Nuts, I’m Confused
Don’t Rock the Block
I’m 16 years old and have a ’93 Ford F-250 with the 5.8L 351 engine. I want to lift it 4 inches, but here in West Virginia it’s illegal to use blocks in the front. I was hoping you guys had some ideas to help me out. Thanks.
Front lift blocks are illegal because they are dangerous. If a lift block comes out from between the leaf pack and axle, the truck can crash and kill you, a busload of nuns, and the little old lady walking her dog on the sidewalk. It may sound funny, but it’s serious. Just say no to lift blocks up front. Rear block applications do not see the side load stresses that a front axle does, so they are more acceptable in the rear, but even there I usually recommend a new leaf pack or add-a-leaf in the rear if available.
I assume you want lift blocks because you are on a budget, but you’d be better off saving up for a proper suspension than trying to cobble something together that is unsafe. Because your truck has a twin traction beam front axle and leaf springs, it also has additional brackets that make lifting it 4 inches more expensive. I would either wait and save up the $1,200-$1,300 for a proper suspension or, if your truck is infected with rust around the wheelwells as many East Coast trucks are, trim open the wheelwells and stuff in bigger rubber on the stock suspension.
Since I feel your question is important for many readers I’m awarding you this month’s Nuts, I’m Confused prize from BDS Suspension (www.bdssuspension.com): a BDS gift certificate toward a suspension system. BDS has many suspension products for a wide variety of 4x4s and can help you upgrade your truck for bigger tires and better off-road performance. I currently have a BDS suspension on my ’79 F-150, and it rides good and easily clears 35-inch tires. BDS has long supported our Ultimate Adventure trip and has a 4-inch suspension that would work on your truck with a lift block in the rear and new leaf springs up front. Plus BDS has the No Fine Print guarentee: If you are the original purchaser of the part and it fails, BDS will give you a new part, period.
I have an ’02 Chevy 2500HD with the 8.1L engine. Have you done any projects with this motor, and what upgrades did you make?
Funny you should ask about the 8.1. I have a big 3⁄4-ton Avalanche outside my office door with an 8.1 in it, and I also came across an 8.1 in the local classifieds for pretty cheap and started thinking about these last of the GM big-blocks. The Avalanche has had nothing but an aftermarket air cleaner installed and a cat-back exhaust, but I have drooled over the Raylar Big Power engine kits (866.496.8181, www.raylarengine.com). Raylar offers a line of mild to wild upgrades for the 8.1 in truck, motorhome, and marine applications.
I spoke to Raylar about your project and they recommended a Stainless Steel long tube header from Stainless Works (www.stainlessworks.net) and a MagnaFlow (www.magnaflow.com) or Dynomax (www.dynomax.com) crossover 3-inch dual in-and-out muffler. The Raylar team recommends the factory air intake for maximum cool fresh air compared to aftermarket air cleaner setups they’ve tested. And finally, they have found an ECM tune that removes the Torque Management and can help power and torque where the factory reduced it for drivetrain protection.
After that, Raylar offers everything from aluminum heads and cams to complete engine packages with superchargers and custom intakes. The smog legality of many of these upgrades may be an issue depending on where you live, and the price of building a big-block is never small. However, with claims of power upgrades in the range of 400-500 hp, not to mention the crate engines at over 750 hp, you have to agree that there is no replacement for displacement.
Readers, what do you think about big-blocks these days such as the 8.1 (496) GM? With the price of fuel and smog issues, many here in California are scared of them, but do you guys in other regions still like big-block power for your 4x4s? I don’t like paying $4/gallon any more than the next guy, but there is something about big cubes that is just so cool. Let us know at email@example.com and use the subject line “Yes to big-blocks!”
Come to the ’Con
I live in Germany and I have a small Jeep flatfender. I have been working on it for a few years and would like to come to America to drive the famous Rubicon Trail. What should I do to the Jeep to prepare it for that trip? When is the best time to go do the Rubicon? Can I hire a guide? Any advice would be helpful.
Four-wheelers have been driving the Rubicon from the beginning in Willys flatfenders. You could do the trail in a completely stock flatty, but locking differentials, power steering, reinforced steering components, and aggressive tires will make the trip a little easier. The best event for experiencing the Rubicon has got to be the Jeepers Jamboree. This three- or four-day event is great for beginners and experienced wheelers alike. They feed you, they help newbies over the hard obstacles, they can help fix broken Jeeps, and there is a great party at the halfway point with vendors and plenty of food and drink. If you want to come experience the ’Con, come with the Jeepers (www.jeepersjamboree.com).
Grand or Grander
I recently purchased a nice one-owner ’98 Jeep Grand Cherokee, all stock with 68,000 miles. The Jeep thing is new to me, always having had trucks with suspension lifts. Now that I’m getting older I’m not wanting to do a 4- or 6-inch suspension lift on my Jeep, but rather a 2-inch lift with 30- or maybe 31-inch tires. I’ve been looking at some coil spacer kits. That looks like what I need. Can I put a 2-inch coil spacer kit on my Jeep without having to change my shocks? The shocks were just put on when I purchased it, and I assume they are stock-height shocks. Half the people I’ve asked say yes, I can. The other half say I can’t. I would appreciate your help in solving this matter. You always seem to have the correct answers in your tech articles.
The simple answer is you don’t need new shocks if you don’t take the Jeep off-road. But the ’98 Grand is such a great 4x4 that I would think you would love taking it off-road. And if you start four-wheeling it and maxing out the suspension, you’ll quickly find that the stock shocks are limiting your travel and reducing your performance. Get the spacers installed, and if you want more performance then upgrade the shocks down the road, after you get some more miles and it loses that new-car smell.
What Up Front?
I have an ’04 Chevy Colorado and want to replace the IFS with a solid axle and replace the rear axle with a stronger one. I’m new to building 4x4s and still learning all the good and bad parts to use and ways to build one. I have always heard that the Dana axles are great, but some of the people from the forum that I’m a part of have said to use a Corporate 10- or 14-bolt. I’m not sure what to use, and they have used several different ones. My goal is to get my truck to where I can use it on- and off-road as well as for rockcrawling. Any feedback would be great.
I am surprised that we are not seeing more of the Chevy Colorados built like you describe. For your truck I would recommend a Dana 44 front and Dana 60 rear for up to 37/38-inch tires. If you are going larger than that, I’d lean toward a Dana 60 front and either a Dana 70 or Corporate 14-bolt rear. The Corporate 14-bolt and Dana 44 front are very similar in size and strength, but I feel the Dana has more options for aftermarket support.
As for suspension, I’d keep the rear leaf springs and build or have built a custom coil/link front suspension. This work can be done at home, but I recommend working with a qualified fabrication shop if this is your first project vehicle, as getting the suspension geometry correct is important for a safe on- and off-road vehicle.
Play Then Pack
I have a ’76 F-250 with a Dana 60 front axle. I have replaced the front wheel bearings two times already. The original bearings where shot, so I replaced bearings, races, and seals. Then three months later I had a bearing go out. This time I changed the axle seals, spindle bushings, wheel bearings, wheel seals, and all related parts. I recently pulled it apart to inspect, and I’m still getting water and crud into the bearings. These bearings are a month old and already need a repack at minimum. I’m getting a nasty rust-colored grease and water coming out. Where’s it coming from? I replaced all the seals last time and spent a decent chunk of change, and I don’t want to have to do this so often.
If you are playing in mud and water then you need to regularly clean and repack bearings. The seals may be new, but the spindle seal surface may be pitted or rusty, the axleshaft may be allowing water in behind the spindle, or the locking hubs may not be sealing up as well as they used to. If this is a closed-knuckle Dana axle there could be water getting in past the knuckle balls or axle vent, but I assume it is open-knuckle. The fact is mud that covers your axle hub for any length of time can find its way in. I know many frequent wheelers of the wet stuff who repack their bearings after a long weekend in the slop and replace them yearly.
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