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May 2011 Nuts & Bolts

Posted in How To on May 1, 2011
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New vs. Old
Q I have a '77 Chevy Stepside with a 400 small-block, a TH350 transmission, and an NP203 transfer case. I'm thinking about putting a 6.0L LS motor with a 700R4 transmission in my truck. Do you think it's worth the swap, and if so, what would I need to buy along with the motor, transmission, and computer?
Via email

A Yes, it is worth the effort to do to the swap. The throttle response, ease of use, and general performance of the 6.0L LS series engine far surpass your old 400 in my view. I would contact Turnkey Engine Supply (760.941.2741, for a set of old-to-new-style motor mounts. You will also need a wiring harness and a fuel system that includes a high-pressure fuel pump. You can get these through Pacific Fabrication (408.250.1772, Both Turnkey and Pacific Fab can also supply a new engine if you need one. There may also be an issue with your radiator and plumbing the coolant lines. Finally, I would recommend a 4L80E transmission instead of the 700R4 due to its added strength. You can find these rebuilt from Bowtie Overdrive (760.947.5240,

Q I have an '06 Dodge MegaCab with a 5.9L Cummins Diesel. I upgraded the OEM tire size to 35-inch BFG All-Terrains. Do I need to change my gearing from stock (3.73:1) to something higher? I do mostly towing, and the terrain is all flat.
Tony D
Windsor, Ontario, Canada

A Changing gearing for taller tires is a smart idea most of the time, but your situation may be an exception. Getting taller tires moving from a stop is tougher than with stock-size tires, which in your case was probably 31 inches. The difference is that you have a lot of torque with the Cummins diesel to overcome the added leverage of the 35s. Your engine should have no problem turning the 35s, and the 3.73 gears should be strong enough, but your clutch or transmission will end up having to work harder to turn the bigger tires.

In our Project White Truck, a '10 Ram 3500 with the Cummins, we also went to a 35-inch-tall tire, but we stayed with the stock 3.73 gears. The six-speed manual in the White Truck has a low First gear that we rarely ever use when driving around town empty, but we do use it when starting out with a trailer.

In my opinion you should be fine with the 3.73s even if you are towing. Possibly adding wear to your clutch or transmission by staying with the 3.73s is a concern, but I'm not sure I would go through the trouble and cost of upgrading to 4.10s just for 35s, unless the transmission or clutch have a ton of miles on them already. If so, you're going to eventually spend money either on a clutch, auto transmission upgrades, or with a gear swap. Plus, you may notice that the taller tires allow your engine not to spin as fast at highway speed as it did prior. This is due to the tires acting like a taller gear. There is even the possibility that your mileage will increase over certain terrain. Also, the taller tires will cause your speedometer to read slower than your actual speed. You can get a programmer to correct this or get/borrow a GPS and track your actual speed to what your speedometer says.

Portal To More Performance
Q I have an '03 Jeep Rubicon that finally has lost its daily driver status. I am just like everyone else when it comes to money that is thrown into a pit known as Jeep. I have completed several upgrades to my Jeep but have yet to add any lift. My question comes in response to the Mopar portal axles that have been seen on the Immortal concept Jeep ("Big Bad Jeeps," Aug. '10 ). I was wondering if it would be better to buy a quality lift kit or wait until the portal axles are ready. I understand that the axles would be more expensive, but is it a better purchase due to the added strength and ground clearance? I thought that I could sell the factory axles on my Jeep to help with the cost of the portal axles, but the cost will still be high. I looked at the Rubicon Express suspension lifts due to their reputation for quality and could make a purchase for approximately $3,000. That price is a far cry from two new axles, with locking diffs. I trust that you can help me with a decision that focuses on the cost-to-benefit ratio of the two options I have discussed.
West Virginia

P.S. I am a longtime reader and look forward to your magazine every month. I just purchased a Chevy Colorado with the 5.3L V-8 and look forward to seeing one in your mag that someone has built. Thanks again for the great work.

A The AxleTech Portals (248.637.6310, are one of my favorite products, but I believe swapping axles with these portals boxes will cost you more than six times the cost of a new lift kit. However, they do multiply your axle gearing by 1.5 and offer 5 inches of ground clearance. I know there are people working on making a bolt-in JK axle with these portals, but even so, it will take some fabrication to make the JK-style axles work under your TJ. That being said, these portals on a Dana 60 will give your TJ ground clearance and strength unlike any bolt-on lift kit on the market.

Another interesting tidbit is that there are rumored to be some smaller Dana 44-appropriate portal boxes in the works from AxleTech, with a possible prototype revealed next month. But I know there are Dana 60 AxleTech portals available now.

Lastly, we have a feature coming up on a very cool Chevy Colorado. Here is a sneak peek.

Bomber gas route?
Q I have a question about the Ultimate Adventure CJ-17. How did you guys route the fuel lines? I have a YJ that I'm doing a similar swap on, and when running two catalytic converters, there isn't much room where the stock fuel lines were run.
Via email

A We ran soft fuel line from Summit Racing Equipment ( down along the top of the driver-side frame. The hose is sheathed in a spark-resistant high-temperature orange fiberglass sleeving from McMaster-Carr ( We mounted the fuel filter/regulator on top of the frame inside the driver's rear wheelwell.

Nuts, I'm Confused
Winch Firepower
Q Pictured is a situation that I got myself into last weekend. After ratcheting on a come-along for a few hours I decided it was time to get a functional winch. I've had a Warn 8274 for years, but last year my house burned down and took my Z-71 with it. The truck was a complete loss, but the winch was still in one piece. After going through something like that, do you think it would be worth trying to rebuild that winch? I know it got hot, but the internals look pretty good. The motor, solenoids, and wiring would all have to be replaced, but it would still be cheaper than buying a whole new winch.

If I do have to get a new winch, there is a huge difference in price depending on what kind you get. Just looking online you can get a 10K for $400, a 9.5K for $700, and a 9K for between $1,000 and $1,300. Then there are places that have 8,000-pound winches for $350. When looking for a new winch, is it all just a motor and gears, or are you going to get what you pay for? Any help you can provide would be greatly appreciated.
Joel R.
Via email

A You already have the best winch on your truck in my view and in the view of many other off-roaders. Get the Warn 8274 rebuilt, or rebuild it yourself. The electrical parts could be damaged by the heat, but I would wager that the gears and case are fine. Warn offers a seal and a brake kit as well as the individual parts. A good source for these Warn parts is Clemson 4 Wheel Center (800.257.4294,, which has rebuilt many winches and can sell you parts and give advice for your rebuild.

When it comes to winches, you do get what you pay for. There are cheap winches, and I'd hate to base my recovery on anything "cheap." I think if you go through your old 8274 you'll have a winch that will last a lifetime.

One last thing: I consider my winch my own personal Special Forces unit. When I'm in it neck-deep, I want a Special Forces unit from the USA coming to get me out, something like an 8274.

Because so many people are interested in winches these days and the market is flooded with variety and price, I chose your letter as our Nuts, I'm Confused winner. You'll be receiving a Warn Winching Accessory Kit that includes a 4x8-foot tree trunk strap, two clevis/D-shackles, a 19,000-pound snatch block, a 30-foot recovery strap, and some Warn gloves, all packed in a camo carrying case. Warn has long supported four-wheelers of all sorts. It's an American-based company and makes products that have brought many of us home when nothing else could. If you're interested in finding out more about Warn, check out the website

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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