4x4 AnswerMan – Truck and SUV Questions Answered

Aug. 27, 2013 By Jaime Hernandez
4-Wheel Drive truck and Sport Utilities crossing stream in the San Gabriel Mountains, CA.

Have a truck or SUV question for the 4x4 AnswerMan? Send your questions to [email protected]. Please include your name and location, and be as detailed as possible about your questions.

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4x4 AnswerMan,

I have a 2001 F250 Super Duty and thinking about putting a lift on. How big can I go without changing my track bar? I have a set of 2-inch shackles, but I was wondering if I could change my stock springs for a set of 2-inch and still keep my stock track bar.

Ray Godwin

Hi Ray,

Your proposed suspension lift combo is right on the border for needing a longer track bar. Most adjustable track bars are made for suspension lifts of 2.5-inches or taller. Your 2-inch shackles are yielding 1 inch of lift, and then if you add 2-inch suspension lift springs, you’re now at 3 inches of total suspension lift.

You can certainly get away with running the stock sway bar for awhile, but if you start noticing excessive vibration or feedback from the front axle, it’s probably a sign that your truck needs an adjustable track bar or relocation bracket to help center the axle.

2001 Ford Super Duty Track Bar Relocation Bracket from Skyjacker.

The track bar helps keep your truck’s axle centered left to right. When you lift the suspension, it pulls the axle further away from the frame and body, which also changes the angle of the track bar. If you look closely on a vehicle lifted more than 2 inches, the axle starts to actually shift over to one side of the truck as the suspension size goes up. The same can be said about when you lift the front of the truck and front axle droops down. You can try it out as an experiment. 

The adjustable track bar or track bar relocation bracket can help bring the axle back to center and re-align it for optimal suspension geometry.

Good luck!


4x4 AnswerMan,

What year of equipment would I need to change a 1986 Dodge 3/4-ton Ram Van into a 4x4 van?
Peter Pappin

Hi Peter,

This sounds like an exciting project. If you’re running a factory stock setup, your van should have a Chrysler 8.25 rear end. Although good, most 4x4 conversion companies have been banking on stronger 1-ton axles. The Dana 60 axle seems to be a staple no matter what make of van. They’re strong, serviceable with plenty of aftermarket support and are proven to work well in 4x4 van conversion.  If you wanted to keep your rear 3/4-ton axle, then you could opt for a Dana 44 front axle to match up the 8-lug.

A Dodge truck of similar vintage as your Ram Van would be a good vehicle to pull parts from for your conversion. Look for a 4x4 Ramcharger or Ram pickup.

Here’s a fine example of a 1986 Dodge B250 Van 4x4 Conversion.

The transfer case is going to be your next hurdle. You can either run a divorced transfer case behind your current transmission, or look for a 4x4 transmission and transfer case off a similar vintage Dodge Ram pickup or Ramcharger so it matches up with your 5.2L 318 V8.

These are just the basic parts you will need. There is still a lot of custom fabrication ahead to put it all together and make it work. You can source many of the specialty parts needed for the conversion at Pathfinder Vans, including suspension parts: http://www.pathfinder-vans.com/html/dodge_4x4_kit.html.

If you find this project a little over your head, I’d also talk to a 4x4 conversion company specializing in older vans to see what they would charge or recommend will work best for your specific needs.

Please send us an update on your project once you get rolling on it.



4x4 AnswerMan,

I have replaced u-joints on both sides of my 2005 2500 4x4 and ball joints on the right side and have not had to remove the center nut. The bearing will come out with the hub still attached with no more effort.
Letter sparked by Installing New Ball Joints in 2003 Dodge Ram Truck


Hi Bill, thanks for the note. Good to know. I can see how this would be possible given the hub assembly bolts can be removed from the backside of the spindle.  It amazes me how many different ways there are to approach a project.

Wrench on, brother!


4x4 AnswerMan,

I need info on how to join!! My 4Runner wants to roam!!
Victor T. Lafrank

Letter sparked by Off-Road Travel: San Gabriel OHV Area (a.k.a. Azusa Canyon)

Hi Victor,

Thanks for resurrecting this story. The San Gabriel OHV area is a great place to go mud-bogging and four-wheeling near Los Angeles. With the new off-road obstacle course that opened in 2012, it’s even a good place to put your rock crawler through its paces. As far as the local club for San Gabriel OHV area, you need to look up Azusa Canyon Off Road Association (A.C.O.R.A.) http://www.acorausa.com/
 Tell Mike Bishop we sent you. = ) 
San Gabriel OHV Area: Off Road Obstacle Course (Photo Compliments of Mike Bishop / A.C.O.R.A).


4x4 AnswerMan,

Can I use the rotors, calipers and brake booster off a new model 2010 Toyota Tacoma? I am rebuilding a 77 FJ40 with a fuel-injected 402 with a TH400 followed by a Dana 300 and need the power to stop this beast. I just don’t think the stock will do. Thanks ahead of time.

Letter sparked by Disc Brakes for your Toyota 4x4 Land Cruiser

Hi Carl,

It sounds like you are building on mean Cruiser. As for stopping power, you might be able to use the calipers from a late-model Toyota Tacoma, but I can’t say for sure until you match it up. I do know that rotors from the IFS Tacoma would not work on your FJ40 axle since the hat is much taller, meaning the IFS rotors would not align correctly with the calipers. 

Some guys have had good luck running larger Toyota 4 Runner calipers and even early Tundra calipers when looking to increase stopping power on their FJ0.  Here’s a thread that may help http://forum.ih8mud.com/hardcore-corner/695318-front-caliper-upgrades.html.

If you’re serious about changing your factory brake setup to something larger, I highly suggest you give this brake tech article on our sister site Pirate4x4.com a read. It will give you a good understanding on ways to improve your braking power: http://www.pirate4x4.com/tech/billavista/Brakes/

Good luck.


4x4 AnswerMan,

How much did it cost to have them rebuilt?


Letter sparked by Rebuilding Your Off-Road Shocks

Hi Josh, most Bilstein Monotube Shock rebuilds start at $75 a piece. They are all performed in-house. You can find a complete listing and shock rebuild info at http://www.bilsteinus.com/products/search-service/service/.



4x4 AnswerMan,

I have an ‘03 Envoy and want to turn it into an Expedition Rig and was wondering where to start? Should I change the axles out with heavier truck axles, and if so does it have enough motor, what gears do I need if I go to 35" tires and does anyone make a good suspension kit for this? And how about the transmission, is it strong enough?

Hi Dan,

The Envoy is great little trucklet that doesn’t get much love from the off-road aftermarket. You can swap out some of the parts from its bowtie brother the Trailblazer. There are a few hardy fellows that have used some ingenuity to really push the Envoy and Trailbrazer’s off-road potential beyond the manufacturer’s dream.

As for axles, I would stick with what is there for now. As for engine, it depends what you have, the inline 6 is a torque little guy, and the V8 seems to also work well.  Either one of these should be plenty for expedition-style off-roading.

There’s a community at www.offroadtb.com that focuses on modifying GM Trailblazer and Envoy for better off-road performance. To get your whistle wet, we suggest you check out the Expedition vehicle build from Mike Key. His Trailblazer is lifted a total of 5 inches and is running 35-inch tires.  He gives a pretty detailed build sheet on this page, which should help you with your build: http://forums.offroadtb.com/viewtopic.php?f=78{RDhref+}t=3047

Join this group, get your build going and please come back and give us an update on how it’s shaping up.

Happy trails!


4x4 AnswerMan,

I have a 1991 Hilux 4x4 5-speed manual. I am curious as to whether the rear diff from a 1997 Hilux 5 speed manual would be the same ratio. How can I tell?
Kage Milsom

Hi Kage,

If the 1997 axle is factory stock and also from a 4WD Toyota Hilux, there’s a really good chance it’s 4.10 gear ratio. If you have the VIN# from the donor vehicle, you can try and use this Toyota Differential Identification Key to find out what’s inside http://www.off-road.com/trucks-4x4/tech/toyota-differential-identification-18588.html

The only way to know for sure would be to pull the 3rd Member and count the number of splines on the ring and pinion. Using this simple formula below,  you’ll be able to decipher what the gear ratio actually is.

Ring/Pinion = Gear Ratio

Example: Ring has 37 teeth, Pinion has 9 teeth 37/9 = 4.11


4x4 AnswerMan,

I have a 95 Chevy K1500 4x4. The guy I got it from did the lift himself and apparently didn't have much experience. It has 37x12.50 R16.5 on it and the control arms are sitting on the frame under them, the front tires lean out a little bit at the top and can’t be adjusted because of this, and also the Skyjacker shocks are rubbing the same part control arms are hitting!!! I need a fairly inexpensive fix. Do they make and extended control arm??? Please help me.

Luke Perkins

Hi Luke,

It sounds like a wheel backspacing problem. There are two ways to go about this – first, you can try adding some wheels spacers to gain clearance and stop rubbing on the shock and control arm. Just make sure that whatever you buy is actually for you 1995 Chevy K1500, as they need to be hub-centric. The other option would be to get different sized wheels and tires better suited for your truck’s suspension setup. Obviously you can sell the parts you have to reinvest in new ones to help offset the cost.

As for the tires leaning out, there is some adjustment on the IFS control arm for camber. You will need to take it to a suspension alignment shop that knows how to set up lifted 4x4 trucks. The torsion bars may also be cranked way too high, so they will need to be brought down. A good suspension alignment tech should be able to dial you in.


Hey 4x4 AnswerMan,

I have an '89 Suzuki quad 4x4 250. It used to run good and the rings were bad, so we parked it for a year or so and the reverse worked fine before now. For some reason the reverse shifter just will not go back and go in gear. Why is this? The shifter has a li’l play and it moves a li’l by the shift case, so it's not rust. What is going on?


Hi Bucky,

In order for the quad to go into reverse, it needs to be in Neutral” or “N”.  Try that.  If it’s still stuck, I’d try to lube up the cable as some rust may have set inside the housing after sitting for so long. You can do that using one of these handy Cable Lubers from Motion Pro or do a home-brew job with some plastic hose and hose clamp (check this out http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ksiQIvNIPRw{RDhref+}feature=youtu.be{RDhref+}t=29s ). Let it sit over night and it should free up by morning.

Motorcycle Cable Luber from Motion Pro

Just for kicks, follow the cable from the fender lever all the way to the transmission, looking for any kinks or damage to the cable. A pinch could also be the culprit if neither rust nor improper gear sequence is the problem.

If you have more quad questions, please try our resident expert, the ATV AnswerMan.

Good luck.


4x4 AnswerMan,

I own a Land Cruiser BJ40 Toyota B diesel engine. I need torque specifications for all engine bolts. Particularly crank and main bearing bolts. Can you help me on this please?

Hi Sid,

I looked through all my Toyota Land Cruiser Manuals and could only find information on the gasoline FJ models. Nothing on diesel BJs, although it would have been nice. I also couldn’t find any substantial information online.  Unfortunately, we deal mostly with gasoline engines in America, although some of our friends in Canada do run diesels.

Honestly, if you’re doing this deep of work on your BJ, I would highly recommend you invest in a repair manual. You should be able to find the engine bolt torque specs and other information for future servicing. The Toyota diesel repair books are hard to find, but we did locate one on eBay from Max Ellery.

Good luck.


4x4 AnswerMan,

What are body lift pros and cons? I am not a big fan of body lifts but it seems that I may need a body lift for 2000 Tundra. I am running 33s with coilovers and I want to upgrade to 35s. What do you suggest?

Hi Kris,

If you’re not a big fan of body lifts, we’re off to a shaky start—but there is hope.  Body lifts are fine. They are cheap and they serve their purpose. The downsides I know of are with the taller ones. They leave a good size gap between the body and frame. They may cause cooling problems if the radiator is not relocated to line up with the fan. They also don’t provide any suspension travel or off-road performance gain like most suspension kits do.

Your truck is already lifted partway with front coilovers. You just need a little more room to get larger tires in there. I’m not sure how many inches of lift you are getting from the coilovers, but if its 2 to 3 inches, you might be able to get away with just that. The wheel backspacing will have a big part on whether the 35s work with this setup. It will require some fender trimming or running fiberglass front fenders for additional clearance.

If you have your heart set on adding a body lift, I wouldn’t go more than 2 inches.  Here are some other ideas on how to fit 35s on your 2000 Toyota Tundra we found on TTORA that may help http://www.ttora.com/forum/showthread.php?t=137040

Once you step up to 35-inch tires, you may also need to start looking at re-gearing the truck with 4.56 or 4.88 gears; otherwise it will feel like a gutless pig.

Good luck!

Have a truck or SUV question for the 4x4 AnswerMan? Send your questions to [email protected]. Please include your name and location, and be as detailed as possible about your questions.

More 4x4 AnswerMan Columns
July 2013

June 2013

May 2013

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