4x4 Answerman: Off-Road Truck and SUV Questions Answered

Jun. 23, 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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May 2011

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Hello 4x4 AnswerMan,

I'm in the process of building an Ď84 full-size GMC pickup and I installed a new 15-inch leaf spring lift. I'm having trouble figuring out how to match the front drive shaft up to the axle (Dana 44, 1 ton). It doesnít have any angle blocks installed so I was wondering if I could get away with just using blocks and getting the shaft lengthened or if I should get an entire new shaft with a better angle u-joint setup. I will be running 42-inch tires, not sure if you needed to know that or not.

Any help you could give me would be greatly appreciated.

Thank you.

Woodbury Heights, NJ

Hi Mike,

Thatís a big truck youíre building there. You will need to customize the front drive shaft to make it work. A 15-inch lift is on the extreme side, so it will require some creativity to run. You might be able to shim the axle to change the caster and help with the extreme angle, but you might also need a Double Cardan drive shaft. We recently had a similar predicament with Project Retro F-350. Tom Woods made a custom drive line for our truck that helped with the big lift and extreme angles.  Make sure to check them out at http://www.4xshaft.com/.



4x4 AnswerMan,

I've just come across your site, what a wealth of information.

I have a 1999 Dakota v6 5-speed 4x4. Last year I put 31" tires on it, what a difference in the mud. I'd like to put a 3-4" lift kit on it soon. What companies would you recommend? From what I've found Tuff Country seems to be the one most people go with.

What are your recommendations for kits and shock options? Are there any companies that build skid plates to protect the transfer case?

Oh I nearly forgot ... I'd also like to get a winch for off-roading. What size do I get 4000 lbs. +? I went to Van and Truck World here in Toronto as I initially thought I'd mount it to a new bumper that could support it. They recommended to install a hitch at the front so that I could use it on the front or back of the truck and then stow it when not in use. Wouldn't this decrease my clearance at the front?

Andrew Mclaughlin
Toronto, Canada

Hi Andrew,

Iím glad you found us. There is an endless supply of tech and features here on Off-Road.com that is surely to give you insight and ideas of what you can do on your 4x4.

Now getting to your question, Tuff Country is pretty much it for a bolt-on 4-inch lift suspension on the second-generation Dodge Dakota. There seems to be more for the third generation Dakota. That said, you could always build something custom.

As for a recovery winch, the hitch receiver idea isnít bad. You could have someone fabricate a custom receiver hitch up front that would hide behind the factory bumper. This would keep the clearance high, and it would not be an issue. The receiver hitch winch option is good if you want the flexibility of using it up front or in the back.

As for winch model, the rule of thumb is to get one that can pull 2x your gross vehicle weight (GVW). Your truck weight is roughly 3,000 lbs., so a 6,000 lb. winch should be plenty.



4x4 AnswerMan,

I have a Ď96 Dodge 1500 4x4. Looking for a rear bumper with dual swing outs ... spare and fuel basket. Your quasi-tube bumper looks interesting. What do you think?


Richard Gillis

Hi Richard.

There isnít really a bolt-on application with double swing-outs that I can think of made for full-size trucks. Most of the ones Iíve seen are custom. You can start with an aftermarket steel bumper and add to it or just start from scratch.

There are a few fabricators online that sell heavy-duty hardware that will help create your swing outs. Make sure to check out Luke at 4x4labs, they sell heavy-duty spindles.


FabFours and ARB both have some nice heavy duty rear bumpers for solid foundations.

Good luck.



4x4 AnswerMan,

I have an Ď86 Samurai with a SPOA lift. Just wondering what model of Rancho 9000 I would use for it. On a mounting point to mounting point as the vehicle sits itís 18 3/8" back and 20 1/2" front. I called Rancho with the measurements and they couldn't help me - maybe it was just someone having a bad day.

Hello Shockless Samurai,

Youíre heading in the right direction. Measuring the shock mounting points will be the way to get the correct shock for your Samurai. There are two important measurements you want to get off the shock: extended and collapsed. 

You can get the extended by lifting your Samurai with a jack and letting the axles and leaf suspension hang. Measure the eye to eye, and that will give you the extended measurement. For collapsed, try lifting only one side of the wheel off the ground until it hits the bump stop or until the suspension wonít move up anymore. That will give you the collapsed measurement.

To verify your measurements, take one of the front and rear shocks off to measure eye-to-eye measurements for both fully extended and fully collapsed. The combination of these should give you a range of shocks to work with.

This might fall into the 2-4 inch lift category, where you need a longer shock to compensate for the added height.

If Rancho canít help you, other companies like ProComp, Bilstein or Fox Shox should.

Good luck.



4x4 AnswerMan,

I have a 2006 Z-71 Crew Cab GMC. Is there a shock that I can install that will give me a lift over factory height front and rear, or is a Lift-Kit my only true option? I want to run at least 285s without any scrubbing.

What would you recommend?


Hi Steve,

Shocks donít lift the suspension to clear larger tires, the springs or torsion bars do. You can run 285s with factory Z-71 suspension. Those trucks ride a little higher than regular 1500 GM trucks and will clear with no problem in both the front and back.

If you want some added clearance up front, I would recommend looking at a leveling kit, which in your case would be torsion keys for the independent front suspension (IFS).

The guys at Off Road Unlimited have put together a nice kit that uses Bilstein Shock Absorbers, the same brand used on the Z71 package. These shocks are a little longer than stock to compensate for the added 2-inch lift.

You can find more info at http://www.offroadunlimited.com/.



4x4 AnswerMan,

I have a Ď92 4Runner, just put three new switches in, hubs still not locking in. Where can I get vacuum diagram?


Hi Roy,

We used to have a 1990 4Runner and a vacuum relay gave my old man a headache until he was able to figure it out. Here is a diagram that should help.

Make sure to check the automatic disconnect differential (ADD) solenoids. They are the ones responsible for engaging the 4WD. To test, you can try by-passing the VSV4 solenoid by connecting direct vacuum. This should engage the 4WD as the ADD will slide a fork in the front diff.

Good luck.



4x4 AnswerMan,

Will a 1998 Rav4 lift gate fit a 1997 Rav4?


Hi Brad,

The 1998 Toyota RAV4 did have some cosmetic changes to the front and rear facia. That said, it seems like the only big change in the rear was the tail lamp assembly. The lift gate looks the same and should fit.

Just to be sure, take some quick measurements of the lift gate and the mounting hinge area to make sure everything will line up correctly before buying anything.



4x4 AnswerMan,

I am trying to find out what differential is in my truck. It is a 1998 Tacoma SR5 2WD X-cab 2.4L. (not a prerunner).

truck RZN150L - CRMDKAB
C/TR 045/FC40
A/TM ? /

Thank you.

Larry Mulock

Hi Larry,

According to the table found in one of our Toyota 4x4 Tech articles, you have a 7.5Ē ring gear, 3.15 gear ratio, and 2 pinion open differential. Iím sure this little 4-banger is great on fuel mileage.



4x4 AnswerMan,

I have a frame BJ 75 model 1988 long body used as an ambulance. Can I put a cabin of LJ-78 2LT Prado Land Cruiser on it?


Toyota Land Cruiser BJ75

Hi Javed,

Iím envious of you. Both of these Land Cruisers are awesome. In essence, you can put the LJ78 body on anything, but the real question is which would require the least amount of modification.

One of the first things you want to consider is the wheel base, as this will need to match up in order for the BJ75 long body frame to work. The wheelbase on a 70 series Land Cruiser is 2,980 mm (117.3 in).

The next is whether there will be enough space for the different drive train configurations.

In any case, it will require some customization to be able to bolt down the BJ75 body on this frame.



4x4 AnswerMan,

I have a Ď76 GMC 4x4 14-bolt rear end with 411s. I want posi, not a limited slip. What website can I go visit to get what I need? Iíve been looking online for weeks, Iím stuck.

David Cloyd

Hi David, two words--Detroit Locker. You can find them at http://www.detroitlocker.com/



Hello 4x4 AnswerMan,

I'm looking for a lift that works great on a 2008 Chevy Silverado 1500. I previously purchased a 3.5 lift without the upper ball joints and control arms but had to sell it do to the fact that the installation instructions stated that the cooling fins had to be grinded down. Is there a lift kit for my truck that doesn't require any grinding or cutting on my stock equip?

Thanks for your time and hope to hear back from ya soon.

Russ Posey

Hi Russ,

Iím not sure what 3.5 inch lift you got before, but make sure to take a look at the stuff from CST Suspension. They have a nice 4-inch bolt-on application for your truck.

More info at http://www.cstsuspension.com/home



Dear 4x4 AnswerMan,

I've always wanted a newer Land Cruiser with a diesel, but here in California it isn't available. I am thinking of buying a Dec. 2009 (essentially brand new) Toyota Land Cruiser (equivalent to the Lexus LX570) with a seized 5.7L Gas engine.

I was wondering if itís at all possible to engineer 6.7 Cummins I-6 with the 6-speed manual transmission and 650lb-Ft (I hear the new 2011 6.7 Cummins has 800lb-ft)?

While there's room for the engine in the Land Cruiser bay, I have no idea of the amount of engineering required with respect to engine mounting, drive shaft length alteration, frame strengthening, to name but a few.  I'd think of a 3-inch lift and 37-inch trail tires much later.

I'd pretty much have my next 20-year dream vehicle for off-roading in the Panoche Valley and Hollister area, not far from where I live. Any thoughts on what might be an insane exercise, and whether I should drop it already.

San Fran Mac

Wow Mac,

This is an insane project and we love it! If you have the funds and the skills to pull it off, it will be one mean diesel pumping machine.

To be honest, most of the diesel conversions I have seen using a Cummins have been with a 4bt and not an inline 6 on Land Cruisers. Much of that has to do with weight and space.

That said, you could squeeze an inline 6, such as the 6.7l Cummins in a 200 Series Toyota Land Cruiser. There are a few guys out there that have successfully installed 5.9l Cummins in an 80 Series.

One limiting factor is that the 200 Series Land Cruiser is an IFS and not a live axle in the front. This will limit crucial vertical space needed between the frame rails to fit a Cummins. Both the I-4 and I-6 are tall and require a minimum 4 inch suspension lift with a straight axle to give enough clearance to the bottom end of the block.

So in other words, you would also need to convert the front suspension to straight axle in order to run a Cummins.

If you really want a diesel-powered Land Cruiser, you are better off getting a Toyota 4.5 L V8 1VD turbo engine designed to work with your 200 Series.  You will need to look outside the country to find one of these, try Canada or Australia.

Another thing to consider is the fact that you live in California. In 2010 new diesel smog laws went into effect. You will need to deal with that.

To learn more about the California diesel smog laws, make sure to check out this Off-Road.com article http://www.off-road.com/diesel/tech/the-death-of-diesel-performanceas-we-know-it-52092.html

Please keep us posted on what you end up doing. In either case it will be a really cool off-road machine.

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:

May 2011

April 2011

March 2011

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