4x4 AnswerMan: Transfer Case Repair, Measuring for New Shocks, 2016 Trucks and More

Feb. 02, 2015 By Jaime Hernandez
We’re really excited about new trucks coming out of the Detroit Auto Show, but we haven’t forgot about the old ones. There are plenty of broken down 4x4s that need TLC and we’re here to help. From grinding transfer cases to hard to find parts, the Off-Road.com crew gets to it.

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
December 2014

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Nissan recently unveiled their new diesel powered pickup at the Detroit Auto show--the 2016 Titan XD.  The fact that Titan will now have a Cummins diesel engine option is creating a lot of buzz in the light-duty truck world. Some like it, while others are highly critical. 

What do you think? We want to hear what you think about the diesel Titan.

Check out the full story and video at Closer Look at Cummins Diesel 2016 Nissan Titan XD



Hi Off-Road.com,

My name is Tyler Brewer and I'm from Union, WV. I have a 2002 Ram 1500 4-door and when I put my truck in 4wd (lo or hi) it's fine on flat ground, but as soon as it goes to go up a hill or anything it won't go. It sets there and makes a bad grinding noise. Runs and sounds fine in 2wd no idea what this is. I would greatly appreciate if you could help.

Hi Tyler,

Sounds like the problem is stemming from the transfer case. The grinding noise may be the gears trying to fully mesh while engaging 4-wheel drive. We had a similar problem on a Dodge Ram truck. We would go through the paces, then it would start making a grinding noise, ultimately throwing a “Service 4WD” light on the dash, then returning the truck back into 2WD.  It ended up being the transfer case shift motor. When they go bad, they won’t fully engage 4-Hi or 4-Lo.

It’s a replacement part that will only set you back a few hundred bucks.  If you’re mechanical, you can swap it yourself.

If you have a chance, run a scanner and see if you pull any 4WD error codes off the OBD-II.  If the shift motor is bad, it will usually send back a signal to the truck’s computer.

Good luck.



For many, diesel-powered trucks are the big thing. Why not? It makes sense if you tow, haul or need that extra torque. The added fuel economy doesn’t hurt either. We know Toyota makes global models with diesel engines. The big question is why can’t we get them in North America?

In a recent interview with Toyota Truck Chief Engineer Mike Sweers we got the details on why Toyota isn’t bringing a diesel to America at this point. It’s definitely getting a lot of comments from Off-Road.com readers. 
Would you buy a diesel-powered Toyota Tacoma, Tundra or 4Runner if it was available? We want to know.

Check out Diesel Tacoma? Toyota Chief Engineer Says Don’t Count on It


Hi 4x4 AnswerMan,

I got a ‘91 Land Cruiser that will not shift into gear and there is a grinding noise and when I put it in 4x4 with the center diff. on, it then will go into gear with no problem and drives. What is my problem? I have never had a problem like this. All suggestions are needed thanks.


Hi 4x4time,

Sorry to hear your Cruiser is giving you trouble. Based on your description (and the fact that we also own a LC), I would say the problem is in the transmission/transfer case.  It’s hard to say which one is causing the grinding noise. The best thing to do is to take them off the truck and take a closer look by opening them up for inspection. A trained mechanic will know exactly what to do. You can also give it a shot. Start by draining the oil. If you see metal pieces in there, BINGO--there’s internal damage (gears, clutches, etc.).

Get yourself a repair manual or find diagrams online to help you with the disassembly. If at all possible, stop driving it until you figure out what’s wrong. Ignoring it will only make the problem worse.

Good luck.



4x4 AnswerMan,

I have an ‘06 Chevy 2500 with a level ride kit. The front is raised to the max and the rear is at stock height. How do I measure for new shocks?


Letter sparked by Determining Shock Length

Hi Butch,

I would highly recommend you look into getting either Bilstein or Fox shocks for your truck. They have shocks that are specifically designed for leveling kits. You could measure and try to get something close, but the valving and length will probably not be right for your specific truck application. There is a science to it.

Cognito Motorsports (http://www.cognitomotorsports.com/) has tried and tested Bilstein shocks specifically developed for leveling kits on GM 2500 HD trucks. They are longer and tuned for your rig. It’s not just the length but also the internals that count.

Since we’re on the subject, if you are truly maxed out on the height, you might want to consider lowering it 1 inch or so. Not only will it ride better, but it will also let you experience the improved performance from a monotube shock. It will also be easier on your upper control arms and CV axle wear from the extreme angles.



As shown: 18-inch Black Rhino Wheels with 6-inch backspace mounted with 35x12.5 R18 Toyo Open Country tires.


I'm in the process of doing the exact same setup on my 2013 Tundra and was wondering what offset rims you ran? I wanted to run the stock rims just because I like the "super stock" look but if it’s not possible I have a couple other choices in mind I can settle with. Any input would be greatly appreciated.


Letter sparked by Trail-Ready Tundra Upgrades from Fox, Total Chaos, BFGoodrich

Hi Mike,

Thanks for writing us.  This is definitely the set-up to have for the Toyota Tundra that goes beyond pavement.  Our friend Casey from SoCal Super Trucks is very well versed in late model Toyotas and ways to make them work well both on and off-road.  Here’s what he had to say on the perfect wheel backspacing when running this Total Chaos/Fox suspension setup.

Hi Mike, we’re glad to help. We recommend a wheel with up to a 6” backspace for that setup. You’ll want to be sure to use the Total Chaos upper arms for the additional tire to upper arm clearance when turning. With stock arms, you’ll only be able to use a 5.75” max backspacing.

Let us know if you have any questions or need any additional info!
There you have it Mike. Make sure to check out SoCal Super Trucks at http://www.socalsupertrucks.com/.



Hi 4x4 AnswerMan,
Looking for spindle nut washers for 81 4wd 720.

Any ideas?

Letter sparked by The Nissan 720 4wd FAQ File

Hi Yvonne,

You’re in luck. Doorman makes reproduction spindle nut washers for the Datsun/Nissan 720 pickup truck. They’re available through PartsGeek.com
(Part# 615-073.1)




Hi Off-Road.com,
What was the air pressure on normal daily driving?
Sportsman's Pride Taxidermy

Letter sparked by TreadWright's Affordable Recycled Mud-Terrain Tire

Hi Sportsman,

Most Jeep JKs come set with 40 psi from the factory. In 2010, California auto repair shops have to set tire pressure to whatever the manufacturer designates on each specific vehicle (usually listed on the driver’s side door). It’s an Air Resources Board mandate that started in 2010. You can learn all about at http://www.arb.ca.gov/cc/tire-pressure/tire-pressure.htm.

What you do once you get it home or on the trail is your business. The Threadwright Guard Dog tire has a max psi of 65. Most JK owners find a sweet spot in the 30 to 38 range.  Adjust accordingly to your vehicle and use.

By the way, the Guard Dog tires are still wearing evenly and working well after 15K miles.  No failures or separation. We’re still impressed. 

A recycled off-road tire—who’d of thought?



Hi Off-Road.com,

I am looking forward to take part in a desert racing competition but it's been hard for me to decide the ultimate SUV for the race as the race is being taken place in Pakistan.  I thought to choose from defender 1989 90 series or defender 1988 110s or Toyota surf 1994 and CJ7. Along with the Toyota engine 1jz but I still need your help regarding this.  Is this the best option or you can recommend me something along with suspension, tires, rim, drive shaft.  Any help possible.



An Islamabad Jeep Club member puts his 4x4 through its paces in Pakistan (Photo Hanif Bhatti).

Hello Ashmal,

I’ve been reading that off-road clubs and racing has really taken off in Pakistan. The terrain that for many years was infested with war is now being enjoyed by off-road drivers.  I’m glad to hear this. From what I’ve gathered, there are a lot of rocky hills and exciting trails to explore. 

For those that don’t know what I’m talking about, check out this good story highlighting a shift in the country and the growth of off-road in Pakistan: Pakistan hopes off-road car race will prove Taliban threat is on wane.

Getting back to your question, Ashmal, all three vehicles you mentioned are great platforms.  I guess the big question is which model is popular in your country and will have repair parts and off-road components to support it locally. If you pick a really exotic vehicle, it’s probably going to be hard to get spare parts. They’ll also be expensive and probably a lot of work to import.

In all honesty, one of the best things to do is to talk to the off-road racers already doing it.  Find out what suspension, wheels, tires and drivetrain upgrades (such as drivelines) you should consider doing. They’ve already done it and will be able to help you determine what brands you can readily access in Pakistan.

As for suspension components, it seems like Fox and King Off-Road Shocks have a great network of dealers outside of the United States.  They support professional off-road race teams and privateers around the globe participating in rallies.  For other suspension components, there is a lot of aftermarket support for the Jeep CJ7 here in the United States.  If you go with a Land Rover, try looking for off-road suppliers in the U.K., Australia and Africa.  For the Toyota Surf, try finding a local off-road shop in Pakistan, you can also try Australia and Africa. 

Get back to me with a specific year/make/model and I can give you more help.

Good luck to you, and please come back with an update once you get your off-road rally build on the way.



Off-Road.com Editor-in-Chief Josh Burns has been very busy, searching for new truck models across North America. One of his latest finds at the Detroit Auto Show was the all-new 2016 Toyota Tacoma. The bold new design, upgraded frame, axles and drivetrain continue to elevate Toyota’s truck line. Added off-road capabilities also show Toyota’s commitment to the off-road enthusiast.

Off-Road.com reader Blake R says, “the Tacoma has always been great, this is probably my next dirtbike hauler.”

Dennis N says, “It’s a pickup truck. Ya haul sh#t in it. What’s the big deal?”

We think the new design, improvement to the frame and overall quality is a big deal. What do you think? Is this truck worthy of a spot in your stable? We want to know.

Read the full story 2016 Toyota Tacoma Detroit Auto Show Reveal

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
December 2014

November 2014

October 2014

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