Your Tech Questions Answered
Q I have a ’63 Dodge W200. I’m 16 and it’s my first vehicle. Unfortunately I have a long way to go before it’s drivable. I already rebuilt the carburetor, replaced the fuel pump, and did a small upgrade to the ignition. However, there are a lot of safety issues that need to be addressed before I can drive it. I have learned that most of the parts I need are extremely hard to come by and I was wondering if you could give me some sources to get parts from.
A You are officially on my list of people I don’t like. You got on that list by having a very cool truck I wished I owned! Ah, just kidding, not really. Your crew cab is a great first truck. It has plenty of character, plenty of room for all your friends (and girls), and you don’t see these every day. The rough exterior should hold up great against some trail use. It’s big and heavy so it should be very safe, and the simplicity of the truck means you’ll have fun working on it. Yes, parts are getting harder to find, but nothing is impossible.
By “safety issues” I assume you mean brakes, steering, wiring, and seatbelts because everything else is just there to make it go. I made a quick search over at RockAuto.com and found they list lots of parts for your truck, especially in the steering and brakes section. Then I headed over to Vintage Power Wagons’ website (www.vintagepowerwagons.com) and it also listed a great number of parts for your truck.
One last thought. The Off-Road Connection (www.offrdconnection.com) in Fultondale, Alabama, is owned by Keith Bailey, who has attended many of our Ultimate Adventure trips. He and his crew work on everything from Jeeps to buggies to fullsize trucks. If you need a hand with any custom parts I bet they could assist in making it happen, plus they are local to your home in Birmingham. Good luck with that very cool truck!
Q I have a regular cab ’00 Tacoma with a 2.7L four-cylinder and five-speed transmission (very short wheelbase). It is my daily driver and my hunting and fishing rig. I love my little truck and have only one complaint. It is not the trails that give me trouble, but the washboard gravel roads getting to the trails. Even at relatively low speeds the back end tends to want to pass the front, and I have come close to being bounced clear off the road. Is this due to the short wheelbase or something else, and what can I do about it?
A What a great little truck. Those are my favorite model of Tacoma. A longer vehicle is more inclined to stay straight should some of the wheels lose traction. So yes, your short wheelbase is part of the problem with your vehicle trying to swap ends. You can try lowering air pressure. Upgrading your shocks can also help. Also, the fact that the rear is probably much lighter than the front can cause it to skip or bounce over the washboards and start getting sideways. The rear springs may also be a bit stiff, and going to a softer initial spring rate is another option. You may want to add some weight over or even behind your rear axle. Item like a camper shell, rear bumper spare tire mount, or jerry can mount will hang some weight back there and help keep the rear planted. Do you have a bed mounted toolbox or haul supplies? In such a light vehicle, moving these to the back of the bed may make a difference, but be sure they are securely strapped down because the bouncing rear could send them flying.
Q My vehicle is a ’90 GMC Suburban 1⁄2-ton with a 350. It has a 4-inch lift and 35x12.50 tires and weighs around 5,800 pounds. According to manufacturer’s specs, a 9,000-pound winch would be fine, but everyone tells me to go with 12,000. I was wondering what your thoughts were because it is a lot of boxy sheetmetal to be pulling around.
The ’Burban also has a lot of body roll, and I think it is because I went cheap and put blocks under the rear springs. What is a good all-spring lift to go with? Should I be using those antiroll bars or sway bars on the rear, or should I look for a 3-inch lift to bring the center of gravity back down a little?
A Where are you planning on getting stuck, Erik? If you bury the ’Burb to the framerails in some of the super-sticky Oregon mud you may be happier with the 12,000-pound winch, but if you’re just cruising the mountain roads and are worried about sliding off in a ditch then the 9K will likely be fine. Also if you correctly use a snatch block you’ll effectively double your pulling power. The 12K is also very heavy, and depending on the winch bumper you choose you may be adding quite a bit more weight. I just removed a hefty steel winch bumper and 12K winch, and they totaled 650 pounds! Remember that your front end will be getting taxed if you add too much weight up there as well. It’s a slippery slope, but I think either is a good choice; you just need to decide what type of wheeling you’ll be doing most of the time. Final note: Winches are like horsepower. You rarely say, “I wish I had less power.”
As for a lift, have you considered a shackle flip kit? This can give you lift height while keeping a stock leaf spring for flexible suspension. From there, body roll can be controlled by front sway bars, keeping weight down low (roof racks are notorious for causing body roll), air bag helper springs, and upgraded shocks.
All-Terrains Not for All Terrain?
Q I was recently mudding in my Suzuki Samurai with my dad and couldn’t get any traction. It was like driving on an ice rink. When we got home the 31x10.5 BFGoodrich All-Terrains were completely packed with mud and no tread was showing. We weren’t too concerned with this until a few days later when my dad took my little brother driving and he crashed into a tree branch. He broke the windshield and ripped the soft top. Are there any tires that would not become packed full of mud? I am going on a beach trip in a few months and want to try and keep as much grip as possible.
A The BFG All-Terrain tire is actually really good in the dirt and sand, but mud is its downfall due to the narrow tread voids. You are due for some mud-terrain tires with larger voids if sticky mud is your terrain of choice. The larger void allows the tires to fling the sticky stuff loose. BFGoodrich’s KM2 Mud-Terrain or any of the Pit Bull or Interco Super Swamper tires with large tread voids would be a great option ( I ran a set on my old Samurai). I’d say the All-Terrains will be fine for your beach trip, but a more aggressive tire is important for sticky, gooey trail runs.