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September 2006 4x4 Tech Questions -Techline

Posted in How To: Tech Qa on September 1, 2006
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Question: I'm writing in response to a reader's letter regarding his TJ ("Techline," Apr. '06), where he is having problems with his instrument cluster. The ground problem may be the issue, but one other place to check is behind the cluster itself. Jeep has a replacement cluster connector that needs to be soldered in about 10 or 12 wires, depending on options. This is a common problem--I am a Jeep tech at a dealership and have replaced many connectors. There was a Technical Service Bulletin on this through Chrysler, and these are the part numbers: 5016261AA connector (1), 4778570 shrink wrap (10).

You replace the connector behind the cluster closest to the A-pillar, cut one wire at a time, then solder and shrink wrap. There are some wires that are the same color in the connector. I recommend using the Chrysler shrink wrap as it weeps silicone, so it works very well.
Kevin Morisi
Plymouth, MA

Question: Just finished reading the Techline question about the Jeep gauge issues. I thought everyone knew about this one. Just unplug the gauge panel and slightly bend the pins to the side on the back and plug it back in, and it's cured. My '99 did this for several weeks until I got time to do it. Took about 15 minutes to fix.
Ron Crumpler
Panama City Beach, FL

Answer: Thanks for the input, Kevin and Ron. I really appreciate it, and I'm sure our readers with this same problem do too.

Question: I have an '04 Chevy 2500HD that I would like to lift only 2 inches. I've read about cranking up the torsion bars and the negative effects it has on the suspension and ride quality; therefore, I would like to know what your suggestion would be. I mostly drive on the street but when I'm out hunting or camping, I tend to go further into the mountains and forests than most. If you have any suggestions I would appreciate it immensely.
Chuck Schmaltz
Lincoln, NE

Answer: Yes, I will agree that a couple of more inches of ride height would be nice. However, most of the lift companies don't offer that. They jump up to the 6-inch-or-more lift. I wish I had more time to search for you, but suggest you do some Internet searching at various companies' Web sites.

I really don't suggest cranking up the torsion bars as ride quality really goes to heck, along with wheel drop.

Question: I recently have converted my '90 Ford F-150 two-wheel-drive automatic truck to a four-wheel-drive with a Dana 44 from a '79 34-ton (leaf springs) Ford truck. Presently I have a four-speed trans out of the same truck with a Ford 9-inch in the rear. When I did the conversion, I decided I wanted to leave the five-lug bolt pattern, so I found a set of 12-ton spindles for the front and threw 'em on.

Now I am getting ready to put a big-block Ford 390 FE in it and I am not too sure about the 9-inch anymore in the rear. I recently purchased an '87 Ford F-250 with what I believe to be a Dana 60 rear (the truck was a 6.9 diesel with a stick) and I am curious if there is any way to get custom axles to convert the Dana 60 to a five-lug bolt pattern. I know this probably sounds stupid to you, but I really enjoy the freedom that I have with the five-lug bolt pattern, such as rim sizes and tire sizes. I can't imagine it being too hard to find someone to make me up a set of axles, but the problem after that is the brakes. I thought about seeing if there was any way that I could bolt a new set of backing plates onto the axle off of a 9-inch or 8.8-inch, but I haven't gotten that far to see if there is a way I can make it work.

My next question: When it came to the steering on my truck once I converted the axle, I had to cut about 4 inches out of one of the steering centerlinks that I used and welded it back together. I don't intend for this to be permanent obviously, but I was wondering if you guys could point me in a direction to make up some custom steering.
Matt Sayer
Sunfield, MI

Answer: I really suggest that you go back and put on the eight-bolt wheels and bigger spindles up front if you want to use the rear 60, as they're so much stronger. There is really no way to convert your 60 rearend to a five-bolt without some special spacers and hubs, which reads "expensive." Ford actually did use a five-bolt-pattern Dana 60 in the mid-'60s in heavy 12-ton vehicles. In fact, I just sold one. The 9-inch should be just fine, but if you plan on carrying a lot of weight or using it really hard, you might consider a truss of some type.

As to the steering: Wow, you're on your own here. If done properly with a sleeve over the joined pieces (the sleeve ends should be cut on an angle so the weld isn't concentrated in a circle) and quality welds are done, it's not recommended, but a lot of people seem to have this work just fine. Steering failure can be just as disastrous on the trail at a few miles per hour as at highway speeds.

Question: I want to set up my truck with larger tires and wheels. I've got an '02 Dodge Ram 2500 4x4 with Cummins diesel. At this time I've got 33-inch tires on 16x10-inch rims. The only modification I've done was to install a leveling lift on the front, which was to keep the tires from rubbing when turning. I'd like to go to 38-inch tires, but I would like some advice on how to go about doing this. Of course, anywhere you go, they will tell you a different story of what I need to do. I want to make sure that I'm installing everything I need to support that tire size without causing any damage to my truck. If I do use 38-inch tires, would it be best to use 12-inch-wide rims? I've got Bushwacker fender flares installed on my truck. I don't know if this would make any difference. With my truck, should I have a specific offset to the rims? I'm probably going to order the tires and rims by mail, so I want to make sure I'm ordering the right things.

Also, how much lift should I use for such tires? Will it take a suspension and a body lift, or just a suspension lift? You guys are the 4x4 professionals, so I figure if anyone should know it would be you. I would appreciate any advice you could give.
Duane Blankenship

Answer: The guys at Superlift tell me it will take a 5-inch suspension lift to fit 36-inch tires. Anymore than that, and you start having driveline issues. I guess a 2-inch body lift will allow you to put the 38s on, but I think it would look kind of funny. Maybe you should stick to 36s and 10-inch-wide rims.

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