4x4 Answerman: Powering Steering Fix, Off-Road Gears and More

Feb. 24, 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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I love my new Tundra TRD PRO! It has most of the handling characteristics that I need off road, while retaining a very nice on road ride. I live off of a 10 mile crappy dirt road, and so far this truck handles it better than my other stock regular Tundra did.
Rick E.

Letter sparked by - Review: 2015 Toyota Tundra TRD Pro

Hi Rick,

Glad to hear you love your TRD PRO Tundra. This really is a great truck. We were amazed how well it did at the Baja 1000. It took a beating on some of the nastiest terrain. It even won its race class, and still had enough in it to drive all the way back home to the U.S.A. Quite an impressive truck.



I have a 1997 Chevy v8 4x4 PU towing 26-foot boat and heavy dual axle trailer. Would it be less strain on my auto trans if I put lever in 4x4 low range?
Thanks for your advice.

Joe Flynn

Hi Joe,

Boating season is just around the corner, so we’re glad you asked. You don’t need 4x4 to launch or tow your boat out of the water, but it’s nice to have that extra traction and power from the front axle—especially if the ramp surface is slippery. If you have 4x4 on your vehicle, shifting the truck’s transfer case into 4-Lo will be easier on your drivetrain when pulling the boat out of the water. The lower gear will give you more towing power, require less pedal and also give you added traction. You don’t have one of those scary moments—like spinning wheels and sliding backwards on the ramp (we’ve seen it).

Since we’re on the subject, make sure to check your rear differential often for water. You may also want to extend your differential breather hose above the water line, especially if you’re having to back down a launch ramp that puts the top of the axle under water.

Have fun and be safe!



Dear AnswerMan,

My name is Ricky I live in NJ and I wanted to know when I lift my truck how much of a lift can I get till I have to change rear gears? Also what size tires can I get before I have to change gears?

Thank You,

Hi Ricky,

Thanks for your letter. I wish you would have told us the year, make and model of the truck you have—but we’ll give it a shot. In general, you don’ t need to change differential gearing when simply lifting the suspension. Although the body of the truck will be taller and there may be more resistance and drag, your factory gearing should be able to handle it—after all, it is a pickup truck. When you start looking at swapping out gears is when you start running larger diameter tires than the factory stock size. Most half-ton trucks can get away with up to 33-inch tires with stock gearing. You’ll probably notice a drop in fuel economy and power.  You can either bump up to 4:56 or 4:86 gear ratio to get some of that power back.  Most tire diameters over 35 inches should be getting lowing gearing installed. If not, the weak link is usually the transmission—especially if it’s an automatic. The life can be shortened, especially if you have a heavy foot. They’ll also be fuel pigs and have little go off the line.

Randy’s Ring & Pinion has a few gear ratio calculators that you can play around with to help determine what gear ratio works best for the type of driving and off-roading you do. Make sure to check out http://www.ringpinion.com/Calculators/Calc_RPM.aspx

Good luck.



4x4 AnswerMan,

The power steering on my Bronco squeals like a pig. I tried adding more fluid but that didn’t do squat. In fact, it just overflowed and spilled out of the reservoir. It smelled so bad I had to pull over and make sure I wasn’t on fire. Is the power steering toast crunch? Help!!!


Hi Jenson,

Glad to hear your truck didn’t catch fire. It sounds like the power steering is under load. If it only squeals at full steering wheel lock, then it maybe the belt to the power steering pump needs to be tightened. You can do that by adjusting the tension.

If it squeals all the time, you may be able to quiet it down by adding a power steering additive. We’ve had luck with the Lucas Oil product on one of our trucks.  It was squealing pretty much anytime we turned the wheels. We were afraid the pump was failing. We took out some of the power steering fluid and added the Lucas Oil Power Steering Stop Leak to it. The squealing stopped that same day.  It actually felt better after driving it with the Lucas Oil. The wheel got smooth and light again. We’ve been driving it for three years now and the same power steering pump is still working good.

Unless your power steering is shot (the steering wheel feels very heavy, especially when turning at slow speeds and the fluid smells burnt) I would try the Lucas fix. It will only set you back a few bucks.  Just make sure not to overfill the reservoir. You can get a little hand pump with a hose to get the old stuff out.

Now if you heard it squeal, ignored it and ran it until the reservoir was dry—there’s a good chance it’s done. You will need to rebuild it or get a new one.

More info on Lucas Oil Power Steering Stop Leak at http://www.lucasoil.com/.


Well the Rav 4 was built from a bucket of parts left over from the GT4 Celica and Alltrac wagon. What I love about Toyota is almost every part is interchangeable. You can swap in a 3sgte, splice the stock center diff locker with an st205 tranny to handle the power of the new motor and have locking c diff. I'd put lockers and throw the lsd away. If you can re-adjust the tranny gears to be lower, it would do it a lot of justice. Although it's a lot of work for a Rav4 and a lot of money. It would be one hell of a rig.

Rusty Shakleford 

Letter sparked by Rav4 Crawler Finding the Limits of the Trucklet

Well said, Rusty. We can tell you like getting in deep into the tech side of things. It’s amazing how some vehicles share parts and others can be converted with just a little modification—many times adding more performance.

Gearheads make the wheels go round—faster, harder, stronger. = )




Does the 2008 Dodge Ram 6.7L Cummins Diesel Exhaust filter need replacement? How do I do this myself?

Jane Wagne

Hello Jane,

The only time a Diesel Particulate Filter (DPF) needs replacement is if it is fully clogged or if it was removed/deleted at some point and now needs to be put back in to meet emissions regulations. Otherwise, the soot should be burning out on its own. If it starts to build up, you should get a check engine warning light on your dash.

If you already have that DPF check engine code, then you can either take it to the dealer and have it looked at, or you could try doing it yourself.

We were told by an ASE Certified Mechanic that many times simply removing the DPF and pressure washing it will do the trick. After reinstalling, just drive it. The DPF should clean completely after 100 miles or so.

Get yourself a repair manual to help with step-by-step replacement instructions for the DPF. Make sure to also check out our sister site with tons of diesel tech http://www.cumminsforum.com/.

Good luck.




I have a ‘77 GMC 1/2-ton Suburban with a 400sb and th350/np203. I have the milemarker shim kit for parttime 4x4. After 10k miles it no longer works, doesn't go into 4x4. It will shift but nothing gets to front wheels. I want to replace the shim kit with the shaft replacement kit but can't find one anywhere. is there a parttime transfercase that can be mated to a th350 or th400?or do you know where I can find the shaft kit?I do towing and a lot of off road 4x4 driving. I live in south central Nebraska (Guide Rock).  Look forward to any help you can give.


Hi Earnest,

That sucks! Only 10k miles on the crown kit, huh? Well, we’ve heard mixed reviews on this conversion. The one that seems to work best for heavy-duty applications is the complete shaft replacements (also made by Mile Marker). You can find a complete story on Off-Road.com from someone that had a similar experience to yours and how they fixed it. 

New Process 203 Transfer Case Tech

The other option would be to upgrade to an NP205.



I have a 1990 Daihatsu Rocky that I just bought, and wanted a nice set of trail tires....  What kind of tire would be good, and also where can I find a bullguard for the front?   


Greetings Adam,

That’s one cool little rig. Depending on the type of off-roading you do and how much you drive your Rocky on pavement should factor into the type of tire tread design you get. Typically, an all terrain tire will work best if you frequently drive on the road and also go off-road. They usually have better road manners and fuel economy than a heavier and more aggressive mud tire.

If you need maximum off-road traction, then the mud style tire with large lugs is the way to go. We have several tire reviews here on Off-Road.com.  Do a search for keywords “Tire Review.” You should get some good information.

As for the bull bar, I’m not sure what country you’re in right now, but I would start with the local 4x4 club, classifieds and off-road shop. There aren’t too many options, it seems, so you may even want to consider building a custom bull bar.

Good luck.



4x4 AnswerMan,

The headlights on my Ranger are so yellow, my friends say they look like piss. My uncle said I can use some car polish and buff them out like new. Is that true?


Hi Jarod,

Cloudy headlights are just something we have to deal with in newer trucks.  They’re made of plastic, not glass like the old days. When they’re new they look good, but give them a few months in the sun and they start to bake. Before you know it they look bad, loosing their crystal clear look. The worst thing is that once they get hazy, the amount of light coming through the lens is dramatically reduced.

The best thing to do is try one of the headlight restoration bottles or kits on the shelf at your local auto parts store. The process usually involves some sanding and polishing using a specially formulated headlight polish that helps get rid of the oxidation. You’re uncle is correct, with polishing and enough work and determination, they may even look as good as new by the time you’re done.

Check out the following article to get an idea of what’s involved.

Good luck.

Restoring Your Off-Road Vehicle's Cloudy Headlights




Glad I found this as the shift lever in my '94 4Runner V6 5sd went all wonky all of a sudden and this is what went wrong - the shift lever seat had totally disintegrated. One additional problem was that one of the two posts that hold the seat in place had sheared off. You wouldn't think that could happen but, oh well, go figure. So I had to replace the whole shifter flange, too. Anyways, as Ken mentioned above, I couldn't get a wrench on the two forward bolts of the shifter flange so thought I was going to have to lower the cross member and transmission to get at the bolts like Ken said. I did try to loosen the cross member bolts but they were frozen solid. So, being 68 yrs old, and not wanting to wrestle with that undertaking, I took a Dremel Tool and just cut two slits over each bolt, about an inch apart, to create a tab that I could just bend up with a pair of pliers and then get a socket on the bolts. It worked great! Just watch out for sparks...
Ed E.

Letter sparked by Shift Lever Seat Replacement

Wow Ed, sounds like quite the job. The good news is that now your Toyota is set for another 100k+ miles. If it happens to go bad again, you might want to check out the heavy-duty Derlin seats from Marlin Crawler.


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
January 2015

December 2014

November 2014

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