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How To Write A Letter To Four Wheeler Magazine - Willie's Workbench

Posted in How To: Tech Qa on October 1, 2002
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Here are the facts: 1: Four Wheeler gets a lot of letters. 2: They all get read. Yes indeed, they do. 3: Most don't get answered or published.

Number one: While we've never kept track, the amount of mail we get every day-both snail and E-is pretty scary. But then again, think how many people read Four Wheeler. Depending on who's taking the poll at what given time I have been told that the reader numbers reach around a million per month. So if just one percent of these wrote us a letter, that's 10,000 a year, or roughly 800 a month. One tenth of a percent would be 80 a month. You sit down and try to answer even 80 letters a month.

Number two: We do take the time to read each piece of mail because you took the time to write us and that's important, and your insight is important and valuable. It gives us ideas for future stories and input into the direction the magazine should go. For me in particular, it gives me ideas for "Willie's Workbench" and tech articles. For instance, I've had a bunch of mail regarding battery problems. I started looking into batteries and came across a battery by Hawker Energy (800/546-9611, Dept. FW, 617 N. Ridgeview Dr., Warrensburg, MO 64093, www.hepi.com) that seems to be ideal. Fast charging, deep cycle, high starting amps, extremely vibration-resistant and long life due to military specifications. We used the story last month.

We try to do a lot of project vehicles. Some of them are within the realm of the average guy, while others get darned expensive. The idea is to show you just what parts and equipment are available, leaving the choice of how much buildup to you.

Some years ago, I got a lot of mail regarding rebuilding Scout IIs as an alternate to the classic but high-priced Broncos. I did a multipart series on a buildup of Project Tonto. Each month I still get letters, e-mail and phone calls in reference to this project. This tells us we did something right.

It's impossible to answer every tech question, so I pick ones that follow a trend. For instance, about every two to three years I get a bunch on Ford power-steering ram replacement questions, so that tells me people are still fixing and driving these early Fords and it's again time for a repeat answer. Some of the answers may be couched in general terms and cover a lot of vehicles with the same type of problems. Some questions may be extremely unique and I take them on as a personal challenge until I find an answer. Some are impossible to answer, so I don't. Which brings us to heading number three.

Number three: Getting an answer. Yesterday I got a letter and envelope that were purposely covered with greasy finger prints. If in some way the writer was trying to impress me, well, he didn't. Other things not to do include: "I've looked at all the ads in your magazine and can't find a "?" suspension lift for my vehicle. Can you find one for me?" Hey, get a life! Do the same thing I would have to do. Pick up the phone and call the suspension company of your choice. Let's face it, the catalogs are thicker than our magazine. They can't possibly list every suspension kit in the ads.

Don't ask me which is the best tire to buy, or the best suspension company, or even the best vehicle. Our tests and installation stories are there to guide you in your selection. It's an individual choice. There is no such thing as the perfect "whatever." So much depends on needs and usage...and opinions.

Don't tell me what great plans you have for your vehicle or what Uncle Bob thinks the problem is. Don't throw things at me like, "I've got this noise that only is there when I accelerate hard. What is it?" Tell me if it does it when the engine is cold or hot, when the vehicle is loaded or unloaded, if you've changed suspension, tires, and so on, or made engine/trans/axle swaps, or if it only started doing it after the changes. I need all the clues you can give me. Don't overwhelm me with a multitude of questions that would take me a full day to answer. I don't have that kind of time. (He doesn't have that kind of space in this magazine either.-Ed.)

Don't send me a photocopied letter. It gives me the idea that you've sent the same question to 10 other publications. Make the letter readable. In other words, don't scribble and expect me to decipher it. Always include a full address, a self-addressed stamped envelope, a phone number where I can call you collect, and an e-mail address, if available. I may surprise you. Don't even begin to expect a personal answer back if you don't include a SASE. Finally, don't get upset if your letter doesn't get answered. We just don't have time to answer every letter. Think about this for a minute: How long did it take you to write that letter? Now I have to read it, think about the answer, most likely do some research, and then write up an answer. Do this, times the number of letters we receive each month, and we wouldn't have time to even put together a magazine.

Speaking of answers, I just got back as "incorrect addresses" seven e-mails that I took the time to answer. It's like that every month. Come on guys, get a life and give me the correct address. When things like this happen, I wonder why I even take the time to send personal answers. While it's not fair to those of you who don't have e-mail access, there is a better chance of getting an answer back from an e-mail than from postal mail.

OK, now I'm done. Next month I hope I will have some form of a Work Bench that will tell you how to bend, spindle or mutilate something other than your mind.

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