4x4 AnswerMan: Off-Road Tech and Maintenance Q&A

Dec. 27, 2016 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.

Previous 4x4 AnswerMan Columns
November 2016

September 2016

July 2016

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From concept to reality, American Expedition Vehicles (AEV) has brought the Prospector XL pickup to life with a number of well thought out modification for the RAM 4x4 2500 and 3500 truck.  This complete truck package not only looks good, it also adds off-road function to the RAM full-size truck.  The best part is you can either buy the parts from AEV to kit out your truck, or special order the complete Prospector XL truck from the RAM dealership. 

To celebrate AEVs 20th Anniversary in 2017, they’re rolling out a special edition Prospector XL RAM truck. You can check out the full story at AEV 20th Anniversary Edition Ram 2500 Prospector XL. 




I have a 2003 RAM 1500 with a Chrysler 8 inch independent suspension front diff. I have done hours of research trying to find a selectable locker for my front axle but couldn't find one. Do you know of any selectable locker that fits my front end? If you don't, what do you suggest I do since I still want to get a front selectable locker? P.S. I mainly go mudding, some trailing, and very little rock crawling.

OffRoad.com's avid viewer, Jesse Simpson.      

Hi Jesse,

I wished I had better news, but there’s nothing for the front Chyrler 8-inch IFS at this point.  Not much for the rear either.  If stock is simply not cutting it, a Detroit rear locker would be the best bet for your 8.5-inch.  It’s not selectable, but it will definitely give you more traction than the stock set-up or an Limited Slip Differential (LSD).

The Detroit Locker is a 100%-automatic locking differential that provides ultimate traction for mild to extreme vehicle applications.  Its unique, bullet-proof design is engineered to keep both wheels in drive mode - even is one wheel is lifted off the ground.  You can learn more at http://www.eaton.com.




Overlanding in the Pacific Northwest, (Washington in particular), is amazing as it offers such variety: steep mountain passes, vast, flat, dusty deserts, wildlife preserves, alpine glaciers, rushing rivers, vast ocean views...the list goes on. My buddy and I have focused on exploring the areas north and south of I-90 since is just a few hours drive from the Seattle area. Great trails in these areas: Gallagher Head Lake and Fortune Creek. Naches. Stampede Pass. Colockum Wildlife area (huge Elk heads). For the truly adventurous there is the Washington Backroads Discovery Route, which will take you from Oregon to Canada almost exclusively by dirt trails over a 3-5 day period. One aspect of Overlanding that I like is the ability to roll other hobbies into it: astrophotography, landscape photography, target shooting, camp cooking, vehicle maintenance and repair, cartography, and project management. 


Letter sparked by How To Get into Overlanding 

Sounds amazing, Lupus. Thanks for the field notes, we need to explore the Pacific Northwest some more. It’s definitely on the radar and your notes will be put to good use.




4x4 AnswerMan,

I'm looking for an adventure bed rack system for my Tacoma.  I don't want a lumber rack, more like an expedition rack. It also needs to work with a roof top tent.


Hey Larry,

You're in luck. There are many bed rack options for the Toyota Tacoma. One of the best one's we've seen to date is the Active Cargo System by Leitner Designs. It's not only serves as an adventure rack, but also has a number of accessories that can be bolted up.  From RotopaX, to cross bars for mounting a roof top tent or cayak—this rack is very functional. Leithner Designs also developed their patented Gear Pods for added storage and even more function.

Since it is modular, you can configure it anyway you want.  Another nice feature is that Active Cargo System (ACS) is made from military grade aluminum, so it’s light and strong. For more information, check them out at http://www.leitnerdesigns.com.



Surviving a Zombie Apocalypse can quickly become a serious topic, especially when choosing your bug-out vehicle.  It's important to note that "not all apocalypses are "zombie" apocalypses", just like Off-Raod.com reader Ben Gruber points out.

Nonetheless, Off-Road.com’s Justin Fort digs right into this fleshy subject with some tips on what to look for in a bug-out vehicle.  You can read the entire report at: How to Prepare Your Off-Road Rig for the Zombie Apocalypse 

Choose wisely or become zoombie food.





I have a 2011 3500 SRW 6.7 diesel Ram with a 5 inch lift running on 35x12.5x18 Nitto trail grapplers.  My question is that I would like to go higher on the lift kit, and see that BDS makes an 8 inch lift.  The problem is that most dealers suggest that I do not go that high.  I do not do much off-roading, but love the looks of a high raised truck.  Can you give me some reasoning for this?

Paul Williams
Kansas City, Missouri

Hi Paul,

Sounds like you already have a mean looking truck.  I’m thinking that one of the main reasons for not going so high on the lift is to keep the center of gravity low on your truck.  As they saying goes, “the taller they are, the harder they fall”—this stand true to tall suspension lifts. 

For every inch you go up from stock height, you increase the truck’s center of gravity, leading to more body roll.  The change in suspension dynamics also increases the potential for a roll over.  The effect is further amplified if your truck is equipped with a heavy diesel engine block under the hood.  If the pendulum goes swinging, you’re going with it.  For many of us, that’s just the price you pay for having a cool jacked up truck.  You learn to drive it and stay within its limits to keep it lid side up.

If you want to have the tallest truck in town, that’s your own business.  It’s a free country and you can do as you wish.  Just check on your local automobile highway codes for height restrictions before spending all this cash (bumper height, headlight height, taillight height, clearance lights, mud flaps, etc.).  I know several people with large lifted trucks that are constantly harassed by the PD for having such tall trucks on the street.  The ones that own them are pretty much for show and off-road use.  Daily driving makes it a chore.  They also don’t fit very good in parking garages or under low clearance bridges  But they look awesome! 

If you have more questions, give the guys at BDS a call.  I’m sure they can steer you in the right direction for your dream build.

Good luck.



Toyota has made many great 4-wheel drive trucks and SUVs over the years.  Some are noted in the story 5 Great Toyota Off-Road SUVs 

Did we miss some…maybe.  Elemi says, “What?!!?? No 80 series?? Can't believe the 100 is on list and NOT the every so popular and mad capable FJ/FZJ80.” I second to the 80 Series Land Cruiser being added. = ) 

So what’s your favorite Toyota 4x4? Lets add some more to the list.  Please comment bellow or add to the conversation in
5 Great Toyota Off-Road SUVs



4x4 AnswerMan,

I have a 2000 Dodge Durango SLT, Obviously I have done performance upgrades to my car but I am in need of more clearance when I take her off road. All the shops around me have told me there is no lift kit for my year and model of Durango and told me the T/S lift is too risky. I have adjusted my torsion bar a little to level out the height from the front to back, But I¹m looking for a true lift of around 2-3². If so would 33s be better than the 31s I have on there now?


Hey Conner,

You are correct.  Not much in the sense of a true lift kit for this model.  The T/A lift seems to be it, unless you’re looking to highly modify the truck with solid axles and leaf or coilover suspension.  It can be done, but it’s pricey.

The T/A mod will run you under $100 bucks and get the job done.  You should be able to get around 2 inches of lift up front using Torsion Adjustment lift keys.  I will says that although some manufactures advertise that you can crank them up to 3 inches, DON’T. They ride really rough—think POGO stick.

Here's a nice example of a T/A lift by “DodgeEnthusiast” on DodgeTalk.com

For the rear, an add-a-leaf from the same vintage Dodge Dakota will help bump up the ride height.  There are several places to source them from.  BDS Suspension makes one that seems to work well on the Durango (Part# 119159).

As for tires, you can stick with the 31 inch you have now, but could go up to a 285/75 R16 all-terrain (33-inch).  BFG makes a nice one.

For more information, make sure to check out this T/A Lift thread on our sister site DodgeTalk.com. 

Good luck!



Letter sparked by Ram Trucks Makes the Most of Snow, Performs Winter Testing 

Off-Road.com reader “Bill” loves his Dodge Ram pickup.  He says that his 2000 Dodge 2500 w/ 5.9 v8 magnum has 211,000 miles and has never had a rebuild.  He also hauls a 5th wheel camper, bumper pull stock trailer, flatbed trailer with tractor and equipment, hay, dump trailer with rock, and 21 ft. Gooseneck with JD. 300b backhoe. 

The man hauls a lot of sh#t around with is Ram.  In his own words, it’s the best truck he’s ever owned.

Do you have a Dodge RAM story you want to share?
Please comment below.



Hi Off-Road.com,

I have a 1996 Daihatsu Feroza and I'm having trouble finding a diff locker for the rear diff.  I've pulled out the axel and it has 27 splines.  The part of the axel that is splines is 28mm in diameter, the rest of the axel is 30mm.  The information I'm after is how many spider gears are in the rear diff, and to confirm that the rear crown wheel is in fact 7.5"


Hi Stuart,

What a cool little trucklet. Haven’t seen one of these in the flesh here in the USA.  I’m not exactly sure on the spider gear count.  The best way to get an accurate count would be to pull the 3rd member from the rear axle. 

From my research, it seems like Differential Lockers are no longer in production for these models, and 2nd hand ones are hard to find.  Most people that do a locker on the Feroza or Rocky these days run a Lincoln Locker—you simply weld up the spider gears.  This is only advisable if you primarily use the truck off-road.  It will squeal too much or break something if driven on pavement.  You can find more information by doing a search for keyword “Lincoln Locker”.

Good luck



Turns out GM still has a few tricks up its sleeve when it comes to exciting the mid-size truck market. The new Colorado ZR2 fits the bill if styling, performance and off-road capability are the top your list. Off-Road.com reader MiggyCabby23 says, “Nice looking truck. Glad they decided to bring the ZR2 back. I had an 03, the last year built.”

If you’re in the market for a new truck, this is one to look at.

You can read the full story at 2017 Chevy Colorado ZR2: 5 Things You Need to Know



Letter sparked by 6 SUVs that are Great Off Road and On 

Sometimes photography can be misleading.  Off-Road.com reader PJ feels very strongly about the limitations of his Subaru Outback wagon on dirt.  Here’s what he had to say about taking a stock Subaru off-road.

That picture of the Outback going on the rugged dirt road is false advertising (if it's a Subaru add picture). I have a 2016 Outback and went I went on a relatively smooth dirt road warning lights came on. Turns out, nothing wrong with the car except going off road caused my electronics to malfunction and it cost 1000 dollars to fix it. Didn't even have 50 thousand miles on it. And that's just the beginning. Items in the interior are falling apart at 50K miles. Steering down the freeway is work...you have to constantly adjust to keep it in your lane. Alignments and changes to tire pressure didn't help. Seats started giving me back trouble as well. People who own Subaru's seem to love them and overlook all the problems. -PJ

So the Outback probably isn’t your best bet for conquering the Rubicon Trail.
That said, the Subaru shouldn’t be totally thrown out of the all-terrain category.   It has its place and function.  With a few modifications they can even make great rally cars.


I will say that the Subaru of yester years did seem to be more dirt friendly.  Today, they are built with a different audience in mind—urbanites looking for some outdoor flair in a stylish all-wheel drive wagon.  Nothing wrong with that, just take PJ’s comment into consideration if you plan on doing a lot of off-road travel.

I still think they’re fun to drive, but would opt for an older model with simplicity in mind if getting dirty is more your style. If the Subie doesn’t work out, there’s always the 4x4 Truck & SUV option.

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.

Previous 4x4 AnswerMan Columns
November 2016

September 2016

July 2016

“Like” us on Social Media for the latest off-road news and developments.




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