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Techline: Your Top 4x4 And Off-Road Tech Questions Answered Here

Posted in How To: Tech Qa on October 9, 2017
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Wagon Lift

I have a ’15 Ram Power Wagon and would like to put 37-inch tires on it, but nobody makes a lift kit for it! The 2500 kit will not work. AEV only has a 3-inch lift with new springs and shocks. Can you help?

Gary Wrisley
Via facebook.com/fourwheelermag

The Ram Power Wagon suspension is nearly identical to the suspension under other Ram 2500 trucks. Of course there are small differences, such as the Articulink control arm and electric disconnecting sway bar, but the suspension mounts on the frame and axles are the same. Many different lift companies offer lifts for the ’14-’17 Ram 2500 and Power Wagon.

Since 35-inch tires fit a stock Power Wagon with only minor rubbing, a 3-inch lift is all you need to clear 37-inch tires. The AEV (aev-conversions.com) 3-inch lift kit is available for the ’15 Power Wagon. It does not include new coil springs. It retains your factory coils for a good ride and great articulation. The kit provides suspension lift via coil spacers and bolt-on brackets that improve suspension geometry.

Frame Rust Repair

I have been a longtime Four Wheeler reader and fan. I own an ’07 Jeep JK. It is the first car I bought brand new while in the military. I love it, but my dad is wanting to ditch his ’00 TJ. This is the Jeep I learned to drive a manual in and cruised around town in with my high school buddies. I’ve decided that I want to sell my JK to buy his TJ. It only has 45,000 original miles. It’s got a BDS suspension lift, mud-terrain tires, 4.56:1 ratio axle gears, ARB Air Lockers, and so on. My dilemma is that his TJ has a lot of frame rust underneath, including one of the body mounts, which is rotted through on the tub side. I’m located in Cincinnati, Ohio, but I don't know of a reputable place to check it out, suggest pricing, and make repairs. Do you know how I can remedy this issue before the Jeep rots out? Any suggestions or advice you can give me would be greatly appreciated. Thanks for your time!

Chris
Via facebook.com/fourwheelermag

It’s hard to stop or even slow chassis and body rust in the salty-road states. The boxed TJ frame and body mounts are incredibly susceptible to this problem. Replacing the entire frame is costly and time consuming, so it’s typically not an option. Fortunately, companies such as Auto Rust Technicians (autorust.com) specialize in repairing rusty frames. The company offers a full line of Safe-T-Cap frame repair and reinforcement plates as well as body mounts for many different 4x4s including the ’97-’06 Jeep Wrangler. The Auto Rust Technicians shop is quite a haul from Cincinnati, but the company should be able to help you locate a shop that sells and installs Safe-T-Cap products locally.

Solid-Axle Swap Ranger

How easy or difficult is it to adapt Jeep solid axles under a ’93 Ford Ranger?

@high_altitude_outfitter
Via Instagram @cappaworks

Performing a solid-axle swap on an IFS 4x4 requires a lot of thought, planning, and at least some knowledge about suspension geometry and how it affects the handling of a 4x4 on- and off-road. Unfortunately, the only semi-bolt-on solid-axle conversion kit for your Ford Ranger requires quite a bit of cutting and the use of an early Bronco Dana 44 front axle, which admittedly can be hard to find. So it’s not what I would call an easy swap, but it is possible to do in your own garage. James Duff (dufftuff.com) offers all the components you need to sling the Bronco front axle under your Ford Ranger. The good news is that there are other options too. Many different companies supply parts to make this kind of conversion, so there are several ways to go about it. Which is best for you will depend mostly on your fabrication skill level and 4x4 chassis knowledge.

The most difficult method of putting a solid axle under your Ranger (or any 4x4) is to build everything from scratch. If you had the capability and know-how to do this, you probably would not have sent in your question, so we’ll move on.

The next most difficult method is to adapt a three- or four-link kit to your application. These universal link-style suspension kits are available from companies such as RuffStuff Specialties (ruffstuffspecialties.com). They require a moderate amount of knowledge about welding, fabrication, and suspension geometry. All of the hard work is done for you. These kits include links, frame and axle mounts, and all the rod ends required to locate the axle under your 4x4.

Another option is to remove the suspension brackets from the Jeep axle and weld James Duff C-bushing axle wedges onto the Jeep housing so you can use older Ford radius arms and frame brackets. The track bar assembly and steering linkage will need to be fabricated.

Perhaps the easiest way to put a Jeep solid axle under the front of your IFS Ford Ranger is to use already existing aftermarket parts and combine them with the factory Jeep suspension brackets on the axle. In your case, Low Range 4x4, (lowrange4x4.com) offers Ranger frame brackets that allow the use of aftermarket long-arm Jeep radius arms, which will bolt directly to the factory Jeep solid front axle. A track bar and track bar mounts will need to be fabricated along with steering linkage.

The Jeep rear axle will swap in much easier than the front. Among the other details such as brake lines and the driveshaft, you’ll simply need to locate and weld on the leaf spring perches in the proper locations, taking driveshaft angle into consideration.

Safe Winch Wiring

What is the proper way to connect a winch? I see mostly direct connection setups, but I’m concerned about a big ol’ short in the event of a front-end collision.

@robpendle
Via Instagram @cappaworks

Your concern is not unfounded. A heavy-gauge cable connected directly to the battery has a lot of potential to cause trouble in a collision. As you mentioned, winches are typically wired directly to the battery. The problem is that winches can draw up to and even more than 500 amps depending on winch model and the recovery load on the winch. You can’t easily install a 500-plus amp fuse or circuit breaker, and even if you could, everything up to 500 amps has the potential to do a lot of damage very quickly if a short were to occur. You could ease your mind by installing a Warn (warn.com) Quick Connect cable assembly on your winch leads. This would give you the ability to unplug the winch from the battery when not on the trail. A low cost alternative would be to remove the winch leads from the battery before hitting the road. This can be simplified with the use of marine-style battery terminals with wing nuts or a marine deep-cycle starting battery with threaded terminals.

MPG JK

Nowadays, there are a lot of daily driver Jeep and off-roaders. I drive hundreds of miles to get to some of the parks I go wheeling at. Would engine power-adders not only give me more horsepower but save gas on the long trip to and from locations? I’m thinking about adding a turbo. I have a ’12 JK Unlimited with the 3.6L, 4-inch lift, 35-inch tires, 4.88:1 ratio axle gears, steel aftermarket bumpers, and a lightbar. I have used a programmer to match the tires to the speedometer. The Jeep recently only got 12.6 mpg on a long trip. I traveled at 75 to 80 mph most of the time. I know wind resistance is a factor, but I didn’t think it would be that much. At times, I do get up to 15 mpg with the wind behind me. My overexcited foot behaves most of the time. I’m just trying to get a better fuel economy average. I could go to 4.56:1 ratio axle gears, but I’d miss that extra torque to the wheels.

Ronnie Longoria
Via facebook.com/JohnCappa4x4

Generally speaking, if your engine is making more power, you are burning more fuel. Only in very rare cases will an engine power-adder like a turbo increase fuel economy, and when it does it requires a very controlled throttle foot.

Correcting your speedometer for the increased tire size and deeper axle gearing is extremely important when calculating your fuel economy. Double-check the corrected speedometer with a GPS or other method. You’ll also want to do the actual at-the-pump math rather than depend on the in-dash mpg gauge. Your mpg can be calculated at each fill up by dividing the number of gallons of fuel used into the miles traveled for that tank of fuel.

There are many factors that need to be considered when trying to improve the fuel economy of your 4x4. For example, excessively heavy tire and wheel combinations require more power and fuel to spin. When shopping for tires and wheels, check their weights and consider the lighter weight options. Luggy mud-terrain tires also sip more aggressively from your fuel tank than less meaty all-terrain tires.

Optimize your tire pressures. Of course, higher tire pressures will improve fuel economy, but the faster uneven tire wear caused by over inflation will typically negate any fuel savings.

Given similar builds, those that live in hilly or mountainous areas should expect to get lower mpg numbers than those that live in the flatlands. If your 4x4 is loaded up with extra people, gear, heavy bumpers, a winch, or towing a trailer you should expect mpg to decrease too.

Contrary to what you might think, wind resistance plays a huge part in fuel economy, even more so as speeds increase. Basic physics here on planet Earth dictate that doubling velocity will quadruple the drag. The boxy Jeep Wrangler already has the wind resistance of a garage door. Adding a lift kit, larger tires, aftermarket bumpers, lightbars, roof racks, and so on doesn’t do your mpg any favors and neither does a headwind.

Your mpg of 12.6 seems pretty low for your relatively mild setup, but the speeds you are hitting are likely the cause for your poor fuel economy. The real bummer is that much more than 12-15 mpg can be had in nearly any stock modern V-8–powered fullsize truck. Many built four-door JK Jeeps can weigh 5,000-7,000 pounds! That’s the equivalent of driving a Ford F-250 powered by the JK V-6. You probably don’t want to hear it, but in your case I think a change in your driving habits will allow a much more significant improvement in fuel economy than any bolt-on power part. Some hypermiling tactics will go a long way to better mpg.

Right about now you’re probably thinking you should be swapping in the V-8 from one of those modern fullsize pickups. Unfortunately, the math just doesn’t add up. Most engine swaps will never pay for themselves with the increased fuel economy, even with a diesel swap.

Dana 80 Hybrid

How do you put Dana 60 end forgings on a Dana 80 4-inch axletube?

Levi Pankratz
Via facebook.com/JohnCappa4x4

A stock Dana 60 end forging is not bored out enough to fit over the larger Dana 80 4-inch axletube. Because of strength concerns, there may not be enough meat to bore out the factory Dana 60 end forging to 4 inches anyway. Your best bet is to upgrade to aftermarket end forgings. Dynatrac (dynatrac.com) offers a ProRock 80 axle with 4-inch axletubes, so the company surely has the parts available for the kind of conversion you are doing. The company also has inner and outer ball joint–style knuckles that house 40-spline axleshafts and 1550-sized U-joints for the ultimate in strength. Reid Racing (reidracing.biz) has kingpin Dana 60 end forgings available for 3-, 3 1/8-, and 3 1/2-inch axletubes, although I suspect they can be bored out for a 4-inch tube. Solid Axle Industries (solidaxle.com) offers kingpin Dana 60 inner knuckles with a 3-inch bore, but the company claims the knuckles can be bored out to fit larger axletubes. Spidertrax (spidertrax.com) offers a complete Pro Series 60 knuckle set that is designed for use on 4-inch axletubes. These are slightly different than the traditional Dana 60 kingpin or ball joint knuckles. They are made from welded together chromoly and house 7/8-inch spherical bearings in lieu of ball joints or kingpins. The assembly weighs two times less than a traditional Dana 60 knuckle assembly, and the design allows for up to 50 degrees of steering inclination. An OE Dana 60 knuckle only steers about 38 degrees.

Since you are starting with a massive Dana 80 centersection and axletubes, you might consider a knuckle assembly that is larger than what is found on the much lighter duty Dana 60. Ouverson Engineering (ouversonusa.com) offers massive 2.5-ton Rockwell-based knuckle assemblies. They can house a giant steering U-joint or an aftermarket Rockwell CV shaft from RCV Performance Products (rcvperformance.com). The spindles are forged from 4340 and bored for 2-inch-diameter, 47-spline axleshafts. If you are extremely hard on axle parts, this knuckle option will better match the strength of the Dana 80 ring-and-pinion.

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