4x4 AnswerMan Answers Off-Road Truck & SUV Questions

Jul. 21, 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.

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June 2011

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4x4 AnswerMan,

I have a í86 Chevy Blazer and it has a 3.25 in the front axle and a 4.11 in the rear.  Can I still use my 4x4? I have heard mixed views from friends and just figured Iíd ask one more person. 


Warren H

Hi Warren,

Your friends are correct in not recommending it. Basically it puts extra stress on your drivetrain components because the front wheels are spinning at a faster rate than the rear.

Although not ideal, you could use it in an emergency if youíre on loose terrain. That said, I wouldnít recommend using it on rocks, as this will cause added stress and possible bind.

Do yourself a favor, if you plan on using your 4x4 on a regular basis, get yourself some matching gears. Itís cheaper than fixing a busted transfer case, drive line or axle.

You can get gear sets from guys like Motive Gear and Yukon.


Hi 4x4 AnswerMan,

I own an Ď87 Ford Ranger. I'm 18 and just getting into cars and things so I'm not sure about this but the truck has an adjustable lift. Itís set at 4.5" and it can also be set at 6". My problem is at 4.5" the top of the tires bow out and in at the bottom, which tears the side of tread and at 6" it does the opposite ... I was curious if there's an easy fix or should I drill a new hole at 5.25" and call it in the middle?

Cape Cod, MA

Hi Nick,

Glad to hear youíre joining the gearhead nation. Itís a fun addictive pastime that bonds us at the crank.

From the sounds of things, you have a 2WD Ford Ranger. Iím not sure what kind of lift kit you have that allows that much adjustment. The problem you are having is with the camber.

When you lift it to the 4.5Ē mark, you are getting positive camber. The bottom of the wheels are closer than the top. This typically makes the vehicle handle poorly.

The other extreme, negative camber is when the top of the wheels are closer than the bottom of the wheels. This can have some benefits, like added traction when going around corners. The downside to negative camber is how fast it wears your tires.  Aggressive negative camber is typically used in motorsports applications, not in daily drivers.

If you need help setting the camber, I recommend you take it into an alignment shop.  They should be able to set up the camber correctly with some added adjustments in your suspension. No need to re-drill any additional holes in the suspension lift.


4x4 AnswerMan,

I have a 2002 F150 with 275/70/18 BFG and full Rancho suspension. I got a steering stabilizer with the kit but no instructions on how it goes on. Can you help?

Tucson, AZ

Hi John,

If you go on the Rancho website, they have a list of instructions for your suspension kit and steering stabilizer.

Just punch in the part # in and Voila!


You can also give their tech line a call at 1-734-384-7804 for help.


Good day 4x4 AnswerMan

I am an off-road enthusiast from Iran, I have a 1978 4WD Blazer (400 ci engine, TH350 transmission , NP203 T-case). It still has stock axle assemblies, diffs, and drive shafts on it.

I plan to upgrade the drivetrain to match the new powerful engine which I'm gonna put on it. The new engine is a Chevy 400 rebuilt with performance parts generating 475 HP and 475 ft.lb. (I'm ordering the engine from an engine builder in California).

Iím looking for below items (all to be heavy duty):
- Front and rear axle assemblies
- Transfer case
- Driveshafts
- 4x4 automatic Transmission + torque convertor
- Steering upgrades
- Complete front and rear suspension (3" lift minimum)

So far I have driven my Blazer on mild off-road terrains, but the reason to upgrade it is that I want to be able to do a bit of rock crawling, some mud and snow running, and some dune bashing.  But I do NOT want it to be a road blocker as Iíll be driving it 40% on-road, 60% off-road.

1)  Front and rear axle assemblies: it seems the stock tubings are OK on my truck.  The axles/shafts and components need to be upgraded.  But I would love to replace the whole assemblies (front and rear) with a heavy duty system (including air lockers) if the price is reasonable.

2)  Transfer-Case: I know there are good combinations out there (Doubler, Klune, etc.) but Iím not sure which one suits my application.

3)  Driveshafts: I plan to upgrade the driveshafts to be heavy duty

4)  Tires: right now I have 32" tires, but I was thinking of a 3" Lift system

5)  Transmission: I plan to get a heavy duty, modified 4x4 transmission (including heavy duty torque converter).

 Your comments/guidance would be warmly welcomed.
Clearwater, FL

Fellow Peyman,

Thanks for your lengthy question. It helps me keep writing, and thatís good.

I can tell you have been thinking about this for a long time. You mentioned you have an engine builder in California. Be nice to your builder and they might be able to return the favor if you need help shipping all this stuff you need for your Blazer to Iran or to Clearwater, FL.

If you are serious about heavy duty, I would consider upgrading to 1-ton running gear.  You have the option of adding the air lockers you want to the Dana 60 front and 14-bolt rear, or you can also have new ones built to order by Dynatrac.

As for transfer case, Klune underdrive is good for low gear. You might also consider doing a doubler. The guys at Off-Road Design can help you with that. The same guys can help you with the suspension lift and heavy-duty transmission. They specialize in full-size Chevy 4x4s. 

As for drivelines, Tom Woods builds one of the best heavy-duty off-road drive shafts in the business.

Put it all together and you will have one unstoppable 4x4 Chevy.

Make sure to send us some photos of your 4x4 and the places you off-road out there in the Middle East.

Good luck.


4X4 FORD F-450 RV
4x4 AnswerMan,

I am buying a 2005 26' Born Free Motorhome on a Ford E450 Chassis. I am planning on having it converted to 4x4 by a company in Salt Lake City.
The options are for a 4" or 6" lift to provide room for the 4x4 hardware and LT265/75R16 tires. The front axle will be a Dana 60 w/Detroit locker. I plan on having limited slip and air bag suspension assist added to the rear axle.  Rancho shocks will be added.

The conversion is not for rough off-road driving, but for travel in snow and dirt/gravel roads. I can't get into too rough of country, my rear bumper is 10' behind the axle. Any suggestions would be welcome.


Al Florida
San Antonio, Tx

Hi Al,

Thanks for your letter. That sounds like a really amazing RV youíre putting together.  Youíll have the best of both worlds - comfort and the ability to go where other RVs canít, off-road.

You make a point that your rear bumper is 10 inches behind the rear axle. That does hinder the departure angle for anything too steep. If youíre primarily thinking of using the RV for snow country and some off-road, I would stay as close to the ground as possible.  It will help keep the center of gravity low, and wind resistance at a minimum.

Iím really interested to see what you do. Please check back in with us. Weíd love to hear more about your project and learn about the builder you are working with.

Also, make sure you check out the Ford F-550 Turtle Expedition vehicle. You might get some ideas for your F-450 RV. 


Happy RVing!


4x4 AnswerMan,

I need to replace the front axle unit on my 1989 GMC 4x4 and need to know how to make sure the ratio will be 3:73 without having access to the code sheet in the glove box. Is there a stamping on the housing, and if so where and what would 3:73 be stamped? My name is Ron and I am in Arkansas. I really hope you can help because the area I am in is not known for automotive industry like where I am from (Mich.) so accurate info is hard to come by.

Ron Smith

Hi Ron,

Typically you can find a tag on the housing that would tell you what gearing is installed on your axle. Another way to check is by cracking the pumpkin open and counting the number of teeth on the ring & pinion. Using a little formula will give you the exact gear ratio.

Ring/Pinion = Gear Ratio

e.g. Ring has 37 teeth, Pinion has 9 teeth

37/9 = 4.11


4x4 AnswerMan,

I bought a blazer with a 3 n 1 gauge kit from Sunpro in it, but it isnít hooked up and I canít figure out how. Where can I go to get installation info?


Hi Brayden,

The best place to get instructions on how to properly install your gauges is from Sunpro.  Their website has instructions you can download, just look for your specific product--and BAM!  Youíre in business.

Check out http://www.sunpro.com/


4x4 AnswerMan,

I have an mq patrol diesel sd33, awesome motor, love it.  Unfortunately today just found oil in radiator, so I gather head gasket is gone. Just wondering if anyone has any suggestions on what to do to motor while this gasket is getting fixed and head is off (i.e. should i bother about getting a new head, etc)

Jason Horan

Hi Jason,

You lucky guy. All the cool diesel powered 4x4s are overseas. Iím still waiting for our diesel options to grow in the states. 

I digress... donít worry about spending any extra cash on another head until you know for a fact if the current one can be milled and rebuilt. Take it to a good machine shop and theyíll be able to tell you how bad itís warped. 

In the meantime, make sure you flush out your radiator and cooling system to get all that oil out of there. An old mechanic trick is to use laundry detergent. It makes less suds. You can also use dishwasher detergent. Just stay away from Mr. Bubble.

If you donít like the home remedy there are many options for radiator flush at your auto parts store.


4x4 AnswerMan,

I have a Ď71 K20 with dana 44. I am looking for a light-duty axle truss, where can I get one ?


Hi Paul,

It sounds like youíre thinking of building a 4-link suspension for your K20. There are a few companies out there that can help you with the parts necessary to make this happen.

Iíd start by talking to the guys at Off-Road Designs.  They specialize in full-size GM 4x4s, and theyíre bound to have what youíre looking for.  http://offroaddesign.com/

If you like fabricating, the guys at BlueTorch Fab a nice kit. http://www.bluetorchfab.com/



4x4 AnswerMan,

I bought an axle from an auto salvage. I was told it was out of a 1997 Ford F350. I found out today that the supplied VIN didn't match. I have attached a few pictures.  Numbers on the pumpkin are 6200938, 5341, 093. There isn't a 60F and there are no numbers on the tube next to the pumpkin.

Is it a DANA 60? What year truck is it out of?

Hi Ron,

From the photo, it looks to be a Dana 60 because it has Kingpin knuckles. Dana 44s donít have Kingpins. If it actually came off a Ford truck, Kingpin Dana 60s were made from 1978-1991.5 for Ford F250 & F350.

The numbers you provided seem to be the Bill of Materials (BOM). If you want to know what year truck it came off of, look for the Manufacturer Date, located to the right of the diff cover, on the tube. Sometimes itís hard to see because of surface rust and debris.  Use a wire brush to clean this area.

The illustration below gives a good reference of where to find numbers. 

Once you have more numbers, our buds over on Pirate 4x4 have what they call the Dana 60 Bible. You should be able to cross-reference numbers you find to decipher what your axle is.

Dana 60 Bible



4x4 AnswerMan,

I drive an '03 Dodge Dakota 2WD with the 3.9L V6 and 4-speed auto tranny. Itís got a 3-inch body lift, 33-inch tires and planning on a suspension lift soon. Is there any way I can get more power out of the engine? Would new gears help?

Thanks, Britton
Nashville, TN

Howdy Britton,

So you want to Cowboy Up. Thereís a few things you can do for your 3.9l V6 Dodge motor to add some power. Youíre on the right track by thinking of gears. The 33-inch tires are much larger than the stock 255s on there before.

The gearing on your truck is more than likely 3.56 ratio. You would notice a big difference by getting lower gears.

Randyís Ring & Pinion has some helpful calculators that will make choosing the correct ratio a piece of cake.


Good Luck.

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.

More 4x4 AnswerMan Columns:

June 2011

May 2011

April 2011

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