Your Tech Questions Answered
Sway or Away?
Q I have a ’12 Dodge Ram 2500, and I plan on lifting it to fit 35-inch tires. Should I keep the sway bar or ditch it? I am building the truck to be an off-road camper with a four-wheel popup camper. I don’t see how it will help me when driving off-road, and I can’t find a sway-bar disconnect. Can I just remove the sway bar altogether?
A You probably don’t want to ditch your sway bar altogether. I have driven our White Truck project truck, a ’10 Ram 3500, with the sway bar disconnected, and it isn’t very fun. Yes, it flexes better off-road, but on the road it has bad body roll and doesn’t drive well. I would really like to add the disconectable sway-bar system from a new Power Wagon, but these parts are very expensive from the factory, and no one has developed a remote disconnect for the sway bar. I am currently running Synergy Suspension (synergymfg.com) sway bar links and they are holding up well. The sway bar sees enormous loads and needs heavy-duty components. There is a large variety of Jeep Wrangler sway-bar disconnects, and I bet you could adapt some of these links to the Ram truck. But remember, they are designed for a quarter-ton Jeep, not a heavy-duty truck. Again, I wouldn’t recommend driving the truck without the sway bar, especially with a heavy load like a camper in the bed.
Tall As a Sequoia
Q I have a ’10 Toyota Sequoia and would like to get a 2- to 4-inch lift kit installed but cannot find one. I live in the Sacramento, California, area. Can you point me in the right direction?
A The Sequoia is a great people mover, and adding some elevation to your ride isn’t too hard since the suspension uses coilover struts in the front and coil springs in the rear. Revtek Suspension (revtek.com) has a spacer lift that levels out the truck, offers 11⁄2 inches in the rear and 21⁄2 inches up front, and will clear 35-inch tires with minimal fender trimming. Toytech (toyteclifts.com) offers a spacer kit or a front adjustable coilover suspension that can off zero to 31⁄2 inches of lift. Once you go past a few inches of suspension lift, more changes are necessary to retain proper suspension geometry. In the front, the CV joints will be maxed out above 3 inches of lift. Normally this would require taller steering knuckles and lowering the lower control arms, but no one makes a lift of this type for your Sequoia.
Q Every 4WD I own I think about doing engine swaps on. It’s just how us guys work. A lot of people like me have to take their off-road vehicles through emissions because we also have to daily drive them. What does it take to get a vehicle with an engine swap through emissions and pass? Where can people find info on their emissions requirements for these types of swaps?
A Every state has different emissions testing and engine swap requirements. California is pretty strict, and the general rules are: (1) the engine must be the same year as, or newer than, the vehicle into which it’s going; (2) it must retain all factory emissions equipment (this often means everything from fuel tank vents to air box and exhaust components of the newer vehicle); and (3) it must be from the same weight class as, or lighter than, the vehicle it is going into, even if it is the same displacement engine. For example, you cannot swap a big-block engine from a 1-ton truck into a half-ton truck, but you can swap a big-block engine from a car into a half-ton truck as long as it retains all the car’s emissions.
And finally, in California you need to take your 4x4 with its newly swapped-in engine to the government referee to get it certified. I would bet a good portion of the folks who got to see the ref have to go home and change at least one thing before they get the green flag, so don’t be surprised if they find something wrong. It’s their job.
The best way to determine what a legal engine swap is in your state is to start with the emissions testing shop. Those guys will be the first to see your engine swap and will be able to tell you where to get the best answers. For example, if your local Cooter’s Garage does vehicle emissions inspections, ask them where you can get printed documentation on engine changes and swaps for your state before you even start the swap. Don’t just go by word of mouth; get it in writing. They may refer you to your state’s air resources board, department of motor vehicles, or state police inspector. No matter whom they refer you to, be sure you get the answer in writing so you don’t spend money twice trying to backtrack and make changes.
This is a great questions, and I will be going to the Specialty Equipment Market Association (SEMA) and looking for a comprehensive answer from them. Stay tuned for an update.
Constant Velocity Commando
Q I have a ’72 Jeep Commando with a CJ front clip, a Wagoner 360, an AMC TH400, a Dana 20, a Scrambler front Dana 30 with disc brakes, and a Dana 44 with wheel spacers to match the width of the newer front axle. I am going for the “lower is better and cheaper” thing. So I cut the fenders out as much as I could do and put on some 33-inch tires with no rubbing. Then I cut out the tranny tunnel and jacked up the drivetrain until everything was in-between and above the bottom of the framerails and put a 1⁄2x4-inch steel crossmember. That tilted the engine forward and down, so the fan had to be changed to an electric one and the shifter linkage had to be changed to a cable shifter. The problem is the rear driveshaft is giving some vibration. Is there a cheap way to add a CV? Maybe a junkyard piece can be added to my shaft to make up the angle?
A If you add a CV you will need to adjust your pinion angle so it points at the output of the transfer case. You seem like a competent fabricator, so maybe you should consider raising the engine slightly. I know this will raise your center of gravity, but it will also get the driveshaft angles back to stock. You do not want the rear output on the transfer case angled upward; it should be either 90 degrees to the ground or angled slightly toward the ground if at all possible. You want the angle of the U-joints equal but opposite, such that the angle from transfer case to driveshaft is the same as the angle from pinion to driveshaft, only one is angled down and the other is angled up. However, there is also a limit to that angle. You cannot have excessive angle on the U-joints. You will need to determine if the angle of the joint is excessive after you determine what U-joints you have.
If there isn’t room to move the engine up then you’ll need to plan on a CV. High Angle Driveline (highangledriveline.com) makes a variety of transfer case flanges and has a new line of flanges that will work on your Dana 20 transfer case. To this you could attach a custom CV axleshaft, or if you’re lucky you may even find a Toyota CV driveshaft close to the right length and then just need to get it lengthened or shorted to fit. I mention the Toyota CV because they are small, stout, and work with the High Angle flange mounts.
In The Hood
Q I am looking for a fiberglass drop-down hood like Hickey Enterprises sold in the early ’80s. They were made for Ford, Dodge, and Chevy. Who has the molds? Who sells hoods? I am looking for a Dodge hood or all three molds. Any help would be appreciated.
A That is a great question. Those old Hickey hoods were a brilliant idea from back in the day. It basically took the large factory hood and dropped the center so visibility was great improved. Unfortunately I can’t find the current owner of the molds or whether anyone still is making such a hood. I think this would be a great product since so many new trucks have “Power Bulges” and such that give the truck big aggressive looks but unfortunately impede forward visibility. If any readers out there know of these types of hoods being built, please put “visibility hoods” in the subject line of your email and write to firstname.lastname@example.org.
We do know that Autofab (autofab.com) offers this type of hood for the ’70s fullsize Ford trucks but have not heard of anyone making such a hood for the GM or Dodge trucks. We recently started building a new F-250 project truck (“Project Super Dirty,” page 82) and noticed that it has a similar hood design, where the outer edges are high but the center has a significant drop for additional forward visibility.
Again, we would appreciate it if any readers would let us know if they have heard of a company making the drop-center hoods for older or current model fullsize 4x4s.