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May 2006 4x4 Tech Questions - Techline

Posted in How To: Tech Qa on May 1, 2006
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Four Wheeler
6420 Wilshire Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90048-5515.

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Question: One excellent method Willie overlooked (or maybe does not know about) on removing rust from small parts like the 7/16-inch bolt he mentioned is using a parts tumbler.

"Tumblers," as they are called, are used widely by pistol-casing reloaders to clean casings. If you're not familiar with them, they comprise a 1-gallon hopper for the media and two spinning arms that tumble the parts around in the media, thus cleaning them, and removing rust also. These tumblers can be had for around $60.
Kevin Logan

Answer: Thanks for bringing up the tumblers. I am familiar with them. In fact, I tried one years ago, but didn't like the threads of bolts being hit together, as it took off the sharp edge and bent them over a bit. After I ran a die over them to straighten them out, it took off material and made the bolt a bit undersized. Granted, the bolts I tried were really rusty, and it took a long time to clean them.

I think the answer for cleaning up bolts would be to soda blast them, or in reality, just use replacements where possible. However, for small brackets and parts, the tumbler may be ideal, and I'm glad you brought it to my attention

Question: I am getting different opinions on how to mount my hydraulic ram to a Dana 44 front axle of my leaf-sprung CJ-7. There is not a lot of room for an axle truss, plus I have stock knuckles, so it's not a high-steer setup anyway. My plan was to build up a rock ring made by Poison Spyder Customs so that the mount would be connected to the axlehousing by the ten 5/16-inch bolts. However, they told me the bolts may shear. It's not an extreme crawler or anything, but I don't want it to be a weak setup, either. I have noticed pictures of several hydraulic-assist setups in magazines that have the ram mounted to the diff housing, but I'm not sure if a fully hydraulic system would have more or equal pressure on the ram. Do you have any advice, or can you point me in the right direction?
Matt Kramer

Answer: If you're not building an extreme rockcrawler, why in heck do you want to go to full hydraulic steering? Generally speaking, at anything even close to highway speed, every vehicle with hydraulic steering I have seen handles terribly and wanders all over the road. Now without some high-mounted steering knuckles, the ram would have to mount pretty darn low and stick out in front of the front axle by quite a bit-and naturally become an instant rock magnet.

As for using the rock ring and the bolts that hold it and the differential on, maybe it would hold, but I sure wouldn't want to bet my life on it. Unless you're planning on running a tire over 37 inches tall, the Jeep power-steering box should work just fine with a few modifications. A ram assist is so much easier to install and won't hang up on things like the full hydraulic ram will.

(Matt wrote back saying that he did the steering contrary to my advice and it worked well for the mud 'wheeling that he does, as there are no rocks to worry about. He went the hydraulic-steering route because he had access to the parts instead of replacing the worn-out stock steering parts.)

Question: I have a '97 Chevrolet four-door Tahoe with the 350 V-8 and 4L60E transmission. I am swapping out for live axles and had a question about the transfer case. I know that I would have to get a Ford front axle to use the transfer case that I have, but I would rather swap it out for an NP205. Is this possible? Are there adapters for that? I looked (not very hard because it's easier to write you guys!) and couldn't find any-or am I just stuck with what I got?
Jason Anderson

Answer: I think that you would be better off to keep your present transfer case and find a Ford left-hand-drop solid axle. There are several reasons for this. First, you will need an adapter, and Advance Adapters ( does have some parts that will work. Depending on which model of the 205 you're using, the price of the adapter will be anywhere from about $170 to $500.

You will also have to come up with some type of a reluctor kit to drive your speedometer, which also controls shift points of the transmission. I just found that Brea Auto Electric (714/256-2250, has one that will fit on to the driveshaft slip yoke.

You will also have to build a new rear driveshaft, and a new crossmember to hold the 205-and you need to buy the 205, which doesn't have as low of a low-range gear as your present transfer case. Yep, it's a whole lot easier to use the Ford axle to begin with.

Question: I own a '95 F-150 and would like to do a solid axle swap. I have done some research on the subject. I know that Fabritech makes a conversion kit, but it is out of my budget due to me still being in school. I just recently bought a Dana 44 (high-pinion) out of a '78 Bronco. The axle came complete with all of the stock suspension components.

My truck has a 6-inch Rough Country lift, and if I could reuse any of the parts from that, it would be great. If you could locate anyone else who offers a conversion kit cheaper or plans to make the brackets, I would greatly appreciate it.
Steven Bassitt

Answer: I looked at the Fabritech kit, and yes, it is a lot of money, but it's a lot of money for a reason. You're paying for the engineering that went into building a safe and well designed kit.

Yes, I am sure that if you looked long enough, you could find someone on the Internet who has done such a conversion using all homemade brackets. How well it works and how safe it is will depend on the person who built it-and generally speaking, most people aren't going to say, "Oh, I built it, but I sure don't trust it from breaking," "It now handles terrible on the trail," or "It doesn't handle well at highway speeds."

The way I look at it, either you sit down, do some engineering studies, build your own conversion and hope all is right, or you buy the kit.

Question: I bought a late-model 5.4L Ford V-8 that I plan to put into my early Bronco. I got the motor cheap because two of the spark-plug holes are stripped. My local machine shop says that they haven't had much luck with Helicoils. Do you have a solution to fix this, other than welding and tapping new threads or replacing the head?
Ned Falcon

Answer: Actually, this is a pretty common problem with the 4.6L, 5.4L, and 6.8L aluminum heads. Have your local machine shop contact a company called Lock-N-Stitch (800/736-8261,, which offers a special insert of hard-anodized aluminum that is guaranteed to repair the hole better than new.

And for you Ford owners who have one of these engines, be super careful when changing out the spark plugs. Make sure the engine is dead cold, and soak the area around the spark plugs for a bit with some type of penetrating oil before you try taking them out. And when you're reinstalling the plugs, take the time to use a torque wrench to gain the proper level of tightness, along with some antiseize on the threads.

Question: I recently bought a '99 1-ton 4x4 Chevy with the 6.5L diesel, which was supposedly completely rebuilt just before I bought the truck. It appears that the motor has been out. The truck ran really good for the first month; then one day the engine got a terrible vibration in it like all the cylinders weren't firing. That's not the case because it still has good power-it just vibrates like crazy. I took it to a local mechanic who also was puzzled. I've stopped driving the truck and am considering pulling the engine and replacing it with a big-block gas motor. Any ideas?
Ned Smith
Detroit, MIv

Answer: The 6.2 had some issues, but most of these were solved with the introduction of the 6.5. The first thing that comes to mind is a problem with the dual mass flywheel, but you didn't say if your truck has a manual or an automatic transmission. Going on the assumption that by not mentioning any shifting problems, I'll assume you have an automatic. You could have a flexplate or torque converter that the bolts have come loose on. This would be the first thing to check out.

However, if I was going to make a guess, it would be that the bolt that holds the harmonic balancer has come loose and sheared its mounting key. The harmonic balancer has then spun to place the engine in an out-of-balance condition. GM uses a special washer under the bolt, and this bolt should be torqued to 200 lb-ft. Don't drive the truck, and hope that the crankshaft hasn't been damaged.

If the end of the crank at the keyway has been damaged, you may still be able to salvage it. I once bought a small-block Chevy crank that had been damaged the same way. To solve the problem, I had a new keyway cut 180 degrees away from the original, and a matching one cut in the balancer, opposite the original. I had to index it at TDC for the number-one piston and make a new timing mark, but it worked just fine. Yes, the bad news is you have to take the crank out of the engine to do the machine work.

Question: I have an '88 Chevy 3/4-ton that I want to convert to a solid front axle. I've been told that the best axle to use is a front out of a '77-'79 Ford F-250 (Dana 44) if I want to keep using my current six-lug wheels by changing the knuckles. I've checked a few wrecking yards in my area with no luck. However, I have found an '88 Jeep Wagoneer with Selec-Trac, which looks like a Dana 44, six-lug, and full-time four-wheel drive except for springs under the axle. The ring-and-pinion is on the driver side. Would this axle work for my conversion by using a spring-over setup, and would the steering setup work?
Carlos P.
Fremont, CA

Answer: I think that you will find that the Wagoneer axle is a bit on the narrow side, and yes it is a 44. Your truck is not a 3/4-ton if it has six lugs, but a 1/2-ton. OK, maybe Chevy does classify some of its six-lug trucks as a light-duty 3/4-ton but the axle sure in the heck doesn't have the capacity of, say, a full-floating 14-bolt.

I think that I would go with a pre-'88 Chevy solid axle. Yes, you will have to make a lot of steering changes. Be sure to think this conversion over very carefully and have everything completely worked out before you even light that torch.

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