Off-Road Truck, SUV Questions in 4x4 Answerman Column

Your off-road suspension, engine and tire questions answered

Sep. 29, 2015 By Jaime Hernandez
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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My 2015 F150 gets 3-4 mpg more than my similarly equipped 2011 F150. If the F350 follows suit, it will blow the competition away.

Hugh Irwin

Letter sparked by 2017 Ford F-350 Super Duty Teased for September Unveil
Hi Hugh,

Ford unveiled the 2017 Ford Super Duty this week and got a first look. The new line of Super Duty trucks are hailed by Ford as its “toughest, smartest, most capable Super Duty ever.”  It’s up to 350 lbs. lighter and is projected to deliver even better MPG.

Get the full story:
2017 Ford Super Duty First Look



I have a 1992 Chevy Z71 extended cab w/step Side bed. It's got the original 350 motor in it and I'm rebuilding the motor. After it’s had its run I'm going to put a Big Block in it. My question is what would be the 2 most durable and reliable big block Chevrolet engine with plenty of torque and horsepower to put in my truck?

Brandon McGehee

Hi Brandon,

Most any GM Performance crate motor is a good buy and reliable source of power. If money is no object, a LSX454R would be fun.  This LS-Series engine is technically a V8 small bock, but with it delivering 750 HP and 680+ ft/lbs of torque, naturally aspirated (no turbo or supercharger)—it’s hard not to dream.  Last we checked the price tag on one of those is just under $25K.

If that's a wee bit out of budget, a good old big block 454 still rattles the doors.  Fuel injected would be the way to go for off-road performance and no stalling during hill climbs. You can still find Vortec 7400 7.4L take-off engines in 3/4, 1-ton trucks and Suburbans being retired at the local junkyard. Look for 1996 -2000 models that use a hydraulic roller cam.

To learn more about GM big block options check out



Hey man ever since I put that rough country 6inch lift kit on my 1996 Chevy k1500 I'm breaking the tail piece of the transmission where it meets the transfer case. The pinion angle is good. I sent the drive shaft off and had it rebalanced. The transfer case is good!!! I'm lost please help.

Billy J Gilliam Jr

Hi Billy,

If you can’t truly pinpoint the problem to starting after lifting the truck, I would call Rough Country directly and find out what solution they offer (800-222-7023).
Have you been off-roading, hit big rocks, stump or bumps after lifting your truck? Maybe the frame got bent and is now putting added stress on the drive train.  It happened to us with a K1500 Z71. We had to replace both the transmission and transfer case before the problem was solved.  Have the frame checked to rule that out.

Also, make sure the transmission cross member is properly in place.  Otherwise the stress will be too much and can cause damage to either the transmission of t-case.

Good luck.



I have an 85 bronco with a 4in lift. My suspension is pretty much shot, I need to replace the shocks, coils and leaf springs. My question is will I be able to buy the shocks, coils and leaf springs that's meant for a 6in lift and install them with out any problems? The reason I ask is because me and my father want to raise the truck a little more but I just want to make sure that the vision I have is possible. And by problems I mean would I have to replace anything else or have to extend the drive shaft or things like that nature.

Brian Mendez

Hi Brian,

You might be able to use some of the existing components.  In fact, if you can identify the brand of the 4-inch suspension lift already in place, you should be able to reference their 6-inch lift and see what components are different.

Taller front coil springs and rear add-a-leafs will give you the 6-inch lift.  You may need to get longer front and rear drive shafts.  You may be able to get away with a thrifty drive shaft spacer. The taller lift will also require bump stop extensions, radius arm bracket, extended brake lines, drop down pitman arm and longer shocks for it to work correctly. 

For more Bronco suspension lift options, check out our sister site



Rav4 reporter Justin Fort wrote the story on for the Colorado EPA debacle that has put not only the Animas River at risk but the off-road trails surrounding the San Juan Mountains in southwest Colorado.  If you don’t know what we’re talking about, please read the story below.

Gold King Mine: Big Government Colorado Screw-up Just Tip of the Iceberg

There are many people upset, including off-roaders. reader Steven G comments, “Totally agree! We’ve had it up to here (I'm pointing at my chin) with the EPA's "we own this" attitude. I live in Telluride now and all the agency people are like rats in NYC - all over the place, and every season it feels like there's more. We need to pay attention and go to every county meeting and open forum and don't let them take any more of our country.

Bryce in San Diego says, “Don't let Colorado become the next Glamis. Take it from a desert rat, the tree-huggers want to slam the gates in your face.”

What do you think?

Colorado has great off-road trails that can be enjoyed by Jeep, 4x4, UTV, ATV and motorcycle.  Here are a few of our favorites:

Off-Road Travel: Adventuring in Southwestern Colorado
Off-Road Travel: Colorado's Scenic Alpine Loop
Off-Road Travel: Silverton, Colorado
Off-Road Trails: San Juan Mountains, Colorado




I love your ideas! I am currently making some DIY mods on my Tacoma as well. I am mounting some LED fog lights on my pack rack facing backwards, the purpose being to light up and area such as a campsite without having to turn on my truck. I thought about installing an extra battery for things like that like you did in the bed of my truck but I have a few questions because I don't know if it would be worth it for me to do the same thing as you. How long does that battery last you with how much use of your LED's? I wonder if just a couple fog lights like mine will drain such a small amount of power from the regular car battery when in use that going to the work/expense of mountain an extra battery that it wont be worth it for me. Any input would be greatly appreciated!! Sweet truck!


Letter sparked by Toyota Tacoma Budget Build, Part 1

Hi Brady,

Extra power is always good.  If you have the room and the need—go for it!  Add the second battery.  Make sure to also install a dual battery charging system so both batteries charge off the alternator.  Painless Performance makes a nice one.

The new Digital Power Manager (DPM) from Painless Performance protects the main battery from being discharged under heavy or sustained loads. On startup the DPM will direct all charging to the main battery until it reaches full charge. It will then automatically begin charging the auxiliary battery. The DPM will sense when the load is large enough on the main battery and automatically add the auxiliary battery in parallel for added power. An indicator light informs you of the charge state of the DPM.  It also takes the guesswork out of charging and maintaining a dual battery system.  You can learn more at



I want to know the quantity of rear fluid axle for Toyota Hilux 4x4 RZN 147.


Hi Salwan,

Toyota manual calls for 2.8 quarts in 4WD, 1.4 quarts in 2WD.  Typically on Toyota axles, if you fill with fluid to the top of the fill hole, you should be good.  Just make sure you’re doing it on level ground.  This is the method we use and haven’t had any issues, and our Land Cruiser just turned 200k miles.

Just make sure you’re using the correct gear oil weight.  We run 75-90 weight in the U.S.  It may be different for your particular region.  I would check manual.
Good luck!



I have a 1981 Datsun 720 4x4 made 5/1982 looking for front axles. Not having any good leads. Any suggestions? I got calipers from O'rileys auto parts 9/2013.

Roger Holland

Letter sparked by The Nissan 720 4wd FAQ File

Hi Roger,

I would say try the local auto recycler or junkyard, but most of those old Datsun trucks have been picked over.  It’s still worth checking out – you never know what you’ll find. Next would be contacting a salvage yard that specializes in import trucks like Nissan, Datsun and Toyota. There are still a few out there from the mini truck days that still carry those parts. Ebay and Craiglist are also good places to find stuff.

Before you open your wallet, make sure to check out this story:

Why Craig’s List is a Great Place to Buy or Sell Off-Road Parts

Good luck!



We took a trip this summer in our Sequoia and it was loaded.  It was like a scene from National Lampoon’s Vacation, minus the dead aunt.  The problem is the rear of the truck was really sagging bad.  I guess it’s “normal” for rear independent suspension, at least that’s what our local dealer is telling us.  I still don’t like it.

When the wheels are bugged out it puts extra wear on the tires.  Do you know of any suspension modifications that may fix the sag?  We’re planning another trip this fall and don’t want to drag ass across 3 states again.  It’s embarrassing.


Hey Manny, I know exactly what you mean. It’s hard keeping these modern-day coil-sprung trucks from acting like trucks when fully loaded. One solution would be to add some load helper springs. Air-Lift makes a kit that can help the 2008+ Toyota Sequoia with 1,000 lbs. of load-leveling capacity. They’re designed to go inside the coil and eliminate squat, trailer sway, rough ride and bottoming out. All you need to do is add air when loaded to level things out.  You can learn more at

Good luck on your trip.  = )

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

August 2015

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