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January 2009 Letters To The Editor

Posted in Project Vehicles on January 1, 2009
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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.

Wants Mud-Tire Comparo Test
Reader: I enjoyed your three-way test of all-terrain tires ("A Tale of Three Tires," Nov. '08). Will there ever be a test of mud-terrain tires? I have a set of Hankook M/Ts on my two-wheel drive. I'm going to put a set on my four-wheel drive when I replace the tires.
Karen Billy
Wright City, OK

Editor: We don't have any mud-tire comparison test in the works for the immediate future, but it is a subject we'll be returning to eventually. Thanks for the suggestion.

"Safety First," Or Maybe Not?
Reader: I have to wonder why: For driving a vehicle not suited for highway use and then getting into a high-speed rollover accident that clearly demonstrates why ("Achilles' Wheels," Oct. '08), you award a reader with $2,000 and magazine attention? Oh, yes, how could I forget-all because "safety really does come first." I think you need to have a conversation with the freight train operator who nearly punted Dave Manning into a Darwin Award.
David Geesaman
Harrisburg, PA

Editor: We get lots of letters...and every now and then, we get a letter that breaks the mold. And something tells us, this won't be the last we hear about this one. Readers?

The Last Word On Torsion Bars.We Think
Reader: I was reading an editor's response to "Torsion-Bar Cranking: Pros and Cons" and was alarmed. The answers to Justin from Corpus Christi's questions were not accurate-at all. I'm a vehicle systems engineer with Bachelor's and Master's degrees in mechanical engineering. I also own an off-road company on the side, which deals primarily in torsion-bar suspension products. I get these questions a lot and I realize there are a lot of misunderstandings here.

Since I'm sure you get a lot of questions regarding the cranking of torsion bars, I'll just give you the rundown. You can respond to your reader's questions as required.

Pros: More compression travel
Cons: Less down travel

How this affects a truck off road: For those who do a lot of slower speed trail wheeling, down travel is as important as up. Therefore, cranking is not a good idea. It will lessen your capability. Use other methods such as body lifts or fender mods to fit larger tires.

For those who play in the desert, you need compression travel. Your truck will experience extremely high forces catching air, which will likely break things anyway, but at least the odds go down when you have a lot more compression travel. The ride will suck, but again you are subjecting the truck to extreme forces, so you have to accept the give-and-take or get a long-travel kit.

Long term effects: Typically, slim to none-the spring might fatigue sooner, but these springs often last decades and at the very least much longer than their leaf and coil counterparts. CV boots will wear faster but they are inexpensive. Four-wheeling wears out truck parts-it's just part of the sport. If your cranked torsion bar only lasts 10 years instead of 18, who cares? You probably won't own the truck then anyway. The shocks will not be affected because the range of travel has not changed. On some trucks, excessive tie-rod angle will wear steering components. If you don't wheel rocks, that's usually not an issue, though.

Effects on ride quality on-road: It gets worse as you go up. As the A-arm makes an angle (is no longer parallel) with the ground, the actual twisting force the bar experiences is reduced. There is less torque. It then flexes less when you hit a bump, making you feel the bump more.

Preload and "over torque." The preload goes down, not up, as you increase ride height up until you max it out and pin the A-arm against its extension bumpstop (no one should do this). Think about it-the bar is resisting twisting force as a result of the truck's mass. When you cranked the bar, did the truck get heavier? Nope, the only thing that changed is the mechanical advantage or leverage of the A-arm. The leverage went down, and thus so did the preload. (There goes the whole "do you need stiffer bars to hold the lift" crap I hear time and time again.)

Bigger bars-do you need 'em? It depends. The spring rate of a torsion bar goes up with an increase in diameter at a rate of the diameter raised to the 4th power. That's a lot fast. You need bigger bars for one reason only-to get less flex out of your front end. That's it.

After reading this and contrasting it with your response, I think you'll agree some clarification is in order.
Frank Falcone
Plainfield, IL

Editor: We don't think there was anything in our answer that directly contradicted the points you've made here-we simply didn't cover the matter in a whole lot of detail. Besides, we enjoy hearing from knowledgeable readers such as yourself who can help us fill in the blanks. Thanks for taking the time to write.

Reader: I read with great interest the letter in the October 2008 issue regarding the pros and cons of torsion-bar keys. In your reply, you state that "We don't recommend torsion-bar lifts in general." However, in the January '08 issue, Ken Brubaker did a two-page tech article on torsion-bar keys in which he states it is a "cost-effective and worthwhile install." Sooooo, which is it?
Jack Cooper
Greenville, MI

Editor: Well, yes, a torsion-bar lift is cost-effective if you're on a budget and you don't need a huge amount of lift, flex, or articulation. Worthwhile? It's all in the eye of the beholder, i.e., it largely depends on the kind of wheeling you do.

Crossovers Rock. Cross-Dressers? Well...
Reader: Hey, just wanted to say thanks for putting my letter "Crossovers Are Cool" in the mag. Only problem is, my name isn't Jo Geddes. It's Jon. No offense to anyone named JoAnne Geddes out there, but that's just not me.
Jon Geddes
Everson, WA

Editor: Sorry for the goof. The guilty editor is undergoing a sex change operation as we speak-and he ain't looking any prettier, that's for sure.

Looking To Start A 4WD Club
Reader: I am looking into starting a four wheel club. I don't have any real information on starting an official club. Just wondering if you guys could help me out. Thanks.
Corey M. Johnson
Bridgeton, NJ

PhotosView Slideshow

Editor: What you'll need to do to form a 4WD club will vary from state to state, but as a rule, you want to (a) file articles of incorporation with your state government; (b) elect a board of officers, (c) write up a set of bylaws, (d) create a regular meeting schedule, and (e) 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 (; there are dozens of clubs around the country who are UFWDA affiliates, and perhaps one of them can help answer some of your questions with greater specifics than we can here.

Newer Dakota Owner Wants Lift
Reader: My brother has an '05 Dodge Dakota Quad Cab 4x4, and he has been looking for a 4-inch lift, but he's having trouble finding one. I told him if anyone would know, it would be you guys.
Roy Miller
Shelbyville, IN

Editor: Right You Are. OK, First, Crank Up The Torsion Bars As Tight As You Can. Then...

OK, seriously, the problem with Dakotas, particularly of recent vintage, is that they haven't been very strong sellers. Hence, the aftermarket has been slow to respond with lots of bolt-on suspension goodies for it. (Economies of scale and all that.) We've come across some spacer kits and/or body lifts that'll give your Dakota a combined 3 inches or so of lift (which by our reckoning should allow you to fit 32-inch tires without serious clearance issues), but if you want to go any taller, or want a dedicated suspension kit per se, it looks like you're on your own. Readers?

Looking For Jersey Wheeling Spots
Reader: I'm an avid reader and a very avid wheeler, and I am wondering if you guys would be able to help me out. The local spot to go wheeling around here is a sand wash near Menantico Ponds Wildlife Preserve in southern New Jersey. I have been wheeling out there for years. It's a wonderful place, with hillclimbs, mud holes, and clay pits, not to mention the beautiful blue holes. I just received a ticket today for trespassing. The cops said that it's owned by the electric company. I'm looking for help to somehow preserve this spot for the wheelers down here. There aren't any other places nearby. I'm just looking for help on how to go about saving this spot.
Corey Johnson
Bridgeton, NJ

Editor: We can't give any expert advice on the parcel of land you mention-except that the words "four-wheeling" and "wildlife preserve" are usually mutually exclusive. However, we know that there are still some decent wheeling opportunities in New Jersey, particularly in the southern half of the state around the Pine Barrens area. You might try hitting up the South Jersey Four Wheelers ( for information. They conduct trail rides and cleanups in the Barrens on a regular basis, and they might be able to help you with your particular wheeling spot as well.

Wants His Custom Crawler In Four Wheeler
Reader: I was curious about how I would go about trying to get a feature done on my rockcrawler. It is a pretty wild rockcrawler and it gets a ton of attention wherever it goes. I think that it would be a great addition to your magazine.
Kyle Ahrensburg
Poway, CA

Editor: Well, for starters you could send us some photos of your ride, along with a list of specs and all the modifications you've made. If we like it enough, we could possibly make arrangements to meet up with you at one of the various trail events we cover throughout the year. Even if we don't manage to hook up, we are always looking for cool entries to publish in "Readers' Rigs" each month. For starters, though, your best bet is to load up some photos and specs onto a CD and send it to us at 6420 Wilshire Blvd., Los Angeles, CA 90048.

More Online Scout Resources
Reader: I caught Willie Worthy's reply to a "Project Tonto" question in the August "Techline." It's time to update your web recommendations for Binder stuff!

The Binder Bunch tech has basically been subsumed in the morass. You can search for "Jim Weed" and get a few of the articles-otherwise they're not linked from the rest of the site that I can find.

I respectfully submit that the Binder Bulletin ( is the only source an aspiring IH builder needs these days. We have hundreds of active users, many with thousands of posts to their credit. There is a wide range of expertise present, from hard-core Scout buildups to the older rigs. I have yet to see an IH question we can't handle. (I will admit to a little bias as I'm the moderator of the Triple Diamond Talk forum.) There are many active club forums on the Binder Bulletin that keep folks up to date on current and planned activities.
Jim Grammer
Hillsboro, OR

Looking For Transglobal Wheeling
Reader: Do you only write of four-wheeling in the U.S., or do you also do four-wheeling in international destinations?
Cindy Lou Dale

Editor: Well, we've got a story about four-wheeling in Mongolia on page 40 of this month's issue. How's that for an answer?

Looking For Trail Ride Coverage
Reader: Two clubs are getting together for a trail ride in Wellsville, Ohio, the weekend directly after Thanksgiving. Can you tell me who to talk to about possibly having Four Wheeler do some pics and a write-up?
Jay Murph
Sharpsville, PA

Editor: The weekend after Thanksgiving? Are you kidding? Dude, we're eating turkeyburgers at home all weekend!

Actually, due to the number of requests we receive for coverage, and given our resources, there's no way we can get to every great event that goes on across the country. However, we are always on the lookout for good freelance stories, so if you (or one of your buddies) has a digital camera and a knack for turning a phrase on paper, feel free to send us a submission. If we like it enough, we'll publish it in the magazine and pay you for it. Is this a great magazine, or what?

Wants Top Truck Videos
Reader: Where can I buy/order Top Truck Challenge DVDs? I can't find anything on your site.
Vancouver, BC, Canada

Editor: We sell Top Truck DVDs via mail order, courtesy of our good friends at 4Wheel Parts Wholesalers. Log onto and you should find what you're looking for.

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