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October 2006 Letters To The Editor

Posted in Project Vehicles on October 1, 2006
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Address your correspondence to:
Four Wheeler
6420 Wilshire Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90048.

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 Due to the volume of mail, electronic and otherwise, we cannot respond to every reader, but we do read everything.

Reader: I just read your "Letter of the Month" (July '06) and can't believe it. If this is the new attitude of the day, our sport and hobby as we know it will go away. It's up to the more experienced drivers to help and teach the rookies who don't know the proper etiquette. As your skills grow, you modify the vehicle to your skill level. It's not up to the car manufacturers to build rock buggies or trail vehicles with flexy suspensions and 37-inch tires. Just think how ugly the highways would be, let alone the trails, if the newcomers got their hands on such rides.

Driver X says he was "taught by the finest of the old guard," that he's of a dying breed. With the attitude he has, I hope he is a dying breed. I guess he didn't learn enough from his mentors. It's up to the old guard to pass along our knowledge to the new guard for the future of our favorite pastime. We didn't come into four-wheeling knowing it all. For when we think we really do know it all, something ugly is going to happen to us or someone else. My guess is Driver X wouldn't like the Xterra that you tested in that issue, or the Jeep TJ, the Unlimited Rubicon, or the new FJ Cruiser. Thanks much for listening.
Dave Schramm

Reader: I have a real bone to pick with you guys and the Einstein-"Driver X"-you made your July '06 Letter of the Month.

By the third paragraph, X starts to carry on about all his self-proclaimed knowledge, skill, and ability. This bozo does nothing for our sport. Berating the newbies who are at least out there trying to have some fun and gain some experience is only going weaken our future. How does this self-proclaimed "Messiah of the Dirt" think his early mentors felt about him when he rolled up in his parents' Suburban the first time for some unknown wheeling? We all have to learn somewhere and sometime, so why can't X drop his ego and be a positive role model for the up-and-coming 'wheelers?

Granted, most of the new vehicles won't live long on any radical trails, but 95 percent of all 4x4s never leave the pavement and the manufacturers know this. If there was a viable market for lifted, locked, trail-ready vehicles, the manufacturers would be building them right now.

Anyone remember the "Muscle Car Wars" of the '60s? How about the diesel truck wars going on today? These were/are markets that have the potential to make the OEMs a lot of money. The more Rubicons, Power Wagons, and Land Cruisers that are sold, the more the OEMs will consider making them better.

One thing I see missing today that the old guard kept with them was having fun! Everyone today wants to have the biggest, baddest, most radical machine so he can outdo everyone else. Do you think the original gang that made the first Easter Jeep Safari were so bent up about trying to outdo everyone else? No, they were just a bunch of people getting together to be outside and having a good time. I think we need to get back to the "fun first" idea.
Dennis F.
Oklahoma City, OK

Editor: For the record, we basically agree with you. We were newbies once too, and we learned-mostly, since we're still learning new tricks all the time-by trial and error (crunch, crash, snap), by asking questions ("What's that lever next to the tranny shifter for?"), and by watching skilled 'wheelers on the trail, and emulating what they did as our own skills gradually improved.

On the other hand, we don't want this column to simply be an amen corner of like believers, so we encourage letters of differing views, especially when they are strongly held and emphatically expressed, like Racer X's. (We'll also admit he got our attention with his bazooka-wielding team of lawyers.) And he does raise a good point-we've seen novice 'wheelers stuck on the trail, and clogging traffic, with no recovery gear or spare parts, or even a jack or a roll of duct tape to help them. Hey, it happened to us a time or two when we were first starting out and learning as we went. That's an oversight that folks like us can hopefully help to remedy on the trail, and in magazines such as this.

Reader: I wanted to know if you guys have run a side-by-side test of the Big Three automakers' diesel trucks for 2006. If you have, I'd like to purchase the magazine with the article or like to know where I could go to read the comparison.
Brad Martin

Editor: As there haven't been any substantial changes to all of these vehicles recently, we have to confess we haven't tested them for the last couple of years. However, as the new-for-'07 Duramax, Power Stroke, and Cummins motors become available, we'll test 'em all-hopefully, side by side in our '07 Pickup Truck of the Year competition next March.

Reader: As a new owner of a 19-foot travel trailer for camping with the family, the timing couldn't have been better with your July '06 issue. After reading about the easy-to-install "Firestone Ride Rite," I ordered a kit online for my F-150 SuperCrew 4x4 and also bought an equalizing level hitch kit with sway control to keep the ride level and safe on the highway. I would like to see more information on available electronic brake controls for the cab of the truck.

One other thing: In speaking to other people who haul trailers, they highly recommend an electronic brake controller, which allows you to fine-tune the brakes between the truck and trailer.

Great issue. Keep up the great work!
Shawn Wilders

Reader: I totally disagree with Jimmy Nylund's tip in "Towing Safety Basics" (July '06) of putting tie-downs on the axles. Dedicated tie-down points should be on the frame. Two cases in point: First, I was trailering an F-150 behind my '89 Bronco when I came across a bridge diagonal to the road. The F-150 started to bounce from side to side, swinging the trailer and truck around. I used two lanes and hard braking to gain control. Second: you don't think about how the shocks are being worked, so you are putting an extra couple of hundred miles on your shocks of the vehicle that's on the trailer, which means you are working the trailer harder with the vehicle bouncing because of kinetic energy. If the load on the trailer and the trailer are one, then the trailer only hits one bounce, not the load bouncing for half a mile later. Since that day, I always tie down by the framerails, and if you have an enclosed trailer, the vehicle inside could be bouncing off the walls and you wouldn't know it.
Driver B

Editor: Jimmy Nylund replies: Tying to the frame can be done as a last resort, I feel, when it's impossible to tie down the axles. When using the frame, the straps must be tight enough to keep the suspension compressed to the point that it cannot move at all, or big shock loads will result at large bumps. This puts a lot of stress on the tie-downs and tie-down points. Using the axles tends to put the tie-downs in a more horizontal position, which is much easier on the hardware. Allowing the trailered vehicle's suspension to absorb some of the forces is a win-win, being easier on both the trailer and the load. We pump up the tires to street pressure to minimize sidewall movement, which helps keep the straps tight. Usually, we also set the (adjustable) shocks to a higher setting for trailering, not because of shock absorber wear but to spare the slip yokes on the driveshafts. Yes, there's some wear that wouldn't occur if tying to the frame, but just like we enjoy a cushion on the driver seat, we like the far-less-harsh method of strapping the axles down. If the load is bouncing half a mile later, or off the walls, there must be something really wrong, which we have yet to experience.

And by the way, braking hard is the last thing to do when trying to regain control of a trailer. Except, perhaps, with the trailer brakes only.

Reader: I have been reading and enjoying Four Wheeler for more than 30 years. The first thing I turn to each month are Willie's "Techline" and "Workbench" and have since around 1980. I just finished reading "The Towing Axle" by Jim Allen (July '06). It is a well written and very informative article.

He pointed out in the article that they were using the Amsoil Series 2000 75W-90 Gear Lube, but that it had been replaced with the new Severe Gear. This change occurred nearly two years ago, and the Severe Gear is a superior product even to the Series 2000. Go to a major NASCAR race and ask a few of the top teams what they're using in their differentials. Just like all oils are not the same, all synthetic oils are not the same, nor are different grades of the same lubes not the same.

I was surprised to read that you were using the SAE 75W-90 and the LE607 SAE 90 when Ford's recommendation for the Dana and Ford axles is for multigrade SAE 140 oils such as 75W-140 or 85W-140. Many of the later-model Ford trucks, in fact, come from the factory with synthetic 75W-140.

SAE 75W-90 is recommended by many other vehicle manufacturers because it is slightly more fuel-efficient, and they use it during the Federal CAFE testing because of fuel economy concerns; and, whatever they use in the Federal test, they must recommend for use in the owner's manual. Ford, however, recommends and uses the 75W-140 because, during extensive durability testing, 75W-140 outperformed the 75W-90. That does not mean the 75W-90 is not good to use, just that the 75W-140 offers greater protection under severe use. I believe you would also find that it will run cooler than the 75W-90 under severe towing conditions and in severe off-pavement use.

Thanks again for another great article and for many years of enjoyable and informative reading.
John Crandall
San Dimas, CA

Reader: Just wanted to say thanks for the magazine, especially the July '06 issue. To all those complaining about their specific make and model not being covered, patience is key. Given time, you guys do your best to cover the full gamut of 4x4 rigs out there, limited as well by the availability of the aftermarket. Even if it is not your rig featured, there are many useful ideas to be had. The July issue covered towing tips, "Air Time" (one of which I am installing right now), and the towing axle that is similar to my 10.5. All articles were extremely useful and applied this time to me!

I had never heard the term "bias ratio" used for describing the Trac-Lok I have now as opposed to the Truetrac tested. Please explain? I always thought that anything that acted more like a posi would be dangerous for towing in ice and snow, though you stated that test was outstanding.

Also, any chance you might do an article on the Fabtech coilover conversion for older Super-Dutys? Thanks again.
David Julif

Editor: OK, let's see if we can define this clearly: "Torque bias ratio" basically expresses the differential's ability to transfer torque to the wheels when wheel-speed differentiation is detected. For example, if your limited-slip has a bias ratio of 2.0:1 (e.g., a typical OE-sourced Torsen unit) and 300 lb-ft of torque is being applied to the ring gear, the diff will transfer twice as much torque-in this case, 200 lb-ft-to the wheel with the most traction as it will to the spinning wheel (100 lb-ft). Most limited-slips have bias ratios ranging from 1.5:1 to 5.0:1.

About the Fabtech conversion, we are working on such a story as we speak. Keep an eye on future issues of the magazine.

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