4x4 AnswerMan: Off-Road Truck & SUV Questions Answered

Apr. 21, 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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How are you doing? I am looking for a system for my SUV (2015 Dodge Durango all-wheel drive) to lift it about 3-4 inches and wanted to know if you can help me.
Brandenn Barnes

Hi Brandenn,

It seems like there isnít anything developed in that lift range for the 2015 Dodge Durango at the moment. One thing you might do is keep on the look out for suspension kits being developed for the 2015 Jeep Grand Cherokee. Both these vehicles share the same platform.

We recently spotted a Jeep Grand Cherokee that incorporated a three-inch air suspension lift. Mind you, this was a Mopar concept vehicle. The point is, it can be done.

You can read more about it at Grand Cherokee Overlander Concept Explores Future Design Ideas


4x4 AnswerMan,

I would like to know what is in the end of the axle housing the axle goes thru that keeps the axle centered in the housing and keeps dirt from getting up in it on a 1978 2x4 wheel drive 3/4 ton Chevy Custom Deluxe (Drivers side)? Is it a bushing, bearing or what? Can you replace it without pulling the hub, brake assembly, etc.?

Thanks for your time!
M Bryant  

Hi M Bryant,

Your truck should be equipped with a GM 14 Bolt rear differential from the factory. The pieces you are describing are the inner / outer bearings and races. Technically, the hub keeps everything centered. The axle seal helps keep dirt and other elements outside the housing.

The diagram below gives you a better idea of where things go.  #13, and #19 are wheel bearings.  #18 is the axle seal.

You will need to remove the rear wheel hub assembly to swap out the bearings and seal on each side.



I have a Ď97 z71 short-bed regular-cab with six-inch lift and 37s. Does the drive shaft need to be lengthened because it came out of Trans about 2 inches?

Craig Cooper

Hi Craig,

With a 6-inch lift, you typically should be okay with the factory front and rear drive shafts. If the rear was lifted using blocks, they should have an angle to ensure the correct pinion angle. If you used custom leaf packs, then there is a chance the angles might be bordering the safety zone. Vibration coming from the driveline would also be a good indicator the angles arenít happy.

Take it to a driveline / drive shaft shop.  They should be able to tell you if they think the length and angles are good or need to be modified.  If you end up lengthening your driveline, this would also be a good time to have it balanced and add new u-joints.

If you want to measure yourself, you can check out our friend Tom Woodís website. They can also help answer any question and even build you a new drive shaft. http://www.4xshaft.com/


4x4 AnswerMan,
 I guess you are not aware that you were working on a diff complete with a drain plug as indicated by how you drained the fluid. The drain plug located at the lowest portion is magnetic and tends to collect a fair amount of solid/metallic debris.

Letter sparked by Project Dodge Ram Mega Cab: AAM 11.5 Differential Performance

Hey Kyle, 
Thanks for bringing back this high oil capacity aluminum differential cover story.  Weíve had it on the truck for a few years now and it still looks good and works great.

To clarify, the factory steel differential cover on our AAM 11.5 axle housing did not have a drain plug, only a fill plug (that was magnetic). This was one of the benefits to switching over to the Oasis differential cover. The lower plug on the Oasis does make it easier to drain the fluid. Having the extra oil capacity and aluminum construction helps keep the differential cooler, especially when towing or hauling a load.  You can read all about it in the story referenced above.



4x4 AnswerMan,

I have the 1986 manual 4WD Datsun 720. I bought it for towing behind the motor but after reading the owners manual (yes I did have to surrender my man card for that) I found the factory advises against it. What is the cheapest easiest mod to make it flat towable?

Hi Tigger,

You have two options for flat towing the Datsun / Nissan 720 pickup behind your RV. One would be using a Tow Dolly and disconnecting the rear drive shaft (the axle with wheels on the ground). The other option would be to disconnect both front and rear drive shafts so you can tow the vehicle with all four wheels on the ground, also known as Dingy Towing.

Dingy Towing would be the cheapest option, but it will require you get a little dirty under the truck and un/fastening 8 bolts on the drive shaft. You might get away with just removing one side and tying it out of the way (to the frame).  Just make sure you remove the drive shaft from the axle side (not the transmission/transfer case side) so it doesnít spin while in tow.

Happy Trails!


4x4 AnswerMan,

I just called Advanced Adapters and they told me they do not have any adapter kits whatsoever for Nissan/Datsun. I really want to put the 4.3 in mine any ideas?
Brendan Kay


Hi Brendan,

If AA canít help, then you will need to make your own adaptation.  If you really want the fuel-injected GM V6 power under the hood of your Nissan 720 pickup, you could shoehorn the 4.3 Vortec in there. It will require some modification, at the very least motor mounts and exhaust to clear the frame rails. You may also need to cut into the firewall and transmission hump in the cab. The ideal thing would be to get the entire drivetrain from the donor vehicle so you could run the matching transmission and transfer case. Make sure you also get the wiring and ECM. If you want to clean up the wiring, a kit from Painless Performance would be awesome.

Good luck.




I would like to put some 35-inch BFG TA's. Has anyone done any existing suspension tuning that would accommodate this as well as a preferred additional inch or 2 up front?


Hey Rog,

The largest tire you can run with stock suspension is 33-inch. Lifting the front 2.4 inches will level the truck.

To run a 35-inch tire, you really need at least 3-inches up front (with optional 1-inch in rear).  You can go with a simple suspension lift, like the SST from Ready Lift for added height. If you want more performance, a complete coilover and upper control arm conversion is the way to go.  Both of these methods require a little body/fender trimming in the front.  Not a bad trade for keeping the truckís center of gravity low while running big 35-inch tires.

You can read more about Toyota Tundra Suspension Lifts in Trail-Ready Tundra: Upgrades from Fox, Total Chaos & BFGoodrich


Hello Off-Road.com,

I'm writing to you for a friend (Lany) who is looking for a part. Lany had an '01 Nissan Frontier, Crew-cab, 4-wheel drive, short bed truck. It had a cracked frame so he gutted the truck (motor, trans, rear-end, front-end...) and put those parts into an '02 Nissan Frontier, Crew-cab, regular-bed, 2-wheel drive (that he also gutted). He plans to drive the '02 (having converted it to a 4-wheel) but is having trouble finding the right driveshaft (the 4-wheel drive has a one-piece, the 2-wheel drive has a two-piece, splines on the 2-wheel are too small for the 4-wheel drive trans and connections don't match.) He thinks the part exists because there are 4-wheel drive regular bed Nissans out there. A part number or link would be greatly appreciated!

We live in Maui, Hawaii.


Hi Karyn,

Sounds like Lany is almost ready to drive his Nissan Frontier.  Since you already have many of the parts from the donor, the easiest thing would be to simply have the 4WD Crew Cab drive shaft shortened to the correct length. There should be a drive shaft shop there in Maui.

If you canít find anyone local, you can try Power Train Industries of Hawaii in Waipahu. Hereís a link to their website http://www.pssupply.com/pti/.

If that doesnít work out, you could also source a re-manufactured drive shaft from your local auto parts store. You can also try the recycle route, as thereís a chance you might find a factory driveshaft from a single-cab 4WD Nissan Frontier at a wrecking yard or eBay. The Xterra drive shaft is interchangeable with Frontier, so broaden your search.

We found some take-offs as low as $60 bucks on eBay.

Good luck!



WOW what a great rig. What is the price estimate for a similar setup?
Team Player

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


Hi Team Player,

The Land Cruiser owned by Daryl Bragg, built by Slee Off-Road was quite impressive. It was recently up for sale and the asking price was $29,785.  

You can learn more about the vehicle at http://www.sleeoffroad.com/for_sale/darryl_bragg/darryl_bragg.htm



4x4 AnswerMan,

Will 10w-30 motor oil work for the t-case?
 Levi C

Hi Levi,

10w-30 motor oil will work, but the NP203 calls for 10w-40 motor oil. As stated in the article referenced below, many people severely hurt their 203s by using either gear oil (90w) or transmission fluid (18w) in their cases or wrong weight motor oil.  The gear oil is way too thick for the 203 and will not lubricate the links in the chain. Transmission fluid is too thin, and will not properly lubricate the ball bearings used in the input and output shafts. 

You can learn more about the NP203 in New Process 203 Transfer Case Tech




What's a good option for a hotter ignition system for an 83 Nissan pickup Z24?

Mr. E,

The MSD Blaster 2 Ignition Coil upgrade seems to be pretty popular with the Nissan Z24 crowd. The MSD Blaster coils put out 45,000 V, which is 15,000 more than stock. They also have an oil-filled metal canister and will fit stock mounting brackets.

If you want to increase spark further, you can get hotter spark plugs. NGK has a pretty good selection: http://ngksparkplugs.com/.

A new set of spark plug wires and rotor cap will also do wonders, especially if yours are really old.

Have fun, Tuner E!

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
March 2015

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January 2015

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