4x4 AnswerMan: Truck and SUV Off-Road Tech

Jun. 25, 2012 By Jaime Hernandez
Toyota Rock Buggy on Poison Spider in Moab, Utah.

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:
May 2012

April 2012

March 2012


4x4 AnswerMan,

Wondering if anyone has traveled the route west to east, and if there is something in print about it?

Thank you,

Hi Cheryl,

You can definitely drive the Mojave Road from West to East. It would be everything covered in the Mojave Road East to West (http://www.off-road.com/jeep/trails/the-mojave-road-east-to-west-15072.html) story, just backwards. The reason some people like to do it from East to West is because in the early days, this is the way settlers coming out west traveled. Call it nostalgia. 

That said, weíve done it East to West and itís a lot of fun too. It gave us some extra time in Afton Canyon. Thereís some really cool stuff there. It also made travel back home for friends in Arizona easier. Hereís a related story to that trip.

Off-Road Travel: Mojave National Preserve Part I

While youíre making plans, I highly recommend you get Mojave Road Guide by Dennis G Casebier. This guidebook has a mile-by-mile description and will help you with your travels. The latest version has GPS coordinates and waypoints. You can grab a copy from the Mojave Desert Heritage & Cultural Association at http://www.mdhca.org/

You can also grab a FREE Map from the BLM to at least get some general info and reference where things are on the Mojave Road.

Free Maps - Mojave National Preserve http://www.nps.gov/moja/planyourvisit/maps.htm
Weíd love to hear about your trip and current conditions. Please come back and share some photos and your experience on our Off-Road.com Forums (http://forums.off-road.com/)



I have a 1996 long-bed extended-cab 2500 Chevy. I want to put a 3-4 inch body lift on it. I was wondering if it is even possible to put a lift on it because it's so long. If it is possible, what would it cost?

Cody Wyckof

Hi Cody,

Thatís one long truck. Donít worry, it can still get some lift. If youíre going the body lift route, the tallest Iíve seen is 3 inches. You can expect to spend around $200 for the kit.   Set aside a weekend to getíer done.  We found one company that makes a body lift for your model. Make sure to check out http://www.performanceaccessories.com/




4x4 AnswerMan,

I am changing out the rear carrier gears on my 02 Tacoma 4x4 w/ 2.7L, 4cyl, manual, 4.30 ratio. I need to find the torque specs for these 10 nuts. Is there a tightening pattern? Would you also use a sealant along with the gasket?

Norway, NY.

Hi Brad,

Weíre in luck. One of the guys of TTORA (Tacoma Territory Off-Road Association) posted torque specs from the Toyota tech manual. You can download the full PDF at this link. Donít worry, we already checked, link is good.

Toyota Tacoma Torque Specs

If possible, use the star pattern when tightening bolts. It works better than just tightening them inline. As for sealant on the gasket, typically, the gasket should seal on its own.  You usually only use UTV Silicone when no gasket is used.



4x4 AnswerMan,

I have an 88 Suzuki Samurai and after I installed 35/12.50/15 inch tires, I am having trouble holding it on the road. I have already changed my steering arm, tie rod ends, steering shock, and steering gear box. Nothing seems to help.

Steven Dempsey

Hi Steven,

It sounds like your caster on the front axle is off. Depending how the Samurai was lifted, the caster was impacted in some way. You may be able to add some wedges to move the caster up or down to get it within spec. This should also help with the front driveline angle.

Here is an article to help get you familiar with suspension problems, and possible gremlins found in Suzuki Samurais.

Suspension Terminology


If you need help fixing the caster, find a good alignment shop that is familiar working on modified 4x4s. They should be able to get you closer to a safe spec. The wandering wheels should go away.

We recently did a similar fix on a Toyota Land Cruiser. The concept is the same.

Old Man Emu Caster Correction Review




I have a 1988 Subaru Justy GL 4x4, great little car. My problem is that the splines inside the right rear wheel hub are gone so the hub just wobbles on the axle. Finding a replacement hub has proven to be difficult. Is there any other hub assemblies from another model or make that would interchange with my car? It is to fun to drive. If I just junk it, could I get a new one machined using the left side hub as a template.
Thank You, 
Richard Burleson

Alright Richard,

Letís save the Scooby. You're best bet is to try finding a take-off hub from a donor car.  We found a group that is all about the Subaru Justy. Give this group a try and see if you can bring your off-road rally hooptie back to life.

Keep it alive, man!

Subaru Justy Forum Boards




I have a 3.4 Toyota Tacoma PreRunner I want to put the five-speed manual in instead of my auto. I have the trans and clutch assembly, what else do I need to do it?
Facebook Friend


Well, it sounds like you have the main parts. Youíll need a clutch pedal, clutch master and slave cylinder minimum.  Possibly a different transmission crossmember to support the manual transmission on frame.

Youíll also need a different driveshaft. You may be able to pick one up from wrecking yard, as long as it is for manual trans 2WD tacoma.

You didnít specify, but I hope the manual trans you have is of the same vintage (1st Gen. Tacoma), otherwise it may get tricky to bolt up.

Good luck.


I have an Ď08 GMC Acadia AWD SUV that I drive a lot on back roads. I keep on having tire issues. The left front tire has failed due to "road hazard" three times. In all cases the original Goodyear Fortera 255/65/18 broke the steel belt in the middle of the tread while driving on well maintained Forest Service roads. All the replacement tires I can find are P rated passenger tires. They just don't hold up. Is there something I can do or a tire I can buy that will hold up to what seems to me to be ordinary driving for an SUV?

Hi Paul,

Sounds like you do a little more dirt travel than your crossover GMC Acadia was designed to handle. You could make some modifications to see if it meets your needs off-road.

If you canít find any LT tires in your size, then you can try going up a size. The additional sidewall will actually help your ride off-road. I checked and BFG makes 255/70R18 LT tires. Check out the Rugged Terrain T/A as a good entry off-road tire. If youíre looking for something more aggressive, the BFG All-Terrains T/A are awesome.

If you want to give Goodyear another shot, check out their Silent Armor tire. They have kevlar sidewalls for added protection. Good luck trying to tear those tires.

Happy fishing!




I have 2003 Dodge 2500 diesel with 37-inch tires. Would like to change the gears to run like it was running stock tires. What would you say is the best ratio?


Hi Steven,

Ram diesel owners say 4.10 is the sweet spot. Some trucks came with these gears from the factory, so you may already be there. If you want to be on the safe side, then 4.56 may be the ticket.

Diesel trucks are different than gas trucks, as you have all the extra torque from the engine to factor in. Whatever keeps your RPM between 1800 and 2100 is ideal. When you get ready to do the gear swap, contact the manufacturer of the gears you are planning on running and get their opinion. 

If you want to talk to other Dodge Diesel Ram owners on the subject, try the thread on one of our sister sites http://www.cumminsforum.com/forum/6-7-liter-general-discussion/402392-5-9-6-7-help-please.html

Hope this helps.

Good luck.



Too lazy, no towing power. I would like to change gears to a 4.10 or 4.50, any suggestions?

Hi Andrew,

Donít be so hard on your 4Runner, after all, itís only a 4-banger. You could get some lower gearing, and that should help. If you're running 31s, then 4.10 should be good. If you want to run 33s or larger, then 4.88 gears may be a better combination for your 2.7L.

Contact the guys at Nitro Gear. They specialize in Toyota gears. 



Hello 4x4 AnswerMan,

I have a 1998 Chevrolet Silverado 2500 4x4 with a 5.7-liter engine. I want to convert the independent front suspension to a solid front axle, & I would like to use either a Dana 60 or 44 for the front axle. What I need to know is what parts will I need for this conversion & where could I get installation instructions?
Please let me know & thank you for the help,
Chris Ramos.

Hi Chris,

One of the easiest ways to do this is to get a kit from Off-Road Design. They include all the brackets needed to hang your new straight axle suspension. Theyíll also help you with pointers on how to get it done.


Once you have the Solid Axle Conversion Kit for '88-98 Chevy from Off-Road Design, you just need to source some springs and a front axle (Dana 40 or Dana 60).

More info at http://offroaddesign.com/catalog/88-98SolidAxleConversion.htm

Sounds like a fun project. Make sure to let us know how it goes.



I have 1979 Toyota 4x4 with Dick Cepak 33s and a wooden homemade bed. Just bought the truck. It has a built 20R with header and 38-38 weber... when I take off it jumps and bucks, but if I baby it sometimes itís smooth, o yea. Have about a 6-inch lift. Wonder about the axle code or fix help?

Hi Randell,

Itís hard to say. Factory would have been 4.10 gears. If it was already lifted and running larger tires when you bought it, then thereís a chance you may be running something different. To get an accurate gear ratio, you would need to pull the 3rd member and count the number of teeth on the ring and pinion. Use the formula below:
 Ring/Pinion = Gear Ratio e.g. Ring has 37 teeth, Pinion has 9 teeth 37/9 = 4.11



4x4 AnswerMan,
My Vin is JT3HN8** What would my ratio be?

Hi Ben,

According to the Toyota Differential decoder ring, your factory gearing is 3.54.

You can learn more about your truckís differential using this chart at http://www.off-road.com/trucks-4x4/tech/toyota-differential-identification-18588.html

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:
May 2012

April 2012

March 2012

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