Q I scored a great deal on an ’87 Suzuki Samurai and have been in the process of undoing the previous owner’s hack and booger work. It’s almost time for the “fun” stuff (tires, bumpers, lockers, winch). But before the bigger tires can go on, I know I need to change the gearing. I have talked with several “experts,” and some say to change the gearing in the transfer case. Others say to change the gearing in the differentials. Others say to change both. Where should I change the gearing?
A Adding lower gears is important for off-road performance because it helps the engine compensate for larger tires, and it helps motivate the vehicle over off-road obstacles with less strain. Putting lower gearing in the transfer case is a good idea because it offers a gearing reduction in low range when you want it, but it also compounds the torque applied to your driveshafts and driveshaft U-joints. Putting lower gearing in your axles is good because it protects the driveshafts, but it also means you cannot shift out of that lower range because those gears are always on, and it cost more to change axle gears than transfer case gears because you have to change two sets versus one.
The Suzuki Samurai has a unique benefit in that you can purchase transfer case gears that lower both the high- and low-range gearing. This is good because you’ll want some lower gearing in high range to make up for the bigger tires for street driving. Plus, depending on the size tires you spend money on, the Suzuki axles may be a waste of time (they are good to about a 33-inch-tall tire before components start snapping with severe use).
My vote for a Suzuki is to always do the transfer case gears first. This will get you lower for both street and trail and can compensate for quite a few jumps in tire size. Many companies offer transfer case gearsets. Examples of these are a 4.16:1 low range with a 12.2 percent high-range reduction, a 5.14:1 low range with an 18.3 percent high-range reduction, and a 6.5:1 low range with a 20.2 percent high-range reduction. A few of the companies: Trail Tough (877.789.8547, www.trailtough.com), Calmini (800.345.3305, www.puresuzuki.com), Rocky Road Outfitters (888.801.7271, www.rocky-road.com), Petroworks (800.952.8915, www.petroworks.com), Trail Gear (559.252.4950, www.trail-gear.com), and Low Range Off Road (801.805.6644, www.lowrangeoffroad.com).
What’s With That?
Q My friend Todd got his Jeep in your magazine, and even on the cover [“Powered-Wagon,” Mar ’12]! My Jeep is way cooler than his. How come you didn’t feature mine?
A We look for a lot of things in a feature truck. Is it unique and different? Is it a high-dollar shop-built vehicle or a low-buck garage project? Does it have cool parts, or is it a recipe for a buildup that works but which we’ve seen time and time again? There is a magazine issue for each of these. Take this month for example. We have a cover section about axles, and the truck on the cover has some very cool axles. It is an oddball one-off concept, but we think it’s cool enough that it will sell magazines. Next month we concentrate on our Cheap Truck Challenge, so we may choose a feature truck that’s also cheap, or we’ll flip it and feature a high-dollar 4x4 just to contrast against CTC.
Dark paint and a bunch of sponsor stickers are less appealing to the eye and photographer than bright paint without stickers, but that photo of your Jeep (above) does make it look cool nonetheless.
The most important thing is we are out there at events looking for trucks that actually work. The best way to get in the magazine is actually pretty simple: Paint it a bright color, send it in to our Readers’ Rides department (we peruse those submissions for feature trucks), and get out there wheeling. Don’t be afraid to invite us to your local trail rides and 4x4 events. We can’t attend every event, but we definitely can’t go if we don’t know about it! Maybe we’ll see you on the trail, Brian.
Old But Available
Q I have a ’58 Chevy Napco 4x4 truck, and I can’t find an input seal for the old Spicer 23 divorced transfer case. Any idea where I can find one?
A You can get the seal or completely rebuilt transfer cases from Lugo Parts & Restoration in Loomis, California (916.652.0840, www.lugoparts.com).
Confused? Email your questions about trucks, 4x4s, and off-roading tech using “Nuts, I’m confused” as the subject and include a picture (if it’s applicable). Digital photos must measure no less than 1600 x 1200 pixels (or two megapixels) and be saved as a TIFF, an EPS, or a maximum-quality JPEG file. Also, I’ll be checking the forums on our website (www.4wheeloffroad.com), and if I see a question that I think more of you might want to have answered, I’ll print that as well. Otherwise drop it old-school style with the envelope addressed to the address below. Letters published in this magazine reflect the opinions of the writers, and we reserve the right to edit letters for clarity, brevity, or other purposes. Write to: Nuts & Bolts, 4-Wheel & Off-Road, 831 S. Douglas St., El Segundo, CA 90245 fax to: 310.531.9368 Email to: email@example.com