Question: Recently I have bought a new (to me) truck, a '00 Dodge 3500 dualie 4x4. I need the big truck to haul my boat at just over 10,000 pounds. It has the Cummins power and works just great. But I would like to add a lift that doesn't hurt towing capability. I have not been able to find any info for lifts for this truck.
What is the tallest tire that I can put under this truck at the stock height? I'm running 235/85R/16s now, and want to add a taller tire until I can get the lift and new tires and wheels. Where can I find wheels and big tires with the proper load rating?
Newman Lake, WA
Answer: Yep, you've got a couple of problems when it comes to bigger and taller tires for your 1-ton. You most likely won't find a tall, narrow tire with the load capacity that is up to your truck. You can't go too wide, or the dual rear wheels will rub against each other. Interco (www.intercotire.com) may have a tire that will work for you. Take a look at the Narrow Super Swamper series. The taller tire will raise the overall gear ratio and may affect the ability to pull with the transmission in Overdrive.
Any lift will have to be custom-built. The same goes for the wheels if you wanted to go with a wider wheel, or a wheel with more offset so that the spacing would be correct with a wider tire. In this case, the tire will be way outside the fender and just may make the truck too wide to be legal. One source for custom wider wheels is Stockton Wheel (209/464-7771, www.stocktonwheel.com).
Question: I have a '91 F-150 with a 4-inch lift, but other than that, it's fairly stock. I am considering ladder bars as my next mod to save on U-joint expenses. I know I can just add more leaves to stiffen the rear, but I don't want to compromise ride or flex. What is the best way to build my own? Complexity is no problem. I'm just not sure where to start. What are my cheapest options (i.e., college student working on pocket change)?
Answer: I have to assume that you must be experiencing wheelhop or axlewrap since you're taking out U-joints. The simple way would be to back off the throttle when the rear axle starts to hop around. The next best would be to get rid of the lift blocks (that I'm assuming you have as part of the lift).
A quality set of rear springs with the correct amount of arch can gain you the necessary lift and won't have the leverage factor. Places like Alcan Spring (888/321-0870, www.alcanspring.com) or Deaver Spring Company (714/542-3703) can build anything you would need. Or, there's always the chance that you have a spring builder locally who can do the work.
Ladder bars would be my last choice as they generally do limit suspension articulation. If I was going to build some, they would be the same length or a bit longer than the front half of the rear spring and use something like a flexible joint at each end like those sold by Currie Enterprises or Rubicon Express. I would use a pivoting shackle arrangement for the front mount. If the front mounting point will be a solid mount, you're going to have to determine that point by cycling the rear suspension through its travel numerous times. The easiest way I have found to do this is to take the springs apart and use only the main leaf. Then, with the rear of the truck on jackstands, you can lift the rear axle up and down with a floor jack and note the proper angle and location that allow for the most movement without binding. There will be some compromise. For material, I probably would use some 1 1/4-inch-diameter, 0.25-inch-wall DOM tubing.
I think that if your heart is really set on traction bars, you may be better off buying a set from a shop that specializes in suspension control. Sure, they may cost considerably more than what it would cost you to build them, but you know that the engineering would be right and they would allow the maximum amount of articulation. A couple of companies that offer such bars that come to mind are Off Road Unlimited (818/563-1208, www.offroadunlimited.com) and Superlift (www.superlift.com).