Your Off-Road Truck and SUV Questions Answered

Oct. 30, 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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If you’re going to be a Rebel, you need to have the grill to match. By now, most of you have seen or read about the 2015 Ram Rebel pickup. You’re either a fan or you’re not. One area that has received criticism from diehard RAM fans is the decision to drop the iconic crosshair grill design on this model.  Instead, a macho mustache takes its place (Movember anyone?).

Are you a Rebel fan?  We want to know.

Check out the full story on the new 2015 RAM Rebel.


Hi 4x4 AnswerMan,

I have a 2015 Ford F-150 EcoBoost V6 and want to know what kind of performance mods I can do. The truck moves pretty good now, but I’m sure it can do better.

Henderson, NV

Hi Ralph, one of the easiest and fastest ways to add more horsepower is to get a power programmer on your truck. There are several companies making different tunes to suit your driving style and needs. Most will add at least 50 horsepower and the torque to match it. Some other performance parts worth adding would be a high-flow air intake and cat-back exhaust system, which can add as much as 20 HP thanks to the better airflow.

There are a number of other engine and transmission modifications you can do beyond this to gain additional ponies at the wheel, but the ones noted above are the most popular and best bang for your buck. They’re also pretty simple to do.

Happy wrenching!


4x4 AnswerMan,

I currently do some scenic off-roading in my 2000 F-150 short cab/short bed. I live in Denver. I am planning to upgrade my rig and would like your advice.  My priorities are: 1. Simple, reliable and easy to work on, 2. Has an AC, 3. Prefer pre-computer and electronic components, 4. Nearly Bulletproof for moderate trails, 5. Affordable, 6. Reasonably comfortable for driving to the trail for 4 adults, 7. Automatic preferred, 8. Be used on occasion as second errand runner around town. Thanks for your help!


Hi James,

That’s a tall order, but we’ll do our best. The “pre-computer and electronic components” is going to be hard, since most four-wheel-drive vehicles have some sort of electronics, even dating back to the 1950s. You can definitely cut out a lot of the modern electronic amenities by looking at carbureted vintage 4x4 vehicles like the early Jeep CJs, Ford Bronco, Toyota Land Cruiser, and Land Rover. However, most of these vehicles will not have factory air conditioning or an automatic transmission. They are also becoming harder to find and expensive (worth more than what they sold new in many cases).

If you can live with a few electronics, the 1st and 2nd Generation Toyota 4Runner may be a good place to start. It’s 4WD, equipped with an almost bulletproof drivetrain, reliable 22r motor, and some even have automatic transmissions.  The SR5 models even have air conditioning.  They’re also easy to work on and affordable. Third-generation 4Runners are also great, but they do have more electronics than the earlier models.

Moving into the ‘90s and early 2000s, the Jeep Cherokee XJ, Jeep Grand Cherokee WJ, and Jeep Wrangler LJ are some other great option for seating four adults—but now we’re getting into modern fuel-injected motors and computers. Stick to a 4.0L inline six and you should be good. The best part: these models also feature cushy coil spring suspension and great aftermarket support for modifications down the road.

Make sure to check out Burn’s Project WJ and other cool builds in our Jeep Projects section
In the meantime, why don’t you just throw some nice all-terrain tires and performance off-road shocks on your F-150 and enjoy the ride. Full-size pickup trucks are a nice way to explore Colorado back roads, especially if the trail is wide enough.




Diesel is all the rave these days, with more production truck models become available in North America.  Even with Volkswagen’s sucker punch at U.S. consumers, acceptance of rattlers continues to grow. tested GM’s 2016 Chevrolet Colorado Duramax Diesel pickup recently and gave it good marks. It seems to be well received by our readers, with the only request coming from R. Spins asking that the “fake rollbar and lights need to be lost.”  His solution: LED fog lights. The only thing is R. Spins, those are working LED lights atop the Trail Boss edition of the Colorado. Check out more of the breakdown at Chevy’s site for special edition Colorados here.

Do you like the new diesel GM mid-size pickup? We want to know.

Read the full story: 2016 Chevrolet Colorado Duramax Diesel First Drive

AnswerMan, Can you just do a 180-degree swap on the pitman arm or will there be a problem? Any help.


Bill’s Whip

Hi Bill,

Nice ride. I’m sure it turns a lot of heads on the BLVD.

You can certainly rotate the pitman arm 180-degrees. Weather it will work or not is another question. In most cases, you only really need a drop down pitman arm when the vehicle is lifted more than 3-4 inches. This is especially the case if you’re getting bump steer. To be honest, instead of trying to modify the factory pitman arm to save a few bucks, you’re better off buying a drop down pitman arm specifically designed for lifted applications. They’ll have the correct angles, materials and design for the added stress put on by longer length. You can find a number of options at 4 Wheel Parts to match your needs and specific suspension lift height.



I have a 97 Chevy truck. The 4x4 don’t work. The fuse and actuator and switch are good. No power to switch. Any ideas?


Hi Claydo76,

If you already checked the fuses, actuator and switch—I would check the wiring and plugs going to the transfer case and front differential. Over the years, we’ve encountered a number of loose or unplugged plugs that were the culprits for the 4x4 not working correctly on these K1500 model trucks. There’s also a transfer case control module with plugs to check (check under dash).
If the plugs are good at the front axle actuator, transfer case selector motor, 4x4 switch on dash, and the control module.  I would double check the fuses and relays associated with the 4-wheel drive.

If things are still not working, I would spend some more time on the transfer case selector motor. They go bad, even if you don’t use the 4WD much. Sometimes you can hear it clicking, but not fully engaging. We’ve had some luck by getting under the truck and tapping it with a small hammer. In a pinch, you can also manually shift it using plyers. It got us out of the dirt and back to pavement, but we did eventually have to replace it. 

Start with the low-dollar parts, and then move your way up. The transfer case control module is probably the most expensive electronic part of the 4x4 system, but it is the brains (and possibly what is not sending power to the in-cab switch). Once it’s fixed, at least you’ll know you have new or gently used parts that work.

Good luck.


Hi my name is Brandon I'm from Pueblo, Colorado, and I'm thinking of buying a 2014 dodge power wagon to replace my FJ Cruiser. I want to be able to add 37" tires on it and the questions I have are:

1) do I need to re gear or beef up the rear end for the tire size change?

2) do I need a lift or body mount chop to avoid rubbing? ( yes I will be using the truck for 4 wheeling )

3) will I get speed wobble?
Any part recomendations if added ones are need would be appreciated thank you for your time!

Juvenal Torres

Letter sparked by Impression: 2014 Ram Power Wagon

Hi Brandon,

The Ram Power Wagon comes equipped with 4.10 gears from the factory. If you mainly drive on the highway, you may like the better MPG from this set-up. If you prefer to have more low-end power, then re-gearing to 4.56 or 4.88 is recommended. Try the stock gearing first and see what you think.

If you plan on running 37-inch tires, you will need a 3-inch lift (minimum). Try to keep the wheel offset as close to factory wheels to minimize rubbing (or just run the factory set). 

As for the speed wobble (a.k.a. death wobble), you can help alleviate that by adding a heavy-duty track bar and making sure the ball joints are checked regularly for excessive play. A premium steering damper like FOX, King or Bilstein would also help control those large front tires.

For 2014 RAM solid axle trucks, Carli has one of the most complete performance suspension kits on the market.  They include a track bar, radius arm drops, rear track bar drop, coil springs, bump stop drops, sway-bar end links and tuned shocks.  You can learn more at



My name is C.C.Cox. I am a Texan stuck in Connecticut for the time being.
I would like to add a ready lift 3/2 kit, keep the stock rims, and go to a 315/70/17 at tire. I'm wondering if I will need to add spacers of 1" or 1.25"? There is an option to drop the sway bar. Is that necessary? Also with the larger tire, I'm assuming I will need to have the computer re-flashed.

I would also like a more aggressive sound without spending $800 for an entire cat back system. The only mufflers I can find dual in single out are mild.  Are there any U.S. made options out there?


Hi C.C.Cox,

If you’re keeping the factory 17-inch TRD Wheels that were included in the Rock Warrior package, you should be able to run the 315/70 R17 all terrain tires without spacers. If you get a little tire rub on the frame, you can do the following modification to fix it.

The sway bar drop down brackets help keep the suspension geometry within factory spec, so it can’t hurt to add them.  Otherwise the sway bar will rotate and drop on its own pivot to compensate for the added lift.  It may not handle as well than if it had the sway bar drop down.

If you’re looking for a different sound but don’t want to spend the coin on a cat-back exhaust at this point, why not add a high-flow air intake system? Not only will it make the engine sound different, but it will also add more power and torque. You can always add the exhaust later.  When you’re ready, a company to look at for U.S. cat-back exhaust systems is Magnaflow.

As for having the vehicle re-calibrated for larger tires, I would recommend getting a power programmer that can do that and more. You’ll be able add some additional ponies with a power tune (Superchips makes one that calibrates larger tires). 

Have fun!


4x4 AnswerMan,

I’m hearing a thumping noise after hitting bumps in my Trailblazer. It only happens when I go over bump stops or off-road. Any ideas what it can be?


Hi Allan,

Check your shocks for worn or loose bushings, especially the top pin mount type. We’ve noticed that they sometimes become loose with wear and need to be tightened down.  Another area that needs some attention is the sway bar end links. Those also get worn down and should be replaced if they have excessive play. One way to check is to have a second person move the vehicle up and down, simulating suspension movement. You should be able to hear the suspension noise and easily pinpoint where it’s coming from.

If you still can’t figure it out, take the vehicle into an alignment shop so they can put it up on the rack. They should be able to find what is causing the suspension thump.

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.

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