4x4 Answerman: Off-Road Truck and SUV Tips

May. 11, 2016 By Jaime Hernandez
Vintage 4x4s like this ‘60s Chevy were made for adventure, work and play. Can you name this model?

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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Off-Road.com’s 2016 Mid-Size Truck Shootout included the peppy Toyota Tacoma, GMC Canyon, and Nissan Frontier. It was a pretty intense run, with all three pickups stacking their best features and options against each other. If you missed it, here it is:

2016 Mid-Size Truck Shootout – Toyota Tacoma, GMC Canyon, Nissan Frontier

Off-Road.com reader Thomas comments, "Nice review, very positive throughout. I don't care which truck wins with the great breakdown you guys did. Makes choosing a truck very wide open to a buyer’s wants or needs.”

Rich says, "I have the 2016 PRO4X and it is great except for the fuel mileage, it's terrible. 17.1 highway is all she can do.

Charles Weston chimed in by saying, "Don't care for the minuscule bed on the Frontier Pro-4X."

What do you think? We want to know. Please comment below.


Hi my name is Josh and I have a 1997 Nissan d21, 4WD, 2.4L, 5-speed. I'm wanting to build a trail truck, I have done a lot of searching and I'm starting to see that not much is made for these trucks when it comes to high-end suspension lifts from companies I know. So I'm asking for advice on what works best with these trucks to build a real trail rig, I'm willing to spend the money for the right products if that matters.

Thank you for your time
Joshua Goff

Hi Josh,

Thanks for writing. Nissan pickups can be a little harder to find off-road suspension and aftermarket parts for, at least here in North America. But don’t fret because there is hope for your Nissan pickup—you just have to look a little harder and get creative. Depending upon the type of off-roading you plan to do (rock crawling, overlanding, high-speed desert riding, etc.), there are a few Nissan pickup suspension manufacturers to consider. 

has a pretty good handle on the Nissan 4x4 suspension lift market. ARB’s Old Man Emu also has a decent selection for these Nissan Hardbodies. There’s also the custom fabrication route. You can have the truck built to go fast on dirt, or crawl hard with a front straight axle swap. There’s tons of tech here on Off-Road.com. Just do a search for keyword “Nissan Hardbody” for more ideas.

Good luck!



Letter sparked by 2017 Toyota Tacoma TRD Pro Unveiled at Chicago

Hey Off-Road.com,

How about a look at the 4Runner? I'm really glad Toyota is keeping it in the lineup.#

Gray Man

Hi Gray,

According to our sources, the 4Runner will be unchanged for 2017, same for the Tundra. As soon as we know more, we’ll have a complete review for the 2017 Toyota 4Runner. If you haven’t already, make sure to “Like” us on Social Media for the latest developments.





Hi there I have a 95 4.2 diesel patrol wagon that's all of a sudden got an uncontrollable wheel shake in the front end. Both worn tie rod ends have been replaced and everything else under the front looks fine.  Any ideas?

Bruce the goose.

Hi Bruce,

You’re on the right track. The wobble is steering, suspension or axle related. Since you just replaced the worn tie-rod ends, it would also be smart to check the steering knuckles, ball joints, and wheel bearings.

You can check these parts by lifting the front wheels off the ground and then grabbing the tire/wheel at 6 and 12 o’clock. Try to move the wheel up and down, moving it inboard and outboard. If you notice a lot of wheel play, a worn ball joint may be the culprit. Usually you can get a visual on this without taking anything apart. Excessive wheel play will cause the shimmies.

After the axle and steering play has been fixed, a front wheel alignment is highly recommended.



Off-Road.com delivered news earlier this year on yet another exciting off-road capable pickup truck—the 2017 RAM Power Wagon. If you missed it, do yourself a favor and check out the video below.

2017 Power Wagon Unveiled at Chicago Auto Show

As the popularity of pickup trucks continues to grow with more drivers using them for work, play and kid haulers—so have the expectations from consumers. The latest gizmos and features found on luxo SUVs and cars are also finding their way into pickup truck cabs. Prices on these well-equipped trucks have also started to climb, well exceeding the price of any bare bones fleet truck from yesteryears.

Kevin Smith commented on our YouTube tube regarding the 2017 Power Wagon.  “My guess, starting at $40k-$50k range. Power Wagon was always meant to be a consumer entry vehicle, and prices on pickups have been inflating sharply this past decade. The Ram 2500 Off-Road package is also a good alternative for the Power Wagon since it can be optioned with the Cummins.”

Pricing has not yet been released, but the base cost for the 2016 model was just over $50,000. One thing is for sure, this off-road-worthy truck will be making headlines when it lands, and Off-Road.com will be ready to bring you the latest on how the 2017 Power Wagon drives along with the rest of the Ram truck lineup.



Hey Off-Road.com,

I just got a Ford Super Duty and it came with a Superchips power programmer.  Wanted to know if I should still use the Tow/Haul button on the shift column, even when running the Towing program setting on the Superchips?  Hauling a gooseneck with toys.

Fort Worth, TX

Hi Roger,

Thanks for the question. According to Superchips, you can use the tow-haul button as normal using any of the tuner settings. It doesn’t affect Superchips tuning while driving under heavy load.

Keep on trucking.



Truck fans are ready for the Ford F-150 diesel pickup coming to North America.  Off-Road.com confirmed Ford is testing the option earlier this year. Check out the video for closer look.

Ford F-150 Diesel Truck Confirmed in Video

Here’s what some truck buffs are saying about the diesel powered Ford F-150:

xXBurntBaconXx says, “Sounds like a small capacity diesel. Could it be the 5-cyl model from the transit/South America?#”

Fernando Diaz adds, “I own an Eco-diesel and I'm happy with it, but this is pretty cool. Can’t wait to see the numbers on it.#”

And gearhead simjet22 lays it all out with “Yessssssssssss diesel goodness#”

So are you ready for another 1/2-ton diesel-powered pickup? We want to know.



4x4 AnswerMan,

My Tahoe does this weird thing. Sometimes when I’m driving at night, the headlights dim and so does the dashboard.  It usually only happens when I’m driving slow. I don’t have any Check Engine lights on. Any idea what it might be?

Much Love,

What’s up Ernie,

There are a few things you might want to check on: Battery, Alternator, Volt Regulator and Ground.  If any of these are not working correctly, you will notice a voltage drop—which is why your lights are dimming.  You can run a test and check most of these items with a visual inspection, volt meter, or bench test.  If your battery is older than 4-6 years, it might be a good time to change it, especially if it won’t hold charge. 

The alternator produces power for both your electrical system and battery charge. At low RPM, it’s possible for the lights to dim, especially if it’s not producing enough power. The alternator can be removed and bench tested at most auto parts stores to see if it’s producing juice. They’ll let you know if it’s bad and needs to be replaced. Typically, if the diodes go bad, there will be no power produced.

Once these items are sorted out, the dimming lights should be fixed.



4X4 AnswerMan,

I have a 2011 Chevy Silverado 1500 LT, 5.3L V8 – 4X4. I was at the beach recently and got into some soft sand while in 4 wheel drive. I got stuck. I noticed that the front drive has a slip differential. I (wrongly) assumed the front wheel drive was PTO.
Question: Does this model in fact have a slip differential in the front?  Or, did I break a gear? If it is a slip differential – is there a kit to change it to a PTO in the front?  (For better traction)?  Does any 4X4 come with standard PTO drive in front (when engaged)?
I’m new to 4X4’s, I bought a 4X4 because I got tired of getting stuck in the sand with my 2 wheel drive truck.  LOL, I just can’t believe it happened with a 4X4.  Still trying to live it down – my friends still have to pull me out, again!!
I appreciate any help and your time.

Hi Chapa,

Welcome to the 4x4 family. Your Chevy is equipped with an IFS GM 8.25 front differential manufactured by AAM. Stock gearing is 3.73, and no limited slip or locker option was available from the factory. Unfortunately, there aren’t many options from the aftermarket either.

As for the term “PTO” you’re using, I believe you’re making reference to the Possitraction (a limited slip differential made by GM). A PTO is something completely different (power take-off). Many early 4WD vehicles had a PTO that would power the winch, or in some cases like the early Jeep CJs, farm implements and other power tools like saws. Your truck did not come equipped with a PTO from the factory.

Getting back to your 4WD problem, the fact that you got stuck and the front wheels didn’t spin tells me the 4WD isn’t working correctly. Two things come to mind: loose wire connectors or bad actuator.

Check the 4WD signal wire and plugs at the front axle and transfer case.  Sometimes they get loose and need to be plugged back in.

If it’s not a bad wire connection, it may be your 4WD Front Axle Shift Actuator (part #3 above). It’s not uncommon for them to fail, even with little to no use. Without it, your vehicle may say it’s in 4WD, but the front axle will not be activated. There will be no power to the front wheels, as the front differential is not shifted into accepting power from the transfer case.  It’s very common for the 4WD Front Axle Shift Actuator to go bad. A new one will set you back about around $50.

You’ll have more fun and better luck in the sand once the four-wheel drive is working properly. Another tip: when off-roading in sand or loose terrain, you can gain additional traction by airing tires down to 15-18 psi. Just make sure to pump them back up before you drive on the highway to avoid damaging them.



April was National Car Care Month. Just in case you missed washing and detailing your ride, here’s a great article written by our resident trucklet expert Justin Fort, with helpful tips on caring for your dirty rig.

Detailing Tips for Off-Road Vehicles 

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.

March 2016
January 2016 

December 2015

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