Manual Gear SwapsI have a '93 Ford Ranger short wheelbase with a 2.3L four-popper, a five-speed manual transmission, 4.10 gears, and a Borg-Warner transfer case. I could use some lower gearing for off-road travel. Since the transfer case is probably pretty hopeless and I don't have the know-how to change the front differential gearing, is it possible to have a granny gear put in the transmission?
I've read about automatic gearing changes, but I don't remember anything about getting lower gears in a manual. I think it would be great to have the granny gear for off road and still have overdrive for the highway. Is it possible?Mac Houston4wheeloffroad.com
We aren't aware of any optional gearsets with lower ratios for your manual transmission. Typically, an OEM will use the lowest gears available in a transmission destined to be used behind its four-cylinder engine. We have to believe Ford would have given the engine as much leverage on the tires as it could; that's why your truck has 4.10 gears. To get lower gearing, your options are to swap the axle gears, add an auxiliary underdrive like a Klune-V (www.klunev.com), or swap in a whole new transmission with better ratios. Our advice is to go with the axle gear swap. If you're convinced it's too scary to do yourself (and it could be), find a reputable differential shop to do the work.
More Rubbing TiresI have a '97 V-8 Dodge Ram 4x4 single cab. I was wondering what size engine is in it. I also have a problem with my Mud King XT steel radials (LT285/75-16) mounted on the stock rims. The tires rub on the back side when you turn it real sharp to the left or right. I talked to a guy at a local tire shop and he said the only way to fix it was to move the wheels out so the tire sits away from the frame, or to get a smaller tire. I have been wanting to put a lift kit on it. Would this fix the problem? I like the size and the tread of the tires, so which is the best route to go? Or is there another route that would work better?Blake Torres4wheeloffroad.com
Your truck could have the 5.2L (318ci) or a 5.9L (360ci) V-8. Look at the top left-hand corner of the emissions information sticker on the inside of the hood, on the radiator support, or on a sticker in the glovebox to find out which.
You didn't say where the tires were rubbing, but it's either on the inside of the fenders or on part of the frame or suspension. A lift could keep the tires from rubbing in all three places, but so could sheetmetal trimming/hammering and some wheel spacers. On our trucks we like trimming first, then lifting the truck if need be to clear the tires we want to run.
Big SpenderAfter drooling over a new Suburban, I have decided that for about the same money ($38,000), I can build a better truck to match my own twisted sense of need. I can turn a mean wrench and remove and install an engine or transmission, but this project is beyond my skills so I am looking for input.
I was thinking about an early '70s Suburban conversion (mainly because in Oregon I can thumb my nose at DEQ and smog with one this old). I am not a mud bogger or a rockcrawler but I like to play off road when work will let me. Realistically this truck will be driven on road about 70 percent of the time. I have a few questions for the experts about how to build this truck.
The only thing I know for certain is that I want about 6 inches of lift, 38-inch tires, and a Ramjet 502 V-8. But what do you recommend for the rest of the powertrain-lockers, brakes, steering, interior treatment, and frame modifications? Any idea where I might find a shop that would be able to do the work for me?Joseph Lipchitz4wheeloffroad.com
We think you better reconsider buying the new Suburban. If you have to pay a shop to essentially restore a 30-year-old Suburban and update it with an EFI big-block, 1-ton running gear with lockers, lifted suspension, and a custom interior with new seats, you'll eat up the budget real quick. We don't want to sound pessimistic, just realistic, because we have always wanted to do just what you've described. Hot rodders call it a resto-mod, and when completed you have a vehicle that is totally unique, completely functional, and really expensive.
But if your heart is set on doing it we recommend you use as many off-the-shelf parts as possible to keep costs down and replacement parts easy to find. So to us that would mean a Chevy V-8 (go ahead with the Ramjet if you can afford it), a 4L80E transmission to an NP205 transfer case out to a Dana 60 front and 14-bolt rear with 4.56 gears, and Detroit Lockers. The interior equipment is up to you, but keep in mind that to compete with a new truck you'll need A/C, all new weatherstripping, a stereo, power windows, and working gauges. And we haven't even mentioned a paint job and bodywork. Of course, if you do get it done-send us pictures!
Cut and Turning AxlesI have an '86 Dodge Ram that's been lifted about 8 inches with new leaf springs. Recently I swapped in a Dodge Dana 60 front axle. The problem I have is my front driveshaft angle is too steep. I have already ground out the front yoke to prevent binding and swapped in a Spicer double cardan joint at the transfer case, but I still twist both apart. I would shim the front axle to turn the pinion up, but Dodge casts one of the spring perches into the differential centersection for the passenger-side front leaf-spring mount. This makes turning the pinion up with shims difficult because one side of the spring plate is held on with a U-bolt and the other with studs that bind on the plate holding the springs down when twisted. Lowering the transfer case is possible but the engine would also have to be lowered. Is there any other way to correct this angle besides converting to a coil-spring front end?Richard MardisWinnipeg, Manitoba, Canada
The correct way to solve the problem is to have both axletubes cut out of the centersection and then press in new tubes with the pinion tilted up in relationship to the axle end forgings.
The driver-side perch is then simply cut off of the axletube and repositioned to match the angle of the cast-in perch on the passenger side. This type of procedure is known as cutting and turning an axle and has the benefit of retaining the stock caster angles, something that angled shims under the leaf springs won't do.
You could have a difficult time finding a shop near you that can do this procedure. Anyone who builds axles from scratch should be able to do it, but a large press and experience with this type of work are essential for success. If you can't find a shop locally, consider Dynatrac (714/596-4461, www.dynatrac.com) in Southern California or Teraflex (www.teraflex.biz) in Salt Lake City.
Adding an In-Tank Fuel PumpTo power my recently swapped-in EFI V-8 I need to add a high-pressure fuel pump capable of making 45 to 60 psi to fuel the engine. I also need to route a return line back to the fuel tank to mimic the factory's design. My truck came with a carburetor and an engine-mounted fuel pump. Can I reuse any of this stuff, or do I need to start from scratch?Lorne Robinson4wheeloffroad.com
Consistent fuel pressure is vital for an EFI engine or all sorts of nagging problems can arise. When we convert a truck for EFI use we try to follow the model of OEM manufacturers who pay a bunch of smart people to figure out the best way to get fuel from the tank to the engine and then back no matter what angle you put the vehicle at.
The easiest thing to do would be to take the fuel line coming out of the fuel tank and splice an inline pump to push fuel up to the engine. Then add a return line from the engine back to the fuel tank to return unused fuel. This type of fuel system works for some people but is not what we'd recommend for trouble-free operation.
Option two is to take the existing fuel-pump pickup out of the fuel tank and modify it to hang an in-tank electric fuel pump and sock filter assembly in the fuel. We use this type of arrangement on our EFI's K5 to feed a large frame-mounted pump, but for normal applications a pump like this from any multiport fuel-injected car would be fine. Just make sure the pump's pre-filter sits on the bottom of the tank.
The third and best option would be to buy or build a fuel tank that has been developed for use with EFI engines and either has an in-tank baffle to form a fuel sump, or has an all-in-one fuel pump/pickup/sump/fuel level sending unit that drops into the tank from the top.
Swamp Buggy Repair
My father and I just put our rebuilt carburetor back on our swamp buggy, so I was testdriving it around the yard and the hydraulic clutch sprung a leak. Thankfully there was a tree to use as a brake. Swamp buggies usually don't have brakes, due to all the mud action. I got a new hydraulic clutch line, but if this happens out in the swamp, is there an on-the-spot quick fix I can do to get me back to the truck and trailer?Joshua W. MaxwellNaples, Florida
What kind of transmission are you using? Couldn't you just shift into First gear with the engine off, fire up the engine and drive, and then kill the ignition when you need to stop. It's possible that swamp buggies have really high gearing that makes this type of driving difficult to control, but that is how we drive a vehicle when we can't disengage the clutch. Of course the easier solution may be to just route the hydraulic line inside a protective sheath so that is doesn't spring a leak again.
When to Say No to 4-Lo
In the Aug. '03 issue, you state, "Sand guys wouldn't touch a 4:1 low-range transfer case." Can you explain this statement? I'm considering purchasing a Jeep Rubicon and the main trails that I use are sand with steep grades. Any insight that you can provide would be greatly appreciated.Rick Oblak4wheeloffroad.com
The reason you wouldn't want a 4:1 low range in the sand is because your engine probably won't make enough power in high range to get you through everything without bogging down. So naturally you would shift into low range-in this case a 4:1 ratio-to increase the amount of power available to turn the tires by four times. The downside is this increase in power comes with an equal reduction in the amount of wheel speed the Jeep can produce. It's this reduction in wheel speed that makes it difficult to propel yourself up steep sand dunes.
We've tested a manual transmission version of the Jeep Rubicon in the sand and found that you can improve performance by using Third gear in the transmission with the transfer case in low range. But if you have to shift, each gear change brings a major drop in engine rpm that will again result in major losses in wheel speed. An automatic transmission should reduce the negative effects of each gear change, but it will not mask them completely.
Lockers in Snow
I am getting conflicting advice regarding lockers for my '84 Toyota 4x4. I drive a lot in the snow during the winter here in Colorado and I thought putting lockers in the front or front and rear diffs would help traction. But I have been advised this would not be a good idea. Any ideas?Chris Baker4wheeloffroad.com
Conventional thinking says that if you drive on snow- and ice-covered roads you do not want full-time lockers in the front and rear of your 4x4 because they will exaggerate your vehicle's tendency to understeer, fishtail, or even to swap ends.
To understand this, let's first look at what happens when you drive on slippery roads with open differentials. With an open differential, the tire with the least traction will receive most of the engine's torque, resulting in one spinning tire and one coasting tire that can keep the vehicle anchored directionally. You may not be able to get forward motion, but the vehicle will handle more predictably and will not fishtail as much as with a locker. Take the same driving conditions and install a rear locker, and now whenever one tire spins and loses traction, both tires spin and lose traction. With both tires spinning, your directional stability goes to almost zero and the vehicle could fishtail or even spin around. Why? Well, as we've been taught, "When you lose traction in one direction, you lose traction in all directions." Add a locker to the front and you lose most of the steering control as well.
Now having said all this, we know that lots of people out there run lockers in the rear of their 4x4s even in regions that get a lot of snow because they are willing to make the trade-off of stability for true four-wheel drive. These types of vehicles should not be lent out to drivers who do not have experience with locker-equipped 4x4s, as their handling dynamics are entirely different than production 4x4s. The best choice for snow and ice driving is a selectable locker that could be left in the open mode until the vehicle got stuck, then engaged as needed.
I own a '79 Chevy pickup with a 350 engine, a TH350 tranny, and an NP203 transfer case. I've broken the transmission housing twice in the last two years, and the local shops tell me the transfer case is just too heavy for the transmission. I see many vehicles with this combo in your magazine and want to finish my restoration, but not if I can't solve this problem.Bill CaverDeetrail, Colorado
You didn't mention where the transmission housing keeps breaking, but we bet it's on the front where the engine block bolts to it. The NP203 transfer case is indeed a heavy piece of machinery, but more important, the distance from the front engine mounts to the rear mount on the adapter is too long for maximum strength, which causes a lot of trans-case breakage. CRC Transmissions (Dept. 4WOR, 3139 Los Feliz Dr., Thousand Oaks, CA 91362, 805/497-0399) informs us that in normal service, most trucks didn't have a problem, but playing Dukes of Hazzard caused plenty of breakage of the early Chevy transmissions like yours.
Around 1979 or 1980, GM introduced reinforced cases for its pickups, including the S-10s. This "K" case (named for the cast-in capital K on the unit) was stronger and featured a cast-aluminum lower cover instead of the sheet-steel version. This allowed for reinforcing struts from the bottom of the transmission to a plate under the engine mounts for more strength. Switch your case to the later style with the associated struts and half your problems may be solved.
But wait, there's more! If your case is cracking in the rear or breaking the adapter itself, you might need a torque-reaction bracket on the passenger side of the transfer case to limit movement. If the bolts that attach the adapter to the transmission are loose, this can also allow movement that will eventually break a casting. Back in the mid-'70s, a kit was available from 4Wheel Parts Wholesalers which included safety wire and bolts drilled for it, but it was discontinued. You could drill your bolts to accept wire or just use liquid thread-locker.
Domestic Pathfinder PartsI own a '92 Ford E-350 van equipped with a Pathfinder Equipment Company 4x4 conversion. When the Dana 60 frontend needed alignment, my local shop couldn't find tie-rod ends because Pathfinder is out of business. I called Dana Spicer Technical Service and found out Advanced 4 Wheel
Drive Systems purchased Pathfinder and could help me. Sure enough, Advanced knew what I had and got the parts out the next day. If anyone else needs parts for these conversions, call Advanced 4 Wheel Drive Systems and see how they can help you.Wallace M. KellyNicholasville, KY
Many older and unique rigs like yours often need parts that can't be identified. Even though a competent parts person can usually measure, compare, and locate common parts such as tie-rod ends, it sure is easier to have a specialist supply you with the right parts the first time around. Advanced 4 Wheel Drive even has parts and accessories for Quadravan and Van Charger conversions. In addition, Advance is one of the few remaining converters in the U.S. that can turn other vehicles into 4x4s. Contact Advanced 4 Wheel Drive Systems, Dept 4WOR, 1102 S. 200 W., Salt Lake City, UT 84101, 801/521-2334.
Submission information: Questions should be as brief and concise as possible. We will answer as many letters as possible each month, but due to the large volume of mail, we cannot send personal replies. Letters are subject to editing for length, as space permits. Always check state regulations before modifying a vehicle with pollution controls or one that will be driven on the street. Write to: Nuts & Bolts, 4-Wheel & Off-Road, 6420 Wilshire Blvd., Los Angeles, CA 90048-5515, fax 323/782-2704, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org