Reader Tech Questions
Where To Write
Address all correspondence to: Techline Four Wheeler, 831 S. Douglas St., El Segundo, CA 90245. You can also reach us by e-mail at email@example.com; be sure to type the words "Tech Line" in the subject line. All submissions 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 www.fourwheeler.com. Due to the volume of mail, electronic and otherwise, we cannot respond to every reader, but we do read everything.
Wants S-Blazer Solid Axle Swap
Q I have a 2003 Chevy Blazer and I am tired of getting stuck all the time due to the low ground clearance and crappy IFS. I have saved my money and am ready to do a solid axle swap. Hopefully someone makes a kit to do this, and if not, can you give me some clues to help me get started? I would really like to retain the coil-spring suspension if possible.
A You're in luck-in fact, there is a just such a kit to install a solid axle as well as keeping your coil-spring suspension. Do keep in mind that once you have started on this conversion, there is no turning back, as there is a lot of cutting of the original brackets. You need to get in touch with Diversified Automotive Creations (810/227-4777, www.diversifiedcreations.com), as they have just the kit you're going to need. They make use of a Jeep Dana 30 or 44 front axle from a TJ . If you want to go with a different axle, they can supply custom brackets.
Because the two vehicles use a different wheel bolt pattern, you either have to swap out the rear axle, or better yet, use a special adapter they have developed and use the original Blazer brakes and hubs. That way, you keep all the ABS stuff. It's a pretty involved process, and the price of the kit is not cheap, but neither is the quality of the kit. A 6-inch lift will provide you room for 35-inch tall tires.
Sleuthing Dodge Ram Wheel Shimmy
Q I am having a steering problem with my 2005 Dodge truck, a 2500 series with the diesel engine. Whenever I hit a pothole in the road, I get what feels like a wheel shimmy. I have a buddy with an earlier truck that he ended up changing out the steering shafts because of wear in them. We looked at mine, and they seemed to be tight with no play in them. We also checked out the tie-rod ends, and they didn't show any looseness in them when the wheel was turned. I replaced the steering stabilizer.
I want to go to a larger tire and a lift, but I think I really need to fix this shimmy problem first. Could you tell me where to start looking? My buddy is a pretty good mechanic and has lots of tools, so maybe we can fix it ourselves.
A You started out right by checking the steering components for wear. I did a check of Dodge truck Technical Service Bulletins and found one that did relate the steering problem; TSB # 22 05 06 deals with front-end shimmy. You might want to hit your dealer and see if the service guy will print one out for you. The first part deals with tire wear and proper air pressure. Then it goes on to check the steering damper and the tie-rod ends.
You changed out the damper, so let's go to the tie-rod ends. You're only allowed .045 inch of movement when you pry up on it. You're going to need a dial indicator to measure this, and a way to mount it, to get the proper measurements. Actually if you feel any movement, it just might be wise to replace the ends. Oh, and tighten the nut on the joint to 90 ft-lb.
I did some more digging and found that some of the trucks with the 9.25-inch axle-which I am going to assume your truck has-are prone to early upper ball joint wear. Moog has put out a service bulletin # 29007, which says that the upper and lower ball joints may not be perfectly aligned due to the installation process. The OE ball joint design deforms to comply as it is installed, which leads to what Moog calls "severe" wear from impact loads. Again using your dial indicator, mount it between the steering knuckle and the yoke as high up and as close to the ball joint as possible. You will have to get inventive here in figuring out how to hold it in place. You will need your buddy's help in doing this next step. Push in at the top of the tire and pull out at the bottom. Have your buddy check the amount of movement on the dial indicator. Do the same thing again, but this time pull out at the top of the tire and push in at the bottom. Add the numbers up and they should not exceed 0.060 inch. If it does, you need to replace the ball joint. Dynatrac (www.dynatrac.com) now offers heavy-duty replacement ball joints for this application that are rebuildable and much more robust than the factory-style joints.
While you're at it, you might as well check out the lower ball joint. It's a lot easier if you put the axle on a jackstand and remove the wheel. This time, put the indicator on the bottom of the steering knuckle, and with a pry bar between the knuckle and the ball joint, pry upward. You're allowed 0.090 inch before replacement is deemed necessary.
About replacing them: You have to take the complete knuckle off. Then you're going to need a special ball joint removal tool. It looks like a heavy-duty "C"-clamp with some specialized cups that are used to press out the ball joint. If your buddy doesn't have one, perhaps you can rent one at a local auto-parts or tool-rental supply house. It should come with instructions. If not, perhaps you can again get friendly with your dealer's service writer with a box of donuts and see if he will print the instructions out of a service manual. Oh, and as another thought, most large public libraries have service manuals, and some even have them online.