4x4 AnswerMan: Off-Road Truck & SUV Questions Answered

Apr. 01, 2014 By Jaime Hernandez
Dodge Ram Truck enjoying a leisurely crawl over gigantic, heavy-equipment tires at the Truckhaven 4x4 Training Area.

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

February 2014

January 2014

December 2013



4x4 AnswerMan,

I got my Rav4 Gen 1 up Blowsand, Ocotillo and some stuff that just shocked everyone. Iíd go out on some trails and suddenly everyone is sitting back and watching. Had to get up and prove themselves, too. I put some of the pre-runners to shame.  The only mod we put on was a bar to protect the oil pan.

Samantha Macdonald

Hi Samantha, 

Thanks for sharing your story. Blowsand in Ocotillo Wells SVRA is a good-sized run. Iíve gotten stuck halfway up the hill in a Z71 Chevy with twice the horsepower as your RAV4.  It helps to air down (which I hadnít).  tís amazing what these little RAV4s can do. Our friend Justin Fort, owner of the RAV4 project build here on Off-Road.com, made some additional mods to his trail rig and had that thing going places we would never have imagined. People would stand back and watch this little Toyota go over obstacles twice its size, meant for much gnarlier 4x4 trucks.

The trucklet did have its limitations, but Justin always found a way of making it work. Big smiles on the trail for sure.  ou have to check out all the other RAV4 stories here on Off-Road.com, theyíre awesome! To find the complete series of the Toyota RAV4 Trucklet build, do a search using keyword ďRAV4.Ē Hereís one to get you started: Toyota RAV4 Trucklet




4x4 AnswerMan,

Please help. I fitted my second pair of BF Mud Terrains on my Toyota Hilux but the front tires contact surface is wearing unevenly. One nobbly is wearing quicker than the one next to it on the whole tire. The tire dealer said that this type of tire does that on the asphalt road. Is it possible?  

Johnny Bezuidenhout 

Hello Johnny,

More aggressive tires do tend to wear faster on asphalt than all-terrain or light truck tires, but the fact that only one row of knobbies is wearing indicates a suspension problem.  Find yourself another tire dealer/shop, preferably one that deals with four-wheel-drive vehicles. 

Your truck either needs a proper alignment or repair to worn suspension parts.  It may be that the balljoints, wheel bearing or tire rod for that side of the vehicle has excessive play and needs to be replaced. By the way, itís recommended you replace them in pairs (passenger/driver side). 

Below is an illustration noting the most common tire-wear problems.  Once you have the excessive tire wear figured out, rotate your tires every 3,000 - 5,000 miles to get the most life out of them. Proper air pressure will also help.

Good luck!



Letter sparked by Reader Rides: Jorgeís 92 Chevy Silverado


Where did you get the 4-link kit?


Hi Tyler,

Off-Road Design sells a complete front 4-link conversion kit for your truck with 14-inch King Coilovers, similar to the one found on Jorgeís Chevy K1500. The 4-link kit woks on 1967 to 1997 4x4 GM Trucks. More info at

If you're looking for rear anti-wrap/traction bars, try Ruff Stuff. They sell the parts you need to make your own custom set.  More info at https://www.ruffstuffspecialties.com/catalog/antiwraptractionbars.html

Happy welding!



Letter sparked by Trail Tips: Good Wood for Your Next Off-Road Adventure


I carry wood wedges and a small sledgehammer.
Ron Spins

Hi Ron,

Glad to hear you also have good wood and steel. I also carry some 1-inch plywood, a 2 ft section of 4x6 wood beam for an emergency. A piece of wood and sledgehammer can be lifesavers when doing trailside repair on your 4x4, trailer or tow rig. They also come in handy when doing maintenance on the truck at home.

For those of you that donít have any wood yet, or would like to add more to their collection, weíve found that lumberyards have scrap that theyíll either give away or sell at a very reasonable price.  It doesnít make sense to buy the entire beam if you only need a 2-foot section.



Letter sparked by Off-Road Trail Rides in Orange County, Calif.


How do you get a key to closed roads?

Chris C

Hi Chris,

The Saddleback dirt trails in Orange County are inside Cleveland National Forest.  Sometimes they close the gate at the trailhead after a big storm if there is major erosion or trail damage. They also close them after fires. You can find current Cleveland National Forest trail conditions on this page:

Cleveland National Forest - Trail Alerts & Notices

If the trail you want to access says itís closed on the website, call the local Ranger station to find out for sure. You should also be able to get a status on when it will re-open if itís still closed.  As for gated areas beyond the trailhead, you may be able to get a key or lock combination directly from the local Ranger. You should be able to find out if you call and give them information on the specific gate and trail you are trying to connect with. Ranger contact information is included below.

Happy Trails!

Cleveland National Forest - Trabuco Ranger District (Orange County Area)
Darrell Vance, District Ranger
1147 East Sixth Street
Corona, CA 92879 (951) 736-1811

Cleveland National Forest - Supervisors Office
10845 Rancho Bernardo Road, Suite 200
San Diego, CA 92127
(858) 673-6180



Letter sparked by TreadWright's Affordable Recycled Mud-Terrain Tire

4x4 AnswerMan,
How low did you take the PSI in your review?

Ben Martin

Hello Ben,

On the trail, we took this set of TreadWright Guard Dog tires down to 15 psi. You may be able to go lower with beadlock wheels. TIRE UPDATE: Since installing the TreadWright tires, the owner has logged over 12k miles on them with no issues or problems of thread separation or excessive wear. To help, Brian rotates them on a regular basis. He daily drives his Jeep on the street and gets out to the dirt whenever possible (90/10). 

These TreadWright re-treads have definitely changed our views on running recycled tires.  For half the price, itís hard to beat.



4x4 AnswerMan,

I have a 96 Chevy Z71 with a 6-inch lift and 35-inch tires. Can I change my auto hubs over to manual locking hubs?


Hi Kendall,

The only way you could run manual hubs on this truck would be if you did a solid axle conversion. Unfortunately, there isnít anything made for freewheeling this IFS truck.

Besides gears and locker, the only other thing you can do with your truckís IFS front axle to help with off-road performance would be to install a 4x4 Posi-Lok cable system. This will allow you to have more control of the front axle when engaging 4-wheel drive. After engaging the transfer case, a one-inch pull of the 4x4 Posi-Lok cable slides the shift fork and collar to connect the right front axle to the intermediate shaft and 4-wheel drive is engaged. The 4x4 Posi-Lok deletes the electric actuator, making your 4x4 system more reliable. More info at http://4x4posi-lok.com/app_chevy-k.html



Letter sparked by Project Big Bad Chevy

4x4 AnswerMan,

What size motor do you got in and how much would you take for it?

Jeremiah Wood

Hello Jeremiah,

Project Big Bad Chevy is running a small block Chevy 383 engine matted to a stock NP208 transfer case and a built TCI TH350 transmission. I'm not sure if Mike wants to sell his truck, but you can try sending him a PM on the Off-Road.com and Pirate 4x4 forums. His user name is Mike330R.

Good luck.



Hey 4x4 AnswerMan,

I'm working on a 1984 Ford F350 rear diff.  Itís a Dana 70 with 2L73 gears. I canít seem to find any info on these gears to save my life, so I'm just looking for some words of wisdom.  I have play in my driveline, meaning I can turn it roughly a quarter of a turn with my hand before the gears in the rear diff start to turn the wheels. I pulled the diff cover, inspected the gears for damage--found no chipped/worn teeth.  At this point I assume I need to shim my pinion to adjust where it meets up with the gear. Will any Dana 70 shim kit work?


Hi Dylan,

Sounds like excessive play. Sometimes there is a little play with worn U-joints or pinion bearing, but a quarter turn is quite a bit. There are a few variations on the Dana 70, so not all are the same.  I would recommend you read up on your Dana 70 to become more familiar and learn how to set it up. There are some good reads on our sister site Pirate 4x4 that should help (listed below).

Give the guys at Randyís Ring & Pinion a call to get advice. They will also have the right shim kit and parts needed to make the repair. 

Good luck.

Dana 70 Bible



4x4 AnswerMan,

The battery in my truck smells like rotten egg and gets really hot after running it.  Help!


Hi Lizzy,

Sounds like your alternator is overcharging the battery. Please be very careful, as hot batteries can explode. Weíve experienced it first hand and it was frightening. Acid will burn and may cause serious injury.

The best thing to do is waiting until the truck is cool. Then, remove the alternator and take it into a local auto parts store to have it checked.  Places like OíReillyís bench test it for free.

Since you mentioned the battery smelled and was hot, it may also need some maintenance or to be replaced.  If it has top filler lids, remove them carefully AFTER THE BATTERY IS COOL to inspect fluid level. The battery grids should be covered with fluid.  If low, use distilled water to fill just past the top of plates.  Donít overfill, as hot weather and engine heat can make the battery fluid overflow or expand.

If the battery case is cracked or has a bulge, then you need to replace it.  This is true for both maintenance-free and standard automobile batteries.

Please make sure to wear safety goggles and gloves when servicing and handling the battery.

Good luck!




I need some grease for my squeaky Total Chaos upper control arms. Whatcha got?


Hi there J,

Sounds like youíre getting an ear full of squeakiness after running your UCAs dry. We checked with Total Chaos Fabrication and they recommend using Super Lube Multi-Purpose Grease. The stuff works so good, you can even eat it!  Hereís the manufacturerís description:

Synthetic Multi-Purpose Grease
Super Lube Grease is a patented synthetic NLGI grade 2 heavy-duty, multipurpose lubricant with PTFE. Synthetic base fluids and the addition of PTFE micro powders combine to form a premium lubricant that provides longer life protection against friction, wear, rust and corrosion. Machinery lasts longer, downtime is reduced, and productivity is increased. Super Lube® is compatible with most other lubricants and will not run, drip, evaporate or form gummy deposits, and will not melt or separate.

Super Lube is Food Grade, rated H-1 by the USDA and NSF for incidental food contact. It is an excellent Dielectric and operates over a temperature range from -45° to 450° F.

More info at http://www.super-lube.com/.

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
February 2014

January 2014

December 2013

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