The Key to Bigger Tires
Q I’m looking for a cheap way to beef up my ’97 F-150 4x4. I want to run 33-inch Mud Countrys but am not sure what to do. What would you recommend to beef it up? It’s currently all stock.
New Haven, CT
A Look into a set of leveling torsion bar keys. A torsion bar key rotates your torsion bars slightly, effectively forcing your A-arms down and raising the truck. Many suspension companies such as Pro Comp (www.procompusa.com), and Revtek (www.revtek.com) offer these and claim a 32- to 33-inch tire will clear. Slight trimming may be required.
Q I have a ’96 Ford Ranger that needs a new transfer case, and I want to swap in a solid axle in the near future but don’t know where to begin. I have been following the “Ranger Rehash” [Mar. ’12 and ongoing] and would like to know what the transfer case is.
A Ali Mansour’s Danger Ranger is running an Atlas transfer case with a 5:1 low range. The stock Borg Warner case was swapped out for the additional low-range gearing of the Atlas early in the build. The original build is available for viewing online at 4wheeloffroad.com.
2 to Go
Q I am 17 and I have an ’01 Chevy ½-ton pickup. I love to wheel and it’s a great truck, but there is a problem. It’s only two-wheel drive. I still do take it off-road, but I can only do mild trails. I know I will never be able to do hard wheeling, but I would like it to be more capable. I have already lifted the truck 2 inches and put slightly larger and better tires on it, but with an open diff I lose traction too easily. Also, having the 4.3L V-6, power is lacking. It seems that a locker and replacing my 3.08 gears with lower gears would be the best option. What would be my best gear ratio and locker? I’m on a tight budget, but I have a job and could afford it with some saving. Also it is a daily driver so I would need the gears to also offer decent mileage.
Vernon Center, NY
A Your truck isn’t a terrible project truck. Yes, it could be better, but as you’re learning this takes time and money. You should seriously consider whether spending money on the 10-bolt is worth it. If you have any inclination to upgrading the truck down the road with parts like a transfer case and solid front axle, then you may want to look into a corporate 14-bolt, and if possible one from a military truck with 4.56 gears and a Detroit Locker already installed. This is, however, opening a can of worms, as you’ll need eight-lug wheels, probably a new driveshaft, and to move the spring perches and buy new U-bolts. For your 10-bolt a set or 4.10 or 4.56 gears and an Eaton posi or Truetrac (www.detroitlocker.com) or Yukon Dura Grip (www.yukongear.com) differential will get you headed down the trail pretty quick, but realize that the parts alone will run you almost $900 and then there is proper install.
There is the possibility that your rear axle is a semifloating 14-bolt, but these are rarer, and although they are stronger they are still not an excellent axle to invest in if you plan on big tires down the road. Unfortunately I have to say it: If you want to go that route, you may be better starting with a 4x4, but if simple dirt roads and easy mud holes are your playground for now, get the gears and posi and go have fun.
Tall, Skinny & Strong
Q I have ’99 Powerstroke and I think I’ve outgrown the flotation mindset in tires. I’d like to find a 36-inch-tall tire in a 91⁄2 to 101⁄2-inch width. Along with a load rating to support the weight of the truck as well towing 7,500-plus pounds. Any suggestions?
A The closest I can find are Interco Tire Q78 Super Swampers (www.intercotire.com), which measure about 351⁄2x91⁄2 inches on a 16-inch rim, but these are only rated at 2,750 pounds, or Load Range C. There are some special Michelin military tires in a 9.00 R16 that measure around 36 inches tall and have a 3,750-pound rating per tire, which would be about perfect. Unfortunately these are nearly impossible to get new and just as hard to find used. If any readers out there know of a good tall skinny mud tire around 36 inches with 91⁄2 to 101⁄2 widths, please email us with the subject “tall skinny & strong” and we’ll pass the info on.