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October 2009 Letters To The Editor

Posted in Project Vehicles on October 1, 2009 Comment (0)
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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 can also be reached through the website at www.fourwheeler.com. Due to the volume of mail, electronic and otherwise, we cannot respond to every reader, but we do read everything.

What Hits, What Fits, What Quits
Reader: Regarding your "What Hits, What Fits" chart (Aug. '09): I own a 1979 F-150 running 35x12.50s BFG Mud-Terrains with only a 2.5-inch suspension lift, and the tires rub slightly when turned and hit a bad pothole. Great mag!
Albert Cortez
Via the Internet

Reader: I have an '06 Toyota Tacoma that has a 3-inch suspension lift on it, and I have 31x10.50/16 SSR tires on it now. What's the tallest tire I could fit on it with the 3-inch lift?
Hobbs352
Via the Internet

Editor: Trying to estimate the precise amount of suspension lift needed to fit a specific tire diameter to any arbitrary amount of lift is likely a fool's errand (which, of course, is why we try it). There are so many intangibles to consider, such as your tire's actual diameter (which can vary quite a bit from its stated size), your truck's sprung weight, the weight of your engine, and your wheel diameter and offset. Long story short, the information we include in our "Hits & Fits" chart should only be taken as a ballpark guesstimate for any given vehicle. The only way to know for sure what fits your truck is to get down in the wheelwells, break out a tape measure, and start taking some notes.

According to our best information, a 33x12.50 should fit in a 3-inch-lifted Tacoma, though there may be some rub at full lock, and you may lose some suspension uptravel.

Looking For IFS Sonoma Lift
Reader: I have a 2002 GMC Sonoma 4x4. I am looking for a suspension lift for this truck and having a difficult time of it. Can you point me to a manufacturer that makes this kit? Looking for a 4- to 6-inch lift.
Bill Hancock
Mesa, AZ

Editor: At this point, there's not much to choose from if you're dead-set on that much lift. Superlift had a 6-inch kit for your truck; they may still have some in stock, or you might be able to find one via a mail-order outlet such as Rocky Mountain Suspension. Otherwise, you are looking at mostly torsion-bar and/or body lifts in the 2-inch range. Good luck.

Mud-Terrains Better Than All-Terrains In Rain?
Reader: After receiving your August issue with the tire tests, along with all the rain we are having here in the Northeast, an observation: I own a '99 Ford E-350 4x4 van and a '95 Dodge Ram pickup. At first, I was running all-terrain tires on both, then switched to a set of Pro Comp M-Ts on the van and Super Interco TrXus M-Ts on the pickup. The tires were worn out this past fall, so I put General Grabber AT2s on both trucks, hoping to get better fuel mileage. I noticed with the first snow that the M-Ts worked way better in the snow but also in the rain-especially when you hit the standing water on the highway. The M-Ts never hydroplaned-probably because of the larger voids-and I haven't had any increase in fuel mileage after the switch.

My question is: Why do manufacturers rate mud-terrains with lower wet weather ratings? I find the opposite to be true. How about a test?
Raymond Wasiczko
Yonkers, NY

Editor: Actually, what you mention is not a "wet weather" rating, but a "traction" rating, which manufacturers use to rate a tire's overall performance in both dry and wet conditions, both in straight-line driving and when encountering lateral g-forces (i.e., cornering). Yes, those generous voids on your mud-terrains will help channel water away from the tread, but they also leave you with less of a contact patch compared to, say, a conventional passenger-car tire, which will adversely affect the tire's ability to grip (particularly under braking), and hence its overall traction rating. Also, hydroplaning can be caused by a variety of factors: Driving speed, water depth, and inflation pressure, as well as tire design, so the fact that your mud tires have behaved themselves in the wet stuff probably says as much about your rainy-day driving style (i.e., safe and sane) as it does about anything else. Regarding mileage, assuming the tires you're swapping are the same exact size, and you're running the same rims and recommended inflation pressures, the variances in rolling resistance between the mud-terrain and the all-terrain likely won't be sufficient for you to notice any appreciable effect on mileage. At least that's been our experience in the past.

Slip-Yoke Eliminator for P/W?
Reader: We are the proud owners of a 2008 Power Wagon with the six-speed manual. Man, do we love our truck. I would like to know if it would be beneficial to try to install a slip-yoke eliminator on this truck. I have heard Fords use the same transfer case, only without the slip yoke-it has a fixed shaft instead. Is this even possible to do?
Mike Cherry
Via the Internet

Editor: You're correct about the differences in the rear outputs between the Dodge and Ford versions of the NVG 271 (manual-shift) or 273 (electric-shift) transfer case. We don't know anyone who makes a slip-yoke eliminator kit for this application, but unless you're going to subject your truck to severe use (i.e., extreme rock crawling), and you don't have any plans to lift it or stretch it, we're not sure why you'd need to consider one. Based on our experience with this truck, the Power Wagon's driveline (AAM 10 1/2-inch rearend with diesel Ram HD shafts) is one of the stoutest you can find in a factory application, and it should hold up just fine to virtually anything you can throw at it.

Wants Suburban Lift Info
Reader: I was looking at some old magazines in my room the other day and came across your February '08 edition. I currently drive a 1998 Suburban and have wanted to modify it for off road use. I saw your "Suburban Conversion" story and was wondering if you could send me a list of parts, costs, and where you suggest getting them from. Also I'm not the most proficient at working with cars, so could you also send me the end cost, and who in my area would be best to do the work.
Dario Savarese
Winchester, VA

Editor: The Rough Country part number for the 4-inch '88-98 Suburban kit is 274S (six-lug only); list price as of press time was $970.95. Rough Country estimates installation time at six to eight hours, so the cost of installing it will depend on whatever rates your local wrenches are charging. Shipping? Rough Country's located in Tennessee, so it shouldn't cost you a heckuva lot. You can find out more info at www.roughcountry.com. Where to find a good shop or mechanic in your area? You're on your own there, but we'd suggest contacting some 'wheelers in your area for recommendations. Where to start? How about the Virginia 4WD Association? They're on the web at www.va4wda.org.

Kia Mud Whompin'
Reader: Hey, does anybody else out there go four-wheelin' in a Kia Sorento? I hit the dirt roads whenever possible in my '05, and have followed my buddies down a lot of ATV trails (with the A/C on and tunes crankin'). Got it stuck in mud ruts when it was six months old! Only problem is, aftermarket parts are slim to none-K&N filter and Turbo muffler are all I've been able to do, so far.
Tom Rockett,
Lake City, FL

Editor: Seeing is believing. And we thought we were the only ones with enough loose screws to go 'wheeling in a Sorento. Actually, we've spent some trail time in the Kia, and like you suggested, it's a lot more capable in the dirt than most folks might think at first glance. And yeah, there's almost no off-road aftermarket stuff for it, but hey, if you wanna be a Rugged Individualist, sometimes you gotta make sacrifices to have that one-of-a-kind trail machine. Thanks for the photo.

Where To Wheel (And Stay) In Moab
Reader: I am a wheeler in Tennessee, but my buddies and I want to do a once-in-a lifetime wheeling trip to Moab. Don't know anything about it out there, and was wondering if you guys could recommend some places for lodging that would accommodate trucks and trailers (three), as well as some fun places to 'wheel. I drive a Surburban cut to look like an Avalanche with a Dana 60 front axle, Detroit Locker, chromoly axles with 35-spline outers, super joints with drive flanges, and full hydro steering. My rear axle is a Corporate 14-bolt with a disc-brake conversion and Detroit Locker. I also have a Klune-V; my buddies run buggies.
Doug Anderson
Knoxville, TN

Editor: Most, but not all, of the hotels in Moab can accommodate a certain number of trailers in their parking lots, though obviously you'd need to let them know what you want to bring ahead of time. We've had fairly good luck in the past with trailers at both the Ramada and the La Quinta, both located on the main drag (South Main Street), though again, you'll need to call ahead to see what their current policies are. Check with the Moab Area Chamber of Commerce (435/259-7814, moabchamber.com) for a list of hotels and contact information.

Where to wheel? At Moab, your options are virtually endless. Want super-hardcore? You can't beat Pritchett Canyon. Want lots of slickrock and breathtaking views? Try Hell's Revenge and Poison Spyder Mesa. Want a pucker-factor hill climb? The Rim Trail's the place to start. And that's barely scratching the surface. Sign onto the forums at fourwheeler.com, and you'll get plenty of other great Moab recommendations from your fellow wheelers.

Dodge Dakota Lift Solutions
Reader: First, let me say I enjoy reading your mag, but the main reason for contacting y'all is to see if you could help me. I'm currently in the process of doing a solid axle swap for my 2001 Dodge Dakota Quad Cab; and I was wondering if y'all have found a bolt-on kit for the swap? Any info is greatly appreciated.
Steve Hofmeister
Corpus Christi, TX

You guys are the best 4x4 mag. I have an '03 Dodge Dakota 3.9L V-6 five-speed Club Cab (two-wheel drive). I'm having problems finding a leveling kit. Can you guys help me locate parts or a solution to my problem?
Aaron
Via the Internet

Editor: For some reason, later-model Dakotas are the redheaded stepchild of the 4x4 aftermarket. It's probably got to do with the fact that they've never sold in the same numbers that their fullsize brother Ram has over the years. But based on the volume of mail that we get about these trucks, we'd guess some enterprising fabricator could make a nice business for himself by catering to Dakota owners in search of suspension solutions. To answer your question though, the only leveling kits we could find for your truck are of the air-spring variety from Air Lift and Firestone. We don't know if they'll work on a two-wheel drive, but we can't think of any reason why they wouldn't.

About an SAS kit: Nobody makes anything resembling a bolt-in kit for IFS Dakotas, sorry to say. We found a fabrication shop in Santa Barbara, called Thuren Fabrication (805/866-9250), which specializes in Dodge trucks; they've performed a solid-axle swap for the Dakota using F-250 axles, but it is a one-off conversion. They might be able to give you some advice about how to do it, but it is going to be a lot of custom work either way.

Cherokee vs. Bronco: Which Is Best?
Reader: I have two trucks: one is a 1990 fullsize Bronco with the 302, and the other one is a 2001 Cherokee XJ. I want to build one of them to be my weekend truck. I need your opinion on which one would make a better trail rig. For the Bronco, I would like to run 37s or possibly 38s, of course adding gears and lockers. For the XJ, I would like to run 37s again with gears and lockers. Now, I will be using the truck for very loose sand and deep sticky mud. The only paved road the truck will be driven on is on the way to the beach, which is more or less like 10 to 15 miles. Also, can you help me out on what gearing, and which locker, would be best for my truck? Gas mileage really doesn't matter as this will be my trail rig only.
Wawis
Brownsville, TX

Editor: As a rule, for most wheeling duties we'd go with the Cherokee, hands-down. It's lighter in weight, its (solid-axle) coil-spring front suspension is much easier to modify than Ford's Twin-Traction Beam design, and there are a ton of aftermarket parts available for it. And lifting a TTB truck by any amount over a couple of inches typically creates all kinds of caster and alignment issues that a lifted Cherokee won't.

On the other hand, if you're mostly looking to drive in deep mud or sand, you're probably going to want V-8 power-which the XJ never did get from the factory. So unless you're considering an engine swap for the XJ, it's the Bronco.

About lockers: Since your truck will see some pavement-even if it's only 10 to 15 miles at a time-we'd recommend a selectable locker such as an ARB, Auburn ECTED, or Tractech E-Locker so you can "run open" on pavement while retaining the ability to lock 'em up in the dirt. True, they're more costly than a mechanical drop-in unit like a Detroit or a Lock-Right, and there are more parts to troubleshoot if the install goes awry, but for vehicles that see "mixed use," we think they're the best way to go. Gearing? The exact ratio will depend on what's available for the axle(s) that you choose to swap in-and with 38-inch tires, you're well advised to upgrade either the Ford 8.8 rearend, or the Cherokee's Dana 35-but assuming your Bronco came with the most-common 3.54:1 axle gears, a ring-and-pinion swap to the 4.88:1 range would be about right.

Just one caveat: Lifting a TTB Bronco to accommodate 38-inch tires without ditching the front suspension altogether for a solid axle or trimming away a fair amount of fender sheetmetal will almost certainly be (a) time-consuming; and/or (b) expensive. It can be done, of course-just be prepared to pay for it.

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