4x4 AnswerMan: Truck and SUV Off-Road Help

Jun. 06, 2012 By Jaime Hernandez
UNIMOG cruising around Anza-Borrego Desert.

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:
April 2012

March 2012

February 2012


4x4 AnswerMan,

I recently picked up a 1971 FJ40 and would like to find some people around Portland area that might have the same to have fun.  I have no idea where to go.

Seth Landin

Hi Seth,

Welcome to the Land Cruiser club. Best place to start is the Toyota Land Cruiser Association. They are a great resource for Land Cruiser information, events, parts and service, and TLCA Chapter Clubs.

I noticed there are at least three Land Cruiser clubs in Oregon. It will be a great way to share notes, parts and knowledge.


More info on the Toyota Land Cruiser Association (TLCA) at http://www.tlca.org/


We have a 2003 Ford F-550 with a 6.0 diesel in Orange County, CA, for my Pool Construction business and have been receiving mail from DMV about modifications we may have to do to keep our truck. Do you know what might have to be done and the timing for compliance for this? We have been told it might cost more than $10,000 to retrofit. Any information would help. Thank you in advance.

John Aguiar
O.C., California


Hi John,

Itís tough running a business in California these days with so many regulations. Yes, you will need to get a Diesel Particulate Filter (DPF) on your Ford F-550 to be in compliance with the California Air Resource Board. When and how much it will cost depends on several factors. Hereís some information on the subject:

The regulation requires diesel trucks and buses that operate in California to be upgraded to reduce emissions. Heavier trucks must be retrofitted with PM filters beginning January 1, 2012, and older trucks must be replaced starting January 1, 2015. By January 1, 2023, nearly all trucks and buses will need to have 2010 model year engines or equivalent.
The regulation applies to nearly all privately and federally owned diesel fueled trucks and buses and to privately and publicly owned school buses with a gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR) greater than 14,000 pounds.  Small fleets with 3 or fewer diesel trucks can delay compliance for heavier trucks by reporting and there are a number of extensions for low-mileage construction trucks, early PM filter retrofits, adding cleaner vehicles, and other situations.

Source: California ARB

Iím not familiar with the size of your pool construction company and fleet size, but you may be able to extend doing the modification until 2015. For more information visit http://www.arb.ca.gov/ or call 1-866-6DIESEL (866-634-3735)

If the cost to modify doesnít make sense, you can trade it in on a new truck now that is CARB compliant. You can also sell the truck out of state where diesel particulate filters arenít required.

Good luck!



4x4 AnswerMan,

I have a 1995 Yukon. I put a 4'' lift on it but my steering has been real sloppy. I have replaced every part on the front end. I have replaced the steering box 3 times. The rebuilds suck. I need help. I used to love driving this truck before all the play. Let me know anything you can do for me.

Darren Tooney

Hi Darren,

I feel your frustration, as I had a similar problem with an IFS GM truck from the same era. If youíre running skinny tires, this just adds to the problem.

I know you mentioned replacing the steering gear box. If youíre still having issues with them, they may need to be dialed in for your setup. Those steering gear boxes are specked for a stock 4x4.  Your higher suspension and different geometry changes the way the truck handles altogether. That means the steering gear box needs to be adjusted for that. 

What you need to do is find a shop that specializes in alignment only. They should be able to help make the steering have less play and make your truck a joy to drive again.



Hi. Can anyone help? I have a 1991 Hilux Surf (4Runner) with an 8Ē diff. Can I change to a higher diff, if so what differential can I use?


Hello Henry,

Your 1991 Toyota Hilux Surf more than likely came with 4.10 ratio gears. Yes, you can definitely go to a higher gear ratio from 4.56 all the way up to 5.71. The higher gear ratio will result in lower gear and more torque. You want to match up to tire size and type of off-roading your plan to do.

More info at http://www.precisiongear.com/toy8.htm



4x4 AnswerMan,

I have been searching for quite some time and I have come up with nothing. I had a 1991 Suburban and this bumper was already on the vehicle. I have looked high, low, inside and out. I can't find out who made it. Can you help me locate the builder?

John Jackson

Hi John,

I donít see any markings, or any resemblance to popular bumpers like ARB, Warn, Smittybilt and such.

That looks like a highly customized bumper, probably hand built and possibly a one-off.

The good news is that you have some great photos, which could help a reconstruction of such a bumper for your new rig.

If you really want a bumper like this, then you may need to find a good fabricator in your area that can build you one.

Good luck.



4x4 AnswerMan,

My buddy has a 1986 Suzuki Samurai and the seats need to be replaced. We use it for hunting and want to replace the seats with camo seats, not covers.  We canít find anyone who makes camo seats for a Suzuki Samurai, but we did find some for jeeps. What year jeep seats would you recommend?

Plz help,

Hi Shawn,

The rear bench from a Jeep YJ works good in Suzuki Samurai, but the fronts are too wide for most applications. Your best bet would be to have the seats re-upholstered with camo fabric if you donít want camo seat covers.

Hereís a nice example we found on Zukicrawlers.com



4x4 AnswerMan,

I have a 1985 Chevy stock and was wondering what would be the biggest size tires I could put on. I was hoping 35s.


Hi Nate,

A 33 is probably the largest you can go with stock suspension. You may be able to squeeze in 35s in the rear, but the front will definitely rub. You may be able to pull it off if youíre okay with cutting sheet metal.



4x4 AnswerMan,

I bought my son a 1995 pick up as a first vehicle. Currently has 3" lift with 33 12.5 15. Does rub. It only has 1/3 tread left. Nice truck, but won't see much mud. Needs traction for wet roads.

What tires should we get?


Hi Megan,

Sounds like a great first vehicle for your son. I think heíll get good use out of it and will grow to appreciate the functionality of a pick-up truck. As for tires, weíre big fans of all-terrain tread tires. They work off-road, but arenít too aggressive like most mud tires. The all terrain tire also handles well on the road.

If you want something in between a light truck tire and all-terrain, then the new BFG Rugged Terrain might be the ticket.

Hereís an article that may help with your decision.

Riding Impression: The All-New BFGoodrich Rugged Terrain T/A Tire




Letter sparked by Nissan Hardbody D21 and Pathfinder WD21 FAQ

Let me say EXCELLENT ARTICLE. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

I have a 1986 V6, 5 speed with 33" tires Goodyear DuraTrack tires.

The front lift concerns me, even more after reading your info. It has a 2" body lift, a control arm lift and we twisted the torsion bars for more lift to reduce tire rub up front (extra leaf springs in the rear). I assume the torsion bars are not a long-term solution and as we've read, the IFS is not happy with off road use.

As I want to go off road, mud, not rocks, I'm trying to decide if there are strong lift parts for the front - any one with experience?? - or if I should sell and get something with a solid front axel.


Hi Alfred,

Glad you found this Nissan Hardbody article with a plethora of information for these early 4x4 trucks. If youíre into mud bogging, then big flotation tires are key. 

Sometimes getting the adequate lift to fit those big meats requires extreme measures, like the set-up youíre running. If you feel the angles on your CV axles are extreme, itís just a matter of time before the boots start oozing grease and joints fail. 

Consider lowering the torsion bar so the angle isnít so bad Ė it will also make the truck ride smoother. If this doesnít work, then it might be time to do a front straight axle swap so you donít have to deal with CV axles. 

IFS does great on trails and overall, but the straight axle setup seems to do a lot better in mud bogging and with the taller lifts required for big tires.

Good luck.



4x4 AnswerMan,

I have a 2000 Pathfinder 4x4 with a shuddering when shifting into overdrive, is it a sign of trans problems, it doesn't do it under power. Or when I leave it out of OD. Any ideas of what I can expect?


Hi John,

Check your fluids on both transmission and transfer case. If itís a manual transmission, then it might be the clutch. If itís automatic, it may be time for a rebuild.

Take it into a transmission shop and have it checked out. Most places will do it for free to get a chance at your business. 



4x4 AnswerMan,

Hi my name is Nick. I drive a Ď04 1500 and Iím wanting to build an off-road bumper to hold my Superwinch 10,000lb on the front of my truck.  I donít know where to start on building it.  Can you give me some starter points into how to build it?


Hi Nick,

Nice choice of winch. Superwinch makes a nice unit. Now on to your bumper, winch bumpers are serious business--especially on newer vehicles equipped with safety air bags. You want to make sure that whatever you replace your factory bumper with will not stop the air bag sensors from working.

That said, you can build one, but first you want to make sure you can make good welds. If you are new to welding, itís not worth the risk of building something with the potential of failing. The last thing you want is a 10,000-pound winch flying off your vehicle when in use.

I know winch bumpers can be expensive, but there are a lot of good companies out there building affordable pieces. Another option is to search for used winch bumpers on eBay, Craigslist or 4x4 club websites.

If youíre still interested in building your own bumper, take a welding class. It will help you learn the correct way to build strong pieces, and will allow you to build other stuff later.

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.

More 4x4 AnswerMan Columns:
April 2012

March 2012

February 2012

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