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Reader: I just finished reading your article on transmissions ("Gearbox Groupies," Aug. '06): Fortuitous, insofar as I just completed swapping out the Getrag five-speed in favor of an NVG 5600 in my '92 Dodge W250 with the Cummins ISB 12-valve motor. With 200,000 miles on the clock, it was about time. The only question I have for you guys is what should I use for transmission lube? Everyone I ask tells me something different. Thanks for a great magazine.
Editor: DaimlerChrysler recommends PN 4874464 for the 5600; it's made by Texaco under brand code MTX 1874. We've heard from other folks who claim to have used Redline or Amsoil synthetics with good results, but we'll withhold judgment and let you decide for yourself.
Reader: Looking at the August issue, I was drawn to "Gearbox Groupies." I had to laugh out loud when I read your opinion that the 700R4 "could be the finest automatic overdrive trans ever produced." Don't get me wrong, I am a GM fan to the end-so much so that I suffered through a '95 6.5L turbodiesel Suburban for two years. But the 700R4 is junk. I currently drive a '91 K1500 with a 700R4. The truck has 285,000 miles on it and is currently on its seventh transmission. My uncle bought this truck new, and drove the better part of its miles on the highway (150 miles each day). We don't pull huge loads with it, and have even tried using synthetic lube. One time, even the "especially stout" input shaft cracked while pulling a 600-pound trailer on a venture from Denver to Nebraska.
I know several people who have owned trucks with 700R4s, and all have been replaced more than once. How about the trans Ford used in '99 Super Dutys with Power Strokes? I know one that a trans shop said needed to be rebuilt 60,000 miles ago after going into "limp mode," and it's still pulling 10,000-pound dump trailers weekly. Sure, the fluid looks awful but it just keeps on working. Thanks for letting me vent
Editor: If you're on your seventh R4 tranny, the first question we'd ask is, where the heck are you getting them? While not an HD transmission by any means, the 700R4-especially later versions, such as the type that was used in your 1/2-ton-are generally plenty durable for everyday use and should be able to live for close to 100,000 miles before needing to be rebuilt or replaced. Built properly using stouter aftermarket internals, a 700R4 can be made to last for 200,000 miles or more. See "Building a Better 700R4" in our May 2005 issue for more details.
Reader: I just received my August issue, and as I glanced through it, I happened to see the letter complaining about Hummer H3 "yuppie rides." Most people never take their 4x4s off-pavement, regardless of what it is, including H1s, Jeeps, and Land Rovers-all of which have decent stock off-pavement capabilities. Even when I was in the Army, most of our 4x4s stayed on hard pack most of the time, tracks being the exception when they weren't parked in the motor pool
The point is, as these highway drivers get older and decrease in value, there will be a lot of buildable rigs out there to buy that won't have been beaten half to death on the trail, so it will give us a chance to have some really nice rides (after you remove the pavement bling). Not like the old days, when most 4x4s were farm trucks, contractors' work trucks, or someone else's hacked-together project that was worn out from the word go when you finally bought it. Don't get me wrong-I think a person who buys anything and doesn't use it to its full potential is wasting money, but it is their money to waste, and it may be my good fortune to capitalize on it later.
One more thing-the H3 is based on the new Colorado/Canyon platform, not the S-10. The Colorado is a big improvement over the S-10, and though I'm not happy with the air dam on mine, it works pretty well for a stock truck. I'm very confident that with a new Skyjacker lift and 33s, this little truck will go almost anywhere my lifted fullsize Jimmy-or my wife's lifted XJ-can, and that says a lot about what the potential of the new H3 can, and for a few people will, be.
Thanks for the good work at Four Wheeler-you guys get my coin in subscriptions, and so far it's been worth it.
Reader: I am, of course, a fan of your publication, though I have a suggestion about the 2007 Four Wheeler of the Year tests that you will undoubtedly be conducting soon. Give us some real hard data regarding off-pavement performance this year. In recent years, I have seen this feature slide away from test criteria of Four Wheeler of the Year to Soccer Mom's Yearly SUV Review. I would like to see factual data about ramp travel indexes, off-idle torque numbers, and general attention to features that make the vehicle a better off-road machine-after all, that's what Four Wheeler is about, isn't it? I think the "It feels nice" and "DVD player is great" comments should have a diminished role in this shootout.
Editor: The way we see it, if a new vehicle can 'wheel like a champ and still take the kids to soccer practice with all the comforts of home on board, what's wrong with that? More to the point, Off-Pavement Performance is the most heavily weighted section of our Four Wheeler of the Year test-which is to say, it counts for more than any other category-and we spend far more hours on the trail than we do on pavement during the test period. We've run all of our FWOTY vehicles on the ramp for years, and publish the data in our test. But we're always looking to make the test even better, and we'll take your suggestions to heart. Thanks for writing.