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June 2011 Nuts And Bolts

Posted in How To on June 1, 2011
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Mickey’s Unstickies
Q In the Apr. ’11 issue in BDS Betters BluFerd you mention Mickey Thompson aluminum wheels with steel inserts in the lug seat. What specific rim is that? Do they do that with other rims? (I drive an F-350).I can’t seem to find it on their website. The reason I ask is up here on the salt-laden roads of Michigan the lug nuts seem to weld themselves to aluminum rims. Any info would help.
Steve A.
Ishpeming, MI

AThe Classic II and Classic Lock wheels have steel inserts, and Mickey has them in all bolt patterns (Mickey Thompson Performance Tires & Wheels, 330.928.9092, The black painted wheels do not have steel inserts. However, I would recommend antiseize on your wheel lug nuts to help with removing them after inclement weather.

AMC Enough?
Q I purchased an ’80 CJ-7 (early model with narrow-track axles) with an inline 258 and a four speed. I had the transmission and transfer case rebuilt recently, so they’re tight. My plans are to park the Jeep in the garage for the winter and pull the 258 and swap to a 258 crate motor with throttle body fuel injection, then swap axles from a frame I bought. My plans are to build a Jeep with 35-inch off-road tires (eventually with beadlock rims) that I can take out on the trail and tackle most of what I want, but I’m not planning on getting into anything over-the-top.

The axles are the wide-track axles, with new brakes, one-piece axles, and a 3-inch lift kit. I think it should be a fairly simple job to swap the axles onto my Jeep. (Spring mount points measured identically between frames.) The rear axle also has an ARB Air Locker installed that was never used. The AMC 20 axle has gotten a bad rap over the years, and everyone seems to have a different opinion, and since the AMC 20 axle is easily accessible, I would like to beef it up. I have nice MIG and TIG welders and some welding experience.

What steps should I take to ensure that the axle is solid to do what I want? Trusses? Weld the tubes to the diff housing? Properly hardened, would this axle serve me well for my future endeavors?

A Your axle seems properly built so far for 35s. The AMC 20 rear has an 878-inch-diameter ring gear and 114-inch 29-spline axleshafts. I would add a truss on the top (nothing extravagant) and go. I see lots of overbuilt heavy trusses. I think if you took a single piece of platesay, 316- or 14-inchand cut it out to follow the silhouette of the axle from flange to flange and then topped it with a small 1-inch strip, you’ll be set. Imagine an I-beam where the axletubes are the bottom of the I and the 1-inch strip is the top of the I.

I don’t think you need to weld the tubes to the cast centersection unless you know how to weld cast to steel with nickel rod. I would consider a gusset from the pinion casting up to the truss, welded to the truss, but just touching the pinion casting as added insurance against the tubes twisting in the housing under hard acceleration, climbing, or aggressive wheeling when the pinion wants to roll up. Don’t forget to leave holes for the U-bolts.

Now, if you are planning on going spring-over, you will need to adjust the design to allow for the relocated springs.

Q I have been reading this wonderful magazine for years, and I love the Whoops! department and reading about the stuck trucks. As I was reading the latest issue I noticed a pattern to this story and stories from the past. A person is stuck in the mud (or other material), tries to get out, and ends up breaking stuff. Such as burned out two winches, broke tow straps, the truck trying to get the person unstuck got stuck itself. The stories usually end with, We came back with the proper equipment, got more help, waited for daylight, or called a tow truck.

I love these stories because they have not happened to meknock wood.

What is the best way to recover from some of the stucks? What should a person do differently when winching out of deep mud? I know it is just a matter of time before I go just a little farther than I should and get a whoops-worthy stuck.

The photos I sent are from last year’s March campout with the Boy Scouts.
Scoutmaster Jerald A.
Omaha, NE

A Getting unstuck is an art, and an art with many different recipes. Almost all methods will work sometimes, but sometimes none will work.

For now, we’ll stick to the common mud stuck. How does it happen? Some people go in the mud in 2WD under the assumption that if they get stuck they’ll just shift into 4WD and get out. Some get as much momentum as possible before they hit the mud, hoping it will carry them through the slick stuff. Some air down their tires to get a larger contact patch in the mud. Some run big, wide tires to float on the mud. Some run tall, skinny tires to dig down to solid ground under the mud. Some use tire chains in the mud. Some feel you should crawl through mud the same way you crawl through rocks. Some throttle down the whole way through any mud, hoping the wheel spin will clean the tires and keep digging through. Some turn the steering wheel back and forth while crossing mud so that they can keep biting and looking for traction.

When momentum stops, people get off the throttle instantly and try to back up so they don’t dig down into the mud. Some people never lift until the truck is buried to the frame, assuming they’ll eventually get to bedrock and start moving again.

Once stuck, some people try rocking front and back from Drive to Reverse, hoping to open the wheel holes slightly to get momentum up and eventually blast out. Some start digging to clear the tires so they wheels are not blocked by mud. Some bury sticks, branches, bales of straw, corn seed, gravel, floor mats, seat covers, plywood, or whatever else they can get their hands on to add traction. Often these people use a Hi-Lift jack ( on an off-road base to raise the vehicle to put said stuff under the tires. Some people use a snatch strap like a BubbaRope ( attached to solid frame-mounted recovery points and have a second truck get a good run until the strap stretches and pops the stuck truck out. Some people winch out. Some people realize that clearing the mud from around the frame and tires with a shovel or your hands (this is a great job for the Scouts) prior to winching and snatch strapping reduces the stress on both snatch straps and winches.

Some people are scared of being stranded in the woods where lions, bears, Bigfoot, or moonshiners will come drag them off into the dark. Some people see getting stuck as just another challenge and take it all in stride, staying calm and figuring that in the worst-case scenario they will have to walk home in the dark, in the rain, with the girl they took out muddin’, whose father is probably waiting up with a shotgun and an angry look.

Some people better have a good credit card to pay for the ’dozer, the blown engine, the trespassing fine, and the repairs to the farmer’s cornfield after getting stuck mud bogging where they shouldn’t have been mud bogging in the first place.

Some people will get to laugh and point at their buddy who is stuck trying to follow them where he shouldn’t have gone.

Some people will claim they hate mud because they don’t like getting stuck, cleaning their 4x4 after getting stuck, or repairing all the bearings and stuff that needs tending to after getting impregnated with mud.

Some people aren’t having fun until they’re good and stuck in the mud.

Some people claim they’re truck is too good to get stuck; those people just haven’t found a deep enough mud hole.

I’m not sure if these will help you, but they’re all true, sometimes. As for you, I’d say take the troops four-wheeling in a designated off-road area, get good and stuck, and let them earn a merit badge helping extract the Jeep. Teach them recovery safety. And keep the phone number of a tow truck, a farmer with tractor, or a bulldozer operator handy, just in case.

If you want more info, check out Bill Burke’s DVD Getting Unstuck ( He does a lot of four-wheeling and off-road driver training, and though the video isn’t the most exciting, action-packed film I’ve ever watched (sorry, Bill) it is very informative and precise in techniques for vehicle extraction.

Ranger Trans4mer
Q I was flipping through the Apr. ’11 issue and was wondering if you could give me info on the grilleguard on the red Ranger in the Ranger buyer’s guide. I have a Ranger and love it and am slowly putting mods into it and haven’t been able to find much for grilleguards or bull bars.
Mark N.

A That is Feature Editor Ali Mansour’s Danger Ranger. You can read all about it on our website, The winch bar is the Trans4mer from Warn (

SAS-ed Toy
QI drive a ’94 Toyota pickup and was considering doing a solid-axleswap on it. I’m notsurewhat would be a better way to go: leaf springs or three-link with coilovers? I saw in the UA 2010 story Nov. ’10 that Jeff Putnik’s ’98 Tacoma had a three-link setup and it seemed toperformvery well for him on the trails and still be driven on-road as well. What setup do you think is better?
Via email

A Removing IFS components and swapping to a solid front axle is so common these days that it’s amazing how just a decade ago it was considered difficult and two decades ago it was groundbreaking. In fact, I have heard of guys swapping from IFS to a solid axle over a weekend!

The most common solid axle swaps (SAS) are Toyotas and Chevys, and for good reason. Both trucks come with dependable and common powertrains and have great aftermarket support.

Recently we have seen a boom in the IFS realm, with heavy-duty half-shafts and a multitude of IFS center sections being developed by aftermarket axle suppliers, but they are still in the development stage. We are willing to hint that a heavy-duty IFS may find its way under an upcoming project vehicle we’re developing, but that’s for a future issue.

As for you, I think the question you have to address is cost. A leaf-sprung solid axle swap such as those made by Sky Manufacturing and sold through Poly Performance can run you about $1,300 and you’ll still need to address the axle, steering, shocks, and driveshafts. Poly Performance also offers a universal three-link front suspension that will work on a Toyota solid axle swap for about $1,150, but you’ll also need your coilover shocks, coil springs, or air shocks to support the truck along with steering, a front axle, and driveshafts.

Of course you could build the brackets yourself and the links, scavenge some junkyard springs and shocks, and come in under budget if you’re handy and thrifty, but since I like your letter you’ll be receiving a Poly Performance gift certificate for writing this month’s Nuts, I’m Confused. The gift certificate can be redeemed at Poly’s online store (poly for all sorts of parts for Toyota, buggy, and Jeep as well as everything you need to modify your 4x4 into an off-road monster. Or you can call and speak to Poly’s knowledgeable sale staff at 805.783.2060. They also have a wide assortment of tabs, brackets, and such to build the custom 4x4 of your dreams.

Now the real question you asked is which is better. Properly tuned, fabricated, and dialed in, a coilover front suspension with links will be better. However, I have the Sky kit with Poly Performance shocks and leaf springs on my ’86 Toyota with 1-ton Dana axles, and it works pretty darn well if you ask me. But I built it as a rockcrawler so it isn’t very good at going fast.

The neat part of building a coilover/linked suspension is you can make it work both as a rockcrawler and a go-fast vehicle. Plus, whereas leaf springs need to have a mount out in front of the axle, coilovers don’t, and that improves the approach angle. Leaf springs require a bit more finesse to work double duty like that, but it’s not impossible. I’d never say leaf springs are dead. They work great on a budget, but coilovers look cool, work well, and can offer greater adjustability and fine tuning.

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:

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