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December 2012 Nuts & Bolts Tech Questions

Posted in How To on December 12, 2012
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What’s Dat Winch?!
Q I am from Pennsylvania and spent two years working near Price, Utah (of course I had to stop and hang out in Moab for a few days after the job was completed!). While there, I purchased an ’85 CJ-7 set up for rockcrawling.

This Jeep was in such good condition, it caught my eye the first time it was parked on the side of the road. A couple days later it had a For Sale sign! I stopped to ask about it. After taking it for a spin I ran to the bank and it was mine.

The winch on this Jeep isn’t one I have ever seen before. I subscribe to many mags and have never even seen it in any of them. All of the decals, markings, etc., are long gone.

I plan on replacing it since I can’t ID this thing and have no idea who to send it out to for an update or anything. I can’t even put it on Craigslist since I don’t know what it is. Hopefully one of you knowledgeable folks can tell me what I have.
Kristin K.
Grapeville, PA

A What you have is an old Superwinch Ox winch. These were offered in the ’80s as a competitor to the Warn 8274 upright winch. If it works I’d keep it. Superwinch has made some great products, and there is no reason to get rid of this if it’s still working. In fact, the Superwinch rep told me this is a great winch and many people are still looking for them. The company no longer makes this winch, however, so finding replacement parts may not be easy. Although surely there is someone out there who has some old stock parts, they’re not going to be easy to find.

If you decide to replace it, I’d recommend going to the winch it was designed against, the Warn 8274. I have run this winch for years, and it is a big beast of a winch.

Sideways Lockers
Q I have heard that having both axles locked with low traction and being off-camber can cause the vehicle to slide down slope, whereas if you leave the axles unlocked you have a tire acting like a rudder to keep from sliding down the hill. I’m going to build a budget 4x4 soon and wondering if the extra cost of selectable lockers is worth it for situations like this (I won’t be using it much on the street, so I don’t care much about their benefit there).
Kenny R.

A You are correct that a vehicle with low traction and front and rear locking differentials has a tendency to slide sideways on loose terrain in off-camber situations. This scenario isn’t uncommon off-road, but there is more to it than just full-time lockers. The vehicle only slides sideways when the tires lose traction. A sustained slow climb with proper gearing and tire air pressure can often assist in traction, whereas high tire pressure and abusive throttle application can break the tires loose and send the vehicle sideways.

Selectable lockers are a great tool and something I am fond of recommending, but a full-time locker or spool can be just as effective, just requiring different driving styles. I think the best of both worlds may be a selectable rear and a full-time front. This allows the vehicle to be completely unlocked when on the road in rear-wheel 2WD, and partly or fully locked in 4WD. But this again is up to debate, as some drivers like all selectable lockers, some all full-time, and some front selectable and rear full-time.

Box or Ram?
Q I’m a Jeep fanatic and my newest adventure is a ’51 Willys truck. I’m having a hard time figuring out the steering. I believe that it’s the original Ross steering box. The box is located toward the rear of the front axle with a large arm that pushes/pulls. The arm runs next to the tire and rubs at full turn. The most common upgrade that I have seen is to overbuild the front of the frame and use a Saginaw-style box. If you had the option of either putting the work into a Saginaw-style steering or using hydraulic steering, what would you prefer? If I understand hydraulic steering correctly it takes the torque away from the frame because it uses the rams on the axle. Is this correct?

A Your original steering gear is mounted to the inside of the driver’s framerail behind the front axle. The sector shaft goes through the frame and forward to a bellcrank arm on the bottom of the driver-side steering knuckle. These systems get worn steering ends and can interfere (rub) on the tire at full left turn lock if you’re running larger than stock tires.

There are a few different options for upgrading your steering: front-mounted manual steering box, front-mounted power steering box, front-mounted power steering box with ram assist, and finally you could go with full hydraulic steering.

If you are considering going to the front-mounted manual steering, all you are really gaining is clearance for the tire at full lock. Not a bad thing, but not worth the effort if you ask me.

I would recommend going to a power steering setup. This will make your Willys much more enjoyable to drive, and companies offer kits for mounting the new box on the front frame horns as well as plumbing and pump mounting on the engine.

If you are going to large enough tires that your front Dana 25 axle may begin to suffer carnage, but you still want to drive it on the street, then a steering box with ram assist is probably your best option. I’m talking about 37-inch or larger, and by this point you’ll be looking for a stronger axle and frame and upgraded suspension.

I feel that full hydraulic steering is best suited for off-road use only, such as dedicated buggies and mud trucks. I know some 4x4 drivers have full hydro and run it on the street, but I and many of the steering aftermarket suppliers do not recommend full hydro for the street. Yes, it does remove much of the steering torque from the frame and the Willys had quite low-strength frames to start with compared to modern frames, but I’m not sure it’s worth the hassle it brings in the form of odd on-road driving. It is easy to install, as you just need to mount a pump to the engine, an orbital valve on the frame at the end of your steering column, and the ram on the axle from housing to tie rod, plus all the appropriate plumbing and fluid reservoir and cooler. Ease of installation doesn’t constitute the best option in my view.

Excursion or SAS?
Q I have a ’99 AWD Ford Expedition and a set of axles out of a ’99 Ford F-350. I was hoping to find a way to put these axles under the Expedition. I noticed that there were no kits or mention of doing the conversion on any Ford. Can you tell me why? I have four kids and need a vehicle that can accommodate six people. I am hoping to build a vehicle with a wheelbase close to 120 inches. I would also like to use my Super Duty axles, as they are already geared and locked and paid for. I would prefer to build the Expedition, as I have owned and maintained it since new and it fits all the other criteria I am looking for. But I would opt for a substitute vehicle if the Expedition is deemed too impractical for the conversion. Any advice you can provide me would be greatly appreciated.

I also realize that the transfer case, drivelines, etc., would have to be replaced and or modified. I have budgeted $10,000 for this project. This amount is all for the conversion and does not include the cost (if necessary) of a different vehicle. I really need some good knowledgeable advice.

A I see no issue with your doing the solid axle swap on your Expedition, though I would recommend finding a part-time transfer case to replace the all-wheel-drive one, most likely from an F-150. There have been solid axle swaps on these before, and most involve some sort of custom leaf spring hangers or a custom linked suspension with coils or coilover shocks. The leaf springs will probably be cheaper, but when you add up a new set of driveshafts, steering, the new case, and the labor to put it all under your Expedition along with new tires and wheels, you may be heading into a big project and I think your $10,000 will be spent pretty quickly. I’m not saying don’t do it, but if you’re a hardcore Ford guy and you need all that room I’d take a moment and search for a 4x4 Excursion first. I think you could find one for around $10,000 and it will already have big axles under it.

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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