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

Jun. 30, 2014 By Jaime Hernandez
Four-Wheel-Drives rolling along jagged rocks and steep cliffs, surrounded by conifers and aspen trees in the San Juan Mountains, Colorado.

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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That is a very sexy truck, which is also capable off-road. I would love to have the low-end torque of the diesel in there.

Dominico-James Black Eagle Hod

Letter Sparked by Impression: 2014 Ram Power Wagon

Hello Dominico-James,

No doubt the Power Wagon is one capable 4x4 truck that many think looks as good as it performs. The need for a diesel engine has been something Power Wagon customers have been requesting for quite some time. One of the reasons we were told a diesel option has not been offered is because of the added weight of the Cummins engine, and that the intercooler doesnít allow much room for a recovery winch behind the bumper.  The other factor is the sticker for such a package.

All we can do is keep bugging the engineers and brand managers at Ram Truck about making a diesel Power Wagon. Maybe the smaller EcoDiesel may be an option?

Related: Ram 1500 EcoDiesel Road Trip




I've been following your build of the Trucklet and using some of the ideas for my own build.

Reading this post I do have a question about, "I had trouble with the back shocks, but it turned out weíd installed them in the factory manner instead of using the Old Man Emu method." What was the correct way to install the rear shocks?

I just received my OME kit for my 2005 and wanted to make sure I install it correctly.


Letter sparked by Toyota Rav4 Crawling: Recapping our Build

Hi 87hachigo,

Nice choice of suspension.  As for the shock absorber installation, most of the Old Man Emu shocks are made to install with the body down. In other words, the steel tube will be on the bottom. The rod and dust boot on top, similar to the image shown below.

Enjoy the ride!



4x4 AnswerMan,

Does the 92 Bronco come with a 351C or 351W?
Kirt Griffin

Hi Kirt,

The 1992 Ford Bronco comes equipped with the V8 351 Windsor engine. These motors were originally made at Fordís Windsor, Ontario, engine plant (code W).  Then in 1969, the production of some of the smaller Windsor engines was performed in Cleveland, Ohio (code C). Since your Bronco shares DNA with the F-150 truck line, its 5.8L engine would have come from Windsor, not Cleveland.


I have a 1972 4x4 Chevy that my "Papa" bought new in í72. I put new General Tire Grabbers and Interco Bird Dog bead lock rims. I also got a 6-inch Tuff Country lift kit and Detroit Lockers front and rear. I have also repaired both axles and rebuilt the motor and the trans. Now I can't think of anything else to do, any ideas?

Old School

Hi Old School,

Sounds like you have things pretty well sorted out. Iíd go wheel it and have some fun!

You can always modify the truck and make adjustments as needed. If you have money burning a hole in your pocket, fuel injection would be nice to have.

One word or caution, since you have a front Detroit Locker, make sure to unlock the hubs when rolling on the street or when you donít need added traction on the dirt. Otherwise, you may find yourself fighting the steering wheel, or worse, breaking U-joints and axles.

The Detroit Locker maximizes traction by delivering 100% of the torque to both drive wheels. It is engineered to keep both wheels in a constant drive mode, and has the ability to automatically allow wheel speed differentiation when required.


Toyota Hilux Vigo Prerunner

4x4 AnswerMan,

Here in Thailand a regular Vigo 4 door costs about $2500 less than the Prerunner version. My question is if it might make more sense to buy the normal version and spend that $2500 to turn it into a better Prerunner? Basically, I want to raise it, put some bigger tires and smooth out the ride, as I wonít be using this car to carry heavy loads Ė just for everyday use.

I donít know much about suspension kits, etc.óbut can anyone advise on what sort of kit might fit my needs? Roads are bad hereólots of potholes.

Hello Vigo Dude,

The Hilux Vigo prerunner is a 2WD model, sharing many of the same suspension components of the 4WD. The Vigo prerunner comes equipped with a tuned suspension, geared for off-road performance and everyday driving. Itís not a freight truck, so it should ride rough. You will also find some additional goodies, like a rear e-locker or limited slip, skid plates, TRD wheels and prerunner trim.  The interior may also have some additional TRD accents that will distinguish it from a standard 2WD Hilux.

You could take a standard 2WD Hilux and turn it into your own vision of a prerunner, but itís going to cost more than the $2500 mark-up you mentioned.  If you like the way the Hilux Vigo Prerunner comes from the factory, it may be wise to get one. If you decide down the road you need larger tires and a little more lift, you will have an easier time finding aftermarket parts for the Prerunner than a standard 2WD.

A good suspension option that will yield 2-inches of lift up front and a smoother ride would be FOX Performance Series coilovers, with FOX Performance Series shocks in the rear. More info at http://www.ridefox.com.

By the way, youíre lucky to have the 3.0 Toyota Diesel engine option in Thailand.  Iím sure it works great in the Hilux pickup.




4x4 AnswerMan,

Can I use 3-point tractor hitch top links for suspension links? Has anyone tried this? Itís easier to get them where I'm at, and a bit cheaper than rock crawler parts online.


Hi Cal,

You can certainly use tractor links for truck suspension links, but they donít seem to last as long as the purpose-built off-road spherical bearings found on FK rod ends. There also arenít as many fabrication pieces or material options to choose from, such as stainless or chromoly. Lastly, they are noisy, so expect clanking sounds coming from the suspension at all times. Tractor links arenít lined with Teflon or Kevlar like FK rod ends or Johnny Joints.

There are a few rigs out there that use tractor link pieces, but these trucks are mostly built for trail use only. You wonít see them roaring down the interstate or flying across the desert.  Think tractor speed. If youíre good with that, then this may work for you. 

Check out Rod End Supply http://www.rodendsupply.com and Kartek http://www.kartek.com for more options.

FK Rod End spherical bearings can be used for a number of moving parts on your off-road rig, including suspension, drivetrain linkage, adjustable lighting racks and more.


Hello Off-Road.com,

I bought a 1980 International Scout diesel with a sd33 engine, that was sitting outside for about 7 years, neglected.  I towed it home, changed oil, sprayed oil in the injector holes for start up, poured diesel in it, and it started right up, but stalled shortly after.  When running it blows large amounts of smoke out the blow by tube.  I am not familiar with this engine, hoping someone here has ďbeen there, done thatĒ with these engines.  Iím ready to rip my hair out.  Any info will be helpful, and appreciated.  This vehicle is bone stock and has 42k original miles on it.  Was used as a security vehicle, so it idled most of its lifetime.


Hi International146,

Since the engine has been sitting for so long, it may be necessary to run it under load to help it clear up.  It would also not be a bad idea to run some diesel additive to help clean up the internals, as there may be build up in the cylinder.  Some old timers swear that 2-stroke oil also helps.  Once all the build up clears out, the piston rings may have a better chance at sealing, helping reduce the exhaust blow by you are getting.

It would also be a good idea to do a compression test.  If you find low compression in any of the cylinders, there is a chance of ring, piston or cylinder damage.  You wonít know for sure until cracking into the engine.

I would try diesel additive and running it under load before taking the engine apart.  Also, make sure youíre running good diesel, not the 7 year old stuff left in the tank by the previous owner.  If things are still not looking good, take it into a diesel mechanic for a second opinion and further guidance.

Good luck.



4x4 AnswerMan,

There is no display on my OBDII scanner when it is connected to the port, and emissions had the same issue. It failed due to that. I checked fuses and all are good visually. Any ideas why there is no power to the OBDII port in the vehicle? How to fix it?



Hello bowtie4by,

On your GM truck, the cigarette lighter fuse also powers your OBDII port. Check the fuse box for CIGAR fuse. If it's blown, swap it with the proper auto fuse. Even if it looks good, test it with an ohm meter, or simply exchange it with a good one.  Sometimes this fuse gets overloaded with gizmos attached to the cigarette lighter and will blow. Your OBDII port should be good once you resume power. 

Test at home with your own OBDII scanner before taking it into the smog shop again. 

Good luck!



4x4 AnswerMan,

I am interested in adding some overloads of some sort to our Ď13 FX4. It has a Rancho 4-inch lift and 35-inch tires. We don't haul much in it but occasionally we take it to the feed mill and get feed. I just want to give it a little boost so it won't squat in the rear when loaded. In the past, I used helper springs on some of my trucks. I don't know much about air bags, but that might be the way to go, and I assume you have to put spacers that equal the lift on them when installing. Any input would be appreciated. Itís my wife's truck.


Hi Steve,

You can go either route, but air bags (a.k.a. air helper springs) are nice because you can adjust the PSI to whatever load you are carrying. They also tend to give a much smoother ride loaded than overload springs. Companies such as Firestone do make taller air bag kits for lifted trucks; you just need to ask for them or look them up in the catalog. Here is a link to the Firestone Ride-Rite application guide: http://www.firestoneip.com/site-resources/ride-rite/pdf/2012_APPGUIDE_WEBSITE.pdf

Weíve had a set of Firestones on the truck for almost four years and have not had any issues or tears. They give a smooth ride loaded and flex well off-road.

Here is an article you may find helpful.

Firestone Ride-Rite Air Helper Springs Ė Review


4x4 AnswerMan,

My 2000 Dodge Ram 2500 Turbo Diesel will not go over 30 mph. Every once in awhile it goes in to 3rd gear but not overdrive for the freeway. It has plenty of transmission fluid and no lights are on warning me about anything? Iím lost!!!


Hi Brandon,

Last month we gave you some possible causes of why your Dodge Ram Truck wonít go past 30 mph. Off-Road.com reader Darren Hellmund jumped to help this month by giving us insight into his own personal experience dealing with a similar issue:

Hey guys with regards to the Dodge Ram that wont go over 30 mph, it sounds like either it has lost its kick-back solenoids or as it is sometimes getting third, MORE LIKELY it has simply gone into limp-mode (which is designed to allow you to drive the vehicle with minimal damage, to where you can get it fixed). If this is the case, it will actually be an issue with the airflow sensor in the throttle body more than a transmission issue (such as it being dirty or needing replacement). This is not the only reason that limp mode can be activated but in my experience the most common.

Hope this helps.



Congratulations to Brian Menzies on his win of the 2014 Tecate SCORE Baja 500. His Red Bull Ford Trophy Truck sure looks good sweeping across the track, and the results of these south-of-the-border races always resonate with our audience.  Hereís what Off-Road.com readers had to say:

ďKid is good. Iím a Robby fan, but would love to see him in SST Trucks.Ē
-Jeff Bennett

ďGreat driver. Wish he would come back to race TORC. We miss him in the Midwest.Ē
-Fat Boy

Get the full story in our SCORE Baja 500 Coverage 

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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