4x4 AnswerMan: Truck and SUV Off-Road Tech

Nov. 21, 2012 By Jaime Hernandez, Photos by Jaime Hernandez & Courtesy of the Manufacturers
Toyota Pickup on the Rubicon Trail.

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
October 2012

September 2012

August 2012


STUCK IN 4HI
4x4 AnswerMan,

I have a 90 Toyota pickup 4x4, and it appears that the transfer case shifter got bumped out of 2H recently (most of my driving has not been using the 4-wheel drive, just on dry pavement). I was having major problems when I shifted with it not staying in gear. When I realized the problem and got it in 2H, the shifting/staying-in-gear problem went away. My question: have I damaged the transfer case or the front drive? Thanks!
 
Larry Toothaker
Norman, OK


Hi Larry,

Glad you caught it. Itís hard to say if any damage was done. On a good note, the fact that you can drive it in 2WD with no issues is a big plus.

I would service the transfer case and check for any internal damage. Pay close attention when swapping out the fluid to see if you notice any excessive metal shavings. If old fluid looks good, you should be fine. Toyota transfer cases are very strong, and if there is anything wrong, like bad bearings or broken internals, you will hear it or see it in the fluid.

It wouldnít hurt to also lube up the driveshafts and front axle birfields since theyíve been working harder than usual.

Next time you use 4HI or 4LO, lets hope youíre enjoying your truck off-road.

Cheers!

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WHEEL CLEARANCE ON LATE MODEL CHEVY TRUCK

4x4 AnswerMan,

Do you know what other size rims will fit on my 2012 ChevyCrew? I have 18s but am thinking about some 16s.

Clarence Everson


Hi Clarence,

Your late-model Chevy truck has large disk brakes. The 16-inch wheels are too small and will rub against the brake caliper.  You could run a 17-inch wheel, giving you more options for off-road tires.

Good luck!

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BLING FOR MY CLASSIC CHEVY TRUCK

4x4 AnswerMan,

I have a 1978 GMC long box 4x4 that is missing all the truck emblems. How do I tell what model of truck it is (Sierra, Camper Special, etc)? It has been modified and customized. It has a 350 cubic inch motor but I think this is not the original motor it came with. I want to know so I can find the emblems and lettering for it. Any help would be great.

Berry Baker


Hi Berry,

There are a number of VIN Number decoders on the Internet, as well as engine block serial number decoders and such that may help in your research. A good place to start is the Hot Rodderís Encyclopedia at Crankshaft Coalition.

You can also try Chevy/GMC Truck restoration part dealers, like Brothers Truck. They should be able to help you decode and find the correct emblems for your pick-up.  Please send us a pic of your truck when you get those babies on.

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NISSAN PICK-UP ATTRACTION
Nissan pick-up using CALMINI Suspension Parts.

Hi 4x4 AnswerMan,

I love my truck to death, so I really donít want to get rid of it. Itís a 1997 Nissan 4x4 single-cab Frontier. I was thinking of making it into a kickass off-road monster, probably a 3-5 inch lift kit, some wide wheels and tires and big-ass bumpers and sidebars. I'd like some help choosing the best for my pocket priced parts and accessories for the truck. A little nudge in the right direction would go a long way. Iíd like to do it myself if possible. This would be my first build if I were to do it.

Ali


Hi Ali,

These early Nissans are great off-road trucks. They just keep going. The Nissan aftermarket has always been limited, and many people end up working with parts available for Toyota models or just making their own.

If youíre looking for good suspensions components backed by Nissan enthusiast, try the guys at Calmini. Theyíve got everything you need.

CALMINI
661-398-9500
http://www.calmini.com/

You can also find good information here on Off-Road.com, just look under the Nissan section or do a search http://www.off-road.com/trucks-4x4/nissan.html.

Get some ideas of what you want to do. Start with small modifications first, then you can move on to bigger and more challenging parts of the build. Just remember to have fun and enjoy your truck.

Good luck!

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SCOUTING VINs
4x4 AnswerMan,

I have recently purchased a 1977 Scout II and I am having trouble finding the specs on my Scout. Can you send me the details of my new rig? Here is the VIN# G0062GGD15710.

Thank You,
Terry D Bacon


Hi Terry,

We got some vehicle info for your Scout from http://www.vinwiz.com/.  Hereís what we found:


 
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RATTLING REAR GMC
4x4 AnwerMan,

I have a 94 GMC 2500 4x4 it has some rattling noise coming from rear passenger side.  Do you have any idea what it could be?

Landin


Hi Landin,

Get underneath your truck and shake things up to see if you can find the rattle. You can also use a rubber mallet to bang things around and see if you can find the source. Light taps should do.

Check the shocks, brake line brackets and leaf springs. Sometimes the clamp that goes around the leaf pack may be loose and slap around when you hit rough terrain. You can either live with it or have the rear leaf pack re-built.

While youíre at it, check the bushings at each end of the leaf packs, those may be worn or shot. If you still canít find the noise, take it to a suspension or off-road shop. They may need to put it up on a lift to examine things closer.

Good luck!

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LIFT MY RANGER, RANGER
4x4 AnswerMan,

I have a 2011 Ford Ranger XLT that I wanted to lift about 3-4 inches. I have been told it is not possible. Is that accurate? Any help you can give would be appreciated.

Karen Brown


Hi Karen,

You can do up to a 3-inch body lift on either a 2WD or 4x4 2011 Ford Ranger. If itís a 4x4, then you could do a 4-inch suspension lift. Options are limited, but Superlift should still make a suspension kit for your truck. Better jump on it soon, as these trucks are no longer made in the U.S. and aftermarket parts will become even more scarce.

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KING OFF-ROAD COIL SPRINGS
4x4 AnswerMan,
 
I have a dune buggy with 2" Kings (21.585COMP, 35.565 EXT.) Spring Overs. Each axle without wheel is 400 lbs. What spring should I be running?

Jim


Hi Jim,

Setting up any vehicle with custom coil springs does take some knack to know which spring rate is right for your vehicle.  You have to be able and weigh each corner to determine the sprung weight of the vehicle. You also have to take into consideration the type of suspension design, angles and wheel travel. Lucky for you the guys at King Shocks have their own line of coils and are able to help you find the perfect set-up for your sand car. 

Give them a call or send them an email with your specs and theyíll let you know what springs to run.

King Shocks
General Information:
info@kingshocks.com
714-530-8701
www.kingshocks.com


Pic 6

If you want to get a general idea on your own, there is a good spring rate calculator we found on Ridetechís website.

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NISSAN PRO 4X FRONTIER SLIDERS & MPG
Hi 4x4 AnswerMan,

I have a 2011 Pro4X Frontier. It has a 2.5-inch lift 285 75/16 catback exhaust, a cold air intake and a front receiver hitch. I installed a Hypertech computer programmer to help out with gas mileage, but I don't know how to do stall speed converter and rev limiter to get the most out of it. My gas mileage is 11.4 and it's a crew cab. Also, I can't find rock sliders for it so would one from a Toyota Tacoma fit?

Thanks,
John Valassis


Hi John,

Sounds like a serious Nissan Frontier build. As for rev limiter and figuring out a way to control the converter, your Hypertech may be doing this already. There are a number of components that go into the mapping a power programmer and its tuning. Try contacting Hypertech directly to see if those are two components their mapping alters.

Also, Iím not sure which model Hypertech you have, but if youíre looking for more MPG, they do offer a new E-CON model designed to increase fuel efficiency.

As for sliders, you could use something made for a Toyota Tacoma or FJ Cruiser, as long as they fit between the front and rear wheels.  You donít want them to be too long and cause obstruction. Try All-Pro Off-Road or Trail-Gear. They both have application specific and universal rock sliders that should work. They range from 58 to 78 inches in length.

All-Pro Off-Road
http://www.allprooffroad.com/

Trail-Gear
http://www.trail-gear.com/

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UN-HITCHED
4x4 AnswerMan,

My Starcraft travel trailer was bounced up and off the tow ball while reversing up a grade, the trailer jack impacted the pavement, bouncing the tongue and coupler off the ball. What should I inspect for to determine serviceability of the coupler?

Hi Sahara RVer,

Towing can be a challenge, especially when dealing with extreme angles on un-even terrain. It sounds like the tongue latch came undone. Sometimes if a safety pin or lock is not used, the tongue latch will come undone.

As for servicing, a simple visual inspection should tell you if the coupler assembly was damaged.  Look for any bends, cracks or broken hardware. To test the tongue latch, you should be able to place the ball hitch and engage the coupler without it falling out. If itís really loose, it may need some adjustment or replacement.

If the coupler was damaged, bent or youíre unsure, take it down to your local RV repair shop. They can tell you if it needs to be replaced. A new coupler assembly will run you around $20+ installation. Itís not worth the hassle of having your trailer come undone again.

Hope you get your trailer checked and road worthy soon. 

Happy Trails!

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ONE-GEAR 4X4
4x4 AnswerMan,

I have a 1996 Chevy Tahoe 5.7 4x4. I only have 1st gear and reverse and the 4x4 low gear light stays on. I can select 2HI or 4HI and it will blink for a bit, but then goes off.  The fluid looks great and doesnít smell. I just got the truck so I donít know what is wrong with it.

Danny Martin Jr


Hi Danny,

Your automatic transmission is a 4L60E and has its shift points controlled by the computer. There may be a problem with the computer or internals, and thatís why it is not shifting. Some call this ďlimp mode.Ē As for transfer case, it may be acting up because of the transmission problem. You can check fluid level and try shifting from 2HI to 4HI or 4LO while in Neutral to see if this takes care of the blinking. Sometimes the vehicle has to be rolling slightly for 4x4 to engage. The light will continue to blink until it fully engages.  If it canít engage, it will go back to the previous mode, and possibly give you a Check Engine code ďService 4x4Ē light on the dash.

If you donít have access to a diagnostic computer, a trip to the transmission shop is in order. They can check the computer and verify if the transmission problem is electrical or mechanical. At that point you can decide if you want to fix on your own or have them do it.

Good luck.

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DODGE RAM HEAVY DUTY - SMOOTH RIDE
4x4 AnswerMan,

My truck is stock height front and back. I just want a softer ride unloaded. I used to pull a 5th wheel, done with that so most of the time unloaded. Did you end up leaving all three of the original height packs in or did you remove any? If I did this I would like the truck to be level if possible.

Thanks,
Dave


Letter sparked by Project Dodge Ram Mega Cab: KORE Recon Rear Suspension

Hi Dave,

We replaced the factory overload leaf with a progressive pack consisting of four softer leafs from KORE Off-Road. The nice thing about this set-up is that it does make the rear ride smoother empty, but you can still tow/haul the same amount as before. If you donít plan on towing or hauling much and prefer an even smoother ride, then replacing the entire rear leaf pack is recommended. 

On our Dodge Mega Cab, the KORE Recon Rear Suspension made more sense.  We do off-road the truck empty but also tow/haul a Lance Camper and trailer with rig behind from time to time.

We did end up leaving all three of the factory height spacers in the rear, and it does sit taller in the back when empty.  When we load up the truck with the camper and trailer, it squats and needs help. We run some air bags for those occasions. Check here for more on that: http://www.off-road.com/trucks-4x4/project/project-dodge-mega-cab-air-helper-springs-53138.html.

As for the front, you can level it either by putting in some coil spacers, or you can go with the full coil replacement like we did. It all depends on your budget and needs.

Project Dodge Ram Mega Cab: KORE HP Leveling Kit

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
October 2012

September 2012

August 2012

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