4x4 Answerman Answers Off-Road Truck & SUV Questions

May. 18, 2011 By Jaime Hernandez
Have a truck or SUV question for the 4x4 AnswerMan? Send your questions to editor@off-road.com. Please include your name and location, and be as detailed as possible about your questions.

Other 4x4 AnswerMan Columns:

April 2011

March 2011

February 2011


4x4 AnswerMan,

I have a 2009 Chevy 1500 LTZ 6.2L with 20” wheels. I would like to lift my truck approx. 4-5 inches maybe go to 6 inches if needed and run 33-35” tires I have a few questions:
Can I get a heavy load tire for the stock 20” wheels in the sizes above? The road we travel on is known for puncturing tires when it is graded.

Can you recommend a proper lift kit for this project?

Are there body lifts kits available to keep costs down?

Note: I will be using tires for a rugged dirt road and short off-road non-serviced roads/trails with some fairly steep hills, our spring runs from Late April to Early June when trails are muddy and rough, our next wet season is in the fall From Oct to Early Dec. That’s pretty well the season I will need these tires for, May –Dec!
Thanks for any help!

Todd Winsor

Hi Todd,

Yes, you can get off-road tires to fit your factory 20-inch wheels. Companies like Nitto, Toyo, General, Goodyear and BFGoodrich make both all-terrain and mud tires. Some even come in D or E load rating.

As for running 33-35 inch tires, you can get away with a front leveling kit to run 33s. Anything bigger than that you will need to run a 4-inch suspension lift and possibly re-gear for the larger tires.

Take a look at the leveling kit from Ready-Lift. I think you will be pleased. Many would agree that it’s better than a body lift.




Hello 4x4 AnswerMan,
This is Ryan from Corpus Christi, Texas. I am slowly starting my Blazer project. It’s in amazing shape, but I have different plans for my ‘89 Chevy full-size Blazer. I plan on using 37# to 40# tires when I put a lift on the truck but, I don’t know much about axles. I hear Dana 50, 60, Rockwell, military axles, etc. I don’t know what to look for and if I’m looking for a Dana 60, is every one I find going to work or is it going to be a huge modification? When I know what to look for, where do I look? And how much should I spend? What are the right or correct questions to ask when buying? Thanks for your help.

Hi Ryan,

Glad to hear you’re getting a Chevy Blazer project going. If you’re serious about running 37 to 40-inch tires, you really need to look at Dana 60s. The proven combination is running a Dana 60 front with a GM Corporate 14-bolt rear. The parts are readily available and virtually bulletproof.

Rockwell’s and other military axles are nice, but they are very heavy and there are not too many options available for aftermarket modifications in the civilian world. It all really depends on what you want.

Best way to go about it would be to look for a 1-ton 4x4 Chevy donor truck. You can grab the axles, and maybe even upgrade to the stronger NP205 transfer case found on these trucks. Look for a K30 3rd Gen. built from 1973 – 1987. 

Prices will vary for used GM axles: front Dana 60 run between $500-$1500, and GM 14-bolt can go between $250-$500. Sometimes just getting the axles alone may cost more than buying the entire truck. 

Yes, there will be quite a bit of modification involved when swapping out your stock Dana 44 to the Dana 60 and GM 14-bolt. Find yourself a good 4x4 shop that can help with the build, or at least offer some good advice if you decide to tackle it on your own.

A good resource is Off-Road Design http://offroaddesign.com/ 
They have everything you need to transform your Blazer into a badass 1-ton 4x4.

Also, take a look at what contributor Mike Lyon did on his K10 Chevy when upgrading to 1-ton axles. It’s very similar to what you’re looking to do.

Project Big Bad Chevy: One-Ton Axle Install

Project Big Bad Chevy: Rear Axle Build


4x4 AnwerMan,

I've just acquired a 1995 4Runner with the following VIN number and codes. What is the gear ratio and please confirm the 8" diameter of the Diff. Does it have 2 Pinions or 4 Pinions. Is it open or does it have a locker of some sort?

C/TR 751/JD44
A/TM G144/A34DH

Thank you,

Hi Bear,

You have the G144 axle code, which means you have a rare 8-inch housing with factory 4.88 gears. This option was found in 1992 - 95 Toyota Pick-up Trucks and 4Runners with V6 and auto trans.

I’m not 100% sure on the number of pinions, but if you’re really curious, why not take the 3rd member out and take a look. It wouldn’t hurt to swap out diff oil while you’re at it.

No factory locker on this, but you could easily add one for a Toyota 8-inch, as the carriers are the same.

By the way, good find.

If you want to read more about Toyota Differential Identification, check out this tech article:

Toyota Differential Identification



4x4 AnswerMan,

How do you know when you’re locked in 4x4?


Hi Kim,

If you have manual hubs, you will want to make sure they are locked. Next is choosing either 4-HI or 4-LO on your transfer case lever to engage the 4x4. 

Keep in mind that 4x4 should only be used off-road or in snowy conditions where chains are required.  Don’t engage it on the pavement, as this might cause axle binding or damage.

You should feel a difference when driving, even at the steering wheel. It should have some added resistance. It is also possible to visually see if the front is engaged by testing it on some loose dirt. Give’r a little gas, she’ll do the rest.

If you have a newer vehicle, there might even be an indicator light that will tell you when you’re in 4x4.




4x4 AnswerMan,

I have a ‘98 two-door 4-wheel-drive Tahoe and would like to add a second battery. The battery tray is already installed. The Tahoe has a 5.7 liter V8. How is the best way to do it?
Stephen M Perez

Dual Battery Kit from Wrangler NW Power Products

Hi Stephen,

You’re halfway there. All you need now is a battery isolation relay to make it work. There are some other upgrades you can make also, like adding a higher power alternator to supply enough juice for both batteries. You may also consider a management switch to control which battery you want to run or charge.

Here is a helpful article that covers the very project you are working on using a dual battery kit from Wrangler NW Power Products.

Project Chevy Tahoe: Bringing our charging system up to PAR



Hello Answer Man,

My name is Matt and I own a 2006 Chevy Silverado 1500 Crew Cab 4x4 with the Z71 off road package. I want to upgrade my shocks to a better off-road shock but still maintain a smooth ride. I’m not looking to install a lift kit. I live in northern Michigan and I do go off-road. What shocks do you recommend? Should I consider upgrading my steering assembly as well?



Hi Matt,

If you have a true Z71 Off-Road Chevy truck, then you already have one of the best shocks—Bilstein.  They use mono-tube gas pressure technology to ensure control and no fade. If you have over 100k miles on the truck, or have beaten the heck out of it, you might need new shocks, but generally the Bilstein’s will outlive the truck. 

If you were going to replace them, I’d go with some new Bilstein Shocks - http://www.bilstein.com/.

As for your steering components, check for play. If the tie-rod ends or idler arm have any play, I’d recommend swapping them out with some MOOGs.



Hi 4x4 AnswerMan,

I have 105 1998 Land Crusier with 1FZ-FE coilpack motor. Have just had the head off and had new valves and seats. Now the engine constantly idles at 1600 rpms and I can't get it to idle at the normal 650 rpm. I have checked for air leaks and airlock in coolant system. All seems O.K. 

Before head removal, the engine suffered from low idle speed at start up, but ran fine at normal operating temp. Can you suggest anything?


Sydney, Australia

G'day mate!

A loose or improperly connected vacuum hose may be the culprit. Also, the mass airflow sensor might be bad and sending the wrong information to the ECU, hence, causing a higher idle.

Simply adjusting the valves should not have caused such a dramatic spike in RPM.

Honestly, take a look for intake leaks, intake sensors and vacuum lines. Heck, it might even be the throttle cable needing some adjustment after moving the head and brakets out.

If none of those work, then you will need to go further in depth with the VSV for EGR, fuel pressure, relays and fuel pump. At that point, I highly suggest you invest in a repair manual from publishers like Hayes or Chilton.



Hi 4x4 AnswerMan,

I would like to get your opinion on running a cold air intake on my truck. Do you know of guys who have any problems of running them through mud holes and wet conditions? I go out and do some muddin’ so do you think they’re safe to run?
Thank You,


Hi Michael,

Great question, the cold air intakes are great for adding HP and performance. Since most of these cold-air intake systems run open compartments, there is a chance that you could suck in water or mud if you’re burying it in the pit. The best bet in your case would be keeping the factory sealed air box and adding a performance filter like K&N. You’ll still get added HP and performance, but won’t have to worry about stalling or getting muddy water in your engine.

Another option would be to add a snorkel for added air intake flow and performance when submerged in mud or water.

Here’s a good article on how to build one.

Build your own off-road snorkel:



Hey there 4x4 AnswerMan,

This is Jeff from Mountain Grove. My 91 Nissan D21 truck will not go into 2wd. The linkage is free and I can go from 4 high to 4 low. My question is, is there a way to adjust the linkage to make it go back into 2wd? 

Thanks a million.


Hey Jeff,

Try putting your Nissan Hardbody truck in neutral before shifting back into 2WD. It might also help to have it rolling slightly. Sometimes it takes a little finesse to get the gears to mesh correctly.  

If you think the linkage is the problem, have someone cycle through the transfer case gears while inspecting it from underneath. Do this with the truck shut off. You wouldn’t want to be run over in 4WD, would you?

There should be some adjustment between the 4WD lever and transfer case if needed. Look for a threaded section with bolt on the linkage. That’s were you want to adjust. 

Good luck!



4x4 AnswerMan,

I have a 2000 Chevy S10 Blazer LT with the 4.3L V6. The “Service 4WD” light stays lit after the truck is running for a while. I changed the 4wd indicator switch on the transfer case and the 4WD shift switch on the dash and that didn't solve the problem. What can the problem be? Every Blazer I've seen has the same light on so I'm guessing this is a common problem for these trucks? Help me please.


Hi Sean,

Try servicing the transfer case by taking out the old fluid and putting in new fluid.

Then remove the + battery terminal for about 2-3 minutes. This should clear the “Service 4WD code.”

If it’s still on, then there might be another sensor inside the t-case that has major sludge buildup and will not shut off. You’ll just have to live with it or take the t-case apart and inspected it.



4x4 AnswerMan,

I am hoping you can help me. I have a friend who I will be visiting in Patagonia, Argentina, in June of this year. He has 1997 Nissan Patrol and needs tie rod ends. I would like to find them and bring them to him.

Would you know where I could find some? Parts are extremely difficult to find there. I would appreciate any help you may be able to give.
 Jim Sutorus

Hello Jim,

Best place to find these might be through eBay or a local foreign parts store. They’ll be able to get them, or at least put you in touch with the right people. There are also plenty of companies that deal with the Nissan Patrol in Australia that could be of assistance. 

Here’s one we found http://www.motospecs.com.au/.

Hope you enjoy your trip to Patagonia. Please send us some photos if you get to do any off-roading while there.



Greetings 4x4 AnswerMan,

I own a ‘73 K20. I live in the “Mother Lode” and have decided to jump into the Rockcrawler fast lane and do a teardown/rebuild. After having my 4x4 for over 10 years, it was time to do something different.  I removed the long bed and am fabricating a flatbed.

My first question would have to be, how much should I take out of the frame? It’s now at 129” and was wondering if taking out 20” is too much. Next, I am going to use the motor from a ‘95 GMC Z71, any tips and or problems I might encounter that I should be aware of, other than the obvious wiring changeover required for TBI?  Lastly, what kind of lift should I use? To top everything off I am not wealthy. LOL.

Thank you for your help.

I have found most forums intimidating.


Hi John,

Glad to hear you’re getting into rockcrawling. As for cutting the frame to shorten your wheelbase, it varies depending on the terrain you are dealing with. The best way to figure out how much to cut is by trial and error. I would consider bobbing the back end of the frame before touching anything else. This in itself will help with your departure angles.

In all honesty, start working on your suspension set-up for rockcrawling first, then nip and tuck any hang-ups.

If you want some ideas on bobbing and building a flatbed, check out this article we found in the archives:

The Flatbed Option - Do It Yourself

As for suspension, you want a lot of flex and a low center of gravity so you don’t roll over while climbing a wall or rock. There are many options out there, one being trimming the fenders and building your flatbed to clear that. You will definitely want to run 37s at minimum to get over rocks.

A good way to learn more about how to set up your truck for your specific area is to join a local 4x4 club.  Many of the members have already done the homework and will be able to tell you what works and what doesn’t. This will help you get into the fast lane for your build.

As for the 1995 Z71 motor, I’m guessing it’s a 5.7 Vortec. Try to get all the wiring, sensors and ECM so it works. You might also need to run the 4L60E transmission for it to work, unless you have some way of canceling the transmission wiring so you can run any other trans. 

If you get into a bind, you can always get a new wiring harness from Howell EFI customized for your application.

Make sure to send us pics and check in with updates in our GM forum http://forums.off-road.com/gm-lounge/

Good luck!



Hi 4x4 AnswerMan,
I wanted to add A/C to the 1995 Sidekick. Is it a big production???


Hi Mike,

If you really must have cool air, then your best bet is to install one from the same generation Sidekick that came with factory A/C. You will need the complete system, including engine brackets for the compressor, pulley, condenser, blower, switches, ducting, etc.

Is it a big production you asked? Well, it can be. It’s going to take some looking around and elbow grease to get this working. It’s doable, just need to be smart about it.

Make sure to talk to the Suzuki guys on our forums. They might have the parts or know someone who does.


Have a truck or SUV question for the 4x4 AnswerMan? Send your questions to editor@off-road.com. Please include your name and location, and be as detailed as possible about your questions.

Other 4x4 AnswerMan Columns:

April 2011

March 2011

February 2011

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