Three Hubs, No Tire Chirp
Q I have heard of people using manual locking hubs on the rear axle in case they break something in the axle. That way they can still drive in front-wheel drive. I have been reading 4-Wheel & Off-Road for over 25 years and have never heard of my idea, but it sounds doable: Put in manual hubs and spool the diff or weld the spider gears, and leave one hub locked and one open for everyday driving. Then when you hit the trail, lock three hubs instead of two. Think it would work?
A Hmm, not a bad idea. Most folks I know run front and rear selectable hubs to allow easier flat towing. I wonder, though, if you wouldn’t have some funny steering depending on which hub you lock. Going around a turn, the inner wheel wants to turn slower than the outer. Could it be that the truck will require more or less throttle through a turn depending on which hub is locked? I have a spooled full-floater going in the rear axle in my flatfender project. I’ll try it and let you know what happens.
Q Unlike other 14-year-old kids, I am obsessed with off-roading. I dream of the day my magazine comes in the mail, and when it does I run into the house and read it for hours. But I have a problem. I don’t know what I want. Should I get a 4Runner, a Bronco, an Xterra, a Ranger, a Durango, a Grand Cherokee, or something else? Your magazine is my therapy, but I literally spend hours contemplating what I want. What should I do?
A As a 14-year-old trapped in a grownup’s body, I can tell you that four-wheeling is a great hobby. But first, some advice. Don’t worry so much about what your first vehicle is going to be. Rather, start saving up dollars and cents to afford that first ride. When I was your age I had a jar with a picture of a Jeep on it, and in that jar went my pennies and quarters. Then that jar went into the bank in the form of a savings account. Eventually that money turned into an old Jeep. I know some kids just ask Mom and Dad for a set of wheels, but I appreciated my first 4x4 a lot more by earning it.
As for which one to get, I can tell you all those 4x4s you listed can be great trail rigs. It really just depends on what type of wheeling you want to do and where you want to go. The smaller ones will definitely fit better in tight trails. The larger, more powerful ones make for fun desert rompers. Mud can be challenged in any of them, depending on the depth and texture of the slop you encounter. In the end, I’ve found there is no perfect 4x4 for every trail, but all 4x4s will allow you to get out there and enjoy many trails.
Another word of advice: If you’re on a budget and looking at a 4x4 to purchase and build, do research on what all is available for that truck before you buy it. I get numerous letters from readers with trucks that have little to no aftermarket support. For example, open-top Jeeps have a ton of parts available, while Durangos do not.
Thanks for reading, Brandon. Now get a job and a savings account, and when you’re first 4x4 is ready to wheel, let us know and maybe we’ll see you on the trail.
Adding or Blocking
Q I’m looking to lift my truck, a ’97 F-150 regular cab Flareside. I have found a lift that I want, but I can only find add-a-leaf for the rear or blocks, and I don’t want blocks. Should I just get the add-a-leaf and then purchase a shock for the rear. I want to use this truck for mud and some trails, but I’m lost.
A Either a block or an add-a-leaf is a fine way to lift your vehicle, but I agree that an add-a-leaf probably has better performance since it is less likely to add to axlewrap. Because the block pushes the axle away from the leaf spring pack, it allows more axle leverage on the pack. The add-a-leaf may require a new centerpin and longer U-bolts, but I agree it’s a better way to go.