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

Dec. 31, 2013 By Jaime Hernandez

4x4 Answerman Truck & SUV Technical Q&A

4x4 AnswerMan,
I have a 2009 Nissan Titan SE and I want to add extras to it for off-road use. 

1. Pound per pound, what is the best suspension lift kit for this Nissan and what would you recommend? I live in Northern, WI so the truck will be used in some rocky terrain, deep snow and mud. I was thinking I would like about a 6-inch lift with dual shock loops all around and nitrogen-charged coilovers but I'm not sure. I want something that is going to last and is very durable.

2. Are air-actuated lockers better than electric-actuated lockers? What would you recommend?

3. Truck will also be used on highway just as much as off-road so what would be your recommendation for tires?

4. I have 5.6 flex-fuel motor which has a lot of power, but is there anything can be done or what you would recommend to enhance the power without tearing it completely down since it only has 83,000 miles on it. Cold air induction, exhaust, high performance ignition, etc, what are your thoughts?

5. As far as the transmission would you recommend any kits that would help with extra loads for off-road use?

Thank you for your time,
Richard Connors

Hi Richard,

It sounds like you are happy with your Titan and are willing to invest time and money into building your ultimate Nissan 4x4 truck. As far as suspension companies go, they are very similar when it comes to 6-inch suspension lifts. Where they will differ is in the color, warranty and the quality of shocks included with each suspension lift kit. Some are made in USA, others overseas.

If you’re serious about building this truck right, then buy the best kit you can afford, preferably one with lift spindles and nitrogen shocks by Fox or Bilstein. If you are interested in going fast over bumps and whoops, then look for “Long Travel” suspension kits. Those tend to cost more, but are all hand built and designed to take a beating while providing a plush ride.

If you are going to be doing hard-core off-roading and using the lockers often, then ARB Air Lockers are the way to go. They are proven and tested, and come activate on demand. If you plan on driving your truck more than 80% of the time on the road, then an all-terrain tire or mild mud terrain will suit you best. They’ll be aggressive enough for most off-road situations yet roll nicely down the interstate. 

As for performance, all the hop-ups you’ve mentioned are good. I would also look into a power programmer to really uncork your Titan. Lastly, your transmission will appreciate you re-gearing your differentials to better match what ever size tire you end up going with (probably 35s?). Leaving the gear ratio stock will give you a sluggish truck and will also increase stress to the transmission. You can add an auxiliary transmission cooler and deeper trans oil pan to help extend the life, in either case.

There’s a wealth of information on different Nissan Titan set-ups here on Off-Road.com, like the PRO4X Bully Dog built a few years back for speed. (full story http://www.off-road.com/trucks-4x4/tech/bully-dogs-nissan-titan-pace-truck-13400.html

Whatever you end up building, make sure you do what suits you best.



4x4 AnswerMan,

I have a late 1970s to early 1980s Dodge 4x4 motor home chassis (440/747) that has a 1948 Studebaker M16 body on it with a 10’ flatbed. Wondering if it is possible to buy wide/tall AT (35”?)  17” tires and SRW wheels with the centers offset to run on the front and back of this truck (different offsets). Thanks for any information or ideas you might have.
C. Sabados

Hello C. Sabados,

That’s quite the truck you have there. I can see why you want to get it some new shoes so it can roll around Colorado again. If you want to run a single rear wheel on your dually axle, I suggest you look at “Super Singles.” The wheels are made by several companies, and can be customized to fit with your bolt pattern. They can also be rotated to work on either front or rear axle. 

We found one called 1st Attack Engineering makes some Super Singles that may work for you. More info at http://1stattack.com/brush-fire-trucks/super-single-wheels.

Once you have your wheels figured out, you should be able to find an all-terrain tire to work just fine.

Keep it rollin’.


4x4 AnswerMan,

I have a 2002 Toyota Tacoma extra cab just bought it and found out it has some issues with the rear differ. Driving the truck sounds like its coming from the front end. But when I lifted the truck off the ground and with it in gear wheels in motion the rear differerential is where I here the noise. I have the stump already removed and it shows to be a 4.10 gear. But a dealer told me by the vin # it was suppose to be a 3.91. I just want to be sure the front differential is the same gear ratio as the rear. Truck has a loud roaring when in a pull. If someone mismatched the gearing would that cause the problem I am having?
Dan Churchill

Hi Dan,

Sorry to hear about your crunchy gears. Sounds like it’s really getting the best of your truck. I’d go with whatever the dealer says, as they have access to more information on your truck than we do based on VIN# thanks to their extensive Toyota Motor Corp database system. You mentioned you physically inspected the rear differential. Please double check your teeth count. Using this simple formula below, you’ll be able to decipher what the gear ratio actually is.

Ring/Pinion = Gear Ratio
Example: Ring has 37 teeth, Pinion has 9 teeth 37/9 = 4.11
Toyota Tacoma third member, including carrier, ring and pinion (Photo: Marlin Crawler).

If it is in fact 4.10 that you have, and the dealer is saying you should have 3.91 gear ratio from the factory, then there is a chance you have different ratios at each end of the truck. This should not be a problem when driving in 2WD, only when 4WD is used.

If need be, cracking open the front differential may also be needed to get an actual ring and pinion teeth count.

As for the rear differential problem, if there is no visible problem from the outside but you can hear crunching coming from the internals, the best thing to do is remove the rear differential third member so you can inspect the ring and pinion, carrier and bearings for any damage.

If you end up needing to rebuild the differential, give Marlin Crawler a call. They have everything you need to make it happen.

(888) 942-7295

Good luck!


Superlift emergency response truck concept on display at SEMA Show.

4x4 Answerman,

I come from the Philippines, which was devastated by typhoon Haiyan recently. It was the biggest typhoon or hurricane in recorded history anywhere in the world, stronger even than hurricane Katrina. A couple of months before that, we were also hit by a powerful earthquake that measured 7.2 on the Richter scale. For days after those events, the people had nothing to eat and relief trucks could not get through because of the fallen trees that blocked the roads. I figured if I had a crew that can respond at a moment's notice to cut those trees with a chainsaw or pull them out of the way with a winch, then the people would have a better chance of getting reached by medical and relief workers.

I'm not really into off-roading, but I am planning to buy a used 4x4 doublecab pickup truck and modifying it for use in disaster response. Can you suggest some upgrades or modifications that I can do to make a basic 4x4 pickup truck ready for my purpose? I know nothing about these things, so please be as detailed as possible, but suggest stuff that can be used in most pick-up trucks or SUVs because I don't know what I can get yet. If you could also give me a ballpark cost for each modification or upgrade, that would really be helpful. Thank you so much.

Angel Magno
Los Angeles

Hello Angel,

The devastation caused by Super Typhoon Haiyan was massive. If you think having a truck ready to help in such disasters as hurricanes and natural disasters is something you want to tackle, then we highly suggest you start with the essentials, like a capable 4x4 truck with plenty of room to carry all the gear you need, and with an aftermarket parts catalog that will allow for such modifications as recovery winch bumpers, off-road tires and plenty of cargo room to carry chainsaw, shovels and emergency gear.

I know you mentioned you’re really not into off-road, but if you’re serious about this truck, then you need to learn how to drive it in off-road conditions so you’re ready when disaster hits.

The reality of it all is that you can’t carry everything, and you will need to only carry what is essential to your task.

As far as prices go, they really vary by make/model. You can get a pretty good idea by searching the Web for parts and prices and making a list.  If you’re handy, you can do much of the work yourself and save on the labor.

We found a similar truck build on our sister site Pirate 4x4 that may be of help.  Help me equip an Emergency Response Truck

Good luck, and please send us a follow-up photo once you get going on your emergency truck build.



Thanks, great information...very helpful and to the point. I feel more educated when it comes to my Pathfinder that I absolutely love.


Note sparked by Nissan Hardbody D21 and Pathfinder WD21

Thanks for the love PFLover44. We certainly do have a wealth of information on Nissan 4WD trucks and SUVs here on Off-Road.com. Please come back soon and often to learn more about your Nissan Pathfinder. You’ll also find a community and more information on our Forums (http://forums.off-road.com/ ).



Toyota Diff ID
I need to know the ratio of the rear differential of my Toyota 4runner 2004 V6 2WD.

Hi Miguel,

From the factory, your Toyota 4Runner comes with 3.73 gears (2WD models). The 4WD Toyota models come equipped with either 4.10 or 4.30 gears.

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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