January 2007 Letters To The EditorPosted in Project Vehicles on January 1, 2007 Comment (0)
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Reader: I just got my November '06 issue and read your report on the new Jeep Compass. I find it interesting that the Europeans can get it with a 2.0L turbodiesel, but not us here in the States. I have been waiting for the Jeep Liberty CRD to come out with the six-speed manual in the U.S., like the one you tested in Africa a couple of years ago, then find out that they have discontinued the diesel option. So my dreams of a diesel-powered six-speed Liberty are shot down.
I think that if the Big Three would produce vehicles that the people wanted and had decent mileage, they would sure do a lot better with sales. Mercedes has diesel cars that get outstanding mileage, yet the U.S. automakers are still cranking out vehicles that are lucky to get close to 20 mpg. I guess I will stick with my '94 YJ and look into converting my '92 Geo Tracker to diesel via a VW engine. If the automakers won't build what we want, I guess we will have to build it ourselves.
via the Internet
Editor: Well, it ain't that cut-and-dried, really. The big stumbling blocks to diesel engines at present are the new Tier II regulations that take effect next year. They're far more stringent than European regulations, they don't make any distinctions between gas and diesel engines (though diesels are far more prone to higher NOx emissions due to their inherent design), and American automakers have been hamstrung by the lack of availability of ultra-low-sulphur diesel fuel, which current-generation diesels need to comply with the new regulations. However, things are gradually changing, and we imagine that by 2008 we will see a new flood of diesel powerplants starting to hit the U.S. truck and SUV market.
On the other hand, if you can stand to wait a few months for a diesel Jeep, you can get a diesel-powered Grand Cherokee WK: a new 3.0L CRD V-6 that's said to crank out 376 peak lb-ft of torque while delivering 23 mpg on the highway. The oil-burner WK goes on sale later this spring, and we'll publish our driving impressions in our next issue.
And by all means, send us a photo of your VW-powered Geo project when you finish it. That sounds like our kind of Reader Rig!
Reader: I just recently bought an '06 Nissan Titan and I wanted to somehow add some power to it. I like the exhaust note on it, so I'd probably leave that alone for a while. Adding an air intake sounds like the way I want to go, but there are so many to choose from. The Volant intakes seem to be really good, but there is also a new Fram intake out, along with a K&N. I am just not sure which one to purchase. Since the engine will be taking in more air, will it make the engine any louder?
via the Internet
Editor: Good questions all. We'll be comparison-testing some leading air intakes in an upcoming issue. Stay tuned.
Reader: For the past 15 years my father and I have been building my Jeep to compete in Top Truck Challenge one of these years. Are there any building limitations that I might want to consider? My father has always told me, "the bigger, the better," so I figured why not? Any information you can provide will be very helpful in the future for me.
Pfc. Ronnie Trujillo
U.S. Army, Ordnance Corps
via the Internet
Editor: Your father is very wise. Generally speaking, it is almost impossible to "overbuild" for an event such as Top Truck. Our only requirements are that your rig have a metal rollcage or full hardtop; a fire extinguisher; a winch; and recovery-connection points (i.e., tow hooks) at both ends. Otherwise, let your imagination run wild.
Reader: I wanted to alert you to an amazing place that has just been opened near Hannibal, Missouri. It's called Hannibal Rocks (State Hwy 0 at Hwy 61, New London, MO 63459, 217/437-5337 for info). It's truly unbelievable-very spectator-friendly and action-packed. The owners of the park, Tom and Debbie Wombles, are an asset to the four-wheeling community. They've got two parks right now that are spectacular: Rockport Off-Road Park in Rockport, Illinois, and now Hannibal Rocks. I know that I can speak for more than myself when I say that we'd love to see some coverage of these parks in the future.
Reader: First, let me say thanks for a great magazine. You've occupied my mind and time while serving here in Iraq. I've had an idea kicking around for some time now and could use some guidance and expertise. I have a new '06 Dodge Ram 2500 Mega Cab with the 5.9L Cummins turbodiesel, and aftermarket hop-up parts are stacking up at the house. Anyway, my last truck was an '01 Dodge Ram 3500 dualie, also with the Cummins. It was fantastic, except it was so long and so wide, and the engine was much louder than the newer models. Turning and parking required a volume of space not found in any/many parking lots, trail heads, and so on, so I got the idea of buying a new Chevy or GMC with the Quadrasteer option. Sounded perfect! But after searching the dealerships and the Internet, I discovered that GM no longer offered the Quadrasteer option. Then I found out about the new Dodge Mega Cab (I've been in Iraq for over a year, so I haven't been "out" much). The kids are getting big fast and I could use more cab space. It has the great Cummins engine power and torque that I fell in love with on the 3500, it was narrower than the dualie, it had the shortbed (which is all I really need), and it was quieter than the older 3500.
Then it hit me. What if I could turn this Mega Cab in a tighter space by installing only the Quadrasteer rear axle? That would be perfect! So, how difficult is it to find just a new Quadrasteer axle, how much would it cost, and how hard would it be to install on my new Dodge (especially considering the fact that it's been lifted with a 6-inch BDS lift kit and 35-inch tires)? If I can get this axle to work on my truck, I think I'd have a heck of a setup and it would be much more user-friendly. What are your thoughts?
Editor: How difficult to find? Well, it won't be easy-GM only sold some 16,000 Quadrasteer'd trucks-but not impossible. While your idea is intriguing, the real difficulty is going to be making the Quadrasteer work in a non-GM application. The original GM system, sourced from Delphi, used front-wheel position sensors, which, in combination with an actuator and control unit, determined the amount of rear steer to apply based on road speed and hand-wheel position. See the potential problem yet? Assuming you could find everything you'd need (e.g., all the modules as well as a properly geared axle; GM offered 1/2-ton and 3/4-ton versions of Quadrasteer), then get the axle to actually fit under your truck (read: lots of work, and you can probably forget about matching wheel bolt patterns), and plumb up everything accordingly, you'd still have the problem of integrating the proprietary Dodge and GM electronics. Could the Dodge's ECU be somehow reprogrammed to accept the GM module's steering algorithms, or vice versa? Well, anything is possible ... but we wouldn't bet the kids' tuition money on it.
So if you've got to have OE rear steer, our advice would be to sell the Dodge and buy a Quadrasteer-equipped GM truck.
Reader: In the October "Letters" column, "Driver B" stated that it is best to tie down at the frame on a trailer with a vehicle on it. This is fine for heavy-duty equipment like a bulldozer, but winching the frame down and then hitting bumps on the road is a sure way to warp a frame. Since four wheeling tends to do that at times, why help things along? Granted, extra care should be taken with an enclosed trailer, but I have never seen one that was properly tied down rubbing the trailer walls inside. The key is to have a big enough trailer and not drive like an idiot.
Over the last 35 years, I have towed just about anything that could be towed. To haul a regular vehicle on an open trailer, I use the winch tie-downs to secure the tires to the floor of the trailer. Yes, you can tie down on the axles and I have done that. However, this runs a risk of damage to brake lines. By securing the wheels, the towed vehicle does help with its own trailering. Most trailers do not have shock absorbers, and the shocks will dampen the shifting load.
When Driver B stated what he was hauling, I was surprised he didn't describe the wreck. It wouldn't have been an accident, but the result would have been the same. Towing a pickup on a trailer isn't impossible, but to do it with a Bronco isn't what I would recommend. Pickups tend to be heaviest in the front. That's the way they are designed so they can haul stuff. That means he had a short-wheelbase vehicle with more than 60 percent of the weight on the front of the trailer. That is why it was all over the road. I have seen rigs going down the road that were so frontend-heavy, the hitch receiver was visibly bending downward on each bump. The nose of the trailer was nearly dragging the ground, and the headlights were in the trees. You want the weight as balanced as possible, with slightly more on the trailer tongue. Remember, you might bend the speed laws a bit, but the laws of physics are immutable.
Reader: Your "Back 2 Basics" project truck (Oct. '06) mentioned a base Silverado with drum brakes. Didn't all '99-and-later Silverados have four-wheel discs? My '03 with the 4.8L with 40-series Flowmaster after-cat and K&N 77-series intake is getting a consistent 18-plus mpg. Next up are Edelbrock shorty replacement headers ... and if you want that Super 40 to sound really good, put 4 1/2-inch tips on it. Mine sounds awesome! Someday I'll get my TJ and start building all over again.
Tarpon Springs, FL
Editor: Jimmy Nylund replies: It appears that the cheapy W/T is the only version of the Silverado that doesn't come with rear discs. That is less surprising than the fact that a 2500 HD, with four-wheel discs, can use 16-inch wheels, while the lowly 1/2-ton must use new-fangled 17s in the front.
We'll consider exhaust mods when our hearing diminishes some more. Until then, our only quiet vehicle will stay quiet, or become even more silent.
Reader: I've been a subscriber to Four Wheeler for years now. Everything my dad didn't teach me about wheeling, I learned by doing what I saw in this magazine. I now drive an '88 Jeep Comanche pickup with a little lift, a lot of fender trimming, and 33x12.50 M/Ts with the stock drivetrain. My buddies and I mainly wheel on the powerline trails in the area. We want to start a four-wheeling club but we don't know the first thing about how to start a club, let alone run one. We have five would-be members. Now we need to get organized. Any advice you can offer would be helpful.
George N. Groblewski, Jr.
W.D.F.A. Off Road
Editor: The intricacies involved in forming your own 4WD club will vary from state to state, but in general, you will want to (1) file articles of incorporation with your state government; (2) elect a board of officers, (3) write up a set of bylaws, (4) create a regular meeting schedule, and (5) apply for nonprofit status with the IRS. There may also be local regulations you'll need to follow. A good place to start would likely be United Four-Wheel Drive Associations (www.ufwda.org). There are dozens of clubs around the country that are UFWDA affiliates, and perhaps one of them can help answer some of your questions with greater specifics than we can here.
Reader: I was looking for some information about auto magazines in Asia. I was specifically interested in 4x4 magazines as this is what I am after (magazine Web sites). They have been hard to come by and I was wondering if you could help me find some of these auto magazines in Asia on the Web.
via the Internet
Editor: There are plenty of Asian 4x4 magazines, but not many of them have companion Web sites. The biggest 4x4 magazine in Japan, 4WD Craft, does have a site: www.motormagazinesha.co.jp/media log/books/car_mag/4wd/index.html. Unfortunately, it's entirely in Japanese, so unless you're fluent, it's probably not going to be of much help to you. Other Asian mags we know of include 4x4 Magazine and Off Road Express (Japan), Offroad Magazine (Thailand), 4WD & RV (Korea), JIP Magazine (Indonesia), and 4WD & SUV (Malaysia). Your best bet is to spend some time online, Google a few of these titles, and see what you can find.