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August 2009 Letters To The Editor

Posted in Project Vehicles on August 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.

Gear Swaps: Missed It By That Much...
Reader: Hi folks, I've been enjoying your magazine for probably 30 years now. You might want to recheck the latter part of your answer to the "Re-Gearing for Bigger Tires" ("Letters," May '09). The recommendation to gear lower (from 4.56:1 to 4.88:1) in order to keep revs down seems a bit backwards to this old engineer.
Jeff Pittman
Terry, MS

Reader: Normally, when reading your columns, I find good advice and expert recommendations. However, after reading the response to "Re-Gearing for Bigger Tires," my faith in your competency has diminished. I hope you meant to say in your response, in order to keep rpm down to use 4.11:1 gears instead of 4.88:1. Did you have a gross conceptual error concerning gear ratios?
Ed Winegar
Battle Creek, MI

Editor: Boy, what a difference one little word can make. We should have advised our reader to go with the lower 4.88:1 gears to keep his revs up, not down, at highway speeds when towing a load. But you're both correct, and that's why the OE truck manufacturers typically offer lower (numerically higher) gear sets with their factory towing packages. Our bad, and thanks for the catch.

What's "Abnormal" For A Jeep?
Reader: What are abnormal driving conditions for a stock Jeep Rubicon Unlimited?

I have had numerous warranty claims with my stock Jeep. So far, I have received the following statements:

"Abnormal driving conditions are causing your hard top to crack." This was told to me after I drove up the rock formation on the dealer's lot to replicate the sound the top was making.

"Mud severed the wire at the rear locker solenoid." The rear locker problem arose two weeks after the dealer replaced the original rear locker solenoid for not actuating.

I have tried calling Jeep's 1-800 number, and the outsource help desk employee could not give me any assistance or feedback in writing. The dealer will not elaborate in detail what "abnormal" driving conditions are. Therefore, I'm asking if someone on your staff could explain what "abnormal" driving conditions are for a Jeep Rubicon?
Garrett Tomblin
Foster, WV

Editor: Sounds to us like your dealer is winging it as he goes along. Our advice: Shop around for another Jeep dealer for service if it's possible. You can also arm yourself with information by checking the Internet for any Chrysler service bulletins that might cover your vehicle. Since we don't know the exact model year of your Jeep, we aren't sure if there's a recall related to the problems you describe, but if you check out, you should be able to find out if these problems on your Jeep are covered under warranty.

Needs `60s Blazer NOS Parts
Reader: I need help finding a place to find and buy a windshield frame/cowl for a `69 K-5 Blazer. Do you know of any dealers for such parts?
Tracy Bright
North Cape May, NJ

Editor: Try Manes Truck Parts (877/358-6745, Since they specialize in '67-'72 GM truck parts, they should be able to help you find what you're looking for.

Wants More Stroker Jeep-Six Info
Reader: First, I'd like to say great rag. I keep them all for future projects. I bought an `89 Comanche (4x2) for $400, took all the good stuff and sold the rest to a scrap metal place for $200. So now I have this 4.0L itchin' to get stroked and stuffed into my `92 XJ. Your engine-building story, "Inside the Inline" (Sept. '07), listed the block that I have (casting number 53005535). Can I use any combination of those parts listed to build my stroker? I will bore the '89 4.0L .030 over, use a 258 crank, long rods (6.125-inch), and the shorter piston pin height (1.38 inches). I will use my `92 H.O. head (casting number 7120), and everything else will come off my `92 H.O. and put on the `89 block. I just want to make sure this goes smoothly. This will be my first build by myself, I am mechanically inclined and, of course, on a budget.
Brian Blanton
Phenix City, AL

Editor: Jeep engine guru Jim Allen replies: To answer your question, yes, you can use most of the parts listed in the story, but that chart is really for the "short-rod" engines, as shown in the story, which uses the 258 short rods. You are talking about using the 4.0L long rods, which makes it a "long rod" engine and requires custom pistons (which you can get from Hesco (; or you can order a set from any builder of custom pistons). Remember that the other important element is your camshaft. If you are going to use the factory 4.0L cam, you'll have a lot of dynamic compression to deal with, so your piston pin height selection will be vital. Get the stuff you need to do accurate cc'ing, and use the formulas to calculate combustion chamber volume and verify it all. Getting that part right will dictate ping or no ping, full success or marginal success. Hesco's pistons are probably the best choice if you want to go with a long rod engine, plus they have a lot of the other little goodies you might need.

Project Frontier Snorkel Source
Reader: I read your article on the installation of TJM's Airtec snorkel on your Project Frontier and enjoyed it. I was inquiring about where you purchased the product since I have been unable to find hardly any of their products here in the U.S.
Lee Horner
West Point, MS

Editor: TJM is an Australian company; you can inquire about getting a snorkel at their US subsidiary (865/670-1556, e-mail:

Wants New D-Ring Isolators
Reader: Your magazine is the best! I was wondering where I can find the Daystar D-Ring Protectors. That clanking is probably one of the most annoying sounds I hear when trail riding.
Chris Cain
West Lafayette, IN

Editor: Daystar can help you here. Log onto their website ( Click on the "Dealers" link, and they can tell you which retailers have got them in your area.

In Search Of An Elusive Unimog....
Reader: I live in the UK and own an M-B 404 Unimog, which I am drastically going to modify for challenger events in the very near future. I have plans to fit a Chevy 350 behind the cab, which will be coupled to a TH350 gearbox. I've been doing a number of hours of research and came across a guy named Stephane Belanger who ran much the same setup as I hope to. (I came across a video of his truck at the 2004 Top Truck Challenge event on your website.)

If it is true, it would be extremely useful if you could send me this review so I could read through it and get a bit more information about the vehicle. If you have any more video of this vehicle that you're willing to share, it would be very helpful.
Tom Haryatt
Beggars Folly, Milford Road, Elstead

Editor: We gotta admit, we're suckers for those UK mailing addresses. "Beggars Folly" just sounds a lot cooler than "Wilshire Boulevard," doncha think? It also sounds like a place where most of our sales guys would live, come to think of it.

Okay, we sure do remember Stephane and his amazing Unimog. The feature we ran on his vehicle, "Top Truck Challengers," appeared in the October 2004 issue. Reprints can be ordered from Wrights' Reprints at +1-281-419-5725 (overseas line; for everyone else, it's 877/652-5295). Be sure to specify the name of the story, and the issue it appeared in, when you order. The only additional video of this event that we shot was featured in our Top Truck 2004 DVD. Log onto They may still have some copies floating around.

The Best Bargain In Rollbars?
Reader: My question is about safety. Could you publish an article on bolt-in rollbars for pickups? I've been looking for a used bar because the price of new ones runs a couple of hundred for 2 -inch tube, to almost $1,000 for a custom piece. I see so many trucks mashing on it sideways that have no rollbar, and the Interlake area where I wheel has a lot of steep hills with muddy terrain. I wonder about my safety and the people who ride with me. We all know what a pickup looks like after a rollover, and it's not pretty. What I'm looking for is an article on what's good for go, and what's good for show, and where to get them. I see lots of ads for motors, lift kits, and tires in your mag, but never anything on rollbars.
Glenn Nichol
Fort Branch, IN

Editor: First, when it comes to any type of safety equipment, forget about buying anything used. The reasons should be self-explanatory.

Second, even the best bolt-on bars can fail in a bad rollover. For one thing, the bolts themselves can corrode over time, or shear off completely if subjected to excessive shock loads. In addition, if you end up on your lid, you've only got a single bar holding up the weight of your entire vehicle--usually, from a location behind the cab (i.e., behind your head). And if the bar's been chromed, as many are, the metal beneath has possibly been embrittled, which can potentially weaken it, depending on the process that was used.

The answer? If you plan on serious wheeling where the chances of rollover are high, your only real solution is a full four- to six-point rollcage--one which protects your entire cab--that's welded directly to the frame. That way, the weight of the vehicle is more evenly distributed among all the bars should you end up rolling over, and since it's integrated to the frame, the chassis itself can act as a weight-distributing device as well as to support any unsprung weight such as wheels and tires. Yes, welds, just like bolts, can also fail, so it's important that any quality 'cage be installed by a experienced and certified welder. And yes, this will add to the cost. But when it comes to protecting the safety of you and your passengers, we think it wise to spend the extra money.

How To Build Your First Jeep?
Reader: I just bought an `89 Wrangler. I want to run 35- to 37-inch tires. I have the I-6 engine and automatic tranny. I want to use it for snow, mud and trails, and also on the highway. What would the best way to build it? Also, what lockers do you use? This is my first Jeep.
Kenesaw, NE

Editor: We could write a book on this subject, and other folks have, but the first questions to ask--and they'll affect every other decision you make--are these: how much money do you have right now, and how much time can you spend to do it right? Sounds to us that, given your intended use, a simple leaf-spring lift with upgraded shocks would be the easiest and most cost-effective way to go, and just about every major aftermarket suspension company offers lift kits for your Jeep in the range you're looking for. (A spring-over swap using your stock springs will get you the amount of lift you want, too, but you need to possess a thorough and comprehensive understanding of suspension, steering and driveline geometry to do it correctly, and there are literally a thousand ways to get it wrong.) Price? You can figure on spending close to a grand for a quality lift kit and shocks, and probably a bit more if you have someone else install it for you. Then bolt on those 35x12.50s and hit the trails, right?

But wait. You need to remember the "one thing leads to another" principle: After you've lifted your Jeep and installed those bigger, heavier wheels and tires you want, you'll need to consider upgrading your brakes and wheel bearings, and possibly some of your steering components. And trust us, that Dana 35 rear axle of yours won't likely have a long and happy life lugging a set of 35-inch tires around, so axleshaft upgrades (or better yet, a Dana 44 swap) should be considered a near-must. And did we mention the new set of ring and pinion gears you'll need, and a speedo recalibration, too? And we haven't even discussed the strain that all that added weight and rolling resistance will place on your OE cooling system, and what it'll do to your mileage, hence more frequent trips to the pump...

As you can see, the price tag for one seemingly simple modification can multiply rapidly when you consider all the other factors that need to be considered when modding up a bone-stock 4x4. Our best advice for now is to do a little research on the Internet, figure out what's likely to work best on your budget, and talk with some folks who've been-there-and-done-that with their Jeeps already. That way, you can learn from their mistakes, and you'll get a better idea of what you need to do--and how much you'll need to spend--to build your Wrangler the right way the very first time. Where to start? How about logging onto the forums at, where you can chat with lots of experienced wheelers?

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