4x4 AnswerMan: Truck & 4x4 Tech Questions

Aug. 22, 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.

More 4x4 AnswerMan Columns:

July 2011

June 2011

May 2011



4x4 AnswerMan,  I have a 1998 Chevy K1500 Regular cab with a long bed. I want to lift it and put 35s underneath but I'm curious if it's too big of a truck to take through more technical terrain?


Hi Sam,

Full-sized trucks offer something smaller 4x4 donít--big horsepower and stability. Most full-sized trucks come with V8s and much wider axles than a smaller 4x4 or Jeep.

With that said, you do pay a price for these sought-after features. The truck will be able to handle technical trails, but you will be limited on some of the tighter Jeep trails. The longer wheelbase might also be a plus or minus, depending on the obstacle. 

I guess it really comes down to the type of trails and places you plan on wheeliní.

I personally have a K1500 Z71 standard cab shortbed and have been all over the western United States and Baja with no problems. Now I do know my limitations. If I canít fit or donít have enough clearance, I stay off. I also just run 33s. So you will be in better shape with 35s.

To be honest, there plenty of guys that run full-sized trucks through the Rubicon trail in the Sierras. So donít be frightened by the size of your truck. 

To run 35-inch tires you will need a 4 or 6-inch suspension lift. If you need some ideas on what else you can do to your K1500, make sure to check out Project K1500 here on Off-Road.com.

Project K1500 Ė Superlift 6-inch and 35-inch tires 



 Hello 4x4 AnswerMan,
 I have a 1964 Toyota Land Cruiser FJ 40, it is all stock. It runs and drives great, but last year I towed it about 100 miles, all free wheeling. I parked it for about 4 months while I was moving. Last month I was going to use it and started to back up, it was locked down for some reason, I pulled forward and then backed up ok, but when I started to go forward it was locked down again, so I backed up a small amount and then it went forward ok. But every time I tried to back up or go forward it would lock up and I would need to do the opposite to get it to go the direction I wanted to go. Any Ideas?

Thanks Jerry 

Hi Jerry,

First thing Ė nice rig. I would recommend checking all your fluids, including the transmission and transfer case and differential. They might be low, and that will cause binding.

Thereís also the possibility of bad bearings or gears.

If possible, jack up your rear wheels and see how they spin with the t-case in neutral, and when in 2HI, 4HI, 4LO. This will help you to isolate the problem and better assess if itís in the trans, transfer case or rear diff.

A visual inspection will also be key. If possible, remove your rear diff cover and take a look to see how things are. It wouldnít hurt to replace fluid while youíre at it. If you still have the factory e-brake mounted on the transfer case, make sure to check that itís spinning freely.

If you still donít see anything, you might need to bring the transfer case down for an internal inspection. If youíre handy, you can take down you transfer case and re-build it yourself. Your transfer case is gear driven, so typically the binding will occur with the bearings going bad and one or more of the gears wearing down or breaking.

You can source the parts and rebuild kit at any of these Land Cruiser shops:


JT Outfitters

Cool Cruisers of Texas

Spector Off-Road

If after opening your t-case you find that itís destroyed, consider picking up a used one on Craigslist or one of the Land Cruiser groups like IH8MUD.com.

TIP: If you plan on continuing to flat tow your FJ40, I would recommend removing the rear driveshaft and making sure your front hubs are free-spinning.  If not, thereís a good chance you will have a similar problem or worse after fixing it. Flat towing in neutral is not recommended by most FJ40 owners, especially at over 50 mph. It takes less than 10 minutes to remove the rear driveshaft.

Good luck!



Hi 4x4 AnswerMan,  I am in the process of changing my 1995 Dodge 4x4 from a 360  automatic to a  318 with a standard transmission.  Will the computer from the 360 still work on the 318 standard transmission?  

Thank you, George Nagy-Deak Squamish, BC

Hi George,

Itís hard to say. You wonít know until you get all the mechanical done. At worst, the truck will run the engine in limp mode and you will get a check engine light. At that point you will need to have someone re-flash your ECU and delete the wiring for the old auto trans. 

Give the guys at Howell EFI a call if you need help with ECU or wiring.


4x4AnswerMan   I'm in the process of lifting my 76 Chevy G20 van. This will be used as a dirt bike hauler, not necessarily a hardcore off-road van. The plan is to use 16 or 17in wheels for a more modern look. The current hubs are 5 x 4.75 bolt pattern. I'm thinking of swapping back axle and front hubs with a 6 or 8 lug truck, and in order to gain clearance, Iíd like to achieve the front lift with a offset spindle if thatís possible. Seems they used the same spindle for vans and light trucks up thru the early 90's.  Is it possible to swap the stock one out for a spindle designed for a chevy pickup? Or do you have a suggestion to gain height?  Mike

Hi Mike,

Thatís going to be one cool dirt bike hauler. 

You can lift the front 2-3 inches with taller springs. If you want to go 4 inches or taller, then you will need the lift spindles.

If you can confirm the fitment with the manufacture or shop, that would be best for the lift spindles. A simple visual and measurement should suffice.

Also, a good place to get more technical data and talk to other van owners on an off-road van community called http://www.sportsmobileforum.com or on our forums here http://forums.off-road.com/.

As for prepping your van to carry your bikes and gear, make sure to check out Project MotoVan here on Off-Road.com.

Good luck!



4x4 AnswerMan,       
I have a 1986.5 Nissan V-6 standard cab stick shift 5 speed,with cruise control. I have not seen one like it. Is this truck rare?

Hi Nissan Dude,

Yeah, your hardbody is rare, especially since we are seeing less and less of them on the trail or street. As for the engine and trans, I would say that the V-6 in a standard cab with a manual is pretty rare. Most of the single cabs from that vintage were 4-cylinders.

If you like it, keep it and wheel it until the tires fall off.



4x4 AnswerMan,

I have a Ď97 Z71 and I cranked my torsion bars up all the way. I tried to get an alignment and the mechanic said he canít do it because the part that needs adjustment to align the tires is maxed out. Is there any way around that without putting my old keys back on?


Hi Kyle,

If youíre already using aftermarket torsion keys to level/lift the front suspension on your IFS Chevy, the best bet is to back off on the height to the point where your alignment shop can get it dialed in. 

Those torsion keys are designed for 1.5- to 2-inch lift at best. If you want more, time for an IFS lift kit.

Hope that helps.



Hi 4x4 AnswerMan,

I have a 1995 chevy Z71 it has 6 inches of lift and 35 inch tires. It is a regular cab short bed. It does not have much power. Everything is stock on it powertrain wise. Somebody told me to change the rear gear and it help with the power problem. It also gets horrible gas milage 7.2 mpg. Oh I also put flowmaster duals on it.


Hi Chantz,

Who ever gave you advice about swapping out gears was on the right track. Just remember that you need to do both the front and rear gears--so they match.

If you are running stock gears, you have 3.73. Moving from the factory 265 (31 inch) up to 35s has created a power rob. Getting lower gears is in order.

You can run either 4.56 or 4.88 gears. If you drive it more off-road than on the street, go with the lower gears. If you do more street driving, then the 4.56 will work better for you on highway.

Re-gearing your Z71 Chevy should give you back some power and may even give you better fuel millage.

In any case, you and your truck will be much happier.

Make sure to check out Randyís Ring & Pinion. Apparently they have the best rear ends in the business.

Really, they do carry some of the best brands and have a knowledgeable staff on hand that will help with your gears.

They also have some nice calculators you can play with the will help confirm the gear set you need for the desired RPM.




Hi 4x4 AnswerMan,  I have a two questions. 

I just recently purchased a 1996 Suzuki Sidekick sport with a 1.8-litre engine. It has a two inch lift on it and very aggressive 16 mud tires. I am wondering what kind of mileage per tank of gas I should be expecting (approximately) for a vehicle like this (city and highway).  I believe I have a 55-litre gas tank. 
 I have been driving it around the city and it does seem to go through the gas pretty quickly. Do you think that putting on 15 inch nothing fancy all season tires will make a significant improvement in fuel economy or do these vehicles end up burning close to the same amount of gas due to the weight of the vehicle gearing etc?
 Thank you very much for you help!  Trevor

Hi Trevor,

Mud tires are heavier and have more resistance on the road than an all- terrain or all-weather tire. Mud tires will inherently also give you less MPG.

There are other factors to also consider, like the gear ratio and tire size. 

A stock Sidekick should be getting about 21 mpg on highway, and 19 mpg city according to fueleconomy.gov.

When you say 16- and 15-inch tires, I think youíre talking about the rim size. This will have little effect. What you should be more concerned with is the total diameter of the tire as that will impact how your Suzuki performs.

If it is running larger-than-stock-size tires, lower gears may be needed to gain power and also get better fuel economy.

You might also consider doing a tune-up on it (Air filter, fuel filter, pcv filter, plugs, plug wires, ignition). 


Hi 4x4 AnswerMan,  Hello, I am looking for a front bumper for my 2001 Dodge Dakota, with winch and two front hook points can you help?  


Hi Russ,

Early on there were a number of the companies making winch bumpers for your truck. Now, not so much. Your options are to find a used one from WARN and other similar companies. Try eBay, Craigslist or local listings. 

Next bet would be modifying one off a Jeep XJ Cherokee of something with similar width dimensions to your Dakota. The last option is to just have a custom one built by a local fabricator. This might be more expensive, but it will be exactly what you want.

Good luck.


Hi 4x4 AnswerMan, I have a 2003 Ford Explorer that needs new tires. Do you know of a good off-road tire that is not to expensive?  

Thanks, Dan

Hello Dan,

Off-Road tire and ďnot too expensiveĒ in the same sentence... I had to re-boot to compute.

Off-Road tires in general are not cheap, especially when compared to conventional light truck tires. The reason for this is that a lot more engineering, material, and low production drive up the prices.  

If you donít want donut tires but want something in between, may we recommend an all-terrain tire. It is off-road worthy, will get you there and back, and it will roll great on street and highways for daily driving.

They also are a less expensive than mud-terrain tires and will last longer on the road.

Personally, weíve had good luck with BFG All-Terrains. 

If you are running a 285 or smaller size tire, try Costco and Samís Club. They have good pricing, and right now BFG is running a deal for $70 off a set.

For larger diameters, try your local off-road tire shop.

For more info make sure to check out http://www.bfgoodrichtires.com/.



 Hi 4x4 AnswerMan,

I just had a 6.5" Zone lift put on my 08' GMC Sierra 4x4 Extended Cab.  The truck looks great but seems to be a little low in the ass-end of the truck.  The shop that did the lift said it's common and that I could add a leaf to the rear.  My concern is that adding a leaf might take it too high (1" or 2") and the ride would get a little rough or hard.  A friend said that over time the front will drop a little after the new springs break in and that it will level out.  Any suggestions?

Hi Derik,

If you want to level things out, start with the manufacturer. Ask them if the higher front end is typical for their lift, and if they can offer a solution to make it level in the back.

It could be that the front needs to settle or you may indeed need to add another leaf or taller block. 

Give Zone Off-Road a call and get the facts.

1-888-998-ZONE (9663)


Hello 4x4 AnswerMan,

My 2001 dodge 4x4 off road package has started leaking differeantl oil looks like around the pumpkin seal and maybe the front where the drive shaft hooks.   What all do i need to do to fix this?     

Hi Stephen,

Sounds like itís time for a little maintenance on the old differential. Your diff cover takes a gasket, so I recommend putting in a new one. Make sure you clean all the old gunk off good; use a gasket scraper to get it nice and clean before you put it back together.  Brake cleaner works good. 

There is also a chance that your pinion seal is bad, so that might be why you are seeing some diff fluid traces. If you have the time and the skills it wouldnít hurt to replace that too. Both gasket and seal will run less than $20. 

Finish off the job by putting in some fresh gear oil and you should be good for a while.

If you donít have a repair manual for your Dodge already, I recommend you get one. It will show you step-by-step how to remove that old seal and replace with the new one.  You can pick one up at your local OReillyís or on Amazon.com

Good luck.

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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