4x4 Answerman: Your Off-Road Truck and SUV Questions Answered [July]

Jul. 13, 2010 By Jaime Hernandez
Have a truck or SUV question for the 4x4 Answerman? Send your questions to editor@off-road.com. Please include your name and location, and be as detailed as possible about your questions.

2009 Ford F-450 Fire Skid Truck built by Firematic

4x4 AnswerMan,

My name is Brian Fowler, I am an Assistan Chief with the New London Missouri Volunteer Fire Department.

We have a 2008 Ford F-550 extended cab 4x4 with dual rear wheels.
The truck carries a fire skid unit with 300 gallons of water on an aluminum bed.
We have had several issues getting stuck in a little mud off road.

Would super single rear wheels help with this problem?
If so, what would be a good setup?

Thank You.

Hi Brian,

What a cool truck to drive around and put out fires with. The mud situation would get better if you ran a more aggressive mud tire. The commercial grade tires most of these trucks are quipped with are great for on-road, but do little off-road, especially in the mud.

As far as making them super singles, it would work if you run an aggressive mud tire with it.
Take a look at this truck the folks at Firematic built using 19.5 super single wheels and IROC mud tires form Interco.

If you like what you see, contact them for more info at http://www.firematic.com/


4x4 AnswerMan,

I did as instructed to raise the drivers side to the same height as the passenger side.  It worked ok but the drivers side wheel ended up 3/4" leaning in at the top. I think this is called positive camber. Any ideas why this would happen?

Question from Torsion Bar Adjustment [http://www.off-road.com/trucks4x4/article/articleDetail.jsp?id=398514]

Kind regards Geoff

Springfield, OR

Hi Geoff,

You will always have to follow up with an alignment after doing a suspension lift.  It sounds like after you turned up the torsion bars, the upper and lower a-arm on one side had some give—hence the different camber on each side.

I have learned that many times it’s just better to take in your vehicle to a professional to do the final alignment after you are done with your suspension lift.

They have the proper equipment and expertise to set the camber, caster and toe.

Your tires will thank you for it.


4x4 AnswerMan,

I have a Nissan Terrano 1 with Z24i. For the three years of use I changed head gasket twice!

Please, tell me if there is any solution for that problem.

Veliko Tarnovo

Hi Newage,

Sounds like you’re running a hot motor with so many blown head gaskets. You should check some key components in your cooling system--like your radiator, thermostat and radiator fan. If any of these items aren’t working correctly, you will continue to overheat and blow head gaskets.  You also run the risk of warping your head or ruining your engine.

If your rig’s cooling components are all in working order, then you might need to do some upgrades, like adding an electric radiator fan and an aluminum radiator. When you are crawling slow in 4wd, the added stress and slow air movement will produce excessive engine heat. You need some added cooling help.
Check out this article by Justin Fort for to get some ideas on adding an auxiliary radiator fan.

How-To: Installing an Electric Fan in Your Off-Road Vehicle






You can also learn about the benefits of aluminum radiators for off-road use here:

Aluminum Radiator – Keeping Your Engine Temperature Cool




4x4 AnswerMan,

I have recently bought a Toyota Raider truck (Not 4x4 but standard factory raised body) and have no history on the vehicle. Problem is when you drive the vehicle road holding is very bad, front suspension feels awkward, mmm something like worn shocks should I say the vehicle "floats." All four shocks have been replaced, problem still there. Can someone please help?

Durban, South Africa

Hi Rudi,

Toyota Raider huh…you sure it’s not a Mitsubishi Raider? So who’s really floating—you or the truck? Sounds like an interesting trip.

In any case, since all 4 shocks have already been replaced, the next items to check are your steering components. Check your rack and pinion, rod ends and steering linkage for damage.  There shouldn’t be any major play or leaks. If you notice any excessive wear on any of these, switching them out completely should tighten up your suspension and handling.

If the suspension still feels too soft, you might consider re-valving the shocks if they are re-buildable.  A heavier valving can be put in place to take some of the float feeling out of your travel. You can also try a springs with a higher spring rate to firm up the ride.

Send us some pictures of the floating Raider.


4x4 AnswerMan,

I have a 1998 4Runner, 6 cyl, 4x4, automatic, with an axle code of A03A. The VIN starts with JT.  According to your table my VIN should start with 4T.  What do you think?

Question from Toyota Differential Identification [http://www.off-road.com/trucks4x4/article/articleDetail.jsp?id=274535]

Wadworth, OH

Hi Kettenn,

The VIN# that start with “4T” are for North American Toyota vehicles.  If your VIN# starts with a JT, then it was made in Japan.

Hope that helps clear things up.


4x4 AnswerMan,
I work for the US Border Patrol. Part of our area is the Imperial Sand Dunes east of El Centro, CA. Last year I got my boss to authorize a lift and tires for my Chevy 1500 short bed in order to better traverse the dunes. I was able to do it with the stock version, but I would get high centered from time to time.
When I got the truck back, I saw that they put Goodyear Mud-Terrains on it. I asked the mechanic why they did this, and he said that was what the local off-road shop recommended saying they were the best tire for the sand. I totally disagreed and let him know in a polite way. I had initially requested an all-terrain tire.
I explained that my belief was that the mud-terrains dig too much and tend to get stuck easier. I told him I needed an all-terrain that would give me more flotation. It has been my experience after spending many years here in the Imperial Valley that you want to stay on top of the sand.
What is the consensus, if there is one, of the off-road community?

Hello Richard,

In general, yes an all-terrain tire will work better in the sand.  Most mud tires have an aggressive thread design that does tend to dig into the sand if not aired down.

I know the name “Mud Terrain” in any tire would lead one to believe that it is a mud only tire. However, the new Goodyear MTR is a very good off-road tire for mud, sand and harsh off-road terrain because of its Kevlar construction and improved thread design. 

My suggestion is that you run the Goodyear MTR at 10-15psi and see how she does.  You might be surprised how well it does in the sand. The pattern is more forgiving than the old MTRs.
If you are more concerned with flotation on the sand, and the vehicle will be driven on paved roads regularly, then a wide All-Terrain style tire might be a better choice. 
I’m sure you have a few vehicles in your fleet with different tires. See what works best for your area and get back to us.


4x4 AnswerMan,
I bought a truck with the Donahoe Suspension.  I have blown a front shock.  How do I go bout fixing it--can I rebuild it?

New Castle, CO

Hi Bobiker,

Donahoe Racing is now ICON Vehicle Dynamics. Try giving ICON a call to find out what they can do for you. The shocks should be re-buildable, but only ICON would have the parts to do it.
ICON Vehicle Dynamics [http://www.iconvehicledynamics.com]


Questions sparked by Toyota 4Runner, Third Generation: Trail Suspension, Part 3

4x4 AnswerMan,
How does it ride I’ve heard about adding a adjustable panhard bar. I don’t know if it’s needed though?
I’m doing a 3.5 suspension lift with Tacoma adjustable Fabtech Dirtlogic coilovers and OME coils with 5125 Bilstiens in the rear as well as a 2" body lift

Citrus Heights, CA

Hi 96Runner,

I can tell you first hand that Justin Fort’s 4Runner rides really good both on and off-road. The TRD Tundra struts in front and Bilstein with Land Cruiser FJZ80 rear sprigs work good.

The nice thing about the Fabtech Dirt Logic coilovers is that they are re-buildable and height adjustable. This helps when setting up your vehicle ride height. All you need is a spanner wrench. You can also regulate the psi of nitrogen for ride.

As for an adjustable panhard bar, it’s not really necessary, unless you plan on going bigger than 6-inches or having some major wheel travel.

Send us some pics when you get done.


4x4 AnswerMan,
I bought a 1994 4-Runner with a rebuilt tranny. I drove it home about 220 miles north of los angles where I bought it and the tranny went out on me!

It was under warranty thankfully. It had only 3000 miles on the rebuild. So after getting it back to the shop who rebuilt it, almost 2 weeks later the guy tells me that the tires and rims are too heavy for the truck and they are going to cause more problems down the road.

They are mudders 31x10.5x15.  I have seen way bigger on 4Runners. I’m claiming bulls*#!* on this guy. Have any advice?

Thank u, a proud owner of many Toyota 4x4s :)

Morrow Bay, CA

Hi C.P.,

You didn’t say whether it’s an automatic or manual transmission. In either case, the 31 inch tires aren’t that radical in size to be burning clutch disk or breaking gears—unless you’re heavy on the foot. Are you?
Just so you know, the 4Runner Limited comes with P265/70/R17 from the factory. That’s pretty much a 31-inch tire. No problems there. Let your mechanic know. 

Also, your 4Runner is more than likely equipped with 4.10 gears from the factory … more than enough to spin those 31s and not kill your trans.

Good luck, and take it easy during the break-in on your next re-build. 


Letter sparked by The Death of Diesel Performance--As We Know It

4x4 AnswerMan,

What are the chances of a class action lawsuit against the State regarding this issue? I went to get one of my diesel trucks smoged today and it failed! The automotive shop said "it smokes a little too much but we are failing it because it doesn't have a cat installed". After further investigation, I found out that my 2003 2500HD didn't even come with a cat! The auto shop said that the dealership is wrong.....they know best!

Upon further questioning to the smog shop, they said that they also failed it due to excessive smoke. I bought my second diesel ('07 2500HD) because I was told by the dealership that this was the last year of a smog exempt diesel and that newer models would require smoging every 4 years. I am full of mis-information and now do not know who to believe! I personally feel that they should require newer vehicles to be smoged and not older models. I am personally willing to donate $$ towards a class action suit against the State, if it is even possible.

Another thing that really pisses me off is the fact that my '03 2500HD was purchased from out of state with all the mods already done to it. I have none of the stock parts to fall back on to nor would I probably have them if I was the one to make them.

So. Cal

Sorry to hear about your bad experience.  It really sucks what CA is doing to diesel owners. I too have had dealings with the CA DMV, mechanic shops and smog centers. Each one has a different story and cant seem to get their program straight.

If your Duramax came with no catalytic converter from the factory, then it shouldn’t need one to pass. Take it to another smog test center or someone that knows what they’re doing. Get proof from your dealer and GM on the emissions for that year, make, model. Take them with you to your next smog test.
Taking off any visible power programmers, stickers and performance parts is also recommended.  If any are visible they will send off red flags.

Another option is to contact the manufacturers of the performance parts already on your Duramax to find out if they will be able to support your equipment with C.A.R.B. numbers to help pass smog.

As for the class action lawsuit, it’s worth looking into. Talk to some attorneys to see what’s already in place, and what can be done. You can also search online to see if one has already started.

Good luck, and keep us posted on your findings.

Have a truck or SUV question for the 4x4 Answerman? Send your questions to editor@off-road.com. Please include your name and location, and be as detailed as possible about your questions.

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