4x4 AnswerMan: Off-Road Truck and SUV Q&A

Sep. 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.

More 4x4 AnswerMan Columns:

August 2011

July 2011

June 2011

Hey guys where can I view this full project? I lost track after Phase II.


Project Motovan on Off-Road.com

Ah-ha! We hooked a reader!

Glad to hear you want more of Project Moto Van. Here are links to all the related articles on this build:

Project Motovan: Building an Off-Road Van, Part 5

Project Motovan: Building an Off-Road Van, Part 4

Project Motovan: Building an Off-Road Van, Part 3

Project Motovan: Building an Off-Road Van, Part 2

Project Motovan: Building an Off-Road Van, Part 1


Hello 4x4 AnswerMan,  I replaced the front axle u-joints in the Dana 44 under my '83 Wagoneer, but now as I install the spindle the driver side axle jams itself against the top of the spindle, which makes the drive gear unable to be installed. What causes that?

John Jaffe 
Tacoma, WA

Hi John,
Sounds like something may be misaligned, and thatís why things arenít assembling back correctly. Luckily we have a step-by-step servicing article for the front Dana 44 here on Off-Road.com.

Take a look and read through it. Also, if you have a repair manual for your Wagoneer, consult it to make sure you didnít miss a step. It happens.

Dana 44 Rebuild


4x4 AnswerMan,
I have a 2000 Toyota Tacoma with a 6-inch lift kit installed. I cannot determine the manufacturer of the lift kit (bought truck with kit installed). In order that I can purchase replacement front struts, if I was able to send you photos over the Internet of the lift kit would you be able to tell me who made the lift kit and where to get replacement parts?

Any help would be appreciated.

Hello no name Toyota lift kit owner,
I probably could tell by looking at the front of the suspension drop down bracket who made it. But donít worry, you can still get shocks. 

If the brackets or springs donít have any badging, look on the shock absorbers inside the coil. If you still canít find the manufacturer, then we will need to just pick a company that makes front shocks for a 6-inch lift on a Toyota Tacoma.

Fabtech seems to be the most popular 6-inch lift for these first-generation Toyota Tacomas, but several of the other major brands like Tuff Country, Skyjacker and Superlift also offer replacement front shocks.

My best recommendation would be to take it to a local 4x4 shop, have them take a look and inspect it. They should be able to help you pick a good replacement front shock.  They can also be a good place to buy and install the replacement shocks. 

This is not a job you want to do on your own, unless you have experience and the right equipment to replace the pre-loaded springs. It can be dangerous, or deadly, if not done correctly.

Good luck and be safe.


4x4 AnswerMan,  I have a Ď99 Dodge Durango 4x4 I want to put some 35-inch tires on. How high do I have to lift it and if I put 35s on it I was told that I would have to change my gearing. Right now I have 31-inch on there and it looks good but I really want to do everything big on it so what do you suggest?  

Jason Jiggetts

Hi Jason,
To get 35-inch off-road tires under your Durango you will need to run a 5.5-inch suspension lift. Tuff Country makes one for your rig. You are correct that a lower gearing will be needed to turn those larger tires. Look in the ballpark of 4.56 or 4.88 if you still plan on driving it on the street.


4x4 AnswerMan,
I have a 1998 Toyota Tacoma 4WD with 5-speed manual. 3rd and 4th gears don't feel like they engage all the way, very short throw between them.  4th pops out sometimes.  I have heard replacing the shift lever seat fixes the problem and it can be done from above. Truck only has 50,000 miles but all local driving involving much gear changing.  I ordered the rubber seat from the dealer (21.00) but they wouldn't sell the plastic ball on the shift lever (have to buy a whole shift lever) I noticed in the schematic there is what looks like a small bushing but wasn't sure if I needed it.

Ludolph h. Conklin

Hi Ludolph,
I thought about recommending the auto-wrecking route, but that would just give you another worn shift lever.

My recommendation is to see if your parts dealer will take this rubber piece you ordered back and credit the $21 towards buying the entire shift lever assembly. At under $130, youíll get all new bushings and the seat ball you so much desire.

While youíre at it, it wouldnít be a bad idea to replace the seat sub-assembly #33505B since that gets a lot of wear too, being that it sits against the seat ball.

You might also want to freshen up the gear oil with some higher-grade stuff, like Lucas or Royal Purple. Something that will help keep those gears meshing and spinning without any jams.



4x4 AnswerMan,
Will a 17x9 rim with an offset of 18mm and 5.71-inch backspacing work with 37s?  Also do they rub at all? I have the KORE level from suspension. I was told only 35s would fit.


Hello Carl,
KORE told me the same thing. I believe the main reason is that once you go bigger than 35s there will be rubbing. The areas of rubbing are control arms, sway bar and possibly on the fender, depending on how aggressive and tall your 37-inch tire really is.

We are currently running 37-inch BFG All-Terrain TA KOs on project Dodge Ram Mega Cab using factory Mopar wheels. While running the factory control arms, we did rub a little on the control arm and got close to the rear of the fender when flexing. Now that we have the Thuren Fabrication control arms installed, thereís no more rubbing on the arms or fender.

You should be able to run 37s with your rims, but be aware that there will me some rubbing at full lock, and possibly when fully flexed or when you hit big whoops.

At that point, I recommend looking into performance control arms from Thuren or Carli. KORE no longer makes them.

Here is a link to our Thuren Fabrication control arms review.


4x4 AnswerMan,
Will Storboards fit a 2000 Ford 250? What are the dimensions of the box?  Also how much would it cost for me to purchase it and it shipped to Calgary, Alberta Canada? I would like to know, I await for your response.

Robert G

Hi Robert,
The Storeboards are a pretty cool concept for storage. I guess we all have a little pack rat in us. Luckily for you, Storeboards does make one to fit your truck. According to the manufacturer, the box measures 79" x 12", and the full length of the floorboards including end caps is 97".

Suggested retail price on these is about $1,900 for a set.

Four Wheel Parts is one of their dealers, and should be able to get them to you in Alberta, Canada.

If you have any other questions regarding the Storboards, check out their website at http://storboards.com


4x4 AnswerMan,
What would be the best gear ratio for a Dodge Durango with 35-inch tire? I mostly drive on the highway, and mud on the weekend. It has the 5.9 in it.
Thank you, and would like to hear back from you.

John Ward

Hi John, 
Work & Play--I like it. For an automatic V8 running 35s, the recommendation usually is 4.56 or 4.88 to keep the RPM at 2-3k. Anything lower than that will be too low for highway driving and will turn the vehicle into a fuel pig because it will have to turn at higher RPM just to keep up with traffic.

If you were doing high-speed desert I would go with the 4.56s, but since you mention mud bogging, go with the lower 4.88s. They will give you a little more grunt when you need it.

If you need additional help, give the folks at Just Differentials a call. Theyíre very knowledgeable and helpful. They also have some cool calculators on their site - http://www.justdifferentials.com/.



Hello 4x4 AnswerMan,
I'm replacing my stock Ford auto hubs with Warn manual hubs. People tell me I need to plug the vacuum lines, but no one can tell me the size of the plug I need use.
Can you help with that info? Everyone tells me Auto Zone has the plugs! I'm trying to have all the parts before I start the job.

Thanks in advance for all your help.
Alex Anderson

Hi Alex,
Sounds like a fun project. It is a good idea to cap and plug the vacuum line and ports at the knuckles when switching from auto hubs to manual hubs.

Itís hard to say what size plug you need, but more than likely it will be pipe thread, a.k.a. NPT. You should be able to screw in a plug at the knuckles once the vacuum hoses are removed.

If possible, remove that vacuum hose end and its threaded hose adapter. This should help you find the correct size plug for that knuckle.

Most auto parts stores have a bin behind the counter with NPT metal and brass fittings.  You should be able to quickly get what you need.

Trust me, itís there. Iíve learned over the years that some of the best parts, including little ones, are stored behind the counter.

As for the vacuum hoses themselves, you can plug them with little plastic vacuum hose plugs. They sell those at the auto parts store too.

Donít cut anything, just tie them to the side with some zip ties or remove them at the source. Make sure you keep the vacuum hoses and adapters along with the old auto hubs parts just in case you decide you want to go back to automatic hubs later.   



Dear 4x4 AnswerMan,  Was thinking about swapping out my auto-tranny with a 5 spd or if possible a newer 6 spd Toyota tranny. Is this possible, and if so is there any problems or modifications I'll have to address? 

Thank you, 
Tim S.

Hi Tim,
Newer trucks are a lot smarter. They have computers and sensors that help determine optimal shifting speeds for automatic transmission.

Aside from the obvious mechanical alterations of adding a clutch pedal, you will need to use a different transfer case and possibly drivelines.

Once thatís out of the way, keep in mind the truck will need to be programmed as a manual truck; otherwise the engine and computer will go into limp mode, not driving optimally. Itís going to give your a Check Engine light because it will know something is wrong, since the auto trans is missing or not responding.

It can be done, but if you really want a stick, you might be better off selling this auto and looking for your dream drive.

As for the 6-gear late-model trans that would require an engine/trans adapter since the first-generation Tacoma runs on a different platform, including engine, than the second-generation Tacoma.

Hope this helps.


4x4 AnswerMan,

I have a full-size 1995 Ford Bronco XLT 351 that I would like to lower 2Ē in the rear. I have been unable to find an aftermarket supplier for 2" lowering shackles.

Any suggestions (other then raising the front) will be appreciated.


Hi Wayne,
Why in the world would you want to drop the rear suspension on a 4x4 Bronco, unless you are trying to get rid of the stinkbug look? If thatís the case, throw some 50-pound. bags of cement back there - it should do the trick.

If you want to make it permanent, take it to a spring shop and have them re-arch the springs so they sag down two inches.

Youíre probably not going to find any off-the-shelf lowering shackles for a 4x4 Bronco, but you can try and see if some for an F-150 will do the trick.


4x4 AnswerMan,  I need to narrow Dana 44s for my Suzuki, w/ a 4.3 cpi and 200r4 running 35x14x15.

I need stronger axles and more stopping power. If I use a Chevy Blazer 44 front, what Ford spindles and rotors should I use to keep the Samurai bolt pattern?
Can stock axles be shortened and re-splined? With the Samurai rear gear offset, what would be a good rear axle to use? I need 4.56 gears. Can a carrier for this fit any 44 housing?
Thank you,

Hi Donnie,
Sounds like this little Zuk is about to be zukafied with beefy axles.

Yes, GM Dana 44s, and any full-size Dana 44s for that matter, can be shortened and re-splined. You will need to find a good machine shop in your area that can do that, otherwise you can ship it off to someone like Currie Enterprises to do the work.

The internals on the Dana 44 are very similar. Most of the changes are going to be at the knuckles and axles, including bolt pattern. You mentioned wanting to retain a 5 on 5.5 wheel bolt pattern. If you pick up an 8-lug Dana 44, this can be achieved by using a hybrid of parts from other Dana 44 models.  

Here is a breakdown that can be found in our Off-Road.com Forums section:

Rotors, hubs and wheel bearings: Ford F-150 or full sized bronco, 76 to 81 (up to 86 by some sources)
Spindle: Chevy/GMC blazer, k5 or jimmy. Late 72 to 76
Backing plate: Just about any 1/2 ton Dana 44 (10 bolt?) from Chevy or Jeep, i.e. Blazer, Jimmy, Suburban, j-10, Wagoneer, Cherokee, from 72 up to 86.
Caliper: same as above
stub shaft: same as above
lock out: all Dana 44 internal lockouts take the same style. Factory one are warn non-premium.
Link to original thread here: http://forums.off-road.com/jeep-short-wheelbase/54831-dana-44-bolt-pattern.html

Any Dana 44 rear will work for the offset, but you just have to have it cut and machined.

You still need to do a little more homework on how you plan on making everything come together. I suggest you search Off-Road.com and our forums, as thereís a wealth of information here.

Also, donít be afraid to join our forums and strike up a conversation. Youíll be surprised how many knowledgeable people are here at Off-Road.com.

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:

August 2011

July 2011

June 2011

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