4x4 AnswerMan: Off-Road Truck and SUV Tech

Sep. 30, 2013 By Jaime Hernandez
Datsun 620 Pickup crawler flexing around in the Truckhaven Hills in Ocotillo Wells, SVRA.

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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Hello 4x4 AnswerMan,

I'm trying to find a good place to get a good suspension lift for my full-size Jimmy. I want the full nine yards kit, no cheeping out.


Hi Jason,

National 4WD, now owned by 4 Wheel Parts, is probably your best bet. They have locations in New Brunswick, Quebec, Ontario, Alberta and British Columbia. You can find more information at http://www.national4wd.com/

There may also be smaller shops near you. Find a local 4x4 club and ask some of the club members where they go. They'll tell you who does good work and who to stay away from.

Good luck.



4x4 AnswerMan,

I have a LC 1997 and want know what was the reason for using a battery 1,700 Odyssey? Also, tell me what the suspension combination is please, because I want put 315/75/16 with 10x16 wheels.

Thanks, HMA
Humberto Moro

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

Hello Humberto,

The reason many people use the Odyssey battery is because of its small size, weight savings, mounting configurations and power.  They perform well under extreme conditions and also work in a varied of mounting positions. If you are interested in learning more about Odyssey batteries, I recommend you read this article.

Odyssey Dual-Battery Install

The Slee Off-Road 80 Series featured in our Shop Build story is equipped with the Slee Off-Road 4-inch suspension kit. They also make a 6-inch. You can find more information at http://sleeoffroad.com/.




4x4 AnswerMan,

If I flip the axle on my 99 Ford Explorer 2WD, will it make the wheels turn the wrong way?


Hello Austin,

If by “flip” you mean taking the axle and turning it over its vertical axis, then yes, the truck would propel in the reverse direction.  It would require some work and new parts to correct that. In some instances, this method is used in an attempt to create an inexpensive high-pinion axle set-up, but it turns out being costly to do right. It’s also not an option for all housings.

If you simply “flip” the axle under the suspension leaf springs (a.k.a. spring over) to gain lift that would not affect the direction the vehicle moves.



Hi 4x4 AnswerMan,

Hi, I'm interested in a replica machine gun mounted on my ‘07 JKUR. I live in Canada and need to research the laws but could you tell me pricing and shipping, install options and details? Thanks.


Letter sparked by Shop Build: VWerks JK-8 Jeep Truck

Hi Kevan,

That M2 Browning on the V-Werks JK-8 truck is pretty cool. There are a few outfits in the U.S. that make replicas. What I’ve seen so far start in the $1k range, with simulated firepower and all the options hitting the $3k mark. The oxy-propane powered ones do put on a show and would definitely fool zombies long enough to get away.

Here is an outfit you can talk to and learn more about importing one into Canada: http://www.replicasandmodels.com/.


4x4 AnswerMan,

I have a 1989 Nissan SE V6 King Cab 4X4. How many U-joints does it have and are they all the same part Number?

Hello Gustavo,
Your Nissan 4x4 Hardbody King Cab has a two-piece rear drive shaft. It calls for three universal joints in the rear. The front has two universal joints. Part numbers will vary depending who you source them through (Nissan, Napa, O’Reilly, Import parts store, etc.).  While you’re at it, you should also replace the center support bearing, which sits between the two-piece shaft.

By the way, some Nissan 4x4 King Cab owners have been able to successfully get rid of the two-piece driveshaft and replace it with a one-piece propeller from a 2001-2004 Frontier Crew Cab. Here's a thread from our sister site Pirate4x4.com that should help if you decide to go this route http://www.pirate4x4.com/forum/nissan/409788-one-piece-shaft-length.html
Good luck!



4x4 AnswerMan,

I have a 2010 F-150 I have done some very basic work to, leveling kit, lift blocks in the rear, and 35-inch tires. Last time I was in Colorado I was crawling on some rough trails and had it in 4 wheel low and it kept feeling like it was stalling. Any thoughts?
Chris Wilson

Hi Chris, sounds like it may be the traction control. Some people don’t like it off-road, but luckily there is a way to turn it off temporarily. See if by turning it off the “stalling” motion goes away when traveling off-road. Below is a screenshot of directions from the Ford F-150 owner’s manual. One thing I should note, even if you deactivate it, traction control will kick back in once you hit 35 MPH. 

If this becomes annoying, some Ford F-150 owners have found work-arounds by doing a permanent delete or graphing in a switch from the SVT Raptor. A word of caution: These mods may void your warranty, so maybe try the factory shut-off first and see if you can live with that before any major hop-ups.

Happy exploring!



4x4 AnswerMan,

My Nissan Xterra has been giving me problems. It overheats driving at highway speeds over 50 mph or if I’m going too slow. I’m afraid to take it anywhere until I can figure what’s causing it. My mechanic changed the radiator cap, thermostat, pump and hoses.  That seemed to help, but didn’t fix it. Any ideas why it keeps overheating?

Hello Ruben,  Sorry to hear your Xterra is so caliente. It sounds like you guys did some of the repairs I would suggest already. One thing that may be failing is the fan clutch.  There should be some resistance if you try spinning while the engine is off. If it free-spins with no resistance, the clutch is bad and needs replacement.

Aside from what you’ve already done, I would also have the radiator checked to make sure it isn’t clogged. It might be time for a rebuild. Lastly, as weird as this may sound, sometimes the temperature sensor goes bad, sending bad readings to your instrument panel. If you or your mechanic has access to a temperature reading gun, test the engine block temperature along the coolant arteries to see what kind of readings you find.

If you want to dig deeper, try this forum thread on our partner site ClubXterra.org



4x4 AnswerMan,

What is draining out my new battery?  I bought a new battery and it’s dead within 30 mins or less. I'm able to start after charging.  Let me know.

Thank you

Hi William,

If you weren’t having electrical problems before installing this “new battery,” I would say to take it back and exchange it for a new-new one. You may have picked up a dud—it happens. It should still be under warranty, as most manufacturers offer at least 18-24 month replacement warranty. 

Now if you have been having problems all along, you need to track down where the power drain is. Many times it’s a light bulb, faulty switch or radio. It could also be that your battery is not charging.

I'd have the alternator tested if a new battery doesn’t make things better. That could be the problem.

Hope you find the source of the problem soon.



I have a ‘06 Tahoe Z71 with a 6-inch lift and 35-inch tires. I am having problems with play in the steering, have replaced the pitman and idler arms (stock OEM parts) not all ball joint are in good shape. The pitman looks a little short. What can I do to take out the play in the steering?


Hi Larry,

Things sound a little shaky.  If you can visually see bad ball joints, get rid of them. Every little millimeter in play gets multiplied in your steering system, especially with multiple bad joints. Depending on how many miles and how hard you wheel your truck, the steering gear box may need some adjustment or even a rebuild to make it tight again. Find yourself a reputable suspension / alignment shop and see what it would cost to have the truck properly dialed in. I would highly recommend you replace all the bad ball joints and tie rods before having it aligned.

Also, it wouldn’t hurt to re-torque the front suspension lift. Sometimes the drop down bracket gets loose and causes the shimmies.

As for the drop-down pitman arm, try Cognito Motorsports to see what they have.

Get it tight, get it right!



4x4 AnswerMan,

I have 1981 Datsun 4x4 that is a 4-speed.  Can I put a 5-speed tranny in it?
Lake Smith

Hi Lake,

The good old Datsun Pickup by Nissan. My dad had one of these, and I fondly remember jumping in the back of the King Cab. It was actually roomy for a mini truck back then. I digress… sure, you can put a five-speed if you really wanted.  The trick is finding one that will fit and that will require the least amount of modification. 

Your truck came equipped with the 2.0L L20B from the factory. In 1981 the Datsun pickup rolled out with the smog friendly 1.8L motor. The donor 5-speed transmission would have to be from a Datsun 620 pickup (1974-79) or 720 Datsun pickup (1977- 80) for it to match up to your 2.0L motor. They’re out there, but are getting harder to find.

Good luck.



4x4 AnswerMan,

I have a 2011 Nissan King Cab 4x4 S. I want to run near to strait tread as I can get during summer on my alloy rims probably a HANKOOK. But on my original stock steel rims I want a tire for when snow flies. My truck is unlifted, so I want stock size 265/70R 18. I had an f-150 and ran sidewinder mud in winter 12 yrs, Tacoma 6 yrs wild country mud.  I drive 5000 miles/yr and actually live on a hill overlooking my work place. Just got my Titan, road noise is not an issue and I will only run rough tire Oct-April and store rims and tires in basement as I’ve always done.

Keep in mind I live on VA/WV line in Covington, VA, lots of hills. 

PS: Am I old school, out of date for using a summer and then winter tire instead of just same tire all year? I work shift work at a paper mill and have gone to work in 18 inches of snow as well as climbed the hill coming home after 11-7 b-4 roads scraped in same.


Hi Jeffery, nice looking Titan. There’s nothing wrong with having two sets of tires. There are many people in your region that practice this. That said, if you’re stepping up to something more aggressive, you really should consider an all-terrain, all-weather tire. Try running it year round – you may like it. Today’s all-terrain tires offer longer life and mileage, as well as versatility and decent fuel economy. One that comes to mind is the new Toyo Open Country A/T II. It’s rated for 50k miles. That means these tires would last you close to 10 years if you only average about 5k miles annually.

Honestly, try using the same all-terrain tire year round. If you like it, just roll with it.  If you don’t, go back to your “old” ways.  We won’t judge you = )

Thanks for your letter.



4x4 AnswerMan,

I just read your article regarding a new set of OME springs on an 80 series L.C. resulting in a 2.5-inch lift. I'm curious about the driveshaft, u-joints, pinion angles, and vibration on the road. Because the front flange of the transfer case points down about 1 degree and the pinion on the front axle points up about 7 degrees, they are not parallel and Toyota put the stock drive shaft together without use of phase u-joints.

This worked well because the angle of the driveline going from the transfer case to the front axle was only about 3 degrees down and the u-joints each ended up operating at close to a 90 degree angle. But with the lift, your drive line angle probably increased to around 9 degrees resulting in a smaller angle for the u-joint connected to the transfer case and a bigger (possible oversquare) angle for the u-joint connected to the front axle not to mention that the pinion flange angle and transfer case flange angle remained non-parallel. So did you have to do anything special to solve this like put the u-joints in phase, go to a double cardan drive shaft, ??? -- or, did you leave all this "as is" without experiencing any noticeable vibrations?
Mike Merrick

Hi Mike,

I’ve been running this same setup on my 80 Series Toyota Land Cruiser for over 20k miles. The Old Man Emu caster correction bushings did help, both wheel caster and pinion angle on front axle. Haven’t had any issues whatsoever with the OME 851 front coils.

A year ago I had to upgrade to OME 850 Heavy springs because I added a SLEE Off-Road steel bumper and Superwinch recovery winch up front (more weight).  The 850s are 20mm taller than the 851s, and it seems like I actually gained some height, putting the suspension over 2.5 inches of lift.  I’ve put on about 8k miles in the last year and still haven’t had any issues with vibration up front.

From what I’ve gathered, once you hit the 3-4 inch suspension lift mark is when the front driveshaft may start vibrating. This can be solved by using a double-cardan driveline, like you suggested.

Slee Off-Road put together this handy infographic that shows the affect of suspension lift on caster angle (which also affect pinion angle). Hope it helps.

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
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July 2013

June 2013

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