I have a ’87 Dodge W250 single cab with a six-inch lift. I am looking into putting Mickey Thompson MTZ tires on it and wanted to get your opinion. I am getting ready to be stationed in Alaska, so I need something that can perform year-round. My other question is about headers. I have cracks in the factory exhaust manifolds and figured that I might as well upgrade to headers. Do you have an opinion on brands? Are they worth it?
I have the 5.9L 360ci V-8 engine and automatic transmission. Any other upgrade suggestions are welcomed as well. One last thing—do you have any experience with a leaky rear-main seal and the best/cheapest fixes? I am skeptical to try any stop leak and don’t have the ability to pull the engine and transmission myself.
(Editor Cappa replies:)
The Mickey Thompson MTZ (www.mickeythompsontires.com) should work well in most cases in Alaska since you’ll be dealing with mud and snow. It’s a good choice given the terrain you will likely run into. The only problem could be solid-ice performance. The factory sipes in the tire will at least help in the ice and you can add more sipes to further improve performance.
Yeah, headers are worth it. Look for some stainless headers (they can be expensive), or some that are coated with HTC, ceramic, or a similar material to keep them from rusting. Go with the thickest tubing and flanges you can find. Several manufacturers offer applications for your truck. It should be a common application.
I think you will want some cold-weather mods like a block heater, maybe dual batteries, proper cold-weather fluids, extended breather lines (in case of deep water crossings), and maybe Howell fuel injection (www.howellefi.com), and a DUI distributor (www.performancedistributors.com). There really is no quick and easy way to stop a leaky rear main. If it’s not too bad of a leak, live with it. Not a cheap repair. If it’s losing quarts at a time, you’ll want to get it fixed. Look on the bright side though, the leaking oil will keep the back end of your truck from rusting!
I discovered your magazine while waiting on the wife at Wal-Mart. I must say, I’m quite impressed with the technical info, unbiased opinions, and available aftermarket products such as outlined in the Parts Rack section. Out here on the Kentucky farm it makes for good reading. I manage things at home with a ’98 Ram 4x4 that has a 360ci V-8 and a gooseneck ball. To travel back and forth to North Carolina to see the family during the holidays I use my ’99 Toyota Tacoma TRD 4x4. I lost my right leg above the knee in 1994, and so I’m strictly an automatic transmission and left-footed driver.
There’s no problem with Dodge between the gas and brake pedals, but the Tacoma started giving me trouble with clearance after a bout of nerve damage to the left foot two years ago (the foot can slip off the gas and/or brake from time to time). I’ve been wondering about moving the gas pedal to the left of the brake. There seems to be enough room. If you guys know of a company that could provide me suggestions for the Toyota, or perhaps a design suggestion from your staff, I would appreciate it.
I came across a few companies that specialize in selling and installing pedal conversions that move the accelerator pedal left of the brake. I would try Drive Master (973/808-9709, www.drive-master.com), as the company appeared to have a complete kit that could work for your Toyota. Most of the other conversions that I found appeared to be van-specific. Drive Master has a host of products and should be able to help you out.
I am a senior mechanical engineering major looking to pursue a career in the off-road industry. I have found it is hard to get plugged-in without having connections. I was wondering if you could provide any resources on further education or certifications that would allow me to be marketable. Also, as an office full of off-road minded individuals, any info on career advice, personal paths, etc. would be much appreciated. I have followed this magazine for several years now, and really enjoy the read.
For your question, I reached out to my friend and EVO Manufacturing Product Engineer, Andrew Perle. Andrew has been in the automotive and off-road industry for many years. Holding a degree in mechanical engineering as well, Andrew knows the challenges of breaking into the off-road industry better than most. Here is his response:
First off, let me congratulate you on your accomplishment thus far. A BSME is an incredibly difficult undergraduate degree, and making it to your last year deserves recognition. It is all downhill from there.
The off-road industry is a small group of talented people. Many manufacturers are small businesses and do not employ degreed engineers, but rather skilled and talented individuals who probably should be considered engineers, but do not possess a degree. This can be seen as an advantage for you, as your interest and assets could be of great service and credibility to any number of off-road organizations.
I too, was a mechanical engineering student with aspirations of becoming an engineer within the off-road Industry. My path led me to intern at a local off-road racing shop while in school. That opportunity gave me credibility as someone with experience and a desire in the automotive field, which helped me after I graduated and started interviewing for jobs. Any related experience matters. Look around your area for shops and manufacturers. Stop by and ask to help out. Paid or unpaid, sweep the floors, clean up, etc. Just do anything you can, so you are able to say in future interviews that you were involved with that business. Go to off-road events with displaying vendors, trade shows, and the like, and talk to people in businesses that you are interested in working with. Make connections with as many related people as you can.
Don’t limit yourself to just the off-road industry. It may be difficult to obtain a position at one of the businesses that operate in this field at first. Possibly, open up your search to the automotive industry as a whole. My first job was not in the off-road segment, but rather as a drafting temp for a turbocharger manufacturer in the automotive aftermarket. It was a very well-run company with a highly-skilled engineering staff that took me under their wing and trained me a great deal about design and engineering. This temp position was a risk and not really what I wanted to do at first. But, it gave me a great deal of knowledge and skill, which opened the door for future opportunities and thereby lead me back to the off-road aftermarket. Nearly all manufacturers in the automotive aftermarket segment use similar engineering criteria, therefore, skills gained through any engineering position could be transferred into the off-road industry later down the road. Experience is the key to any job position, so get it wherever you can.
Good luck and congratulations one year from now.
Andrew Perle, BSME
EVO Manufacturing LLC
How prone to tearing off or failing is the front track bar (axle side) on the Jeep Wrangler JK? Do you have to be driving the Jeep like a KOH buggy or rock bouncer to rip it off?
In stock form (the Jeep is completely unmodified) you would have an extremely difficult time destroying the factory track bar bracket. Both the Dana 30 and Dana 44 axles offered in the Jeep Wrangler JK have high and low points, but you would be more likely to bend the axlehousing or destroy a ball joint driving aggressively off-road in a stock JK. In a modified JK, the chances of destroying the bracket can be higher, but much of it depends on the geometry of your suspension and how the Jeep is outfitted. There are countless aftermarket suspension systems available for the JK, and just as diverse as the lift kit options, are the way the companies address the track bar(s) on the Jeep.
Some companies opt for relocation brackets that can adjust the track bar position at the frame or axle. Others may replace the track bars altogether, or even leave them untouched. We’ve seen a few JKs with what we would consider less-than-desirable track bar brackets and relocation mounts. Occasionally, the light-duty brackets (and sometimes aftermarket track bars) will fail.
Another reason I’ve seen track bar brackets fail was due to lack of maintenance. If you are going to wheel your rig, you have to get in the habit of doing a bolt check after you take it on the trail. This is especially important if you daily drive the Jeep. Paint marking your bolts will save you time, as a quick glance will indicate if the bolt is loose. A track bar bolt that has gone untouched (remained loose) can oblong the hole, which can damage the bracket and cause the dreaded death wobble.
Sure, there are other ways and scenarios for how the factory track bar bracket could fail in a given scenario, but I wouldn’t consider it a common issue. If you are looking for an upgrade, and have enough lift to accommodate the conversion, I suggest looking into the EVO MFG Draglink Flip Kit (www.evomfg.com). The EVO kit comes with a heavy-duty track bar bracket that mounts to the axle and actually raises the track bar from its original location. Raising the track bar at the axle is actually better than lowering it at the frame, as it helps increase the roll center of the vehicle to create a more controlled and stable Jeep.
Since the conversion raises the track bar from its original position, a new draglink is provided that will now bolt above your steering knuckle rather than below. This setup betters the operating angle and helps with steering feel. I ran the EVO Draglink Flip Kit on my ’08 Jeep Wrangler Unlimited JK for years without a single problem (still retained the factory track bar as well).
Bumper and Injection
I am rebuilding my high school truck. It is a ’80 GMC ¾-ton with a 454ci V-8, SM465 transmission, and is currently sitting on 37-inch Super Swamper Irok tires. I am building it as an off-road toy that will also be a daily driver. My goal is to build the kind of machine capable of long distance camping trips way off the beaten path. My current issue is trying to decide on which fuel injection kit to install. It has to be very durable, last through mud, water, and the minus 40-degree winters we get up here in northern Canada. It also would be great if it were fairly easy to install, without having to do lots of tuning or wiring. I would also like something that isn’t too expensive, (I know, I am asking a lot), as I can only put so much towards the truck at a time. The other part I’m looking for is a rear winch bumper with a hitch. I haven’t had much luck with my search. Thank you for your time and keep up the awesome work!
There are numerous fuel injection conversions on the market, but maybe one of the most installer-friendly kits I have installed was the Powerjection III by Professional Products (www.professional-products.com). There’s minimal wiring and tuning involved, and the price-point is inline or below some of the other companies. The module bolts directly in place of your carburetor and only requires a few minor hookups and adjustments. In terms of tuning, you will need a laptop. This is so you can input a few of the required data numbers to create a base map for the engine to operate off of. It may seem a little overwhelming, but it is very easy.
One of the most important numbers you will need to know for the Powerjection III is your engine’s estimated torque. If you have a tuning shop nearby that can dyno your rig, it will be worth it to get the exact number. If you can spring for a tuning session, the money and time will be well spent with an experienced engine tuner. I receive press releases frequently from companies promoting new performance and budget-friendly fuel injection kits. I would shop around online parts sites like Summit Racing (www.summitracing.com), so you can view and compare the latest fuel injection systems. Edelbrock, Holley, and MSD are all trustworthy names that offer great injection kits as well.
As for a rear bumper, Reunel (www.reunel.com) offers a plate-steel rear winch bumper for your truck. Another rear bumper option would be one from Offroad Design (www.offroaddesign.com). The ORD bumper is a tubular rear bumper that’s made for your specific application as well, but it does not have an integrated winch mount like the Reunel. You could always run a removable winch receiver mount, such as those offered from Warn (www.warn.com). This would help you maintain a better departure angle, and depending on what front bumper you choose, you could slide the winch in the front or rear when you need it.
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