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July 2007 4x4 Tech Questions - Tech Line

Willie Worthy | Writer
Posted July 1, 2007

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Question: I just got a '53 M38-A1 Jeep, and was told that it is basically a CJ-5 but for the military parts. I was wondering what body parts (bumpers, lightbars, roof racks, lift kits, and so on) are interchangeable between the two models. I have been looking around and have found lots of stuff for CJ-5s, but not for the M38-A1. I'm planning to put on a new bumper to hold a PTO winch and a few lights, then add a roof rack, and eventually a snorkel. Those are just the big things-a lot of little upgrades are planned too.
Kyle Arras
Entiat, WA

Answer: Yep, you've been told right. Actually, the CJ-5 was based off the M38-A1 that came out three years before the first CJ-5. The differences? Just off the top of my head, there is the 24-volt electrical system that is pretty much waterproof, a stronger frame, higher spring rate, a battery box in the cowl, a lower dash that is known as a "knee knocker," no tailgate, different front fender mounts, a grille that's hinged at the bottom, a hood cutout for a snorkel, water shut-off breathers on the gearboxes, and I'm sure others that I have forgotten to mention.

Will stuff for the CJ-5 fit? Generally, yes, or can be adapted to fit. Yes, the suspension uses a greaseable shackle and eye, but this is easily converted to a bushing style, and the front spring shackles are the "reversed" style, unlike the CJ's. (OK, the first couple of years of CJs had reversed shackles up front.)

Question: I own an '03 Ford F-350 Super Duty 4x4 Crew Cab longbed. My problem is the truck wanders on the road, especially if I run over an uneven road. I have taken it to two Ford dealers, and they said it's per the specifications. Is there any off-the-market steering gearbox that I can buy and install out there that will cure this problem (to me it's a problem)?

This truck is my fourth truck and I don't have a plan to buy another one. I had no steering wandering problem with my '94 GMC 4x2, my '97 Dodge 4x2 1500, or my '02 Dodge 2500 4x4 when I had them. Somehow, I just cannot accept what they are telling me about my 350. Now the warranty is over for the front end, and I have to put out the money to get it right. Please help, I need your advice, and I want to keep this truck. It's my retirement truck.
Lito L. Delacirna

Answer: It's probably too late now to get it, but the alignment machines that the dealers and most shops use are capable of printing out the alignment information both before and after any adjustments have been made, and they will compare them to factory specifications. My guess is that they didn't show you copies of these. Did you actually have the service manager drive the vehicle with you, and let him verify that there was a problem? Most likely not. I would push the warranty deal and tell them that it was never fixed right under warranty and you are not happy. Hopefully, they will fix it right.

My guess is that it's not the steering box, but something else. Could be worn tie-rod ends, loose wheel bearings, or even the tires themselves. You need to figure out just when the wandering started. Maybe after you changed the tires to another tread style or brand? You just may end up taking it to a shop that specializes in frontend alignment and have them check it out. Be sure to tell them exactly what the truck is doing and under what type of driving conditions, and that the Ford dealers that worked on it said it was OK. I have seen instances where, due to production tolerances stacking up on the negative side, that factory specifications on an alignment don't always work out. Best of luck, and let me know how it works out.

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