4x4 AnswerMan: Truck and SUV Off-Road Tech

Feb. 28, 2012 By Jaime Hernandez
Have a truck or SUV question for the 4x4 AnswerMan? Send your questions to editor@off-road.com, Attn: 4x4 Answerman. Please include your name and location, and be as detailed as possible about your questions.

More 4x4 AnswerMan Columns:
January 2012

December 2011

November 2011

4x4 AnswerMan,

I have a 2006 Chevy 2500 with a level ride kit. The front is raised to the max and the rear is at stock height. How do I measure for new shocks?  


Hi Butch,

To get the right shock length you need to get measurements of ride height, full droop, and compressed lengths. You measure from eye to eye or eye to pin.  Once you have these measurements, then you should be able to call up a shock company and get the right shock for your lifted application.

The other way of going about it would be to contact a shock company that has already done that homework for you. One that comes to mind is Bilstein Shock Absorbers. Their shocks are vehicle specific, so the same shock will not fit on your Chevy 2500 and a Monte Carlo (thatís a good thing). Bilstein also happens to have shocks made for leveling kits called the 5100 Series. They are longer to allow better wheel travel and control.

You can get more information at http://www.bilsteinus.com/.



4x4 AnswerMan,  I have a 2000 Chevy 2500 and Iím in need of a snorkel in a bad way. Itís the exact same as a 1998 Chevy. Can you help?


Hi Dustin,

Safari Snorkel is the main company that makes these aftermarket pieces that allow your vehicle to breath cleaner air and also raise your air intake height from under the hood to a much higher level outside.  You can still put a snorkel on your truck, but it will require some customization of an existing Safari Snorkel or even making your own. Iíve seen guys use PVC pipes, aluminum, even fiberglass to make them.

Here is a great example of how you can build your very own snorkel.

Project Breathe Easy

 Hello 4x4 AnswerMan,

My name is Peter. I live in Louisville, Colorado. I purchased a 2001 Dodge Durango. It has a six-inch lift with Goodyear Wrangler MTR 33s on it. It four-wheels pretty decent, but the IFS has shown its limits and Iím ready for the upgrade to SAS, but my problem is the shops in my area are willing to do it between $10k to $15k. If I was a wealthy man this would be great but Iím not, so Iíve decided to do the work myself. My question to you is as follows, where do I find information on what can be cut out of my Durango and what will I need to buy to complete the whole build? Can I buy a kit that would fit a bigger Jeep, say an XJ or Cherokee or maybe even one thatís from a 1996 Tacoma?

Hi Peter

This is a heck of a big job, so the $10k + is not out of reason. If youíre up for the job, it could save you big $$. It seems like many Durango owners that have done straight-axle suspension conversions have had good results using Ford F-150 Dana 44 or Dana 60s, depending how big a tire you plan on running. There really isnít a bolt-on kit; you will need to do some custom fabrications, including radius arms up front.

Here a is good build thread we found on Pirate4x4 that will give you a better idea of what you can do for a Dodge Durango straight axle suspension (SAS) conversion http://www.pirate4x4.com/forum/showthread.php?t=580956



Hello 4x4 AnswerMan,
My name is Zach and Iím only 17 years old and I love to go off-road and Iím from Lansing, Michigan, and I have a question about putting a 6-inch lift on my 1995 super cab F150.    This is the first truck that I have ever put a lift on so I'm kinda lost as to what kind of lift brand I should get and what is the best brand for the money?   What are all of the parts that I have to buy to make my truck handle and drive correctly? It would be so helpful is you could give me any tips on buying a lift or putting a lift on. 

Thanks, Zach

Hi Zach,

Glad to hear youíre excited about your truck and off-road. Most of the suspension lift kits out there are similar and will work well on your truck. They use longer front coils, shocks and either blocks or add-a-leafs in the rear. 

The difference is in the shock quality, spring rates and traction bars. With this being an older-model truck, you may be able to find good deals on eBay, or even with the suspension manufacturer if you donít mind a scratch or two on the product. Skyjacker has a ďScratch & DentĒ section with killer deals at http://www.skyjacker.com/.

As for installing, if youíre mechanical or have a friend that is, you can tackle the job at home. Just be very carful when using the spring compressor to swap out springs. Donít want you losing teeth or an eye.

After youíre done lifting the truck, you will need to have it aligned. You may also need to add a steering stabilizer down the road to handle better. Keep in mind that a lifted truck has a higher center of gravity, so donít expect it to drive the same as it did before. You will need to get re-acquainted with your lifted rig.

Good luck!



4x4 AnswerMan,

My name is Don and Iím stationed in California. Been in the Air Force for 10 years now so it means Iím on a military budget. I recently bought a 1997 Nissan Hardbody regular cab XE 4cyl 4x4. After doing research I think I have r180 front axles and h233b rear. And what I read about the h233b I hear it's a good axle and they make ARB lockers, gear up-grades etc for it. But for the r180a I cant find anything.

I really canít afford to go crazy and do a solid axle swap. Iím ordering my Calmini 3inch lift at the end of the month and already have some Nitto trail grapplers 32inch for the set up. I know I picked a hard truck to do upgrades to but I had a Nissan Hardbody in High School and loved it. And I like having something different than the common K5, Jeep,Toyota set ups. So any cheap ideas for upgrading the r180a? Or is it a good axle?Any help would be greatly appreciated!

SSgt. Hurlburt IV, USAF

SSgt. Hurlburt,

First off, a big salute to all our men and women in the military.

You have a very capable 4x4, and I see you have already identified some great parts to build up your Nissan 4x4 truck. I also see youíre already teamed up with the guys at Calmini. They are a great resource and a wealth of information on what can be done to your truck using the factory differentials and suspension. 

Your current axles should be more than adequate to run 32-inch tires. Youíre right that the front axle is a little limited as far as gear options. But there is some good news. Shortly after receiving your question, ARB 4x4 Accessories announced in February 2012 a new air locker for your front axle. This is creating a lot of excitement in the Nissan 4x4 world.  Here is some information.

ARB Air Locker for Nissan R180A 27 Spline 3.54 & Down Ratios


The RD181 incorporates the latest 2-piece Airlocker design features including:
ē Patented Ďtimedí locking mechanism offers high strength and ultra fast unlocking (#1, #3 & #15).
ē Steel-reinforced, elastomer bonded annular seal, designed to handle the most extreme climatic temperatures on earth (#2).
ē Comprehensive photo illustration installation and service guides.
ē Patented 2-piece design offers a range of interchangeable side gears (sold separately) to integrate with non-standard axle shaft splines.

ē 27 Spline axle.
ē 1.09Ē (27.8mm) diam. axle shaft (outside of splines).
ē 3.54:1 & down ratios are supported.
ē 10 ring gear bolts on 5.59Ē (142.0mm) PCD.
ē 4.53Ē (115.0mm Ring Gear ID.

2005+ Nissan Pathfinder - Front - R180A - 27 Spline - 10 bolt - 3.54 & Down Ratio
2005+ Nissan Frontier - Front - R180A - 27 Spline - 10 bolt - 3.54 & Down Ratio

More info at http://www.arbusa.com/

You can also find numerous articles and tech information for Nissan 4x4 trucks here on Off-Road.com by doing a ďSearchĒ or visiting our Trucks & 4x4 section.

Good luck!


 4x4 AnswerMan,

I have a 2002 Ford Expedition Eddie Bauer edition with air bag suspension and want to raise it with 17-inch rims and 33x12.5 tires using existing air bag suspension. Could you please explain to me how to go about doing this?

My name is Tyler and I live in Battle Creek, MI. 

Hi Tyler,

Hello to you and all our friends in Michigan. 

Your Expeditionís air suspension makes things a little tricky when it comes to lifting. You should be able to get away with turning up the torsion bars up front to get a 1.5 to 2 inch lift. That should be more than enough to squeeze in 33s, but they will need to be skinny 33s, like 285/70 R17. The wider 12.5-inch tires may work, but there is a good chance of rubbing. It will depend on the wheels you get.

If you need a larger suspension lift, you will need to ditch the air bags and swap them with coil springs. Find a good off-road or suspension shop in your area and discuss both options to see what works best for you.



4x4 AnswerMan,

Hello my name is Robert and I just bought a 06 Dodge Mega Cab 5.9 2500. I was wondering what is the best set up for leveling kits, if it's the KORE what will I need for my rear suspension? What tire size do you recommend?

Thank you,
Robert Eason

Hi Robert,

If you just want the lift to level, then a spacer will work. They are available from different companies in aluminum, metal and rubber construction. If you want the front suspension level and for it to ride better, then the replacement coil from KORE, THUREN or Carli Suspension is the way to go. The Bilstein shocks work great with any of these front leveling kits and are usually included with their kits.

As for the rear, you can leave it the way it is or swap out the overload leafs with a mini-pack that will make the rear ride smoother, yet keep the same carrying capacity.

You can run 33s (285s) or 35s with no problem. If you want to go bigger, like a 37, then that will require some additional parts like control arms so tires donít rub.

Make sure to check out our Project Mega Cab here on Off-Road.com. We took it from stock to level with 33s and then jumped up to 37s. The 33s works good for towing and off-road, but the bigger you go, the more fuel it sucks up.

It all depends on how you want to use your truck. Overall, we really like the KORE suspension with Bilstein shocks, it rides smoother than stock and also does great off-road in low- and high-speed terrain.

Here are some articles on the KORE Dodge Ram 2500/3500 and Thuren suspension that will help give a better idea of what is involved. There are also some Carli Suspension articles on Off-Road.com, just do a ďSearchĒ for them using the search box on the home page.


Project Dodge Ram Mega Cab KORE HP Leveling Kit

Project Dodge Ram Mega Cab KORE Recon Rear Suspension

Big Tire Suspension Upgrades for Dodge Diesel 4x4



Hi 4x4 AnswerMan,

I have a 1991 Hilux Surf (4runner) with an 8in diff.  Can I change to a higher diff? If so what differential can I use?
Thanks Henry

Hi Henry,

Thanks for clarifying to our readers what a Hilux Surf is; we donít have the Toyota Hilux here in the U.S., but we do have the Toyota Tacoma and 4Runner, which are very similar.

Iím not really clear on what you mean when you say ďhigher diff,Ē but Iíll take a guess. If youíre referring to gear ratio, yes you can go to higher gears using the 8-inch Toyota rear end. Typically, when running larger off-road tires or wanting to get a better crawl ratio, one goes to lower gear ratios by running a higher or taller gear set such as 4.88:1. Your Hilux is more than likely equipped with 4.10:1 from the factory so there is room for growth.

Check out Nitro Gear & Axle, as they have one of the most extensive Toyota gear sets and installation kits in the industry.  http://www.nitro-gear.com/

If youíre talking about a ďbiggerĒ differential, then you have options: Land Cruiser 9.5 inch, Dana 60 or custom differential housing based on Ford 9-inch or Dana 60 from Currie or Blue Torch. Any of these options would require some major modification to the linkage for them to work, but it can be done if you plan on building a rock crawler or need more strength and gear and locker options. 

There are tons of articles and good information here on Off-Road.com. Just do a ďSearchĒ using the search box found on the right column.

Happy Wheelin!



4x4 AnswerMan,

Does any one make a manual conversion for a 1992 GMC Jimmy front axle engagement, to get rid of electric on dash?

Don Allen

Hi Don,

Youíre in luck. Posi-Lock makes a kit that will work on your vehicle. The Chevy K1500 shares the same front differential as your GMC Jimmy. Installing the 4x4 Posi-Lock conversion kit will give you the manual control you want.
More info at



4x4 AnswerMan,

Will a Chevy S-10 Blazer transmission and transfer case fit in my 89 toyota pickup 4x4 single cab short bed it has the 4 cylinder so I can put a V8 in it.


Hi Moose,

Yes, anything fits with some cutting, welding and a sledgehammer. If you need the V8 power, I would suggest you go an easier route with an adapter plate. You can keep your Toyota transmission and transfer case by using an Advance Adapters kit. That way you donít have to mess with different drivelines and relocating cross members on frame. Plus, the Toyota transmission and transfer case for this year Toyota is stronger than the S-10 model you want to swap in.

If your heart is set on running a complete GM drivetrain, then at least consider a set-up from a full-size truck to better match the V8. By the way, cool name.



4x4 AnswerMan,

Is there a conversion that will make a 1996 Toyota 4 Runner 4x4 ride smoother? I seldom use it for off-road driving and use it mostly for the highway.

Jim Hendry

Hi Jim,

If your 4Runner is running stock, itís not going to get much better that that. You have to remember, the 4Runner is a truck. Itís going to ride like a truck.

You could try switching to larger 31-inch or 265/75 tall highway tires. This extra rubber on the sidewalls will give a smoother ride. Some new shocks will also help things, especially if youíre over 50k miles on the stock ones. 

If you still donít like the ride after swapping tires and shocks, then the next move is to sell it and buy a little 4-door sedan with fuzzy dice.


Have a truck or SUV question for the 4x4 AnswerMan? Send your questions to editor@off-road.com, Attn: 4x4 Answerman. Please include your name and location, and be as detailed as possible about your questions.

More 4x4 AnswerMan Columns:
January 2012

December 2011

November 2011

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