Where To Write
Address your correspondence to:
6420 Wilshire Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90048-5515.
All letters become the property of Four Wheeler, and we reserve the right to edit them for length, accuracy, and clarity. The editorial department also can be reached through the Web site at www.fourwheeler.com. Due to the volume of mail, electronic or otherwise, we cannot respond to every reader, but we do read everything.
Wheelin' and Dealin'
Reader: In your November 2001 comparison of the Liberty and Xterra, was the Xterra pictured actually the one you tested? Having just purchased a supercharged 2002 Xterra 4x4, I learned that the supercharged models come with 17-inch wheels, not the 16-inchers pictured; and the front wheel pictured in the article does not appear to be one from a 4x4. Did you actually test the vehicles in the pictures? Did you actually test 4x4 versions of either vehicle?
Via the Internet
Editor: This is quite a shocking question. We did indeed test the vehicles you saw in the photographs. Of course they were four-wheel drive. Perhaps some other magazines you may be used to reading may choose to pull their impressions and test results from thin air, but we don't. We forwarded your questions to the good folks at Nissan, who provided us with the vehicle we tested, and here's what we learned: Our test vehicle was a preproduction unit. The wheels on it were 16-inchers, which are indeed available for the Xterra SE, along with the 17-inchers to which you refer. The only difference between these and the production wheels is that the production versions are charcoal in color, instead of polished.
Clubs and Clues
Reader: Two things: First, I want to start a club in my neighborhood but I don't know where any trails are and I don't have a lot of knowledge about the sport. Also, most of the people's rigs who would join my new club would be much better on the trail than mine. So what should I do?
Second, I hear everybody complaining about how the Big Three don't produce a trail-worthy rig. Well, I say, stop complaining and do something. Either start a petition, or if everyone who read your magazine sent in even $20, then went public on the stock market, you could start your own company making just trail-worthy vehicles, even if you buy the stock rigs from one of the Big Three, modified them, and then resold them.
Via the Internet
Editor: If it was us, here's what we'd do: We'd place ads announcing the formation of a new four-wheeling club in the free and/or low-cost advertisers-around here they're The Recycler, Pennysaver, etc. Probably you have something similar in your area. We'd put cards on bulletin boards at car washes and parts/accessory stores. We might even prepare some el cheapo flyers to tuck under the wiper blades of 4x4 vehicles. We might even crank up a Web site under the name of our new club. We'd invite all comers-this is important now, and speaks to part of your question-because as far as we at Four Wheeler are concerned, the question isn't what you four-wheel, or how well prepared your rig is. Instead, it's that you're involved, that you do four-wheel, and that you're part of the activity. Concerning your lack of knowledge about four-wheeling, what you do is, you learn as you go, just like we all did. That's part of the fun of four-wheeling.
We're not exactly sure that we agree with your apparent contention that none of the Big Three makes what you refer to as a trail-worthy rig. We seem to recall that several members of the DaimlerChrysler family are more-or-less trail-worthy (think Jeep). Also several new members of the Ford family (think Land Rover). Also several members of the GM family (think any pickup or SUV with the Z71 option). Also Toyota (think the Tacoma TRD). Yes, most of these possess IFS, and yes, we're not fans of IFS. We'll have to get over that, unfortunately, because Detroit is not going to switch back to solid front axles, and in some cases from IRS to solid rear axles, just because we bitch at them. There are myriad ways to make these vehicles more trail-worthy. It's up to us to use the aftermarket, just like we always have, even with solid-axle vehicles, to modify our rigs to best suit the way we use 'em.
The Balanced Tire Test
Reader: I just picked up the January issue of Four Wheeler, which contains tests of six tires. After fighting with a set of 35-inch Interco Thornbirds for the last few years and trying to keep up with repairs on the stuff that their very bad road manners had broken, I bought a new set of the Parnelli Jones 38-inch Dirt Grips. When you do a product test on tires or whatever, why not tell us how easy, or how difficult, each tire is to balance? Why not tell us how much weight it takes to balance each tire? Why not tell us how round, or how out-of-round, each one is? You may not think this is important, but the answers to these questions are good indications of how well a tire is made. On the Interco Thornbirds I bought, one tire was 3/4-inch out of round, one was 3/8-inch, one was 1/4-inch, and one was true. It took more than 1/3-pound of weight on the inside face to balance the truest of these tires. That is totally unacceptable.
In all the magazines I've read over the years, no one tells it like it is about the Interco Tires. I've found out plenty about them now, having owned a set, and checking the net for reviews. There are so many products out there, some good, some lousy, that we don't need someone blowing smoke because a company spends a lot of dollars in advertising. Test the products, run them hard, just like we will, and tell us what stands up, and what doesn't. Give us the facts. That way you have the confidence of your readers, and the producers know that they need to improve their products or quit. It is a win-win situation for everyone.
So after reading your tire test I feel that you guys did a fair and honest test on those tires, and would like to see more on other brands as well.
Minot, North Dakota
Editor: We're greatly in favor of win-win situations. We're even more greatly in favor of situations in which our readers win-even if somebody else doesn't. For that reason, we always write our reviews to reflect what we actually learn. But your comments about balancing tires are well taken. In fact, we have a story in the works that will take a look at what it takes to balance and true several sets of the most popular tires. It's down the road a bit, but stay tuned, and we'll get there together.
Reader: I just read the article in your October issue, "Hungry for Power." That article states that the featured Chevy K3500 came out of the GM assembly line with a 4.3L V-6. I don't think so, considering that is a 1-ton truck. A V-6 would not have been an option. I like your magazine, but come on, why didn't you guys catch that one?
Via the Internet
Editor: Oh, ye of little faith, where is the trust in our relationship? The 4.3L V-6 was what is called a "credit option" on a K3500 in 1990, meaning you got money back, or a reduction in your truck's price, if you accepted the 4.3L V-6 instead of the standard engine for this truck, the 454ci V-8. Probably there weren't many such trucks built and sold, but there were indeed a few. And this was one of them.
Contradicting a Contradiction
Reader: Please clear up an apparent contradiction between two articles. In a January 2001 article entitled "10 Suspension-Related Shortcuts to Not Take," item nine explains that steering stabilizers are worthless. However, in an April 2001 article, "13 Essential Upgrades," item nine states that no truck is complete without a steering damper. Somewhere between "worthless" and "no truck is complete without it" I became confused. I am most certainly not trying to point fingers. I just need a little clarification.
Editor: Go ahead, point away. The prevailing thought around Four Wheeler's offices is that while not essential, steering dampers, or stabilizers, can help minimize the effects of kickback in the steering system caused by very heavy tires and wheels as they work their way over rough terrain. They are no substitute, however, for a well adjusted and properly fitting steering system.
Got to Know the Right Questions
Reader: I just bought a GMC 1500 4x4 and I wanted to put on a 6-inch suspension lift with 35-inch tires. I am looking at two places to do the work. My question is, what kind of questions should I be asking them?
San Antonio, Texas
Editor: Here's our suggestion: Ask them for the names and phone numbers of customers who have had similar work done. Call those folks and ask them if they were happy with the shop's work. Also ask them what they might have done differently, now that they've lived with their lifted trucks for a while.
Another Woman Tunes In
Reader: I'm writing in response to the letters from Kelly Howard, of Texas, and Kahea Wolfe, of Hawaii. I subscribe to Four Wheeler and I own three Chevy pickups. Don't think for a second that women aren't into trucks. I passed by mere vehicular obsession years ago. My latest project is a Suburban with 40-inch Boggers and custom everything. I've named it the U.S.S. And Then Some. I even have a tattoo of a 4x4 on my shoulder.
Remember, women aren't supposed to like trucks like men aren't supposed to like dolls-uh, I mean, "action figures." So there probably are more women who are into trucks than we actually see, but it isn't cool, so we don't hear from them often enough, which is a shame.
Los Banos, California
Editor: Good for you, Jennifer. There are others like you out there. To see a few of them, check out our coverage of the Women's Rock Crawling Championship (March '01).
Scouters Heard From Again
Reader: Thanks for the cool stories you guys do on Scouts. I know it's probably hard for a lot of our 4x4 brethren to understand why anyone would want a rig that looks like a jet-puffed early Bronco, but it's no mystery to us certified Scout nuts. A Scout is a wolf in sheep's clothing. It's no wonder thousands of them are still going the distance. It's what they were built to do.
Editor: A jet-puffed early Bronco? We can't say that in print. The Bronco guys would be furious with us.
It Chaps His A**
Reader: This letter is in response to all the bed-wetters whose letters I find extremely enraging. I apologize to the Four Wheeler staff for having to take flack from a bunch of ignorant hillbillies. If this letter is too spiteful to be published, I made my point.
Abbotsford, British Columbia, Canada
Editor: Right! Uh, do you by any chance know our pal Ted Reese? Or are you maybe Ted Reese?
What a Great Idea-Or Maybe Not!
Reader: I and about a thousand other Hummer drivers (and if you include the military Humvee guys it would be multi thousand drivers) would like to ask if you would consider a Hummer section in Four Wheeler.
Why a special section for Hummers, but not a special section for Ford or Chevy? Well, when you do a generic article about a shock, differential, or engine modification you can just add the line "this will also work for your Ford, Chevy, etc." But these things usually will not work for a Hummer. I think a section like that would add interesting info for your readers. What would it hurt?
Via the Internet
Editor: We'll have to think about that one, especially since in the 12 years Hummers have been available to the public, just 8,000 of them have been sold. If we did as you suggest, we'd also have to do a special section for Suzukis. Why? Because mods for Chevys, Fords, and Dodges won't work for them, either. Actually, we do indeed see the odd Hummer being 'wheeled from time to time, but much more frequently we see them in the hands of gentle folks who are using the considerable prowess of these very capable vehicles to 'wheel the wilds of Hollywood's Sunset Boulevard or negotiate the obstacles of the much more treacherous and challenging Melrose Avenue, in search of, uh, whatever. If we did a story on that, people would write to us complaining about our bias toward 'wheeling stories that take place in the western U.S., and that would never do.
Right, and We Get The Blame!
Reader: Every month I get your magazine and every month I read the letters. It seems to me that people are writing you to blame you for their problems. I, for one, think all of us should be thanking you for putting out such an informative magazine. The articles you write on how to go four-wheelin' have saved my brother's Jeep more times than I can count. My dad, my brother, and I all have 4x4s and love to use them. We can't wait to send our pictures to you hoping we can get in Readers' Rigs. Thank you for making 'wheeling fun for the family.
Editor: We'll be happy to take the blame for making four-wheeling fun-that's our job. As to anything else anyone wants to blame us for, we didn't do it, and we'll never do it again.
Reader: Four Wheeler's "Letter of the Month" is the most interesting or informative letter we receive each month. The letter's author will be sent one of Four Wheeler's highly prized Four Wheeler license plates. So be sure to include your full name and address when you write Four Wheeler.
Letter Of The Month
Tire Test Trauma
Dear Mr. Put-My-Letter-in-the-Mag-and-Send-My-Tag,
I just finished the January issue of Four Wheeler, which contained tests of six new tires. When I saw the cover article lines and picture promising those tests, I thought "Hey, they're gonna include testing in the mud this time." Wrong! Yes, you do live in We-Never-Get-Rain, California, but those of us who live in areas that receive more than 0.03 inches of precipitation per century would like to see a real test.
A real test. Hmmmm. Mark off 150 feet of clayish dirt. Rent, steal, or borrow backhoe. Dig. Dig. Dig some more. Get fire hose. Put fire hose on hydrant. Turn on hydrant. Watch water fill up trench. Put clay back in hole (very important: water + clay = mud). Drink 12-pack of favorite spirits and drive truck through mud. Have sober person write test results. Shazzam! That's a real mud test! And yes, truck will go farther if you're hammered on cheap beer.
My final gripe-'o-today is that you should test tires that are similar. Putting a Bogger against some mud-terrain wanna-be is a sad idea. It's kinda like dynamite fishing in the aquarium. How about:
Bogger vs. Ground Hawg vs. a big ol' Firestone tractor tire. Super Swamper TSL vs. Gumbo Mudder. Xterrain vs. Claw vs. Geolandar. Pro Comp MT vs. BFG M-T KM. Other than that, the mag rules, as usual. Thanks for your time, and remind your readers to build something besides a damn Jeep. As far as I'm concerned, Toyota rules!
Via the Internet
Editor: Dear Mr.-Smarty-Pants,
We can't very well Put-Your-Letter-in-the-Mag-and-Send-You-Your-Tag without you first doing something important. Like, for instance, provide us with your mailing address. E-mail is a wonderful thing, but if you want a mailed response-required, since we've not yet perfected the process of sending an actual Four Wheeler license plate via e-mail-you've got to provide us with an actual mailing address. Right?
Furthermore, Carl, old pal, common sense suggests that it's appropriate to keep beer and vehicles in different compartments of our experience. You suck down some suds, or you drive. You sure as hell do not do both. So that's the first thing. Second, a 12-pack? There isn't anyone here who could drink even six brewskies, much less sit up straight afterward. Third, your idea about comparing similar tires is an idea we like. We might just steal it. Fourth, we will forward your comments about testing in mud to the chief of our Midwest Bureau, whose mailing address we actually possess, and who assures us that he drives daily in mud so deep that one could lose one's pet elephant in it. Then, when no mud tests ensue, it'll be his fault.