Struts Her Stuff
I daily drive a ’06 Toyota Tundra Crew Cab, 4.7L V-8, with a pro-shop-installed 5.5-inch Fabtech Suspension lift. I’ve always run 35x12.50 Cooper mud-terrain tires because they are awesome! Since the lift was installed in 2009, I have blown out and replaced the front struts several times. Once again, the struts need replacing. My boyfriend suggested something along the lines of the Bilstein 5160s. The pro shop wants to, yet again, install Fabtech products. I’m over Fabtech and the pro shop. Now, as a “starving student,” I don’t want to continue this expensive cycle.
Mechanically capable, we plan to tackle the strut install ourselves. I am budget-minded, but I don’t want to find myself replacing the struts again in a few months. What options do you recommend? I am not an extreme wheeler, but I like to take my truck out in the backroads to see what I can make it through, or how stuck and unstuck I can get. Additionally, the truck has a wicked high-speed vibration (over 45mph) in the steering wheel that started after the lift was installed. Would a better strut system remedy this? Thanks for being a great magazine. I look forward to your educated input and getting long-term use out of my new struts!
There can be a number of factors that are causing your struts to fail, but if you are not satisfied with the Fabtech products, I completely understand wanting to try something else. As far as replacement struts or coilovers, you have a few options. If you two are leaning towards the Bilstein product line, that is perfectly fine—they make great stuff. I suggest contacting Bilstein (www.bilsteinus.com) directly, as there may be a few valving options for your application. King Shocks (www.kingshocks.com) and Fox Racing Shocks (www.ridefox.com) are also two reputable shock manufacturers that specialize in performance and factory-replacement shocks.
As for your wobble, if it began immediately after the lift install, I would have taken the truck back to the pro shop. A loose bolt, worn factory steering or suspension components, poor alignment, a bad bearing, or even unbalanced wheels can all contribute to your steering wobble. Since you will be replacing your struts, this would be a great time for a detailed suspension inspection and re-torque. Put a wrench on every nut and bolt that holds your suspension and steering components in place. Look closely for any worn rod ends or play in the wheel bearings. After you get finished torquing each bolt, use a paint marker to draw a line across the hardware. This will help make sure you hit every nut and bolt, and if something does come loose, it will be easy to spot.
Once you have installed the new struts, I would take the truck in for a fresh alignment, preferably at a shop that is familiar with lifted trucks. It wouldn’t hurt to have the wheels balanced and rotated at the same time.
Do you know if anyone makes a solid axle conversion for an ’03 GMC Sonoma?
There are a few companies that offer S-10 solid axle conversions that should work fine for your Sonoma. Diversified Creations (www.diversifiedcreations.com) offers a kit that requires the use of a Jeep TJ, XJ, or ZJ front axle (the company suggests the Dana 44 front from a ’03-’06 Jeep Wrangler Rubicon TJ). The Diversified Creations kit is a multilink system that uses coils and shocks up front. Another option would be Off-Road Direct (www.offroaddirect.com). The Off-Road Direct kit is a leaf-spring conversion and will require sourcing additional components (springs, shock mounts, and so on) elsewhere. Another good avenue, if only for reviews and inspiration, would be to check out the enthusiasts’ forum S-10 Extremist (www.s10extremist.org).
I would like your thoughts on my ’10 Jeep Wrangler Rubicon. It’s a two-door model with a hardtop, automatic transmission, and a mostly stock powertrain with the exception of a K&N air filter and cat-back exhaust. The Jeep currently has a two-inch lift, stock tires and wheels, and 31,500 miles on the odometer. Most of the miles are on-road, but some are from hard off-roading trails. I am thinking about a supercharger, more specifically, the one offered from Magnuson. What do you think of this? Also, I am thinking of changing tires to a Toyo, but I can’t decide between an all-terrain or mud-terrain? I’m looking at either a 285/70R17 or 295/70R17. I am still unsure if I will leave the stock wheels on or swap them out for something else.
Michael D. George
(Editor Cappa replies)
A supercharger is a great option if you need more power, but don’t want the expense of swapping in a V-8. We recently installed a Magnuson supercharger (www.magnacharger.com) on our four-door ’07 Jeep Wrangler Unlimited Rubicon project vehicle. We’re collecting some long-term data and have found that fuel economy suffers greatly, plus it requires 91 octane. We’re getting 9-12 mpg most of the time, but the power output has been fantastic. See our January 2014 issue for more detailed information.
As for choosing between an all-terrain or mud-terrain tire, it all depends on the kind of terrain you frequent. Mud-terrain tires tend to have more rolling resistance over an all-terrain tire and can create a bit more road noise. If you wheel in mud and loose dirt, then the mud-terrain is most definitely the way to go. If you prefer dry and rocky trails and spend most of your time on-road, then an all-terrain tire should fit your needs well. As far as size is concerned, your stock tires are around 32.1 inches.
The sizes you have listed are not much larger than stock or much different than each other even. The 285/70R17 is 32.8 inches tall and the 295/70R17 is 33.54 inches tall. Either will fit fine on the stock wheels. As far as swapping out wheels, that is totally up to you. At a certain point, you’ll need less backspacing if you go with a substantially wider tire than stock. This is mostly due to the fact that the tires will come into contact with the suspension control arms (this is especially an issue with the rear upper arms).
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