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December 2008 Letters To The Editor

Posted in Project Vehicles on December 1, 2008
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Where To Write
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.

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?
Jim Bailey
Huntington, NY

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.
Garrett Moore
Sarasota, FL

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.
Carson Fink
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.
Dane Smith
Dallas, TX

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?
Nick Sumski
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.
Ben Freeman

Lockers vs. Welded Gears
Reader: Is welding your gears the same thing as a locker, and are there any other downsides?
Cody Giles
Danville, VA

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.

Where's the Lexus Trailer Brake Controller?
Reader: I just read the articles written by Douglas McColloch on his testdrive of the '08 Land Cruiser and LX 570. Great info on off-road and heavy towing experience. I have been reading and searching other sites, trying to get more info on LC and 570, and all they give are specs-a copycat of each other's writing. Douglas is right about the low-speed Crawl Control rattling noise. I first thought this was a malfunction, but seeing some You Tube broadcast and finally reading Douglas's articles, it is just a new Toyota's 4x4 technology.

Anyway, I am having trouble trying to locate the "factory-installed" brake controller receptacle in my LC. I have already tried under the dash and the driver's left kick panel. You noted "while there's no integrated trailer-brake controller offered, the LX comes already prewired for one." Since the LX is similar to the LC, where did you plug in your brake controller to tow that 8,000 flatbed? Also, did you notice the hydraulic noise from the brake system every other time you stepped on the brake? I can hear it inside the cabin. Toyota told me it is not a defect. I think it is just a bad first-generation product glitch which needs improvement. Quite annoying.
Robert Fung

Editor: Douglas McColloch replies: The Lexus I test-drove was a preproduction unit with an aftermarket trailer-brake controller that was installed via a bracket beneath the dash, to the right of the steering column. It was not an optimal placement-readout visibility was impaired by the steering wheel, and my right knee banged it a time or two while driving-but it did work, so at least the prewiring is sound from the factory. So, to answer your question, there's no dedicated receptacle for the controller at present. Hopefully Lexus will make some accommodations for it in upcoming model years. My test unit didn't emit any unusual brake noises, so I can't comment on the issues you're experiencing in that regard.

Big Truck Classifieds Source
Reader: For the reader who wrote in looking for "Big-Truck Classifieds" (Oct. '08), check out They usually have mildly lifted all the way to sky-high trucks for sale. Give them a try-hopefully they have what you are looking for.
Danny Torkelson
Somewhere in the 815

Dept. Of Corrections
Reader: Your August '08 "Readers' Rigs" lists me as the owner of a '63 Willys. The info on the Willys is correct-but the picture is wrong. The Willys in the photo belongs to someone else. My Willys is painted intense blue and is not two-toned. I know there were photos taken of the blue Willys on the same day, but the photos must have been inadvertently mixed up.
Bob Arnett
Parachute, CO

Editor: Yep, you're right. Our apologies for the mix-up.

Propane for Diesels: Pros and Cons
Reader: Hey guys, I was wondering if you all could get me more info on the propane injection for the diesels. I was told it would make it go to 30 mpg and 100 hp more, but I was also told that it is bad because the propane makes the diesel run hot and can cause more problems in the long run. Is that true?
Kevin Adrian
Dripping Springs, TX

Editor: Propane pro Robin Stover replies: Many diesel experts out there will tell you not to run "aggressive" propane injection on a diesel because it causes pre-combustion, thus increasing cylinder head temperature. Others claim propane is safe as long as you don't use too much.

We tested the Torque Pro propane injection kit from ATS ( on a '99 Dodge Ram Cummins and found that if you only use a mild orifice plate (metering device) and keep the additional power gain under 60 hp, you typically will not run into any problems. So, to answer your question, yes, if you run too much propane you can create issues. If you simply want to increase mpg and are not looking for a lot of additional power, propane injection is a good choice. Better yet however, look into water/methanol injection. Water/meth injection provides all the benefits found in propane injection, plus it cleans the intake and combustion side of the engine, removing gunk and deposits that can eventually lead to problems down the road. We also like the fact that water/methanol is cheaper to use than propane, it doesn't require a pressurized and potentially flammable holding tank, and in most cases is a lot easier to find around town. Water and methanol are the basic ingredients in most types of windshield washer fluid. ATS also offer a water/methanol kit (Water Boy) for diesel vehicles. Good luck with whatever you decide to install on your rig.

Wants Top Truck Video Game
Reader: I was wondering if you guys ever thought about making a Top Truck Challenge video game? I think that you would make a lot of profit off of this. Having anyone be able to build their own customized rig and then being able to compete in Top Truck would be really cool!
Logan Price
Highlands Ranch, CO

Editor: Yes indeed, we've discussed it many times. The only problem is, we're not pro software writers, nor do we have a budget to hire anyone, so for the time being, TTC will remain a non-virtual (i.e., real) experience. But if you'd like to donate your time and know-how to write up a game for us, hey, let us know.

Sizing Up Our Ads
Reader: I am the librarian at an elementary school. I started subscribing to your magazine last year. After many issues had been looked at by children ages 7 to 11, it was brought to my attention of your ad, "Size Does Matter." I cannot express my disgust in this ad being placed into a magazine that children look at daily-not just at my school, but in many places. I now have to look through your magazine every month and find this terrible ad to rip it out before placing it on my shelf for children to see. I think your magazine should think again and make a conscious decision to no longer include this ad in your magazine. I hope you will make the right decision.
Lori Morse
Bassett, VA

Editor: We appreciate your concern-and if we editors had any say in the matter, you likely wouldn't see ads such as that one in our magazine. We've relayed your concerns to our publishing staff, and thanks for sharing them with us.

Letter Of The Month
Reader: Do not worry about me getting on your website again. I had to get off the Internet to get you off my system.
Benny in GA

Editor: Hey, no hard feelings. We have the same problems with our website.

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