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October 2013 Nuts & Bolts - Tech Questions

Posted in How To: Tech Qa on August 26, 2013
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Photographers: 4 Wheel & Off-Road Staff

Wheel Wizards
Q I have a slight dilemma with some 16.5-inch wheels. I have been looking for a set of Kelsey-Hayes factory steel wheels. They are 16.5x9.75, and I think they look pretty sweet when they are cleaned up and powdercoated. They would look awesome on my K30, but I have noticed a significant decrease in the number of tires available for 16.5 rims. I was wondering if anyone makes a weld-on kit that could convert them into 17s, or if I just need to buy something else. I love the look of these wheels and would like to use them without breaking the bank.
Matthew Todd
Harrodsburg, KY 

A No, you cannot get a kit to make a 16.5 wheel into a 17. The tire bead on the 16.5 is different, and the 17-inch tires will require more than just welding on a 1⁄4-inch ring. Plus, it’s not a safe method for running different tires. In fact, every tire I’ve seen specifically states not to run it on a rim size different from what is approved. And the fact that the tire bead is different on a 16.5 means it is less likely to stay on the rim at low air pressure, making them less desirable for off-road use.

I do understand your desire for some simple steel wheels for your K30. The problem is you want a tire that is slowly becoming obsolete and you want to mount them on a wheel that is becoming obsolete. It isn’t gone yet. BFGoodrich, Interco Tire, Pit Bull, and Firestone all list something for the 16.5, but it’s hard for me to recommend that you find and fix up a special wheel if it requires a tire size that is fading. I’m not saying the 16.5 size will die—it probably won’t—but the list of companies making it is dwindling. The Kelsey-Hayes wheels are very similar to these 16-inch wheels I had on my Suburban project (see photo A) but in a wider version.

So what is your best option? I think if you want those Kelsey-Hayes wheels you should get them. It may not be the best investment in the long term, but I don’t think 16.5 tires will become obsolete any time soon. But the number of options will decrease. And maybe that is the bigger question. What tire do you want to run?

The next option is to find a 17-inch wheel that you like. One might be the steel wheel on the Dodge truck (see photo B), as they are pretty simple-looking, or another GM eight-lug spare steel wheel, but these are not usually very wide, about 17x7. You could also look for a 16-inch wheel in a wide size, as there are still a good amount of 16-inch tires available, but again, the availability of this size is decreasing.

There are custom wheel manufacturers out there, such as Stockton Wheel Service (, that could maybe make you a 17, but most of their wheels that look like the Kelsey-Hayes are only listed as a 16, and custom wheels can be expensive.

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Q I am new to four-wheeling, but after buying an ’86 K5 Blazer I can’t get enough. I have been reading up on engines, axles, suspension, and everything. One thing that I’m still a bit confused about is automatic transmissions. My truck has a TH400, and it works fine, but I like to understand how stuff works in case there is a problem. Do you recommend any books on how they work and how to rebuild them? My parents don’t care about 4x4s, so they can’t really teach me like some other kids’ dads can. Most of my friends aren’t into cars either, so I’m sort of on my own. What recommendations do you have for a guy like me who’s just trying to learn more?
Floyd B.

A I understand your predicament, but don’t worry. There are lots of places to find info on your 4x4. The basic shop manual is great for beginners, and although an automatic transmission rebuild isn’t simple your Blazer’s TH400 isn’t the most complicated transmission either.

One item you should check out is the How to Build a TH400 DVD sold through Summit Racing Equipment ( This step-by-step DVD will help you get inside the transmission without ever crawling under your truck. In fact, Summit has a variety of how-to DVDs and books for everything from engines to axles.

As for other options, I think you may be the perfect candidate for joining a local 4x4 club. If you can find one it may help you network with like-minded wheelers. You can find lists of clubs on the United Four Wheel Drive Association website ( You can also check out the website of the BlueRibbon Coalition ( and Tread Lightly ( and find events to attend and meet other people.

Of course, there a plethora of websites about every make and model vehicle 4x4 out there. You could contact a company or shop that specializes in your vehicle and find out which sites they recommend to browse for info and contacts. As with everything, you need to take any info on the web with a grain of salt, but it is a good place to discuss your project with other interested vehicle owners. Our magazine also has a new website in the works, but during construction you can still access it at Visit our Facebook page at Also, you can just search for local 4x4 shops, trails, and events and go find other 4x4 owners to meet and wheel with. I hope that helps you find friends to learn from enjoy your hobby and learn about your 4x4 and your transmission.

building a hi performance 400 turbo dvd

Q I have a Dana 35 rear axle from a Cherokee XJ. Did these have a low pinion standard? I am at the tail end of a build and had a moment of confusion, so I am looking for this answer. Also, does the pinion engage the ring gear on the right side standard when looking at the differential from the opposite side of the yoke?

A Yes, the Dana 35 is a low-pinion axle and the pinion is on the right/passenger side of the axle when looking at the diff cover side. I hope you didn’t install it upside-down.

Q Great, thanks for the help. But not great because I welded my truss and coil mounts on the wrong side.

A Oh bummer, dude, that sucks. That’s not going to work, but you’re not the first. I have heard of guys who installed a rear axle in the front during a solid axle swap because they didn’t know front axles had knuckles. Other guys have flipped their low-pinion axle over thinking they could make a high pinion and then wondered why their tires turned opposite directions front and rear. Plus, numerous gearheads have built engines, axles, and so on and forgot to add oil on their first test drive, only to smoke their new parts. Don’t worry; they make torches, cutoff wheels, and grinders to fix this problem. It just takes metal and time to cut, grind, and reweld. Or maybe this is the 4x4 gods trying to tell you to invest in a Dana 44 or Ford 8.8 instead of that weak Dana 35. Good luck!

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Nuts, I’m Confused
Women like Welding
Q OK, so here’s the deal. My husband has always been a garage monkey. As I bake cookies and wipe the noses of my children he grinds, welds, creates, repairs, and rebuilds.

Last year he finally got me a Jeep, a ’96 two-door XJ. Since we are located in Pennsylvania (home of much rusty sheetmetal) it was going to be quite a project if it was to be done right.

Since our business, TrailTubes, is selling do-it-yourself kits and since eventually it is going to be my pink Jeep, I decided I need to work on my own Jeep for two reasons. First, there’s nothing less manly than a guy driving his wife’s pink rig into a “chick” show or event just to have it win when you know he did the work and she couldn’t give a rip. Second, if I can learn this, then I can encourage the men (and women) out there who don’t currently fabricate that they too can do it.

So this spring I have learned to use torches, weld, and grind.

Here’s my problem. Why didn’t anyone tell me garage work can be enjoyable and fun? Why are men whining and moaning pretending they don’t like it? Welding is like an art! I can hardly believe it! You sneaky men have us doing the hard work in the house while you get to create! I am totally confused as to why some men don’t get out there and try this. I know my husband has a lot of work in this project too and is my supervisor. I’m slow, so he gets way more done, but it makes me wonder why aren’t men having their buddies teach them? Why aren’t more women doing this with their men instead of complaining at them for being in the garage?

My Jeep is almost done—I can’t wait! And now that I know how to use torches and welders, you better watch out!

A If we told all the women how much fun working in the shop is, who would make us cookies? OK, I’m kidding. The truth is I try not to discriminate against anyone getting into this hobby. There are a lot of notable women who four-wheel, wrench, fabricate, and like getting dirty in the shop just like you’re finding out.

I agree that it’s great for everyone to know how their 4x4 works and enjoy using it off-road and fixing it up in their shop, garage, or driveway. People across the spectrum are getting into wheeling, and learning how to wrench, weld, and repair their 4x4s is an integral part of that. The best reason is that if you know how it goes together you can fix it if it breaks on the trail.

Of course, then there is the other end of the spectrum where some people (men and women alike) are just clumsy klutzes in the garage and they have learned that they are much better at something else.

Take my friend Brad. He owns a pizza shop. He really wanted to build a custom 4x4, but he knew that his time was better spent slinging pies. He had built an old beater 4x4 before, but knew that the custom type of rig he really wanted was outside his realm of knowledge. He could have dedicated years to learning, or he could throw a few extra pies in the oven and save up the money to have his dream machine built. And he did just that.

The fact is that a lot of people have awesome skills at fabricating and other people have excellent skills at other stuff, like being doctors, lawyers, French horn players, farmers, or cookie makers. As far as I’m concerned, as long as you’re investing in the off-road industry (either with sweat equity or cash-money with a quality off-road shop), you’re doing something good. But this does bring me back to the point that knowing how it works the way it works is important in case all of a sudden it stops working and you need to fix it.

I’m picking your letter as this month’s Nuts, I’m Confused winner, not because I think we need more women wrenching, welding, and wheeling (although I do), and not because you have a question that I think is relevant to a lot of other readers (or readers’ wives, sisters, mothers, or girlfriends). I picked it because this month’s prize if from Dickies. Dickies specializes in work wear, and whether you’re getting dirty on the trail or while welding on your Jeep, it’s important to wear the right stuff. I noticed in one of your photos that you decided to skip the tanning salon or sitting by the pool, and rather opted to weld in your tank top, shorts, and flip-flops. I commend you on your multitasking, getting a good tan and working on the Jeep at the same time, but even though we have shown our own editor-in-chief welding in sandals multiple times, I can’t recommend this type of skin-cancer-enhancing action. So as a reward to your hard work on your own Jeep, your enthusiasm and support for women and men alike to get in the garage and do some work, and the fact that it’s obvious you could use some more appropriate work attire, we’ll be sending you a Dickies Heavyweight Fleece sweatshirt and T-shirt. Dickies has a full line of quality work wear in both men’s and women’s sizes and styles for everything from nurses to fabricators. No matter what your profession, Dickies can get you outfitted for work and play and, of course, wheeling. Find out more at

Plus, for all you other readers, Dickies is offering 15 percent off your next online purchase now through December 31, 2013, when you use the exclusive discount code WDFWD. Just enter the code at time of purchase.

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Submission Information
Confused? Email your questions about trucks, 4x4s, and off-roading tech using “Nuts, I’m confused” as the subject and include a picture (if it’s applicable). Digital photos must measure no less than 1600 x 1200 pixels (or two megapixels) and be saved as a TIFF, an EPS, or a maximum-quality JPEG file. Also, I’ll be checking the forums on our website (, and if I see a question that I think more of you might want to have answered, I’ll print that as well. Otherwise drop it old-school style with the envelope addressed to the address below. Letters published in this magazine reflect the opinions of the writers, and we reserve the right to edit letters for clarity, brevity, or other purposes. Write to: Nuts & Bolts, 4-Wheel & Off-Road, 831 S. Douglas St., El Segundo, CA 90245 fax to: 310.531.9368 Email to:

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