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May 2005 4x4 Tech Questions - Techline

Posted in How To: Tech Qa on May 1, 2005
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Address your correspondence to:
Four Wheeler
6420 Wilshire Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90048-5515.

All letters become the property of Four Wheeler, and we reserve the right to edit them for length, accuracy, and clarity. The editorial department also can be reached through the Web site at Due to the volume of mail, electronic and otherwise, we cannot respond to every reader, but we do read everything.

Question: I am a 16-year-old boy and I've owned my '84 Jeep J-20 for a year. In that time I've decked it all out (but I won't go into that, there's too much to list-look for it in "Readers' Rigs" in the near future). I have a few questions before I take it out for my first real off-road adventure (I just got my license). One of my questions is that people have told me that I have Dana 44s, and others have told me that I have Dana 60s! So what do I have?

Another question is, I'd like to put headers on my Jeep, but should I? How much horsepower will I get with headers and glasspacks? What brand of headers should I go with? Do you know where I can find headers for my Jeep? Will headers for/from a '76 Dodge Power Wagon with a 360 V-8 work (it has the same size engine)? Do you know of a magazine or Web site that will have parts for my type of Jeep?
Jesse Shubin

Answer: It's hard to keep up with the J-series pickups, as lots of changes took place between model years. The easy way to tell is that the cover bolts on a Dana 60 take a 9/16-inch socket, and the ones on a 44 take a 1/2-inch. Or take a look at the front and compare it to the rear, as the front is a 44. A 60 will look the same, only bigger. Then again, now that I think about it, it could be an AMC axle. In this case, the cover will not look like a Dana cover but will be round. But there is a good chance that if your truck is really a J-20, it will have eight-bolt wheels and the rear axle will be a full-floating design. That is, the wheel hub rides on a spindle similar to the frontend, and the axleshaft is held in place with maybe six bolts. You can take the axleshaft out without removing the wheel. Another way to check is that most Dana 60s have the number "60" cast into the top side of their housings. Jeep did put some semifloating axes in its J-trucks.

No, the 360 in the Dodge is not the same motor as an AMC 360. The same headers that fit a Jeep Wagoneer of the same vintage will fit your truck. Hedman Hedders (562/921-0404, lists a set for your truck (PN 99250). Most likely you could order them directly from a mail-order outlet such as Summit Racing (

A good Web site for information on your J-20 is

Question: I am 15 years old and I just purchased an '85 Chevy Scottsdale and saved money for a Skyjacker lift kit and 33-inch Swampers. I have been reading your Web site and found that steering is a big issue. Will I need to get new steering besides the pitman arm? Will I need to strengthen the frame near the steering box? The truck is usually just in mud, as I'm from South Dakota (the flatlands).
A.M. Russo
via e-mail

Answer: I will assume that you're looking at Skyjacker's 4-inch lift kit (PN 140AKS). This comes with a new steering arm. Far as I can see, the kit has just about everything you will need to do the lift, other than some longer brake lines. Most likely, the instructions tell you how to relocate your present brake lines, but I would really suggest that you also go with the longer brake lines.

Yes, you're right about the steering-box mount-they can stand some re-enforcement. One of the better setups is from Auto Fab (619/562-1740, under PN SBGK200.

Question: I was wondering if you could give me some pros and cons to lifting an IFS truck. I have an '88 Toyota pickup that goes anywhere and everywhere, but I still want to do a lift, and a few people are trying to talk me out of it. Some say that IFS is a pain to lift and things break easier, and then some say that it's a waste of money because the truck has no problem going anywhere. My wheel travel is very limited, and that is a big reason I want a lift. The lift would only be 4 inches, nothing huge.
Kira Quasny
via e-mail

Answer: Well, if you don't have any problem "going anywhere," I would suggest that you forget about the suspension lift and spend your money on some more trips. Now if you want to go a bit beyond that, I would think a 4-inch lift would be a great benefit.

First, the lift will allow you to go to a larger size tire, and more tire = more traction. Second, combine both the added suspension height and the added tire height, and you will gain a considerable amount of ground clearance under the vehicle. Add it all up, and you can go a lot more "anywhere" a lot easier.

The downside? It's expensive. Have you priced the cost of a quality suspension kit and a new set of tires and wheels? The truck may also not handle quite as well on the highway as it did before. Fuel mileage will suffer a bit, as well as acceleration. Maybe the front axleshafts and their CV joints will wear out a bit sooner.

Question: I own an '01 Jeep Sport Wrangler 4.0L with 30-inch tires and Canyon wheels. I have noticed that when driving on a rough road, I get feedback through the steering column. I took the Jeep back to where I purchased it and was told it's a "Jeep thing." Is this normal? The track arm and Skyjacker stabilizer were both replaced.

What would you recommend as a good suspension? I'd like a 3-inch lift with 31-inch tires. This Jeep will see more on- than off-pavement use. Can you rate them from better to best? I want a suspension lift that will keep the Jeep from shaking.

Are lockout hubs worth the money? Will they save on gas mileage and wear and tear on a vehicle with 3.73:1 gearing?
Roger Jackson
Pottsville, PA

Answer: Feedback? You're bound to get some from rough roads, but a lot depends on what you consider "feedback." Worn suspension bushings and ball joints, as well as worn tie-rod ends on the steering linkage, could be the source, but that would be a bit unusual for a vehicle only four years old unless it had excessively high mileage or had been used quite hard. Improper front axle caster or lack of caster is another item that should be looked at.

As to a suspension recommendation from better to best, that's almost an impossibility. What you consider the best compromise between both on- and off-pavement ride and handling may not match up with our opinion. Besides, it would only be an opinion and not one that necessarily matched yours or our readers. Oh, and suspension lifts don't cause a Jeep to shake. The improper application of the lift might aggravate a pre-existing condition such as the worn-out parts I mentioned above.

Lock out hubs I feel are a good investment over time. First, they will extend the life of your front drive components from wearing out by many times. For every rotation of the wheel, you have the outer axle, U-joint, and inner axle rotating, which turns the differential ring-and-pinion gears, which turn the front driveshaft and two more U-joints. While there won't be a remarkable increase in fuel mileage, it will increase. The best thing about locking hubs is that if you should break any front drive component, you can put the hubs in the unlocked position and drive the Jeep home. Otherwise, it may mean a tow home on a trailer.

Question: I recently bought a 4x2 conversion kit with lockouts for my full-time 4x4, a '77 K-5 Blazer. I brought it to a local transmission shop, which said they had installed about 25 of these before. They also said they don't recommend installing them because they blow out seals in the front differential, and they had to repair two thirds of the ones they'd installed. If the conversion kit stops the front driveshaft, why would this happen? Have you ever heard of problems with these kits?
Josh Peterson
via e-mail

Answer: I suggest that you never take your vehicle to this shop for transmission work, or any work at all! There is no way it would cause front seals to blow out! Yes, it stops the front driveshaft from turning, so perhaps you'll experience reduced wear on the frontend and maybe a bit more fuel mileage. I would also be a bit afraid of the kit they sold you unless it was a name brand that you had researched.

Question: Eight years subscribing and still can't wait for the mailman! I need some help, though. Should I, or could I, use Red Line synthetic 50-weight racing oil in my daily-driver 4x4 Suburban? The truck has a bone-stock 5.7L V-8 and is not driven hard or fast at all-it's the family rock buggy. Red Line will only say they don't recommend it. The issue is the detergent additive, I guess. How about using an oil detergent additive like cd-2 or another additive package like the big fleets do?
Randy Motley
via e-mail

Answer: Red Line makes some great products. However, I think that you should follow their advice and forget about the 50-weight racing oil and leave it to the racers that have engines designed for it. While racing oil has some values that are not found in regular oil, it is also lacking in some of the additives needed for long-term use. What you have to keep in mind is that in a race vehicle, the oil never stays in it very long and usually gets changed after every race. Often, the oil is heated before the engine is started and bearing clearances have been opened up more than on a stock engine.

Trying to mix your own brew with aftermarket additive packages is never a wise move. What you add may not be compatible with what is already in the oil. Oil manufacturers and blenders employ special research chemists that spend a lot of time matching a product to its use.

What I really suggest is that you pick a name-brand lubricant in a multi-viscosity, such as a 15-W40 synthetic and stick with it, making oil changes at 3,000 miles-or sometimes less, depending on driving conditions. Three thousand miles or every 6 months are not magic numbers. Oil changes should be based on what the engine was subjected to. For instance; dirty, dusty off-road conditions under high ambient temperatures may require the oil to be changed at 1,000 miles, while a long cross-country trip may only require the oil to be changed at 7,000 miles.

Question: I own an '81 Jeep Scrambler and want to make some modifications but don't really know how to go about it. My Jeep is bone-stock, with a four-cylinder motor, a four-speed transmission, a 300 Dana transfer case, and stock axles.

I want to put a V-8 motor and automatic transmission into it. I have a 318 with a 727 TorqueFlite trans out of a '75 Dodge 4x4, but everybody I talk to tells me it's more trouble than it's worth (because the 727 is so big). Everybody tells me to install a Chevy 350/Turbo 350 setup because it's the easiest. I want to keep the Dana 300. I also want to install Dana 44 axles front and rear without having to spend a fortune.
Wes Williams
Sneedville, TN

Answer: The 318/727 combination is not that much larger than the 350/350 combination. In fact, the Chrysler automatic transmission is actually shorter than the GM transmission. While Advance Adapters offers weld-in motor mounts (PN 713095), no one to my knowledge makes the necessary adapter to the Dana 300 transfer case.

All is not lost, however. From 1980 to 1986, Jeep used the 727/300 combination. The transmission case utilized the AMC engine bolt pattern, but there is no reason why you can't use this factory adapter and transmission output shaft in the 727 Chrysler transmission that you have. The trick is just to locate one. Collins Brothers Jeep (800/699-5337, may be able to help you on this, as the company has a pretty good supply of used Jeep parts and one of its specialties is selling Scramblers and parts for such.

You said that the engine and transmission you want to use came from a 4x4 Dodge. While it is a tight fit between the framerails, I have seen the NP203/205 used in CJs. This just may be your easiest option. Besides its larger size, a big drawback is the 2.0:1 low-range gearing versus the much better 2.6:1 of the Dana 300.

As to the 44 axle swap, there are no stock front or rear Dana 44 axles that will directly bolt into your Jeep. Everything out there is wider. Late-model Scouts ('74-'80) come the closest. The rear is a simple matter of just relocating the axle pad and setting the proper pinion angle. The front is more difficult, as you have to remount your leaf springs outside the frame due to the location of the differential. The Scout's caster angle is about 0 degrees, so to maintain proper pinion angle, you'll have to cut, rotate, and reweld the steering knuckles to obtain the 4 to 6 degrees of recommended caster. Not an easy job.

Your other choice would be '72-and-up Jeep Wagoneer axles. These use a six-bolt wheel pattern, so you can't use your present Jeep wheels. Well, you could, by utilizing some Ford 1/2-ton rotors up front and using a Scout rear as the width difference between the two is minute.

Bushwacker's ( extended flares will keep the tires somewhat under cover and even better if you use an 8-inch-wide rim and a tire no wider than a 12.5-incher.

Question: I have a '96 Land Rover Discovery that I love. The engine sucks, though. I don't want to get rid of it, so I would like to drop in a new engine (not a Land Rover engine) that gets good gas mileage and good power. Will this be doable? How much will it cost me? I live close to Dallas. Is there anyone there I could call and ask?
Hunter Lott
via e-mail

Answer: Anything is doable. It just takes time and money. I think the best bet would be to use a 4.3 Chevy V-6, along with the matching overdrive automatic transmission and transfer case. These engines get good fuel mileage, are compact and relatively available at a reasonable price. Also, it would be much easier to swap the entire package instead of adapting another engine to the Rover's transmission. However, if that is the route that you want to take, then take a look at Mark's Adapters ( Keep in mind that this is an Australian business, and for some reason they drive on the opposite side of the road than we do, so there may be some problems with steering location and such in their engine swap kits.

How much will it cost? No idea. It depends on what you have to pay for the engine, how much work you do yourself, and the cost of the shop work.

As far as a shop in the Dallas area that can do the work, we have no idea. Readers?

Question: I have a two-year-old Ford Explorer with the 4.6L engine and auto transmission. I bought it used with a lot of miles on it, but the price was right and it seemed at the time to be a good deal. I am having some strange transmission problems that only occur on cold mornings when I first start out. After the vehicle has warmed up, it shifts fine. What happens is that when I put the transmission in gear, it feels like it shifts OK but nothing happens. I may have to put it in and out of gear several times before it catches, or sometimes I have to push the throttle all the way to the floor and then in. As you can figure, it then grabs with a jerk and is pretty scary. Is there something wrong with the linkage that I can fix, or is it rebuild time?
Mark Williams
Kansas City, KS

Answer: I had to do a lot of checking on this one before I came up with a "most likely" cause to the problem. However, it's unfortunately not something that can be solved by a linkage adjustment. The transmission expert whom I spoke with told me that it could be caused by a groove worn into the sleeve that the flow control valve rides in, which is causing the piston to stick. He said that also there were a few other problems that could cause this. The bottom line is that it's time to rebuild the transmission.

Question: I want to buy a Ramcharger with a manual transmission but all I can find is one with an automatic. I was wondering where I could find information on how to convert it and how much it would cost me. I would like it to have an overdrive gear but I could live without one. I would also like the kit to have everything I need to convert it and not just some of the parts.
Ryan Applegate
via e-mail

Answer: I doubt that you're going to find any written information on making the transmission swap, but it really shouldn't be all that hard. First step would be to find a donor truck in the same model-year range. It could be a Dodge Ramcharger, or a 1/2- to 1-ton pickup that has a standard transmission. You're going to need the entire brake and clutch pedal assembly, assorted linkage, as well as the master cylinder. You're also going to need a flywheel, clutch, pressure plate, and the bellhousing. You might want to find a 4x4 version and use the transmission and transfer case. That way, you won't have to come up with an adapter. As to cost, well, that depends on what kind of price you have to pay for the parts and if you're going to do the work yourself or not. It will probably run $500 to $2,000 for the parts, and somewhere in between to have a shop do the install.

Question: I recently bought a '92 Dodge D250 two-wheel drive. I got it for only $900. It has a strong 318 and a 727 transmission. I have found that the D250 and W250 share frames. Is it worth it to convert it to four-wheel drive?

My plan is to cut the stock IFS out, go to a junkyard and remove the entire front assembly (axles, springs, brackets, and steering linkage) from a four-wheel drive, then weld the brackets in for the leaf springs and bolt the entire assembly to the frame.

I would also use the donor truck's NP205 transfer case. I plan to divorce the transfer case or swap the whole transmission and transfer case as one unit.

Can I use a Dana 60 out of a W350, or do I need to stick with the D250 front axle? Will the driveshafts from the donor truck work, or will I need new ones? The steering box in the D250 is the same as the W250, right? How much will this swap cost if I use all salvage parts?
Chris T. Welch
Grapevine, TX

Answer: I will have to take your word for it that the frames on the two-wheel-drive and four-wheel-drive trucks are the same. However, you will have to take my word for it that making the conversion to four-wheel drive is not worth it. I've said it many times before-you will be money and time ahead if you sell your truck and buy a factory-built 4x4.

If you're dead set on making this conversion, then I really suggest you buy a complete wrecked 4x4 truck of a similar year. This alone will save you from making numerous trips back to the wrecking yard to pick up that part you forgot to get originally. Besides, you never know when some of the extra parts you obtain just may get put into use.

I don't see any reason why the Dana 60 shouldn't work in place of the 44, but you'll find them a bit on the scarce side, especially for a Dodge. It's hard to say if the driveshafts will work, as there are a lot of variables here.

Cost? Depends on how good of a deal you get and what you buy. For example, a Dana 60 frontend will go from, if you're lucky, $1,000 up to $1,800. Total costs of all of the parts from a salvage yard by the time you're done will run $2,500 if you're a good "wheeler and dealer" or more, but that's just a guess.

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