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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 www.fourwheeler.com. Due to the volume of mail, electronic and otherwise, we cannot respond to every reader, but we do read everything.
Debating Power vs. Gears
Reader: I just want to say that in the six-plus years I've been reading this mag, I've only written in with a complaint once. Well, time for round two. I was reading "Great Debates" (Sept. '08), and Mr. Brubaker says in the "Buildup" column that there is no need to regear-just power up-because, and I agree, gears can be tricky to install. But in a different debate on the same page, he says, "The V-8 may not make the torque at low rpm like the I-6, but gearing can solve that in short order." It seems as though there is a bit of flip-flopping going on here. So I ask you, Mr. Brubaker, which is it? Engine power or regearing?
Editor: To us, this simply means that there is no one-size-fits-all solution for all four wheelers. If you wheel a lot of the trails we do out West-rocky mountain roads at slow speeds-you're likely better served by gearing down. If your idea of fun is rippin' through the mud in a straight line, you're better off going for more horsepower, all other things being equal. Our "Great Debates" should be thought of primarily as a vehicle to stimulate discussion-and maybe a bit of trash talkin'-amongst our readers rather than as personal manifestos.
Love Those Trailhugger Tires...
Reader: Wow! Great job on "Project Trailhugger" (Sept. '08)! I love the way you spent $1,000 to replace the stock 33-inch Bridgestone A/Ts with 33-inch BFGoodrich A/Ts. And $2,300 for a set of Hummer wheels to replace the Hummer wheels, brilliant! I have some great investment opportunities in South Africa for you guys.
Editor: We kinda expected letters like this. OK, the critique is well taken, but we can defend our decision (again) based on two criteria: (1) the Hummer's stock tires, while well-mannered on pavement, leave a little to be desired on the trail in terms of sidewall stoutness, and (2) like many of you, we wanted our ride to look a bit different, and maybe even look cool, hence the wheel swap.
No Helmet on a UTV?
Reader: Just got around to reading the September issue. Good stuff again-until I reached page 50 ("Project Rhino"). I love to ride ATVs and UTVs, but the lead picture is just plain irresponsible. No helmet again? Even the guy riding the ATV on page 56 has one! Kids read this, too, and seeing an adult fly through the air is cool to them, but in the last month in my area, two young kids have been seriously injured, and a 16-year-old girl was killed-all riding ATVs. 'Nuff said.
Chippewa Falls, WI
Editor: Fair enough, and thanks for the reminder. On the other hand, our Rhino UTV has a full rollcage installed, as well as seatbelts (which we admit were not visible in the photo). That said, your point is always a good one to keep in mind for anyone who likes to play in the backcountry in an open-air vehicle. Thanks again.
Best Buys: No Love for Landy?
Reader: The Toyota Land Cruiser and the Lexus LX 570 are basically the same vehicle. Why not "consider" one of the Range Rovers in the "Luxury" category of your "10 Best Buys in Four-Wheel Drive" (Sept. '08). Also, it seems to me that the FJ Cruiser is more of a compact SUV rather than a midsize, and certainly the Jeep Wrangler Rubicon Unlimited four-door with its 115-inch wheelbase is a midsize that competes against the H3 in size and capability. I think you work too hard to make sure every major automaker is represented. Then again, I've never had to make a living selling magazine advertising.
Editor: Advertising plays no role in our Best Buy picks. As far as luxury SUVs are concerned, both the LR3 and Range Rover Sport got votes, and the Toyota LC got the nod over the Lexus because it's a bit less expensive. And we did pick the four-door Wrangler as our Overall Best Buy.
More Places to Wheel Before You Keel Over
Reader: Your "101 Places to Wheel Before You Die" (June '08) did not include Wharton State Forest in Chatsworth, New Jersey. It's a very unique place-actually, the largest single piece of land in the state: 115,111 acres, to be exact. I love it in the Pine Barrens as you can wheel for days and days on many trails. The Jeep Jamboree series makes a stop at Wharton, and Water Road is the trail to ride. I wheel every weekend in my Ford, and the holes change constantly. I read many four-wheeling magazines, but of them all, I would like nothing more than to blaze the pines with a Four Wheeler decal on my rear slider. Maybe you can hook a wheeler up?
Forked River, NJ
Editor: You got it, bro. Thanks for the tip on another cool wheeling spot.
Reader: I was shocked to know you guys haven't heard of Reiter Pit in Washington ("Letters," Sept. '08 issue). I was stationed close to there from 2000 to 2004, and I gave Willie Worthy a tour of the ship I was on. (Nice guy.) I've wheeled from the Rubicon up, and Reiter put more dents and caused more broke parts. Randy's Ring & Pinion isn't far from it, along with Olympic 4x4. Some of the trails are only passable three months out of the year. Most are old logging trails, but water, snow, and time have turned them into real fun. Rock walls, water crossings, bottomless mud holes, and the most beautiful views will have you looking for that disposable camera behind the seat. If you plan a trip, make it for a week. You won't be sorry.
APO - AP
Lockers vs. Welded Gears
Reader: Is welding your gears the same thing as a locker, and are there any other downsides?
Editor: A locking differential does what its name implies-it "locks" both axleshafts in an axlehousing whenever differences in wheelspeed are detected so that the shafts turn at the same rate. Benefits? They're reasonably affordable, are virtually indestructible, and can make the difference between staying stuck when one wheel is spinning in mid-air, and maintaining forward progress. Downsides? They induce understeer and can be somewhat clunky and abrupt in operation-at least, until you get used to them.
Welding the side, or "spider," gears in an open diff can be done to create a sort of "poor man's spool" which will spin both axleshafts at an identical rate regardless of wheelspeed or side loads, but to do this, you'll need to melt down a chunk of the gears, which in turn affects their metallurgical integrity. In other words, you're literally engineering a weak link into your drivetrain, so we don't really recommend this.
Our choice? If you're on a bit of a budget, a time-tested locker such as a Detroit is great for the rear end, while a less-intrusive limited-slip such as a Truetrac makes great sense for the front. If you have more money, take a look at selectable lockers, such as the ARB Air Locker. To us, they represent the best of both worlds, but they do come at a steeper price.