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Techline - March 2014

Posted in How To: Tech Qa on February 11, 2014
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Hard Start
I am the proud new owner of a ’99 Jeep Wrangler. The guy I purchased the Jeep from said that he thought the fuel pump was going out, because it was hard to start. Currently, I have to cycle the key two or three times before it will run. I called my local Jeep dealership and they wanted over $400 for the factory-replacement fuel pump assembly. I can hear the pump come on, so I don’t think the pump is bad. Do you have any suggestions?
Justin W.
Via email

I encountered a similar problem on my ’97 Wrangler. Typically, if it takes a few turns of the key before the engine will fire, the culprit is either a leaky injector, or more likely, the fuel pressure regulator has gone bad. The regulator is what prevents fuel from draining back into the tank from the feed line. On my Wrangler, the regulator was at the top of the tank. After dropping the tank, I pulled the entire pump assembly and replaced the pressure regulator, along with the filter and pump. I was equally shocked at how expensive the factory fuel pump assembly was from the dealer. I ended up purchasing the individual replacement parts I needed from my local parts house for about a quarter of the price.

Used 4x4
I am a 17-year-old senior in high school. I have been reading Four Wheeler online and in print ever since I got my license. I’m looking for a recommendation for a used American-made 4x4 that has a manual transmission and isn’t overly expensive. It has to have air bags, be able to pass smog, and not need a ton of work since it will be my daily driver and wheeler.
Sean Jensen
Via email

It sounds like a well-kept pre-owned late-model Ford Ranger would fit what you are looking for nicely. In a perfect world, you could find a low-mileage ’97 Ranger that’s paired with the 4.0L, V-6 engine. Considering that a truck built in 1997 is now 15 years old, finding one in primo condition could prove to be challenging. If you are financing the pickup, a newer model will be easier to get a loan for. A Ranger built within the past seven years would probably be your best bet. I chose the Ranger over the S-10/Colorado simply because the enthusiast following and aftermarket support is greater for the Ford. Websites such as and are both fine places to get additional Ranger info and possibly find a good buy in the classified sections.

Buy, Build, Wheel
I’m thinking about buying a Jeep Wrangler and have some questions. New or used? If used, what to look for? Is the Rubicon worth the extra cash? Is a Nissan Frontier even close to the off-road performance of a Wrangler?
Forrest Hilderbrand
Via email

If you intend for the Jeep to be your daily driver and have the funds to start with a fresh platform, new is a great way to go. These days, you can even purchase the Jeep already modified with aftermarket bumpers, suspension, tires, and wheels directly from the dealer. Purchasing the Jeep new with dealer-installed goodies is a newer trend, and especially desirable among guys who daily drive their Jeeps and want the assurance of a factory warranty. If you plan on wrenching on the Jeep yourself, and don’t think a warranty claim would be worth the trouble, then used is a more affordable way to go for sure.

The 3.6L engine in the ’12-current Wranglers offers a 83hp and 23 lb-ft of torque advantage over the ’07-’11 3.8L engine, so they are more favored. The later-model Wranglers also received interior refinements which may be a plus or minus to you, depending on how fancy you want your Jeep to be. Full-doors with an automatic transmission are two items I would opt for, but those are more of a personal preference than a warning against half-doors and a manual transmission. A soft top will save weight and be easier to remove, but a hardtop will provide more security for your items and reduce in-cab noise. If you see yourself hitting the trail more than the pavement, do your best to keep the Jeep light.

As for the Rubicon, it goes back to whether or not you intend to heavily modify the Jeep. Having selectable lockers, Dana 44 axles, mud-terrains, a 4:1 T-case ratio, and an electronic-disconnect sway bar will make your Jeep outperform nearly any other stock 4x4 off-road. The Rubicon axles are excellent for up to 35-inch-tall tires, so if that’s as far as you think you’ll go with the Jeep, the investment and off-road performance advantages will be well worth opting for the ’Con. Something to keep in mind as well, the Rubicon is very much a rockcrawler package.

The 4:1 low range is great for low-speed wheeling, but the standard 2.72:1 ratio actually provides a more versatile low-range gear for running in places where wheel speed is important (mud, snow, sand). A base Wrangler Sport has a MSRP of $22,395, whereas the Rubicon has a base MSRP of $30,695. You can have a lot of nice aftermarket parts for $8,300.

In regards to the Nissan Frontier, it is a great truck. But, the Frontier isn’t really comparable to the Wrangler in a traditional sense. The Nissan can out-haul and carry more gear than the Wrangler, but off-road, the Wrangler is in a class all its own. If you want something that is easily modifiable, works great off-road, and has an immense aftermarket support, it’s hard to beat the Wrangler.

Raptor on Ice
To start, I thought the “4x4 Tire Guide,” (April ’12) was the best and most useful I’ve ever seen. The four-star format was great for comparisons. In my home state of Pennsylvania, my main issues are snow and ice. I have a camp with a long and steep access road. In 2010, I bought a Ford Raptor hoping to end any problems of getting up the lane to camp, but the road is too steep for the truck if the snow is 18 inches or higher. I know that the open front diff is an issue, but I think that the tires are, too.

It seems that everyone loves those wide and aggressive tires (myself included), but in Pennsylvania, where the snow doesn’t get very deep and the freeze/thaw cycle creates lots of ice, I don’t think wide is good. I don’t need flotation, I need to dig down and bite. I think that Ken Brubaker hit the nail on the head in the tire article “Choosing Wisely,” (April ’13) under the heading “Snow,” when he said that he likes a narrow all-terrain for daily driving. Although, he does mention the BFG All-Terrain T/As that I have on the Raptor, which were given only two stars in snow.

Once, when I was walking up the camp lane (because the truck didn’t make it), I came to the spot where the truck stopped. There was a hard semicircle where the front tire stopped that was difficult to kick apart. Pushing the tire through the snow has to hurt forward progress. The problem I am having is where do I get a tall and narrow all-terrain that would fit the Raptor? It seems as though anything smaller than the 35s that came on the truck would look dumb. There are some tall and narrow mud tires, but as the guide shows, they aren’t always the best in snow, and definitely not ice. In the meantime, I guess it’s time to stuff that front diff.
Joe Rouzer
Via email

When Ford introduced the SuperCrew Raptor in 2011, the company actually hauled a handful of editors up to the Smither’s Winter Test facility in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula to see how well the Raptor would handle over various snow, ice, and winter-mix conditions. The all-terrains on your Raptor are actually engineered to increase grip over winter roads. This was a point that Ford was eager to point out when I was hammering the throttle through the snow-covered test track. I remember being impressed with how the truck performed overall, although unlike you and Brubaker, I don’t live in a place that sees much, if any snowfall (yay for me!).

Traditionally, I simply air down (sometimes in the single-digit range with beadlocks) to provide a wider footprint, and give the truck more floatation over the white stuff. My snow-wheeling adventures have also always been with heavily modified rigs. Since Brubaker has more snowbound expertise, I asked him to chime in. Here is what he had to say:

“Joe, as you know, snow depth and consistency varies widely and one snowfall can differ greatly from another in regards to traction (influenced by factors such as whether the snow is “dry” or “wet,” for example). I agree with you that a narrow tire is a good choice overall for your Raptor. I’ve had good luck with narrow all-terrain and even some mud-terrain tires. I look for a tire with lots of siping, which helps generate traction on ice. If the all-terrain isn’t working for you and you don’t want to run an aggressive mud-terrain, perhaps you should look at a hybrid all-terrain/mud-terrain tire like the Dick Cepek Fun Country ( or the Cooper Discoverer S/T MAXX ( These tires have a more aggressive tread pattern than a standard all-terrain, but they’re not as aggressive as a mud-terrain. A good resource for determining what sizes and options are available for your truck is Tire Rack (”

Durango Builder
I have a ’98 Dodge Durango 4x4 with 122,000 miles, and for the most part, it’s all stock. I want to make some modifications to it in the way of a front bumper (with provisions for a winch), tires, wheels, and a lift kit (if anyone still makes one for these vehicles). Where would be a good place to start looking for these parts and any other parts I might need to make this happen? I plan on doing a complete rebuild for the engine and transmission, possibly the transfer case if needed. What are some other areas I need to look out for on this model?
Via email

I built a ’99 Dodge Durango a few years ago and learned a lot about the platform. The sad reality is that the aftermarket isn’t as strong for the Durango as it is for other makes. The good news is that there are companies that offer some of the key items that you are looking for. Winch Ready ( offers a 3⁄16-inch steel front bumper that has provisions for aftermarket lights and up to a 9,000-pound winch. Tuff Country Suspension ( makes a 5.5-inch suspension lift, and Performance Accessories ( offers a 3-inch body lift.

The biggest challenge to keeping your Durango surviving off-road will be to keep the IFS frontend in one piece. Your stock CV axles are known to fail when operating angles are too much, and shock-load can devour them easily as well. Keep your front differential open and go easy on the throttle—this will help your frontend live longer. I would also look into placing a locker in your rear axle. The added traction will take some of the stress off of the frontend and allow you to crawl more carefully off-road.

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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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