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Techline - January 2014

Posted in How To: Tech Qa on December 12, 2013
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Photographers: Four Wheeler Staff

Clearly Appealing
I have a ’95 GMC Jimmy that the clearcoat is peeling in spots. I want to rattle-bomb (spray paint) the outside similar to how you did the Rescued Wrangler. Are there any precautions or tips I need to know?
Kyle Hunter
Via email

If the clearcoat is peeling heavily in areas, use 120- or 150-grit sandpaper on it. Once the area is smoothed out, spray on a coat of automotive primer. The goal is to build back the area you knocked down. Before I paint, I like to go over the rig with an orbital sander with a 320-grit pad. Be sure to wipe the rig down well with acetone before painting as well.

Limit Straps and IFS
I have an ’03 Ford Explorer XLT that’s four-wheel drive and rides on 32-inch-tall tires. I want it to be a good all-around on- and off-road SUV. Before someone says I should just buy a Jeep, I am 7-foot and 300 pounds. I have not found a Jeep that I can even fit in. The Explorer I fit in just fine. I just put on BTF’s 3-inch leveling spacers and they suggested I install limit straps. How do I know which kind and size needed?

Would it be better to install taller springs and struts? I was also wondering about wheel spacers. Maybe after I install a 3-inch body lift I could put on a 35- or 37-inch tire. Would the spacers affect the axle gearing in addition to the taller tire size? On the subject of IFS and IRS, will parts from any straight-axle rig work, or are there any specific axle manufactures that make better parts for them? I am still deciding on whether to install limited-slips or selectable lockers. I noticed on the ARB website that they only list a locker for the rear of my Explorer, so that may be my only option.
Richard Schlee
Via email

A limit strap works exactly as you would imagine it would. The strap’s sole purpose is to limit the suspension travel so it does not overextend and cause damage to the drivetrain and suspension components. Finding out what length of limit strap you will need requires drooping or decompressing the suspension to the point just before the suspension and driveline components are in a bind. While limiting your suspension travel may sound counterproductive for an off-road rig, it is actually a smart way to preserve your rig’s parts. You won’t go far off-road with a broken 4x4.

Most limit straps require welding on tabs to which the straps actually bolt to. As you alter your rig, it is possible to swap out the strap lengths to increase or decrease the amount of travel. The position at which you mount the limit straps and tabs will also factor in to what length you will need. Companies such as Poly Performance ( offer a variety of lengths and types of limit straps that can be used on your application.

Wheel spacers will not affect your gearing, though spacing your rims out will alter the vehicle’s stance and turning radius. The aftermarket for your generation Explorer hasn’t quite taken off like the early-gen SUVs, but it seems to be getting better. As far as aftermarket axle upgrades, RCV Performance ( is currently your best option. RCV specializes in custom high-angle CV axleshafts that can accommodate large amounts of travel as well as handle the stress loads of a larger tire. An ARB Air Locker ( placed in the rear of your rig would be money well spent over a limited slip, as the locking action of the differential when engaged will deliver more performance gains off-road.

Front Blocks
Please disregard if this is a stupid question, but I would like to know why I can’t run front lift blocks? In Florida, I see a bunch of guys using them on mud trucks. I have been told I just need to weld the block to the axle and that it will be OK. I am 16 and looking to build my first mud truck. Lift kits are expensive and it seems like lift blocks would be a cheaper way to lift my Blazer for now.
Ethan Bellmore
Via email

I completely understand how the allure of an inexpensive lift can draw you in. I too have encountered sky-high mud rigs with front lift blocks and cringed at some of the “home brewed” engineering that survives under the mega-swamp machines. To understand why front lift blocks are dangerous and a bad idea, you simply need to look at it from a basic physics perspective. Whether driving off-road or cruising down the freeway, your vehicle creates a certain amount of rolling momentum. Whenever the brakes are applied, nearly 70 percent of the vehicle’s weight is transferred forward, putting extreme stress on the front axle and suspension components.

When you add a front block into the equation, it elevates the leverage point on the front axle, causing the caster-shift to become even more dramatic. These forces can be enough to actually expel the front block out from between the axle and leaf spring. As you can imagine, an ejecting lift block can result in extreme damage to you, your rig, and presumably anyone in a close proximity. Sure, some argue that welding the front blocks to the axle can eliminate the block from shooting out.

The main issue is that welding cast material isn’t easy and generally requires someone with experience and the correct tools to create a safe and reliable weld. Even with the block welded, it doesn’t change the fact that the higher perch has increased the leverage point on the axle. Raising the leaf-spring mount on the front axle will also intensify the effects of lateral force, which can make for sketchy handling on- and off-road. Axlewrap, along with increased spring deflection are another set of issues now lumped in with the blocks. Ultimately, front lift blocks are dangerous and not worth the time and risk.

Military Axles
I’ve been trying to find good quality Axletech military axles. I’m located in Canto, Georgia, and in need of four axles, for two rigs I’m building. Any suggestions or advice would be greatly appreciated.
Holden Byess
Via Email

I would contact Memphis Equipment as it is the closest to your location. The company can be reached at 901/774-0600, If the company does not have what you are looking for you can start moving farther west with Red River Parts & Equipment (903/547-2226,, which is based out of Texarkana, Texas, or you can contact Boyce Equipment (800/748-4269,, which is in Ogden, Utah.

Triple Duty
I have a question about buying a used truck. I live in Rockford, Michigan and the family and I love to go to the Silver Lake Dunes. Anyway, I would like to buy a used truck to drive on the dunes as well as be a daily driver that’s able to pull a 20- to 28-foot camper trailer. I don’t have either at the present time. I’m researching what would be my best bang-for-the-buck truck. What are some of the things the truck should have? What kind of truck would be best? The family consists of me and my wife, our three daughters (10, 9, and 5) and two big dogs. Any help would be greatly appreciated.
Via email

It sounds like you are in the need of a used ¾- or 1-ton truck. While there are plenty of brands to choose from, the Dodge Ram Mega Cab might be the right platform for you and your sizable family. I would look for one fitted with the 5.9L Cummins diesel engine as it would offer you plenty of power for towing and wheeling. Depending on the mileage and use, you may find that the automatic transmission will need a rebuild. If this is the case, look to upgrade with an aftermarket company that specializes in transmissions such as ATS Diesel Performance ( or North American Diesel Performance ( Both of the aforementioned companies can build you a nearly bulletproof transmission, which will be important to handle the stresses of lugging the heavy rig in the dunes and pulling a large trailer.

The built transmission will also allow you to confidently install a mild performance programmer, which can net you more power and fuel economy. Another piece of the equation will be a suspension lift. The Ram has a decently-sized wheelwell that can clear a 35-inch tire with only a mild leveling kit (when matched with the stock wheel). When aired down, the 35s should work fine for your off-road needs. I would stick with some sort of traditional or mildly aggressive all-terrain tire. If you don’t mind spending the money for a higher-end suspension system and want an even larger tire, companies like Carli Suspension ( and BDS Suspension ( both make 6-inch kits which create room for much larger tires and also help with getting the land yacht that is the Mega Cab, a little higher off of the ground.

Grand Guy
I enjoyed your article on the ’14 Jeep Grand Cherokee in the July ’13 issue. What configuration would you recommend if one was to get the diesel? I am not that knowledgeable in this subject.
Steve Davis
Via email

The 3.0L EcoDiesel engine option starts with the Limited model line and is not available in the less expensive Laredo models. For that reason you will need to look at a Limited, Overland, or Summit model. While all three are extremely well-equipped, I would opt for the Limited as it is the least expensive. The main option I would go for would be Quadra-Drive II with the electronic limited-slip rear differential. If you plan to use the 7,000-pound towing capacity, then the Quadra-Lift air suspension option will be worth opting for as well. Special trim packages and add-ons are available, but that’s all up to you and what you are willing to invest in your new Jeep.

Tow Limit
I have an ’00 Chevy ½-ton that’s equipped with the 5.3L V-8 and automatic transmission. I am currently debating whether I can use the truck for a mobile pressure washing business that I would like to start. The truck would need to haul a trailer that I figure will weigh nearly 10,000 pounds fully loaded. Can my truck pull this much weight? It will likely only be for short distances, on mostly flat ground, until I can afford to trade it for a heavier-duty truck.
Karl Anderson
Via email

Pulling is only half the equation, stopping is the bigger issue. The tow ratings on your truck vary, but a ’00 Chevy ½-ton truck that’s equipped with an extended cab and four-wheel drive has max tow rating of around 7,500 pounds. Is it possible to tow a 10,000-pound trailer for a short distance? Yes. Would l recommend it? No. Stopping that sort of weight will be challenge for your ½-ton, especially at highway speeds.

Your rear springs will also sag heavily, or even bottom out under the load. Many of the current late-model ½-ton trucks are capable of pulling a 10,000-pound trailer, but if you are pulling that type of load frequently, I strongly suggest making the move to a ¾-ton as soon as you have the chance. Also keep in mind that towing over your vehicle rating is illegal in most states and can net you a sizeable fine.

Is Cheap Really Cheap?
I’ve been a subscriber for a few years now and want your opinion on building a ’96 Land Rover Discovery as a trail truck. My buddies suggested I ditch it and get a Jeep Cherokee XJ instead, but they are hard to find in solid shape for cheap. I can pick up a Rover with no rust and in good shape for pretty cheap. Any thoughts on this truck?
Jason Filipiak
Via email

Without question there is an enthusiast following for the Land Rover Discovery. In fact, we wrote about the Disco and common fixes and upgrades for it in the February ’09 issue. You can find that article online at www.fourwheeler.comunder the tech section. I won’t try and talk you out of building one, but I don’t want you to think that it is going to be cheap. Sure, your initial purchase price might not be too bad, but replacement and aftermarket parts for the Land Rover are expensive and can be difficult to locate.

You might have to spend a little more to find an XJ that’s in good condition, but the low cost of aftermarket parts and overwhelming support for the XJ places it ahead of the Rover in my book. I’m all for building unique rigs, but if cheap is what you are after, the Land Rover is not it.

Sandless Painting
For the ’Burb painting guy (Techline, Sept ’13), here is my XJ’s rattle-can paint job. I used Rust-Oleum’s sand color in a satin finish. I had a 20-year-old gray factory paint job with almost no clearcoat left. I prepped the surface by washing the Jeep with Simple Green and then used acetone to thoroughly wipe the XJ down. No sanding. I painted two-to-three light coats to eliminate lines. The paint sticks awesome, even after three years, to most of my skeptic’s surprise. The only touchup I’ve had to do was to cover trail damage.
Name withheld
Via email

Sanding isn’t always a necessity, but for many, it’s the only way to achieve a smooth and even finish. Sometimes you just have to shake the can and see what sticks!

Where To Write
Address your correspondence to: Four Wheeler, 831 S. Douglas St., El Segundo, CA 90245 or send an email to 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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