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Spindle Nut Issues, A Shelby Jeepster and Chevy S-10 Tire Options - Nuts & Bolts

Posted in How To: Tech Qa on June 13, 2015
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Shelby Jeepster?
Q I recently ran across a man with a convertible Jeepster. He told me it was either a 1966 or 1967 and it was a Carrol Shelby Edition. It has not seen the road for a decade or more, but it was under a carport. The V-6 engine has a four-barrel carburetor and headers. It also had chromed steel wheels and a small rectangular plaque on the dash to identify it as a Carroll Shelby Edition. I have looked all over the web and have not seen anything that connects Mr. Shelby to a Jeepster edition. I was wondering if you have any knowledge of such an edition.

A I personally have never heard of a Carroll Shelby Jeepster Commando, so I asked our resident Jeep nut and walking encyclopedia of Jeep trivia, Rick Péwé. He has no knowledge of any sort of performance edition Jeepster from that era, let alone one associated with Shelby.

Since that would have been about the time Shelby maintained very close ties with Ford, it seems unlikely that he would have partnered up with Kaiser or AMC to do a special Jeepster. The Jeepster you saw may have had some sort of tie to Shelby himself (maybe he owned it), but without any documentation, that’s just conjecture. Even if he did own it, it’s doubtful he would have bothered adorning it with plaques and such.

Interestingly, according to The Standard Catalog of 4x4s, AMC did release two special edition Jeepsters in 1971, which would have had the same body style as a 1967 model (there was no 1966 Jeepster). The SC-1 was based on the station wagon and had a butterscotch gold body with a white top and black Rallye striping. It had “SC-1” identification on the hood and body sides, and it had a V-6 engine, a luggage rack, and a radio as standard equipment. The second offering was a Hurst/Jeepster Special, which was a partnership between AMC and the Hurst Performance Company. They were all station wagons in white with red and blue Rallye striping down the center of the hood, cowl, and rear tailgate. Automatic-equipped Hurst Specials were equipped with a Hurst dual-gate shifter, while three-speed manuals received a Hurst T-handle shifter. A special ABS plastic hoodscoop, 15-inch foam steering wheel, and unique seat upholstery were also among the Hurst Jeepster’s standard features.

Though 500 Hurst/Jeepster Specials were planned, it is generally believed that only around 100 were built, and most of those were automatics. Perhaps the Jeepster you saw was one of these? If so, congratulations on locating a fairly rare Jeep, though it’s one that probably isn’t much more valuable than a regular Jeepster in the same condition. If you have the opportunity, send us some photos and we can research it further.

Roll Over Forward?
Q I have a 2003 Ram 1500 4x4 that is my daily driver and on weekends hauls tractors. It’s all stock and has lots of front-end sag: 4 inches different from the rear to the front, measured from wheel center to wheel arch. That inequality has killed many front rotors and pads and is now destroying wheel hubs. Just too much weight! If I don’t fix it and stop hard enough, it’s going to roll over forward one day! I changed my wheel hubs last week and noticed my axleshafts are slightly inverted at this point.

You guys have covered the pros and cons of leveling keys before, but what should I do when it gets this bad? Keys are often advertised to “fix sagging, worn-out bars.” So would it make sense to replace the sagged-out bars? Is there a stronger set available? I don’t like the idea of cranking up factory key bolts, and I don’t think I have enough “crank” left anyway. With this much rake, should I just get leveling keys, like 3-inch keys if they exist? That’s what I’m leaning towards.

Lastly though, is there maybe a 4-inch suspension lift that I could install and swap the kit’s rear blocks for some one inch blocks? I need to do something before that heavy Hemi’s oil pan starts dragging the ground! Diesel Smith

A My first thought is just how big are these tractors that you’re hauling around on the weekends? Tractors tend to be really heavy, and if you’re hauling them around all the time, you may be overloading your truck. Sagged-out torsion bars, burned up wheel bearings, and brakes that wear out frequently are all indicative of chronic overloading. If you are frequently towing and hauling loads right at the upper end or beyond your Ram’s rated hauling capacity, then the only thing that is going to fix your problem permanently is a heavier-duty truck. Half-ton trucks are great for occasionally hauling things and getting you from place to place, but they aren’t designed to be worked really hard for long periods of time.

If your tractors are more of the garden variety, then there are a few things you can do. While it’s normal for trucks to have a rake to them, 4 inches on a 1⁄2-ton is a bit much. If the CV shafts are running downhill to the differential, then the torsion bars on your truck are probably shot. Installing a set of leveling keys may help a little, but it’s really a band-aid and is not going to fix the root issue. Same thing with a lift kit; a lift kit relocates key front suspension components but still relies on the stock torsion bars to maintain ride height.

I would start with a new set of torsion bars from the dealer since they really aren’t all that expensive. I looked around to see if anyone offers a set of heavier-rated bars for your truck but came up empty. Ram only used torsion bar front suspension on its 1⁄2-ton trucks for four years, so aftermarket options are limited. You didn’t mention what cab and bed configuration your Ram has, but there are usually a variety of torsion bars with different ratings according to how the truck is equipped and sometimes even how it is optioned. You could try ordering a set from the heaviest 1⁄2-ton combination that was offered, such as a quad cab longbed with a camper package if something like that was available new. You might even get lucky and find a parts counterman who can dig up the different torsion bar ratings for you, which would eliminate a lot of guesswork. Once a fresh set of torsion bars in under the truck, then you can decide if you want to level it up further with a set of torsion keys or even go all-out with a lift kit.

Nutty Spindles Q I have a 1985 K5 Blazer with stock 10-bolt axles. I cannot keep the front spindle nuts from backing off. Does somebody make a fix for this, or is there a trick I don’t know about to prevent it? I’m running 35x12.50-15 tires with stock rally wheels modified with DIY4X beadlock rings. Is this something I have to live with because of tire size?
Terry Boyd

A You really shouldn’t be having trouble with the spindle nuts working loose if the nuts are in good shape and you are using the right tool to tighten them up. Plenty of people, including myself, have run 35s on 10-bolts (and Dana 44s, which use essentially the same spindle arrangement) without any issues.

The first thing I would do is take a look at the spindle nuts themselves. There should be an inner and outer nut with a lock washer sandwiched between them. The next time you are inside the wheel hubs, take the spindle nuts off and inspect the inner one closely. It should have a small pin in it that should point toward you (away from the bearing) when installed. The pin should engage one of the holes in the lock washer, and then the outer nut locks everything down. The trouble is a lot of people don’t notice the pin on the inner nut and install the nut improperly, which ends up shearing the pin. This defeats the whole purpose of the lock washer and often results in the nuts backing off. It’s common enough that more than half the time I’ve torn down the wheel hubs on a new-to-me 4x4 in order to service the wheel bearings, the pins on one or both inner spindle nuts are broken. If yours are broken, then it’s time for new spindle nuts. They are available at any parts store but you’ll probably have to purchase a complete set as the inners aren’t usually available by themselves.

Once you set the bearing preload with the inner nut (again, installed with the little pin pointed outward), install the lock washer. Make sure that it sits flush against the inner nut with the pin engaged in one of the holes in the lock washer. If it doesn’t, flip the lock washer over as this changes the position of the lock washer holes a little bit. Once you are sure the lock washer sits flush against the inner nut, install and tighten down the outer nut firmly. If you haven’t already, invest in a proper four-pronged spindle nut socket to tighten them down. I’ve never had much luck tightening them using a punch, and a punch ends up ruining the spindle nuts anyway.

2WD S-10 Tire Options
Q I’m 17, and I have a 2001 S-10 as my first vehicle. It’s my daily driver, but unlike most of the rigs in your magazine, it is (unfortunately) two-wheel drive. The factory tires are dinky, car-sized black donuts. Because of that, anything wider than 205s will rub at full turn. I want bigger tires because they look better for the truck, but it’s hard to locate LT tires in my size and there aren’t really any tires I do want in the size I want.

I have come to understand that backspacing is the distance from the back of the center of the wheel (where it mounts to the hub) to the edge of the back of the rim. Do I need more backspacing or less? My goal is to bring the tires and wheels out so as I can fit bigger/wider tires without having to use wheel spacers, and I am wondering what you guys would recommend.

Another question: Are automatic lockers not recommended for use in snow? I have read things that made me come to this conclusion, and would like to know if it’s true or not.
Tom Kyle

A First off, there’s nothing wrong with a two-wheel drive truck as your first vehicle. I would be willing to bet the majority of our readers had a 2WD as their first vehicle, and probably most of those were cars. S-10s are great first trucks. You shouldn’t let a lack of an extra drive axle stop you from exploring the backcountry.

You are correct on backspacing. Wheel manufacturers list backspacing as measured from the wheel mounting surface (where the wheel hub bolts up) to the edge of the lip on the inside rim. Therefore, a wheel with 3 inches of backspacing has less distance (often expressed as “shallower” backspacing) between the wheel hub and the inside lip than a wheel with 41⁄2 inches of backspacing (often expressed as “deeper” backspacing). However, in recent years many wheel manufacturers have started expressing backspacing as plus or minus in millimeters from the center of the wheel (zero offset), so a wheel with minus 5 mm (negative offset) has shallower backspacing than a wheel with 6 mm (positive offset).

The original equipment tire size on your S-10 is a 205/75-R15, which is about 27 inches tall, 8 inches wide, and hardly awe-inspiring. There aren’t many tires with an aggressive tread pattern in that size, though Interco Tire ( does make a 27x9.50-15 SSR that you could probably squeeze into the wheelwells with a little trimming. Though you could probably step up a tire size more with some additional creative trimming, S-10 wheelwells are fairly limiting in what you can fit. Rough Country ( offers an inexpensive 2-inch lift kit for your S-10 that includes front springs, add-a-leaves for the rear, and shocks. This kit makes enough room for a 30x9.50-15 according to the company. Even though that’s still fairly conservative compared to the tires you often see in this magazine, it will make a dramatic difference in the look and ground clearance of your S-10, especially if you choose a tire like the BFGoodrich ( Mud-Terrain T/A KM2 or a Goodyear ( Wrangler Duratrac. Avoid the urge to go with a much wider tire, as this will create fitment problems.

Though a good rule of thumb is to go wide as you go tall, be careful when choosing the backspacing for the wheels to wrap your new tires around because sometimes a shallower backspacing can make tire fitment worse. The stock wheels on your S-10 should be 7 inches wide with a backspacing of 33⁄4 inches, and it’s a good idea to stick fairly close to that with your new wheels, especially if you stay with a tire that is under 10 inches wide. If you decide to go with a slightly wider wheel, such as a 15x8, you will need a slightly deeper backspacing to compensate for the increased wheel width. Using the stock wheels as a guide will keep the tire’s contact patch close to where it should be with your new tire and wheel combination. If you go with a wheel that has a very shallow backspacing, you will likely end up with tires that stick out past the fenders (which could attract the attention of local law enforcement) and will hit the fender lips more so than a wheel with deeper backspacing that keeps the tires tucked nicely into the wheelwell.

As for your locker question, you are correct that automatic lockers are generally not recommended for snow and ice. While an open differential offers much less traction than an automatic locker, when traction is broken an open differential enables the tire not spinning to act as an anchor, so the vehicle has less of a tendency to slide side-to-side. With an automatic locker, both tires spin regardless of traction, which means the rearend has a much greater tendency to slide. If you live in a part of the country where white stuff falls from the sky in winter, a selectable locker is the way to go.

Submission Information
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