4x4 Answerman: Off-Road Truck & SUV Q&A

Jan. 04, 2012 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:

November 2011

October 2011

September 2011


4x4 AnswerMan,

I have a 1989 Chevy 1500 4x4 and the tires bow out at the bottom very bad I've tried lowering the torsion keys but nothing works. The truck came lifted and I think the upper control arms are stock so could this be the reason or could it just be bad hub bearings or could it be bad ball joints?

Hi Jonathan,

Sounds like your bow-tie is bowed out. These IFS-style 4x4s are tricky, especially the ones with torsion bars. What youíre describing is known as negative camber.

You might be able to correct this by adjusting the cam bolts on the lower and upper control arms. You may also need to turn up torsion bars so it brings your wheel further down, increasing the camber.

There is some adjustment on the top A-arm for caster. You may also need to actually turn up the torsion bars to get more height from the wheel to gain positive camber.

Your best bet is to get it dialed in at an off-road shop that knows what theyíre doing. Your truck is no longer stock, so the factory specs for wheel alignment donít apply.

They should be able to tell you just by looking at it if they can fix the excessive negative camber, and if any other parts like tie-rods are worn.

Good luck.



Hey 4x4 AnswerMan,

I noticed that old blue was in Off-Road.com and Iíd like to say thanks a million.

I have completely restored Old blue this summer and thought Iíd send out a picture. Itís a 1967 Ford F-250 4X4 front axle Dana 44 with 60 outers 4.10 gears with limited posi; rear axle Dana 70 with 4.10 gears and limited posi. New Process 205 transfer case 360 cubic inch FE engine slightly modified. New Process 435 4-speed manual transmission 4-inch Skyjacker suspension lift.

I spent many hours restoring Old Blue and now am very satisfied with the outcome.
Wayne Jaynes

Wow, thatís awesome, Wayne. Glad youíre taking good care of Old Blue. Keeping these on the trails, let alone running, is a true labor of love. 

Thanks for checking in and giving us an update.



4x4 Answerman,
I just have one question regarding this image. Does it mean if I will be installing this on our truck will it improve the mileage of the truck? My brother is insisting that it will but I not sure about it also because all I know it will still depend on how you drive, maintenance of your truck etc, etc. I just love the sound and the horsepower it could produce.


Question/Comment sparked by article:
Project Dodge Mega Cab: Magnaflow Diesel Performance Exhaust

Hi AndreaSue,

You're both right. It will increase your MPG because now your engine is breathing easier and producing more horsepower and torque with the same amount of fuel. On the flip side, since you love the sound so much, and will feel and increase of power from the line (stopped), but there is a tendency to drive harder, which burns more fuel.

If you're concerned with MPG, just keep your foot easy on the pedal and you'll be good. The engine still growls. = )

Another option for you if you live outside of California or any state that does not require diesel smog for your truck is delete the cat. It will help your truck breathe even better. Just make sure you keep the cat converter in case you ever need to add it back on. They are over $1000 at the dealership for a replacement.

There are many chaps here in CA that found out the hard way.

Good luck and have fun.



4x4 AnswerMan,

I have a 1998 Toyota Tacoma 4x4. Iím always having problems with it going into 4-wheel drive. Iíve replaced the front actuator once, and it looks like I may have to again. Iíve heard about a way to lock it in manually, bypassing the vacuum and using a cable.

Can you give me any information on this? Thanks for any help you can offer.

Billy Kimball
Vidalia, LA

Hi Billy,

Sorry to hear youíre having so many problems with the 4x4 front axle actuator. 4x4 Posi-lock out of Canada is the company that makes the manual cable set-up you mention.  Unfortunately they donít have anything for Toyota that would help slide front axle sleeve from 2WD to 4WD.

There are other ways of bypassing the vacuum actuator, such as doing a full-time lock with vacuum. Hereís an article in which you can read more about what options you have:

The Automatic Disconnecting Differential System


4x4 Answerman,

How much of a lift would I need to put on my 1994 Dodge Dakota to put 34-inch tires on it? How much of a lift would I need to put on my 2000 Dodge Ram 1500 to put 38-inch tires on it?


Hi Mike,

I see youíre a Mopar Man with two Dodge trucks in the stable. To get your Dakota up in the air with enough clearance for 34s, youíre looking at least 5.5-inch supension kit. Depending on the width of tires you go with, there may need to be some wheel-well trimming or adding a body lift. Cost is about $1500 in parts.

As for your Dodge Ram 1500, you should be able to get 38s underneath with a 6-inch suspension lift Ė again some wheel well trimming may be needed depending on the wheel/tire combo you run. Cost is around 2 Gs ($2000).

Superlift 6-inch Suspension lift for Dodge Ram 1500 

4x4 AnswerMan,

Thanks a lot, I wasnít sure what was up with that upper ball joint outer ring. Now I see itís for adjustment on alignment. Was just looking at mine you cleared up my questions thanks!


Glad you figured it out Louie.

Question/Comment sparked by the following article:
Bronco Ball Joint Replacement



4x4 AnswerMan,

Why wire two 6 volts in parallel if we are testing a 12-volt fan?


Hi Dave,

I think youíre referring to the battery test box Justin Fort used in his article.

Youíre right, you donít need one of these. You could simply test it with your 12v car battery.

Justin just happens to have a bench test set-up with two 6v batteries in parallel with on/off switch that makes it handy.

Hope this clears things up.

Question/Comment sparked by article:
How-To: Installing an Electric Fan in Your Off-Road Vehicle


Project Retro F-350

4x4 AnswerMan,

Seeing this F-350 brought back many memories of my 79 F-250 "1GRNTRK," or The Green Truck, which was Dark Jade Metallic, as well as my Uncles 75 F-250 HiBoy ... I still have both.  Unfortunately, being from IL the weather has not been easy on them. I was overwhelmed at the beauty of this truck.  Makes me want to redo both of mine. NOW!

I believe Ď70s Fords were the best 4x4's ever built. Well, the Ď00s Super Dutys, like my Ď02, are pretty darn unbeatable too.


Hi Brad,

Thanks for sharing your thoughts. The owner of Project Retro F-350 did a great job at bringing this old truck back to life. Countless hours and the help of family and friends went into making this truck what it is today. Itís amazing what people can do when they come together.

I agree the Ď70s Ford Truck is special. I always admired the one my Dad and his boss had while growing up. I actually got to drive one with a 460 big block the summer after graduating high school. It was one heavy-duty piece of steel with a lot of go.

Well, hope you get going on restoring your Fords. If you need to replace rusty parts, look out West - you can find plenty of donor trucks out here.


Question/Comment sparked by article:
Project Retro F-350: Off-Road Drive Shafts

Project Retro F-350: AGR Performance Rock Ram



4x4 AnswerMan,

I am trying to identify my axle code. Vin 5TEN with C/TR 209/FR13 A/TM A01/A340E.

This appears to be an ďAĒ for 7.5 Diameter Ring Gear: 01 for 3.42 Ratio: and A340 as 2 Pinion, Open. Is this correct?

Thanks in advance.
Marvin Rhodes

Hi Marvin,

Thereís a good chance this is correct, but I would need more info from you, like year/make/model. The table we have is for 4Txxxx VINs, not 5Txxxx. Send me the info, and Iíll investigate.

I feel like the little kid in Christmas Story with the Little Orphan Annie ring decoder. ďMake Sure To Drink Your Ovaltine!Ē

Question/Comment sparked by article:
Toyota Differential Identification



I am inquiring about a lift for my two cars. First is a 2002 Rav4 4WD Toyota. Second is for a 2011 Toyota Tacoma 4x4.

I need to know how much will it cost for each one to be lifted up 4 to 6 inches high.

Hi Paul,

The Toyota Rav 4 is going to be a tough one to get 4 or 6 inches high. The tallest suspension lift on the market for this little guy is 1.5 inches. Even then, they do work pretty good, and the size seems to be adequate for the platform. Any bigger than that, and weíre talking custom = $MUCHO DINERO (Lots of money).

A 1.5-inch lift from Old Man Emu will run you around $450 (parts only).

As for the 2011 Toyota Tacoma, you can do a 6-inch lift from any of the major companies like ProComp and Tuff Country for about $1500 (parts only).

Make sure to check out http://www.offroadwarehouse.com/ for more info and options.

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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