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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 and otherwise, we cannot respond to every reader, but we do read everything.
Reader: In Letters (Apr. '07), reader N. Smith asks about the 4WD actuator on his '89 GMC Sierra. Assuming your suggestion to replace/upgrade the often-faulty actuator didn't fix his problem, I had a similar situation with my '96 Chevy 1/2-ton. The truck would engage-the gear reduction was obvious-but the 4WD was not working. I purchased a new actuator (mine was already the upgraded version), and still nothing. I checked the fluid, and found metal shavings in it-never a good sign, in my experience. I disassembled the front axle and found that the stub shaft that engages the front axle had twisted and broken in half. This could be the solution to his problem as well.
Reader: I read the letter from N. Smith, and it reminded me of a problem I had with my '90 1/2-ton Chevy. Four-wheel drive wouldn't engage, and I found that the actuator that engages the front axle is controlled by a switch that screws into the top of the transfer case. This sends power to the actuator when the transfer case is in 4WD, and this switch had quit working. The switch is a little hard to find, so be sure you don't change the variable speed sensor by mistake. (The VSS is on the side of the transfer case, but the switch you want is on the top. It has a connector with two wires going in.) Just unplug the connector and use a wrench to unscrew the switch, then screw the new one in. It cost around $10 for the switch at my local GM dealer. Also, make sure your front driveshaft is turning when 4WD is engaged-if not, the problem is not with the front axle. Another thing to check is that you don't have a broken axleshaft inside the housing. This is simple-just grab the axleshaft where it bolts to the CV, and try to pull it away from the axlehousing. If it moves much at all, you have a broken axleshaft, and only 2WD.
Reader: This is in response to the letter "How to Convert" (March '07) from Andre about swapping a 454 GM gas engine in place of a 6.2L diesel in an '82 pickup. I have done this conversion many times, and the swap is way easier than the suspension conversion. If your truck has a manual transmission, you need the 454 flywheel and clutch assembly. If you have the automatic, you'll need the 454 flexplate. The motor mounts should slide forward with the bolt holes already there. The diesel radiator is more than enough to cool the 454. The 1-ton rearend will bolt under the rear. Then find yourself a 1-ton or 3/4-ton front end, and there you have it. Be sure and check your driveline length in the rear. Napa carries the conversion U-joint if you need it. I have built Chevys for over 25 years and have done everything from putting a solid axle under a '93 1-ton Chevy with a 500 Caddy engine to this diesel swap.
Editor: Thanks to all who wrote in with tips for your fellow readers.
Reader: I'm a pretty avid reader of your magazine. Unfortunately, my '05 Tacoma TRD has been neglected due to school (high school), and has remained pretty stock sans some 31-inch Goodyears. I just wanted to thank you guys for the great in-depth profiles you did on each truck of Top Truck Challenge (Nov. '05). While skimming through your past coverage, I really only noticed how it lacked the details. Thanks for the great coverage on specs and techs of each vehicle. You guys have a great magazine and are definitely living the life, although you do seem to bitch about it sometimes. Keep up the great work, can't wait for the next issue. Thanks to living in the 'burbs, my wheeling is limited to some pipelines and power cuts, where I've a earned quiet a reputation with the local John Law, along with a few trespassing warnings.
Editor: Well, you know how we feel about trespassing and otherwise Treading Unlightly ... OK, consider yourself scolded. And hey, if you worked for a boss like McColloch ("Everyone be quiet-can't you see I'm thinking?"), you'd bitch a little too. But yeah, we know there are plenty of worse ways to make a living than what we do, and we always try to be mindful of that. Thanks also for the kind words about our TTC coverage.
While we're on the subject, we're considering a future project that you might find of interest. See the next letter for details.
Reader: Is there a videotape or DVD for the 1994 Top Truck Challenge?
Steve K. Owens
Editor: We hate to say it, but we weren't so farsighted back then. We didn't start videotaping TTC until the late '90s, so those early Challenges are a distant memory now. However, we are discussing the possibility of publishing a special 15th anniversary "History of Top Truck Challenge" later this year. Basically, it would include all the old articles going back to '93, along with a bunch of new bonus material, stories from past participants and the like. It would probably run 200 pages in length (maybe more), and it would cost a little more than your average issue of Four Wheeler.
Readers, what do you think? If you saw this magazine on your newsstand, would you buy it? Or at least pick it up? Let us know what you think-we'd love to produce it if there's sufficient demand.
Reader: I was thinking of purchasing an '07 Dodge Power Wagon partly because of the good reviews you guys gave in your 2005 Pickup Truck of the Year competition. I thought you'd worked out a deal to keep the truck. I live in Orange County, California, and I swore I saw someone driving it on Interstate 5 down here some time ago.
My question is this: How is it holding up? Any major issues or problems so far? How many miles do you have on it? I plan on keeping my truck for a while, and I've being seeing some problems on various Dodge Truck forums about rack-and-pinion steering unit failures on 1/2-ton models, and wheel-bearing and front disconnecting stabilizer-bar failures at relatively low miles (under 50,000). Have you heard of, or experienced, any of these? Thanks in advance.
Ladera Ranch, CA
Editor: Your eyes did not deceive you-we do indeed still have the Power Wagon in our possession. Unfortunately, for the last few months it's been sitting in mothballs-more accurately, in our parking lot-waiting for a new title while we worked out a purchase agreement with the folks at DaimlerChrysler. But we now have our pink slip and a new registration, and in the months to come, we will be using our Power Wagon as a project rig and rolling test bed for a variety of new aftermarket products. Keep an eye on these pages for future stories.
To answer your other questions, we've heard of those issues, but in our own experience, our P/W has held up remarkably well, given how hard we've worked it. We racked up more than 23,000 miles on it in a little over a year, and the only problems we had were a short in the wiring harness (for the clearance lights) and some premature wear of A-pillar weatherstripping; both were repaired under warranty. Some knucklehead (no longer on our staff) jammed up the CD player by accident, but other than that, we've had no worries with the Wagon.
Reader: I'm pulling axles off a '76 Chevy truck. It has what looks like a 14-bolt rear and a Dana 44 front. I'm trying to find out what size ring gear is in my 14-bolt. The VIN on the door reads as follows: CKL247F336911. Please respond as soon as possible.
Editor: Up until 1981, when VINs were standardized by federal law, different automakers used different alphanumeric designations for their vehicles. General Motors used a 13-digit VIN for its '73-'80 trucks, which, from left to right, denote: Vehicle division, chassis type, engine type, series (1/2-ton, 3/4-ton, and so on), body style, model year, assembly plant, and a sequential serial number.
Long story short: You hit the jackpot with that axle. Your 14-bolt rear is a full-floating model with the 10 1/2-inch ring gear. It was used in 3/4- and 1-ton GM trucks from '73 to '81 and is far and away the stoutest axle the General ever used in a light-duty pickup truck application. Other things we know from your VIN: Your truck was a four-wheel drive from the factory, came with a 350 V-8 and four-barrel carb, and was built at GM's old Flint, Michigan, assembly plant. Oh, one other thing: According to your VIN, your truck is actually a '77, not a '76.
Reader: I'm new to the south-central Pennsylvania area. I have a mild addiction to cruising around off-pavement. Having moved here from eastern Washington. I spent plenty of time in both the Blue Mountains and the Cascades, but I don't have a clue where to go out here! What am I going to tell the kids when they start begging to hit the trails? I'm looking for you guys to bail me out here-make Daddy look good. Do you know of any good places to go four-wheeling in central Pennsylvania? Can you suggest any resources?
Editor: We're not too familiar with the central part of the state, but in the past we have visited Rausch Creek (www.rauschcreekoffroadpark.com) and Paragon Adventure Park (www.paragonap.com), two private ORV parks located to your east in the Poconos. (At last report, Paragon was embroiled in a legal dispute with its landlord, and may no longer be in operation by the time you read this.) There are also a number of 4x4 clubs in Pennsylvania who can perhaps point you in the right direction. Two of the bigger ones we know of are the Erie Jeep People (www.eriejeeppeople.com) and the Keystone Krawlers (www.keystonekrawlers.com). Give 'em a holler and see what they can tell you.
Reader: Last year I missed the Springfield (Missouri) Jamboree Nationals by a few weeks and was greatly disappointed. I am already trying to make arrangements with my friends and family and was trying to get some information on the event.
Editor: We've been all over the Jamboree Nationals like a cheap suit from Year 1, so check our "Calendar" listings each month for starters. For info on all the Jamborees throughout the year, go to www.familyevents.com. For what it's worth, you missed this year's Missouri bash too-it was held May 5-6. But there's another Springfield Jamboree this year, this one in Illinois, and it happens June 23-24.
Reader: When it comes to truck mags, you are the best in my book. I am writing to complain a little, though. Where I live in central Florida, there are truck events almost every weekend within a 100-mile radius. There are tug-of-wars and lots of mudding events. These are big events, with 10,000 people, and 300 to 500 trucks-everything from stockers to trucks with 64-inch tractor tires. Let's see some more mud. Let's see some features on these types of trucks.
Lake City, FL
Editor: We just happened to be not far from your neck of the woods last month. Check out "Waterwhirled" in the June issue for our coverage of swamp buggy muddin' and madness in Naples, Florida.
Reader: I have a couple of pictures I would like to submit to the magazine if possible. Some friends and I went up to Lake Pillsbury in Mendocino County, California, to do some wheeling in the snow. While we were there, my buddy got a funny idea for a photo that we would like to send in. It's a photo of my friend sitting on a "snow toilet" while reading your magazine. I don't know if you have a section in your magazine that will accommodate a photo like this, but someone told me that one of the 4x4 magazines has a section for "strangest places to read our magazine." I am hoping that you'll be able to publish the photos.
via the Internet
Editor: Sorry to say, for reasons of taste, we don't publish reader toilet photos. But since your buddy was willing to (literally) freeze his butt off for the greater glory of Four Wheeler, we figure the next best thing we can do is send you guys a heaping box of FW swag. Thanks for writing.