS Betters BluFerd," page 72). I was able to fit 33-inch tires on it with no suspension lift, and they seem to clear just fine. I am now adding a 4-inch BDS suspension (517.279.2135, www. and some 7-degree Daystar radius arm bushings (800.595.7659, so I can clear 35-inch tires.

I do believe that lower axle gears will be important. The 3.50 ring-and-pinion in my truck doesn't seem low enough off-road. Your manual transmission may have a granny First gear to help it crawl better. Stay tuned to see the other upgrades this old-school tough truck will be getting thrown its way.

Q I have an '88 Toyota pickup with a 22RE that continues to try to overheat. The temperature gauge goes almost to the overheated mark then falls back to normal. The truck does this every morning when I crank it up to go to work. It tries to overheat even faster if I turn the heater on. It only does it once a day unless I allow the engine to cool down again. Could this have to do with the head gasket or something serious?
Dale P.
Polk City, FL

A I think you have a blown head gasket. Check your oil for coolant. Is the oil brownish white and frothy? Or let the oil sit and drain it, then you'll be able to see coolant in the oil that comes out. Also do a leak-down test on the engine.

Which Weld?
Q Boy, am I confused! On page 82 of your November issue ("UACJ Part 3: From CJ-7 to CJ-17") the sponsors list includes Hobart Welders yet in the picture you are clearly using a Miller welder to weld up the rollcage. What gives? Now for the really confusing part: Will I win a Hobart welder or a Miller?
Tim L.

A Nice catch, Tim! As it turns out Hobart is the official welder of Ultimate Adventure, but the shop where we built the cage (Poison Spyder Customs) uses Millers. We had planned on using our Hobart MIG welder on the cage, but when PSC offered to TIG-weld the cage instead, we said yes. In the end it's all OK because Miller and Hobart are sister companies and we like both their products. Hobart's Trek 180 portable rechargeable welder is awesome (see page 52 in this issue), and Miller makes many great professional and entry-level machines. Sorry, no welder for you, Tim, otherwise we wouldn't be able to build next year's UA truck, but watch your mailbox. We'll send you something for your dedication.

30Some XJ
Q I have been working on my Jeep XJ for while now. I'm 14 years old. Some of the things I have done to the rig are a 41/2-inch lift, 33-inch Mickey Thompson Baja Claws, and cutout fender flares for some flexing room. I have a question about the stock axles, a Dana 35 rear and 30 front. I know these aren't the best for wheeling, but are they good enough to hold up as trail-worthy daily driver when I'm 16? If not, is there anyway to beef them up, or should I look for a 44? And where could I get one for cheap since my budget is almost nonexistent? The rig is going to be used for mostly mud with a little rockcrawling.
Chase T.
Wenatchee, WA

A Your axles will be fine for daily driving and four-wheeling. These axles are not the strongest, but they don't just explode at the first sign of dirt either. There are chromoly upgrade axle kits available along with locking differentials, but I would leave them alone for now. Save your money and just go have fun. I'd invest in a winch before I would spend money on a Dana 35 or 30. Realize that Trent Mcgee, who goes on our Ultimate Adventure each year in a Jeep-based buggy, is still running a Dana 30 front axle, but his ride is lightweight and he doesn't abuse the axles.

Nuts, I'm Confused
Q Will you please give me and the rest of us nonmetric guys a formula for figuring out the sizes of these metric tires without having to call the tire store every time and then being made to feel stupid by some youngster?
Wes H.
Santa Rosa, NM

A No kidding, Wes! Inch measurements make sense. A 35x12.50R15 tire is a 35-inch-tall tire with a 2.5-inch tread width, and it fits on a 15-inch wheel.

A metric tire measurement, however, is nothing but confusing. Say we have an LT285/75R16. We know the R16 means it is a radial tire on a 16-inch rim, just like our inch-sized tire. (It's weird that they measure the rim in inches but the rest of the tire in millimeters!) But what is all this LT285/75 stuff?

LT means the tire is for a light truck, while P in that position would mean a passenger vehicle. The larger number, 285, is the section width in millimeters. So to determine the width in inches, simply divide by 25.4, the conversion of any millimeter measurement into inches. This still leaves us with overall height to figure out, and usually that's the number we want.

The 75 is called the aspect ratio. It is the height of the tire expressed as a percentage of the width. We know the width is 285 mm, so if the height is 75 percent of that, the height is 213.75 mm (285 x 0.75). But that is just for the height from the tread to the rim, so we need to double that, and we get 427.5 mm. Then we divide that by 25.4 and it changes to inches: 16.83. Then we add the diameter of the wheel (16) and get 32.83, or roughly 33 inches.

Thoroughly confused? Just remember "SA2 by 25.4 plus rim." That means section width (S) times aspect ratio (A) times 2 divided by 25.4 plus rim diameter. The result is tire diameter.

Thanks for the great question. Your letter was picked as this month's Nuts, I'm confused letter. We'll be sending you a $100 gift certificate for 4Wheel Parts (, where you can choose from any number of metric and standard-size tires.

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 Email to:

Connect With Us

Newsletter Sign Up

Subscribe to the Magazine

Browse Articles By Vehicle

See Results