4x4 AnswerMan: Truck and SUV Off-Road Tech

May. 08, 2012 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:
March 2012

February 2012

January 2012

Daihatsu Rocky (photo Wikimedia Commons)
Hello 4x4 AnswerMan,

I have 2 Daihatsu Rocky's (US version of the Feroza). On one I did a solid axle swap along with transmission, T case & 22re from a Toyota. Both the vehicles are very similar.  On my 2nd Rocky I was hoping to just swap out the front diff & axles from a IFS Toyota & use the stock suspension set up from the Rocky.  The whole idea is to keep it somewhat original, just replacing the diff's front and back for easier part finding & to be able to fit more easily obtained Lockers. I would be using the whole back axle with wheel spacers to make it the original width.  That swap isn't what’s giving me the problems.  I have been looking around the web (maybe not the right places though) trying to find out if the diff is on the same side on both the vehicles & if the axle lengths are similar.  I stumbled across your advice & it seemed you are the right person to ask.  Thanks in advance for any insight or advice you can provide, 

Max McGuire

Hi Max,

Thanks for sharing your unique vehicle with us. Sound like a fun ride. 

I was able to dig up some information for you.

The Toyota transfer case on earlier 1986 to 1995 models (3.0, 2.7, 22R/RE) has a right-hand drop output for the front. On 1996 to 2004 Toyota Tacoma 4x4 models, it has a left-hand drop output for the front.  This should help you decide which front IFS differential you’ll be using on the Rocky.

I also found some information on axle width from WMS to WMS (wheel mounting surface).
1986 to 1995 Toyota 4x4
Front 59"
Rear 58.5"

1996 to 2004 Toyota Tacoma 4x4
Front 60”
Rear axle 60”

Hope this helps.



4x4 AnswerMan,

I’m currently building a 383 stroker out of a 1977 305 everything was already complete as far as bottom end still needs a lot of work. My uncle was running this motor in his K5 Blazer and she was a mean machine, however his 400 tranny kept blowing the casing, and the transfer cases never stood a chance. We’ve tried switching the plates in the trannys, and this has shown some light on the problem.

Before I do any more damage and end up rebuilding yet another tranny, any ideas? 

Dear Stroker,

This love/hate relationship you guys have between your Chevy small blocks and trannys sounds exhausting. The TH400 is a heavy-duty transmission that can take a lot of abuse, so if you boys are cracking the cases, something tells me the motor mounts or transmission mounts are not doing their job.  There’s way too much flexing going--causing stress. Get new mounts and make sure the entire drivetrain is secure.

As for the transfer case issue, consider swapping in an NP205 model. They’re made of cast iron and hold up better than the aluminum cases.

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

Off-Road Designs NP205 Doubler


4x4 AnswerMan,  I have a 07 Dodge Ram 1500 4x4. What is the biggest tire I can put on without a lift or without rubbing? I have 265/70R17 on there now.


Hi Joey,

You should be able to fit 33-inch tires, or 285/70 R17s with no problem. According to Ready-Lift, using one of their 2-inch leveling kits you should be able to run 35s.

Good luck.

There’s more info on Ready-Lift at http://www.readylift.com/.


Hey 4x4 AnswerMan,

I hear a lot of talk about not lifting an IFS truck more than 4 inches I just wanted your take on the issue. Also, what company makes the best lift for IFS Chevys? I have a ‘94 Chevy Z71 step-side regular cab.


Brian Schules
New Jersey

Hi Brian,

I agree there is some limitation on height when it comes to IFS suspension. It’s primarily due to CV axle angles. You don’t want anything too extreme otherwise you’ll be spending a lot of time rebuilding them, or worse, you may even experience binding.

To stay away from those problems, it’s best to work with proven lifts. You can get away with 1.5 to 2 inches up front by turning the torsion keys or using leveling keys. Anything more than that will give you a really bumpy ride and certain CV axle problems.

If you want to go bigger, like 4 or 6 inches, you really want spend the money on a suspension lift that addresses CV axle and driveshaft angles. Most of these kits use an IFS drop-down bracket to keep give you the lift and keep the CV axle angles good. Some even include transfer case drop down spacers to correct the front driveshaft angle.  It’s all in the geometry.

If you’re looking for a good suspension kit in the 4-inch to 6-inch area, try RCD Suspension, Cognito or CST. Those are your top dogs. My brother has had a 6-inch RCD IFS kit on his Chevy Tahoe for over 10 years now, no issues.



4x4 AnswerMan,

I have a 1998 Chevy Tracker 1.6L 4 door and I want to put a lift kit on it but this is my first time dealing with this. I know I do not want spacers and I want no more than a 3-inch lift. What is the best lift kit for me and what advice do you have? 

Michael Shirley    

Hi Michael,

I’m glad you’re keeping that little 4x4 on the trail. I love hearing their hi-revved motors and twisty suspension working the terrain.

Since you don’t want spacers, look no further than Calmini for a suspension lift kit. Those guys have what you need.

Calmini 3-inch Suspension Lift



4x4 AnswerMan,

I am looking to purchase a 6" suspension lift kit for a new 2012 5.3L V8 Chevy Silverado K1500 Crew Cab Short Box with 3.42 gears. My only experience has been with a Fabtech 6" suspension kit for my '02 Avalanche 4X4 on which I put 35" tires mounted on 17" wheels with only minor trimming required on the lower wheel wells in the front. My primary use is as an everyday driver, so I am looking for a smooth ride, while not sacrificing the performance aspects for when I bail off down a pipeline while I'm hunting...or playing. I've heard some good things about Cognito, but I am looking for an expert's opinion to determine what I purchase, as I typically keep a vehicle for 8-10 years, and don't want to deal with having bought a kit that causes a lot of issues I have to stay on top of. I don't mind spending the extra money now to make a difference in the long run. I fully expect to pay near the $4k. Which would you suggest, or would you recommend a different manufacturer? If so, who & what?

Vidor, Texas

Hi John,

Glad you’re building a new truck. Both the suspension companies you mentioned are good. Cognito makes some great suspension kits. What makes them so good is the fact that they use mono-tube shocks from Bilstein and Fox Shox.

The Fabtech suspension kits can also be upgraded with their Dirt Logic shocks, which are mono-tube. 

It sounds like you had good luck with your last Fabtech suspension kit, so why not do another one?

Like I said, they’re both good. It really comes down to preference in color, shocks, and customer service.

Sounds like you’re halfway to a fun hunting / off-roading trip.

Good luck on your build.



Letter sparked by IPF Jeep Wrangler JK Head Lamp Conversion Kit

4x4 AnswerMan,

"and a pair of IPF H412v 55/60 watt bulbs rated to put out 4400 Kelvins of light."

The Kelvin rating is the color of the light. This has nothing to do with output. 4400 is only slightly bluer then the more yellow 3000 Kelvin rating of the factory bulbs.  I would expect better info from a site that I think knows what they are talking about.

Brian Cash

Hi Brian,

Thanks for smacking us across the head. Now I’m seeing Kelvin and stars. Your point about Kelvin not having anything to do with output is correct. The unit of “Kelvin” is used to measure the color temperature of visible light.

I agree the sentence would read better if it said “and a pair of IPF H412v 55/60 watt bulbs rated at 4400 Kelvin.”

The point we were trying to make is that these light bulbs are able to emit a higher temperature light than stock bulbs. The color temperature of 4400 K is brighter and whiter than 3000 K in the sense that it is reaching the color temperature of 5000 K--which is comparable to daylight.

Thanks for shedding some light on what Kelvin is. 

If you want to get really technical, there's a pretty good entry on Wikipedia on Color temperature that touches on Kelvin.

Next time we’ll talk about Lumens, the measure of light output.




4x4 AnswerMan,

I'm trying to find another Chevrolet Silverado with 4x4. I'm not sure which 4x4 control system is better. My old '04 Chevrolet Silverado had the 4x4 transfer stick on the floor. I found a '06 Silverado like that. I also found '03 Silverado with the in-dash 4x4 button control system. What I'm asking is which is more reliable and worth my money?

Abel Hernandez
Killeen, TX

Hi Abel,

You’re a man on the hunt for an option becoming more and more rare. Heavy-duty transfer case levers are disappearing from late-model trucks. Try finding one in a 2012 model pick-up. Choices are slim. 

My personal preference is the manual heavy-duty lever transfer case – 4x4 goes in on demand, you control the engagement with the lever. No waiting for blinking lights or for the computer to give the approval that it’s safe to engage 4x4. When I need 4x4, I expect it to engage.

We’ve experiences problems with 4x4 electric switches, knobs, actuator motors and 4x4 computers in the past with GM and Dodge trucks. Not to many with levers, other than adjusting linkage after performing a suspension lift.

If you can, get a truck with the lever. You’ll have plenty of opportunities in the future to buy a truck with a knob or button. Maybe they’ll become more reliable by then.

Good luck on your hunt.


Toyota FJ60 Land Cruiser (photo Wikimedia Commons) 

Hi 4x4 AnswerMan,

I'm hoping you can help me. I'm looking for an expert in Toyota Land Cruisers who can give me an estimate of the value of my 1985 Land Cruiser. It's a one-owner vehicle that was completely restored at Penn Toyota, a dealership here on Long Island. It was in "pristine" condition, with no body rust, new Michelin rims and tires, and completely certified 100 percent. The dealership has given me a value of $25,000, but I need to validate that with an outside source, if possible. Do you know of any Land Cruiser experts I can talk to? 

The reason I need the estimate, is a driver destroyed my vehicle parked in front of my house at 3:30 a.m. (and then he drove away). His insurance company is refusing to pay me what the dealership says it is worth. I have seen 1985 Land Cruisers for sale for between $20,000 and $50,000, but I'm looking for an expert who can verify their value.

Thanks for any help you can give me.


Wow Liane,

Sorry about your loss. Sound like you had quite the Land Cruiser there. If you’re interested in getting a true market value, I recommend contracting a professional appraiser. You should work with one that is familiar with Land Cruisers, to assure you get top value.

There are a few Toyota Land Cruiser shops that come to mind when it comes to Über Land Cruisers.  Give any of these guys a call to find out who they recommend for appraisal.

TLC - Toyota Land Cruisers

Proffitts Cruisers

Vintage Off-Road

Be ready to pay anywhere from $500 to $1000 for a professional appraisal. It’s worth it if in fact your vehicle is as pristine and special as you say it is--both for documentation and insurance purposes.

Good luck.



4x4 AnswerMan,

I'm jacked up 6 in. with springs and a 4 in. block. It's a trailer only too. I want to lose the blocks but still have 5 in. lift . I want to have as much travel as possible. What to do loses me.


Hi Mack,

You have two choices when it comes to getting a lift after removing the 4-inch blocks from your current 6-inch set-up. You can add some extended shackles, or you can get different springs to give you the lift you desire.

For extended shackles, the rule of thumb is that for every 1-inch extension, you’ll get 1/2 inch lift.

If you have factory shackles, they measure 3.5 inches between holes. The longest extended shackles I could find is from Trail-Gear. It measures 6 inches, so you can expect about 1.25 inch lift.

6 - 3.5 = 2.5 in.

2.5/2 = 1.25 in. of lift

More info at http://www.trail-gear.com/shackles.



Hi 4x4 AnswerMan,

My 4x4 Ford van is a 1986 E350 with original Dana 60 rear end. Where can I get a disc brake conversion kit?


Hi John,

If the rear axle on your van is original, then it’s actually a Sterling and not a Dana 60. Ford only ran Dana 60s from 1971 to 1979 on their heavy-duty trucks and vans.

That said, you can easily verify this with a little research. Once you figure out for sure what you have, one of the easiest ways to add rear disk brakes to your Ford van is by using a Disk Brake Bracket from Ruff-Stuff. http://www.ruffstuffspecialties.com

They only sell the adapter plates, you will need to get 3/4-ton Chevy 4x4 Front Rotors & Calipers to complete the conversion. You should be able to source those at your local auto parts store.

If you’re looking for a complete kit, then try Blackbirds Custom Trucks. They can send you everything you need to complete the conversion, including rotors and calipers. More info at http://www.blackbirdscustomtrucks.com.



Hey man,

I have a 1996 Ford F150 and I need to know if Nitto Trail Grapplers 33 x 12.5 inch will fit on my truck?

Hi Drew,

The tires should fit if it’s a 4x4. The only thing you have to watch is wheel offset. If it’s set too close to the frame, you’re going to rub. Also, if you’re thinking of using the factory wheels, you might be better off going with narrow tire, like a 285/75 R16.


Hello 4x4 AnswerMan,

My name is Dustin Holtz. I have a 1995 GMC Sierra 5.7. My question to you is when I’m in 4x4 and I go into reverse there is a loud squeal. This only happens when I am in reverse.  When going forward my 4x4 works awesome. So I was wondering if this is a t-case issue or a tranny issue or something like that?

Thank you,

Hi Dustin,

It’s hard to say from where the “squeal” is originating. You sure it’s not a pig living under your pick-up?

If it was mechanical, then it would be more of “clunk” or grinding sound coming from the transfer case.

Check the oil levels on your transmission, transfer case and rear diff.  Smell and see if it looks like the fluid is burnt, or if any metal flakes are swimming in it.

One thing that comes to mind is your brakes. Sometimes when backing up the brakes squeal, especially if you’re braking down a hill. Rear drums self-adjust when you back them up. It wouldn’t be a bad idea to take the rear wheels off and inspect them. It might be time for new brake pads.

Some careful inspection of your truck should give you an answer. If you’re still stuck, ask one of your good mechanic buddies or take it to a reputable shop for a check-up.



Article sparked by Big Tire Suspension Upgrades for Dodge Diesel 4x4

Hi 4x4 AnswerMan,

I did the KORE front springs as well. Yokohama Geolander 37x12.50's on stock rims (same as this article) fit fine. A slight rub on the anti-sway bar at full lock left and right, but it's minimal and livable. In fact.....on these new Dodges you can fit 37's on a stock truck with no lift (check out the Dodge cumins diesel forum ).  I initially had the 37's on with a 2 inch front spacer. But the stock springs needed the KORE VR replacement. Doing the KORE rear mini packs in a couple weeks.


Thanks for the insight, Jim. It’s amazing how much room these late-model Dodge Ram 4x4 trucks have.  You can definitely fit a lot of rubber under them. Also, I think you will find the KORE rear mini-pack will help soften up the ride. The nice thing is that you still can tow or haul a load with them.


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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