4x4 AnswerMan - Truck and SUV Off-Road Tech and Maintenance

Apr. 04, 2013 By Jaime Hernandez
Toyota FJ Cruiser exploring one of the many alpine trails in southwest Colorado.

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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4x4 AnswerMan,

How can I build my own prerunner bumper? My truck is a 2005 GMC 2500 HD 6.0l. Itís very hard to think of one and I canít seem to find one anywhere. Just get back at me.

Mike Etsitty Jr

Hi Mike,

Building a prerunner steel bumper takes some fabrication skills, including design, bending, notching and welding. If youíve never touched a welder before, try starting with a smaller project. Bumpers are important parts and need to be well built to make sure they not only look good, but also wonít fall apart on impact.

To learn more about fabricating, you can read books, watch online fabrication videos by Miller, even take a welding class at your local community college. 

For inspiration, we recommend you check out some of the work from Addictive Desert Designs (ADD). They have some nice prerunner style bumpers that look aggressive and are also well built. They even make one for your CHEVY/GMC 2500 HD http://www.addictivedesertdesigns.com.

Good luck!


4x4 AnswerMan,

Does the radio still work? Another thing, can you recommend any other antennas besides the one that you used?

Eddie R

Letter sparked by Cobra CB Bluetooth Review

Hi Eddie,

Yes the Cobra 29 WX NW BT is still working great. The larger Wilson and K40 antennas also work well. If youíre planning on doing any organized Jeep or 4x4 runs, many clubs don't allow metal antennas because they whip around. A rigid style like the FireStik will work best in those cases. More info at http://www.firestik.com/


285s ON MY CHEVY 2500 HD
4x4 AnswerMan,

Can I put 285/75R16 tires on my stock 2004 Chevy 2500 HD without lifting it?
Michael Barney

Hi Barney,

No problem, you can fit 285/75R16 tires with no lift. This size tire will work well if you are using the factory aluminum wheels too. If you decide to level the front end, you can always do that later and this tire size will still look good.


4x4 AnswerMan,

A friend and I did the Alpine Loop on motorcycles years ago. It was relatively easy ride on motorcycles but it was a great one with beautiful scenery. When you see all of the big heavy mining equipment that the miners carried up into the mountains, you know that they were very determined people. What they accomplished was amazing!
Ken Dobbins

Letter sparked by Off-Road Travel: Colorado's Scenic Alpine Loop

Hi Ken,

Thanks for sharing notes from your trip on two wheels with us. The Alpine Loop and the San Juan Mountains in Colorado are amazing and one of our favorite places to go off-road. The beauty of the trails in this region trumps the difficulty factor, in our opinion. Maybe itís a good thing; otherwise weíd miss the majestic views. 

Donít get me wrong, challenging has its place, and the hard trails are there if one looks for them. Two that come to mind in the region are Poughkeepsie and Black Bear.


Hi there 4x4 AnswerMan,

In the very beginning of this article there is a picture of a K1500 Z71. On this truck is the same brush guard I have but no winch. How did you do this? I would like to have one exactly like it. If u could email me details!

Letter sparked by Project Z71 on Off-Road.com

Hi Alex,

Get ready to transform your Chevy truck with the Warn Transformer Winch bumper. You keep your factory bumper, just add the winch/brush guard piece.  More info at http://www.warn.com

If you donít want to buy another brush guard, then you may be able to convert the one you have into a winch bumper. A sturdy winch mounting plate will have to be added, along with a fairlead plate and additional structural support to make sure it is well attached to the truckís frame. This will require some cutting, welding and fabricatingóbut it will look and work bitchiní once completed.

Happy winching.


4x4 AnswerMan,

Having a problem with my 4x4 shifter. Itís touching the frame. Lifted my Ď03 Toyota Tacoma 4x4 automatic 3". Can you advise me what to do?

Gilbert Orallo

Hi Gilbert,

First thing I would do is read the instructions or call the manufacturer of your suspension lift to see if they have any notes on what to do with a shifter clearance issue. To help isolate the contact point, you can also remove the 4WD shifter boot from inside the cab and take a look to see what is getting in the way.  If itís the body, I suspect you will have to either bend the shift lever or trim some sheet metal from the shifter access hole. This should fix your problem.


Hi 4x4 AnswerMan,

I have a Ď98 Toyota Tacoma 4x4 TRD with the stock 31-inch tires on it. I am wanting to put 33-inch tires on it. I want to know what the most cost effective and efficient way would be to accomplish that task (adding a lift and wheel spacers if needed)? Also, I am curious if it is possible for me to accomplish that task without having to cut away at metal, messing with the firewall or fenders, and without rubbing?

Thank you,

Hi Tylor,
Youíre in luck, to squeeze 33-inch tires under your Tacoma you will only need to do a 2-2.5 inch leveling kit up front. This can be done with coil spacers, coil-overs or suspension leveling front shocks. The rear should be fine with the factory springs and shocks. No sheet metal cutting required.

The ReadyLift front suspension leveling kit will lift the 1st Gen. Toyota Tacoma front suspension two inches, making room for up to 33-inch tires.

Once the front is lifted, the truck should sit pretty level. You can always add a 1-inch spacer block in the rear if you want more rake.

You should be able to run 285/75R on either 16- or 15-inch factory wheels. If youíre looking for a tire wider than 10 inches, you may need to get some aftermarket wheels with different backspacing.

This combination you are thinking about works really well for the 1st Gen. Toyota Tacoma. I think youíll be very pleased.

Thanks for you letter.


Dear 4x4 AnswerMan,

I am currently based in Mozambique and own a 2000 Mitsubishi Pajero GDI 3.5L V6. Recently I made a 117 km off-road trip and had a short-circuit and blew my ECU. All auto shops and mechanics in the area don't advise using Gasoline Direct Injection engines for off-road because of the high technology involved and the large quantity of sensors distributed around the car to keep the engine running smoothly.

Would you recommend using GDI engines for Off-Road?

Best Regards
Dário R. O. Viegas
Mitsubishi Pajero (Photo Wikimedia Commons)

Hello Dario,

Sorry to hear about your Pajero. The good news is that once you trace where the problem started, like the short circuit, you should be able to fix it and replace the ECU with no future problems. 

Itís true that modern vehicles have many sensors and electronics, but the benefit of fuel injection can have its advantages over a carbureted engine during off-road use.

For starters, if you use your Pajero to climb hills, especially steep ones, the fuel injection engine will not stall or die. Some carbureted models struggle with inclines. Thereís also the fuel efficiency and diagnostic aspect to consider. Fuel-injected engines tend to be more efficient than carbureted models. The ECU helps them re-calibrate fuel, oxygen and spark as the temperature, elevation or terrain changes. A carburetor canít. Youíre stuck with the setting, and will have to manually make any adjustments for change.

I personally prefer a fuel-injected vehicle for off-road use and exploring, especially if thatís what your vehicle came equipped with. I do agree that many late-model Trucks and 4x4s have added way too many electronics, computers and sensors. They work great until something goes wrong. When that happens, you may be wishing you had a simple carbureted engine where all you have to do is check for fuel and spark during a field repair.

As for your Pajero, Iíd find a good Mitsubishi mechanic that is familiar with fuel-injection systems to help you with the repairs and upkeep. Keep your GDI, as this is a good engine for your model.

Good luck!


4x4 AnswerMan,

My girlfriend drove my F-150 XLT for eight miles on dry road at 50 mph in 4-low. There was snow the night before so there were a few icy spots she said. The truck seems to be running fine and goes into and seems to drive fine in 4H and 4L. My question is what kind of damage could it have caused that might show up later?

Thanks for response,

Hi David, Iím glad both your truck and girl are okay.  If any major damage was done, youíd know it by now. Next time ask her to please use 4HI and slow down on ice roads when driving. 4LO should only be used in situations where additional traction or torque is needed, and works best in loose terrain.  It also is typically used at much slower speeds. If the transfer case is screaming, itís probably too fast for 4LO.

If I were you, I would change the fluid in the transfer case for two reasons, maintenance and also to inspect for internal damage. Iím sure the fluid temp got really hot if your GF was driving 4LO at 50mph. The fluidís viscosity and lubrication properties may have been diminished. Time for new transfer case fluid. 

If anything broke or was damaged inside, youíll probably find metal shavings or chunks in the fluid. Also, if you start to hear any weird noises, or if the truck pops out of four-wheel drive easily, there may be internal damage that will require cracking the case open for further inspection.

If after changing the fluid you find no problems, you may be fine. Just keep an eye on it.  Do a visual inspection on the case for any stress cracks or oil leaks too.

Good luck.


4x4 AnswerMan,

I have a newer model Chevy. As we all know the running gear in the front end is constantly turning. Just not locked in. Wondering if someone makes a hub assembly to prevent this. I figure that's got to eat some gas mileage. 
 Matthew Louisiana

Hi Matthew,

This is an ongoing debate for many. To my knowledge, there is no manual hub conversion kit available for GM independent front suspension (IFS) trucks. They only make them for straight axles.

It should be possible. Iíve seen it done on IFS Toyota Tacoma and 4Runner 4WD models. Just have to find a company willing to manufacture such a system for the 4x4 GM market.


Ford 1975 F-150 SUPER CAB SWAP
4x4 AnswerMan,

Will a front axle from a 1979 4x4 F-150 regular cab fit my Ď75 F150 2x4 Super Cab? How much modifications will be needed? I'm looking at buying the complete 1979 truck for the parts. Need to know the modifications needed if I'm going to do the swap.


1975-1979 Ford F-150 Super Cab (Photo Compliments of Just Differentials)

Hi Palmer,

Ford F-150 Super Cabs are sweet. Good find. Many of the parts on these F-150 trucks are interchangeable between 1975 to 1979. Since youíre trying to convert your 2x4 into a 4x4, youíll need more than just the front differential. Buy the entire 1979 F-150 truck, as you will need several parts from this 4x4 model to add to your 2x4 frame. The front suspension brackets, shock towers can all be grafted over. You will also need the transfer case and some of the frame mounts for the 4x4 system. This will require some welding and fabrication. Sounds like a great project. Make sure to follow up and let us know how it goes.


Mr. AnswerMan,

I have a 2005 Chevy 1500 extended cab. The Electric shifting unit (both parts) have been replaced six times by the dealer I bought it from.
The first time was eight days after I bought the truck. Three more times before 36,000 miles and one more time around 62,000 miles by the dealer under warranty. The last time around 89,000 miles. This time it cost me almost $500.00 from my pocket.
Each repair only lasted between one and three uses of four-wheel drive shifting of transfer case.
My question is, does anyone make an aftermarket bolt on Manual Shifting unit for the transfer case of my 2005 truck that replaces the electric one?

Hi Donald,

Sounds like a pain in the rear end. Unfortunately there is no aftermarket product that would eliminate the electronic actuator. Heavy-duty manual shift levers are a dying breed. 

I also donít like electronic actuators and would much rather have a lever myself. You may be able to swap out your transfer case with an older manual lever NP241 transfer case from GM truck, as long as it matches up with the 4L60E transmission. There may also be the need for modifying the wiring so the truckís computer doesnít notice the 4x4 actuator motor is missing. It still needs to send a signal to the front axle actuator.

If youíre serious about doing this conversion, it warrants doing some additional research. I suspect the NP241 manual transfer case from GM K1500 trucks from 1993 through 2001 may be a match. These were matted to 4L60E transmissions, similar to yours. Talk to a transmission expert to find out if a 2001 4L60E transmission from a 4x4 model is similar to your 2005 4L60E transmission. If it is, it may very well be a possible modification.

I would also try giving the guys at JBConversions a call to find out if they have any ideas. They are very well versed in the NP241 transfer case.  http://www.jbconversions.com.

Let us know what you find.

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
February 2013

January 2013

December 2012

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