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John Stewart

Leveling the Dodge 1500 4x4

Torsion Key Comparision

I found a solution with the ReadyLift Leveling Suspension Kit which advertised maintaining stock height and raising the front end to eliminate the nose down look.

The kit for the Dodge 1500 provided two forged torsion bar keys.  The hex slots were clocked slightly different than the stock keys which provided for the front nose lift.

Installation is simple, requiring that the front end be raised (and supported) enough to loosen and remove the torsion bars.

The kit does include a bracket for unloading the torsion bar pressure.  The heavy metal bracket the slips over the top of the key holder.  Still necessary is a tool to compress the key.  The recommended tool is GM OTC 7822A.

Once the torsion key is unloaded, the torsion adjusting bolt can be removed.  At this point, the torsion bar can be removed from its socket enough to allow the stock key to be remove and replaced with the new torsion key.  

In most cases the torsion bars will loosen and reinstall with no problems.  If the truck has seen any off-road action, gentle persuasion may be required or extra bolts may need to be loosened to provide crossmember movement enough for clearance.

As with any modification to a suspension system, a preliminary inspection of all suspension components (including alignment) is highly recommended.  During the preliminary inspection of the Dodge, the lower ball joints were found to be slightly out of recommended tolerances and the shocks were worn.

Wheel alignment is critical for safe and efficient vehicle operation.  The torsion key replacement changes the geometry of the steering and suspension requiring an alignment.

The torsion bar adjustments require a flat surface and tape measure.  With the truck sitting on a level surface, measure the height from a reference point just behind the front wheels and a reference point just ahead of the rear wheels on each side.

 For a starting point, assume the height on the left rear is the desired height.  Starting with the left torsion adjustment, snug it to the point where the left front is raised to match the left rear height.  Some adjust may be needed on the right to fine tune to make the four height measurements equal.  

Generally, the left torsion adjustment will have the most effect.  This adjustment will make for a stiffer ride and can be tweaked for personal preference.  Each 1/4 inch of adjustment of the bolt equal one inch of height at the wheel.

With the torsion bar set, it is time to replace the worn lower ball joints.  Spicer provides a very durable ball joint and does have one for the Dodge Ram trucks.  While the ball joint does come with a grease zerk fitting, that fitting does need to be removed and replaced with a plug.  The grease zerk fitting will interfere with the IFS/CV joint.  The Spicer part number for the lower ball joints used is: 505-1294.

The final step is an alignment to set the correct camber and caster of the front tires.  This should be accomplished by a certified mechanic with a functional alignment rack and gauges.

With the torsion key, ball joint, and alignment complete, it was time to replace the shocks.  The rear height was not changed so the stock shock length was not altered.  However, the front was raised slightly more than one inch. 

Raising the front meant that stock shocks (10.75 inches collapsed and 15.875 inches extended) would be shorter than required.  Bilstein provides a shock in their 5100 series that is 13.26 inches collapsed and 21.51 inches extended.  While it is slightly longer than necessary, it is a standard item.  Adding 15 inch limiting straps will reduce the downward travel and potential for binding the IFS CV joint.  The Bilstein part numbers used are: rear - F4-BE5-2550-H1 and front - F4-BE5-6528-H6.

And, no major work is complete without a look at the brake pads and rotors.  With the high mileage, a brake job was due.  The front and rear pads were worn as were the front brake rotors.  As the front rotors are the most prone to wear, they are recommended to be replaced rather than machined. However, the rear rotors showed minimal wear and required a minimal machining to clean up the rotor surface and ensure it was smooth.

All work completed, it was time for a road test.  The road test revealed improved steering control and overall ride improvement.  It was like driving a new vehicle.

Work was done by:
Roger Daniels Alignment & Brake
8517 Ablette Road, Shop F
Santee, CA  92071
(619) 562-7969
BAR # ARD214109


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John Stewart

Automotix Now Offers Access to Full List of Auto Recalls and Defects

Automotix Now Offers Access to Full List of Auto Recalls and Defects
Members can now easily search for NHTS Recalls and Defects Free of Charge

Mission, KS. August 5, 2008 (PRAvenueNW) -- Automotix, the premier destination for finding used car parts online, announced this week that they have launched a brand new service for their members. Now, anyone can easily find NHTS Recalls and Defects right on the Automotix website.

Members can search for their vehicle make and model and get current information on any recalls or manufacturer defects. The process is simple and provides accurate and up to date information that car owners need to know. Once they have located the correct make, model and year of their vehicle, members get full access to detailed information involving any issues that may need to be addressed.

Once the results load, the member is directed to more information on how to get their vehicle repaired, as well as full disclosure on the impact that the recall or defect may have on their vehicle. Consumers rarely get this level of access to this information, nor have they been able to find it in one, easy to access spot. Automotix is providing the community with this information completely free of charge.

To check for current vehicle recalls and defects, just visit Automotix’s site, or load to begin the search.

In addition to that, Automotix recently introduced a resource section dedicated to documenting car problems and customer complaints about specific vehicles, which is based on a huge database of information from the US Transportation Department. The database is searchable, making it easy to just specify a make, model, and year – and take a look at the various customer complaints related to that specific vehicle. The section is available at:

About the Company: is striving to build one of the largest used auto and parts communities on the web and their unique method of connecting buyers and sellers promises to do just that. Their name, which is short for Automotive Exchange, really says it all. From simple used auto body parts on common cars to the rarest wheel rims for the rarest fine automobiles, you'll find everything you need, all in one place.
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John Stewart

What's in your flashlight?

Streamlight Flashlight

What's in your flashlight?

Peering under the hood, I reached for the flashlight just to illuminate a corner hidden in the shadows. While it was daylight, it was dark under the hood and something was dripping.

The first flashlight I grabbed was the standard two D-Cell light that barely produced enough light to see in darkness let alone brighten the dark corner under the hood in broad daylight.  Next, the big bulky four D-Cell Maglite was brought into play.  Finally, enough light to pin point the fluid leak was from the windshield washer bottle.

Have you ever tried to maneuver the long-body Maglite in tight corners?  Have you ever desired a bright light in a shorter body flashlight?  And, ever get tired of replacing batteries?  Or, had trouble keeping replacement batteries handy?

My search for a bright light flashlight with a short body (and rechargeable) turned up a promising product from Streamlight, the Stinger XT.  The Stinger XT features a Xenon bulb powered by a Nickel-Cadmium rechargeable battery pack.  The machined aluminum body is 7.7 inches long and weights just over 11 ounces.

Two mounting adapters are included with the Stinger and two interchangeable power cords; 12DC cord with cigarette lighter plug and a 120VAC cord with wall transformer.  The Stinger is designed to be left on continuous charging.

The design of the mounting adapter allows in to be placed with almost zero clearance for inserting a removing the flashlight.  This allows easy mounting in the cab of a 4x4 where the flashlight is in always within reach.

The Streamlight provides excellent light in a compact package with several mounting options.  While expensive, Streamlight lights do have a reputation for durability as the flashlight of choice for many police and fire departments.

Fore more information, visit their web site at:


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John Stewart

Destination: Inaugural Julian Starfest

Destination: Inaugural Julian Starfest - August 2008

One of the highlights of a wheeling trip is sitting around a campfire at the end of the day.  In the evening twilight faint spots of white begin to fill the sky.  Daylight soon becomes starlight.Telescope Display

The first dim spots of light to be seen in the sky are planets.  As the sunlight fades, more distant stars begin to appear.   

Over the years I have learned to identify the North Star and the Big Dipper.  Along with Orion's Belt and the Seven Sisters, which is familiar to many as the logo of Izuzu, they are some of the more recognizable star formations.

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John Stewart

Draft Revised Recovery Plan for Mojave Population of the Desert Tortoise Released

[Federal Register: August 4, 2008 (Volume 73, Number 150)]
DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR - Fish and Wildlife Service

Draft Revised Recovery Plan for Mojave Population of the Desert Tortoise (Gopherus agassizii)

AGENCY: Fish and Wildlife Service, Interior.
ACTION: Notice of document availability for review and comment.
SUMMARY: We, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service), announce the availability of a draft revised recovery plan for the Mojave population of the desert tortoise for public review and comment. DATES: We must receive any comments on the draft recovery plan on or before November 3, 2008.

Click here to read more >>>

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