Off-Road Truck and SUV Q&A with 4x4 AnswerMan

Oct. 31, 2013 By Jaime Hernandez
Toyota Land Cruisers overland camping in Northern Arizona.

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 1998 Chevrolet Suburban 5.7 liter motor. Where can I buy a dual alternator bracket for a second alternator?

Letter sparked by Serious 12 Volt Power for Your Chevy C K Series

Hi DJ Skid,

Dual alternators are a great way to produce more juice for feeding demanding electrical systems that include multiple batteries, recovery winches, extensive off-road light set-ups, sounds systems and such.  Unfortunately we haven’t been able to find any brackets for pre 1999 models.  If you own a 1999+ Chevy truck, there are a number of companies that offer a dual alternator bracket.  It seems like DC Power Engineering made one at some point.  You can try contacting them to see if they still have any laying around.  More info at  Otherwise, making a custom bracket will be your best bet.


4x4 AnswerMan,

I'm looking for some custom cut pad covers for my pads with velcro fasteners, can you help?
James Doyle

Hi James,

There are a few ways to go about adding padding to your roll cage. The Jeep market has a slew of companies that sell kits you can just slap on.  You may be able to use one of these kits if the design and DOM diameter is similar (nip/tuck may be needed).  4 Wheel Parts has a catalog full of them, take your pick ({RDhref+}subCat=493{RDhref+}ptID=6000{RDhref+}pg=1)


If you need something a little more custom, then I would suggest getting some foam padding from JEGS ( and cutting it to your specific dimensions.  You may like the way it looks just with the foam and zip ties.  If not, you can have some custom covers made by a local upholstery shop.  Heck, if you’re handy with scissors, needle and tread--cut and sew your own at home.  It can be done. I remember my mom and dad stitching up a set for their Bronco growing up.  It turned out real good.  You can even add velcro, like you want.

Good luck!



4x4 AnswerMan,

Where can I get a 4-in lift for my ‘91 Geo Tracker in Mobile, AL? I've looked everywhere! I’ll order it off line, but I dunno where a good site is! Also need a new soft top as well!!!

Hi Micah,

Let’s try and hook up your Geo by tracking the suppliers you need.  For suspension, look no further than CALMINI. They specialize in little 4x4 trucklets like yours.  When you look it up, search under “Suzuki.” The Suzuki Sidekick and Geo Tracker share the same platform and many parts.

To get a 4-inch or taller lift, you’re probably going to need to combine both suspension and body lift. Calmini makes such a kit. More info at

As for a replacement soft top, try Bestop. They have a few different options for Geo Trackers from 1988-2002 models. More info at .


4x4 AnswerMan,
When we bought our 2003 Jeep Wrangler we added a Hidden Hitch with a 2” Receiver to carry four-bike rack. Because of the limited storage space in the Jeep we often take our 2004 Toyota Sienna LE when taking the bikes camping. The Sienna stars with a low ground clearance and after adding the 2” receiver the hitch is very low to the ground.  Adding 4 bikes to the rack weighs down the rear even more.  We looked at the AirLift systems but decided against this.  I also considered something like the Budget Boost system to keep the hitch from dragging but nobody manufactures this specifically for the Sienna.

Do you have any suggestion of how to raise the backend of a minivan?
Mark VanWees
Des Plaines, IL

Hi Mark,
If you need some additional support when carrying a heavy load in your van, then I suggest you give the Firestone Coil-Rite Air Helper Springs a try. They work with your factory rear suspension, and can easily be pumped up to desired pressure by using either an on board compressor or installing inflation valves you can fill at home or gas station with an air compressor.  

Firestone makes a kit specifically for the Toyota Sienna, designed to give extra support (500lbs to 1,000lbs) when carrying heavy loads.  Some additional features include:
•Keeping your Toyota Sienna level when you are hauling a heavy load. •Improve steering control and balance
•Reduce tire wear and Leveling your headlight beams
•Maintain even load distribution with air pressure, leveling off-center loads
•Helper springs adjust manually, side to side, with individual inflation valves
•Enable more effective braking and handling
•Work under heavy loading and adverse road conditions
•Increase stability to promote a smoother ride and prevent bottoming out
•Made of durable, elastic polyurethane for years of comfort and stability

More info at

4x4 AnswerMan,
I have a 2005 Power Wagon with no lift. What is the maximum tire size I can run?


Hi Reid,

With the stock suspension on your Dodge Power Wagon, you can easily run 33-inch or 285/70R17 tires. If you are running the factory wheels or similar 9-inch wide with no less than 5.75" of backspacing, you should be able to get away with 35s or 315/70R17. Anything taller than that will require different control arms to move the front axle forward to help center it (e.g. Carli or Thuren Control Arms).  With the longer control arms you can run up to a 37-inch tires.

Here’s a build we did on a Dodge Mega Cab that may help. It’s running 37-inch tires with a similar suspension height as your Power Wagon.

Low Cog 37s on Dodge

Big Tire Suspension Upgrades for Dodge Diesel 4x4


4x4 AnswerMan,

My name is Sipho, I’m from Mozambique and I own a Toyota Land Cruiser VX 100 Series. I bought a new set of tyres for it and I would like to know if the tyres do good on beach sand or mud.  The tyres are Pirelli Scorpion ATR size: P 275/70R16

Kind regards.


Hello Sipho,

The Pirelli Scorpion ATR tires should do fine in sand. They have a low-void tread design, which will help keep you on top of the sand, compared to a high-void design typically found on mud-terrain tires. If you talk to people that spend a lot of time in the sand, especially the old timers, they swear bald tires work best in the dunes. There is some merit to that. If you look close, many dune buggies have smooth or very little tread on the front tires. The rear tires are also fairly smooth, with the exception of paddles for propelling the vehicle.

In your case, to get the most performance out of your tires in sand, make sure to drop air pressure down to 12-15 psi. This will ensure the tire patch is wider, giving you better traction.

As for mud, the Scorpion is an all-terrain tire, so it should do okay, but it will not do as well as a high-void mud-terrain tire. On a good note, they should drive excellent on the road going to the sand or mud. Let us know how they perform for you, and please send us some photos of your 100 Series.



Dear sir, I have a 2011 Chevy Silverado and would like to upgrade the suspension. Any suggestions? I tow a 23-foot van and am quite loaded, air bags are fitted.

Peter, Australia

Hi Peter,

Sounds like you have a full load to haul. In all honesty, if the truck serves primarily as a tow rig, you’re better off leaving it as low as possible for better towing capacity, performance and stability.  I’m not sure if you have a 1/2, 3/4 or 1-ton Silverado, but in any of these cases, you could get away with a front leveling kit and some nice 33-inch tires that would make the truck look good, haul good, and even give it a little more clearance to venture on some off-road trails when not at work.

Sure you could go really big and tall—but if you haul long distances or keep an eye on your fuel gauge, towing on 31- to 33-inch tires is much easier on the wallet than say 37s or 40-inch tires.

I’d start with ReadyLift, as they have some great leveling kit options for your rig.  More info at  A set of quality shock absorbers would also do it good. Monotube shocks from Bilstein, or something from Old Man Emu there in Australia will do the trick.



4x4 AnswerMan,

I am restoring (perhaps refurbishing) a 1970 Travelall 1210. I first want to thank [Willie Worthy] for all the great information. My one question: My truck came with the 392 with the square bore intake manifold and Holley. Did you choose to use the dual plane spread bore and adapt the Holley because you already had it? Or...does that manifold perform significantly better at low RPMs?

James Braun

Letter sparked by 392 Rebuild

Hi James,

Thanks for resurrecting this story by Willie.  We’re not sure why the dual-plane intake manifold was used, but we can say that it does have some function for off-road use. The dual-plane or 180-degree intake manifold has good idle quality and works really well for low-end power in the 1500-6500 RPM range. The single, or square, intake manifold like you have does have better flow characteristics and is preferred by racers. It shines at much higher RPM.

If you will be using your truck at lower RPM, then a dual-plane intake manifold may be a better option. Here’s a video we found on Summit Racing that may help you with your conundrum




4x4 AnswerMan,

I have a question.  Does the 91-95 Nissan Pathfinders XE or SE have limited slip diff. I know the SE Hardbody trucks with the big tires had it, but don't know if they all came with limited slip diffs on the Pathfinder. Hope you can shed some light.

Thank You again,
Bill Cherepanov

Hi Bill,

There’s an easy way to tell for sure if you have a limited slip differential (LSD).  Lift the rear axle so both rear tires are off the ground. Spin one of the tires.  If the opposite tire turns the same way, then you have limited slip. If it turns the opposite way, then you don’t have limited slip.

If you have a limited slip differential, that’s great. If you don’t, but you really want one, take a look at this article for some ideas on your next move: Nissan Hardbody and Pathfinder FAQ.



4x4 AnswerMan,

I have a LC 1997 and I want to make some similar upgrades. I have a question, how does the Slee suspension feel?

Humberto Moro

Letter sparked by Shop Build: Slee Off-Road Toyota 80 Series Land Cruiser

Hello Humberto,

The vehicle you are referring to is running the Slee Off-Road 4-inch Kit with front control arms. The owner chose to go with the 4-inch Slee Off-Road springs to help keep the center of gravity low.  Both kits are very similar, the difference in what size you should run will be determined by the size of tire you want to run (35-inch or taller=6-inch lift, 35-inch and smaller=4-inch lift).  The ride, handling and performance is very good on both. The best part is that it can be driven both on and off-road. It can also be used for overland travel, rock crawling and off-road adventure.

You can find more info at


Well, just wondering how technical this route is? I have a 1971 A.M.General 2 1/2 ton truck that I use for my off road, any idea if it would fit on these trails?

Letter sparked by Off-Road Travel: Adventuring in Southwestern Colorado

Hi Patrick,

You own one of my dream rigs – what a brute! Colorado is definitely a great place to explore, especially on dirt.  You may be able to do some of the trails around Silveton, CO, and the Alpine Loop with your deuce and a half (see related article Off-Road Travel: Colorado's Scenic Alpine Loop). Most of the trails are wide enough. The only issues would be when you meet other vehicles on the trail, tight switchbacks that may leave your rear wheels hanging—and trees, rocks or tunnels with low clearance.  That said, there is still a good amount of dirt to travel and explore in your deuce.

Map out some of the areas you would like to venture to, and possibly even do a recon run with a smaller vehicle first.  Doing so should give you a pretty good idea on what trails are do-able in your mega rig. If you have time to talk to some of the locals about current trail conditions, it will also help. Let’s face it: you have a behemoth truck running on trails originally made for wagons. It’s going to be an adventure!

In your planning, we highly recommend you get Backcountry Adventures Colorado by Peter Masey and Jenne Wilson. Their books have great detail, history and trail descriptions. They also have GPS coordinates and waypoints for things worth checkin out (e.g. mines, historical sites, natural wonders, etc).

If you go during summer, stay away from major trails on weekends to avoid traffic.

If you need a place to park your rig, we highly recommend Silverton. It’s got a lot of character and plenty of room for a Deuce and a Half to cruise around on  (See related story]  Heck, maybe you can go up during 4th of July and even be in the parade. I’m sure they would love it.

Please come back and give us an update on your adventure. We’d love to hear more about it.

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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