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June 2011 Techline

Posted in How To: Tech Qa on June 1, 2011
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Ethanol-Blend Fuel: Better Than 87 Octane?
Q What can you tell me about ethanol blended gasolines? It appears that in British Columbia, we now have allgrades of gasoline with less than a 94 octane rating containing a 10 percent blend of ethanol. Since that has happened, I have been using only premium gasoline (94 octane) in my vehicles. However, premium is expensive. My wife continues to use 87-octane gasoline, which I’m not happy about.

What little reading I have done suggests that this stuff screws up engines. I read one website that suggestedusing oils containing a new additive containing Lubrilon that was specially formulated to combat the effects of this ethanol problem. Your views would be appreciated.
Grumpy Miller
Vancouver, BC, Canada

A Let’s start out with the fact that ethanol does not produce the same Btu as gasoline, but it has a higher octane rating. It is also corrosive to certain metal, plastic and rubber parts. It also works as a solvent and will remove varnish that has collected in the fuel system. For the last ten years or so (maybe longer), carmakers have been using new types of plastics, metals, and such (of various formulations) to combat this problem. Some types of racers, such as sprint cars, Indy cars, and dragsters, use straight alcohol. To get the power, they have to use about two-thirds more fuel. As I said, it has a higher octane rating, and it also has a cooling effect as it enters the combustion chamber, so compression ratios can be way higher, resulting in more horsepower.

The ethanol has two purposes: One, it promotes a cleaner burning engine; and second, some say it reduces the demand for gasoline by 10 percent. But that doesn’t make a lot of sense to me due to the loss of fuel mileage, which is usually about 10 percent.

Bottom line: When used in an older vehicle, you may have some fuel contamination problems. The key word here is may and most likely, the worst-case situation is that one may have to change the fuel filter more often. Oh, and the aforementioned 10 percent loss in fuel mileage. So go ahead and use the lower-octane fuel that’s specified by your owner’s manual. The higher-octane fuel is not gaining you anything if the engine does not require it, other than a thinner wallet to sit on. Then again, you’ll have to figure if the loss of fuel mileage is offset by the gain using the higher-octane fuel that does not contain alcohol.

Want Solid Axle for Late-Model Tacoma
Q I have a 2003 Toyota Tacoma Prerunner two-wheel-drive four-door truck with a pretty good stance to it, as it’s lifted six inches (provided by Fabtech) and blocks in the rear. It has the 3.4L V-6 with the stock axles and the stock rear diff-lock. Now I want to convert it to four-wheel drive, but I don’t want IFS. I’ve been doing some research and know that I’m going to need a Dana 44 or 60, or an FJ-80 axle, for this. What about all the rest? Is this even possible to do within a tight budget? I do want to run larger tires and would like to know more about gearing. I know a little bit, but not enough to go out and drop my hard-earned money on something that’s completely wrong. I want to have the low-range capability you get with lower gears but I still want to be able to cruise around 70 mph because this rig is not just a toy but my wife’s grocery getter as well. Thomas Rothwell
Ft. Polk, LA

A Those are the most common axles available. A Toyota or a Jeep Wrangler 44 is most likely the easiest swap. With the Jeep axle, you will have to change out to a special hub or an adapter to get the proper bolt pattern. Take a look at All Pro Off Road’s website (; they have a conversion kit.

You will also need a transfer case. Most likely, the easiest way is with a trans/transfer case swap from a wrecking yard. Gearing will depend on what size of tire you want. With 33-inchers, some 4.10:1 to 4.56:1 axle gears would likely be best. To get lower low-range gears, you can also go with lower transfer-case gearing or a doubler ’case. Search Google for Toyota doubler transfer case and you will find some options. Cost? About three to five grand when it is all done.

Grand Cherokee ZJ Buildup Tips
Q My first 4x4 is going to be a first-generation Grand Cherokee. They’re relatively cheap, plentiful, and reliable (or so I’m told) while having a bit more refinement than your typical XJ. I want to look for one with the 5.2L V-8, but the 5.9L Limited would really be the cat’s meow.

What can I do to make the ZJ more capable for Colorado trails? I don’t want to get too crazy, as I have quite the commute to school, and I need to keep fuel costs down, but I do want to get some flex out of the suspension.

Did I mention I’m 16 and will be modifying as the paychecks roll in? I really liked your Project Ain’t It Grand-er series, although it might be a tad too much for me right now. My original idea was maybe to upgrade the coils to progressive-rate units, get better shocks, maybe some bumpstops, and keep the lift low while trying to make the original setup perform better in the dirt, but I doubt I would be able to fit that much larger of a tire.

Also, I’m scared about the axles in the ZJ, as I have heard unflattering things about them, and axle work is a little over my head. What could I do to the axles to make them survive without spending all my money on them? And, as I have yet to buy the Jeep yet, what should I look for in the used model other than the general stuff?
Vincent Grossi
Colorado Springs, CO

A The idea behind Ain’t it Grand-er was (initially) a low-buck progressive buildup. Where we went overboard a bit was on the suspension system from T&T Customs, which required a lot of fabrication that, in reality, a lot of people are not capable of or would go to the trouble of doing. However, it does work exceptionally well, providing great handling both on and off the road, as well as offering a 900 RTI score; tire clearance in the relatively small fender wells is the limiting factor.

The first stages of the initial Project Grandwere nothing more than a TeraFlex short-arm lift of about three inches, 31-inch tires on some steel rims, and a homemade skidplate under the transfer case and auto trans pan. Luckily, the Grand we bought off a used car lot had the trailer-towing package, so it came with the transmission cooler and 3.73:1 gears. This proved to be a pretty good trail runner for even some class-three trails using open differentials. Later, we added the ARB front bumper with a Warn winch, the Tomken rear bumper/ tire carrier, and the performance-enhancement products from Borla and K&N. We ran it like this for quite a few years, using it as much for daily transportation as a trail machine. This should most likely be your starting point.

The second stage of the project, other than the suspension, was still in the realm of a fairly low-buck buildup, considering what a lot of people spend. We used a low-cost Ford 8.8-inch rearend, and a friend gave us a high-pinion Dana 30 front. Yes, we added a lot of high-dollar pieces to these, but they were not totally necessary. The whole idea of the project was to show just what was available for the Grand and what could be done with it. Sure, we could have gone out and put a Dana 60/Dana 44 combination under it, lifted it eight inches, cut out the fenderwells for 37-inch tires, put in an Atlas transfer case, and built amonster motor, but that was not the purpose. What we built was a great trail rig that also worked as a daily driverin fact, it’s been my wife’s daily driver.

As an example, you might want to take a look at the suspension systems that Rusty’s Off Road ( offers for the ZJ. They start at 99 bucks for some spring spacers that provide two inches of lift, and they go all the way up to a bolt-on long-arm kit that will get you 5.5 inches of lift. Run a Google search for, say, Grand Cherokee lift kits, and you will see that Skyjacker, TeraFlex, Rough Country, Clayton, and a lot of other companies offer similar suspension lifts.

I suggest that you find a low-mileage Grand, or one that has had the engine and trans rebuilt; those are big-ticket repair items. Try to find one with the trailer towing package because, as I said, it will have somewhat decent 3.73:1 or 4.11:1 gearing and even a trans cooler on the ’96-and-later models.

Hey, there is nothing wrong with the 4.0L motor, so don’t think that you have to get a V-8. The V-8 will get between 11 and 15 mpg overall, while the 4.0L will beat that by about three mpg. Try to locate one with a Chrysler rearend other than the aluminum-housing Dana 44 or Dana 35. Add some 31-inch tiresyes, they will fit on the factory rimsas well as a 3-inch lift, a skidplate under the transfer case, and some rocker guards. The next thing to do is have fun with it, but do keep in perspective what you’re driving.

Where To Write
Address your correspondence to: Four Wheeler, 831 S. Douglas St., El Segundo, CA 90245. All letters become the property of Four Wheeler, and we reserve the right to edit them for length, accuracy, and clarity. The editorial department can also be reached through the website at Due to the volume of mail, electronic and otherwise, we cannot respond to every reader, but we do read everything.

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