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October 2007 4x4 Tech Questions - Tech Line

Willie Worthy | Writer
Posted October 1, 2007

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Question: I have a '74 stock Toyota FJ-40 Land Cruiser that I just love. However, my knee has failed me and I am in need of help finding out the best choice for me. I need to get an automatic transmission installed. Is there an option with keeping the F-series engine? If not, what would be the simplest engine and transmission combo to install? I will be keeping it mostly stock. I am also looking for someone in the San Francisco area that could help with this.
Chuck Kinsman
Sunnyvale, CA

Answer: I remembered a 700R4 being swapped into an FJ some years back but just couldn't quite remember much about it or where I had seen it done. Then I happened to find a note that I had sent to former editor Mark Williams about it. It seems he had done a story on just such a conversion, like lots of years ago, in these very pages. Downey Off-Road (562/949-9494, had built a prototype adapter for this project. I gave them a call and it seems that the adapter never went into production. More searching came up with absolutely nothing in the way to hook an automatic-shifter to your present engine.

OK, so now it's engine swap time. A small-block Chevy V-8 is the most common engine conversion and is relatively simple to install. Engine mounts and transmission-to-transfer-case adapters are available from several sources such as Downey Off-Road or Advance Adapters (800/350-2223,

While I was looking into this, I also thought about a diesel engine/automatic combination for the Land Cruiser and remembered a company in Colorado, Proffitt's Cruisers (877/776-3348,, that had done just that using a Cummins 4BT (the four-cylinder little cousin to the same diesel used in Dodge trucks) along with the GM 700R4 transmission. They also do Chevy V-8 conversions.

One other source that is, well, kind of close to your home, is TLC in Van Nuys, California (800/579-9776, They do V-8 conversions with automatic transmissions as well as an interesting diesel conversion using a 2.8L Brazilian-built four-cylinder engine that can be used with an automatic trans. For a diesel, this probably is a much better conversion engine as it is lighter than the 4BT Cummins and comes as a brand-new crate engine. Parts are not a problem, and it has proven to be as reliable as the Cummins.

Question: I have an '89 Dodge Power Ram W250 4x4 with a very worn-out 318 V-8, and I want to put a Cummins 6BT or 4BT diesel in it. Is this a doable swap, and which engine would be better to use? I also do not know what transmission I need to use. Is there an adapter for my 241 transfer case, or will I need a 205? Also, is the Dana 44 in the front of the truck stout enough for one of these engines, or will I need to upgrade to a Dana 60 like the rear? I'm running 36s on the truck.
Dustin Niccum

Answer: Yes, it is possible to swap out the engine for a diesel. The 4BT would of course be a lot easier to install and weigh a lot less, and naturally will produce a lot less power. As I think about the amount of work involved from modifications to the fuel system, mounting the engine, sound insulation (you must know how noisy these engines are), stronger front springs, larger radiator, and so on, it seems to me that it's just not a practical swap.

With the six-cylinder, the front axle strength would be marginal, especially with 36-inch tires. I think that you're going to be a lot better off if you just rebuild your 318, or maybe even upgrade to a 360. Sure, it won't get the fuel mileage, but if you're looking for a payback on mileage alone, then my guess is that the truck will be ready for the junkyard well before an overall difference is seen. If you're after a diesel truck, then sell what you have and buy a factory-installed diesel. In reality, you will be way ahead in the long run.

Question: I have a '93 Ford Explorer that I recently bought. After I've been in four-wheel drive and shift back into two-wheel drive, I hear a weird noise coming from the front end of my truck. It's kind of hard to describe, maybe like someone sawing wood with a continuous handsaw. After a while, it goes away. This is the first four-wheel drive I have ever owned, and I really don't want to take it back to the dealer where I bought it. What is making this noise, and how do I find it?
D. W. Right
Daytona Beach, FL

Answer: I had to do some searching to find this answer and finally did in Ford Service Bulletin 95-5-18. It's something that you may ask the Ford service department to run you a copy of. What happens is that one of the auto-locking hubs has failed to totally release. The rotary motion of the wheel with the still-locked hub is driving the axleshaft, which in turn drives the differential, which then turns the opposite-side axle in a reverse direction and tries to engage that side's hub-hence the noise.

What is causing the problem? My guess is that your Bronco, being some 16 years old, has never had the front hubs serviced. Ford recommends servicing them every 30,000 miles, or more depending on driving conditions. You might want to bug the service guy at your local Ford dealer for a copy of the bulletin. It's something that you can tackle on your own with the proper tools, such as a hub wrench and some snap-ring pliers. Or you can have them do it.

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