4 Wheel & Off Road - - NUTS & BOLTS -

QI’m 16 and re­cently got my li­cense and I’m in­fected with the off-road bug. I’m get­ting an ’00 Nis­san Fron­tier 4x4 3.3L V-6 that my par­ents got for me and my brother, who is go­ing to col­lege. I can’t

re­ally take the Nis­san wheel­ing be­cause my par­ents would not like me ”wreck­ing“the truck they bought. So I would have to buy another truck to wheel. Now don’t go telling me to buy an old beater, which I would very much like to do, be­cause my par­ents will not let me drive a truck with no airbags (which I’m sure other kids can re­late to). So if I were to get an old truck, I would have to tow it to go wheel­ing with the Nis­san so it couldn’t be a full­size truck be­cause it would be too heavy. Also to tow I would have to flat-tow, keep­ing me from hav­ing to buy and li­cense a trailer. The other op­tion would be to buy a newer truck with an airbag and only drive that to go wheel­ing to save money. I don’t know which op­tion to choose. Next year at school I will be tak­ing an auto shop class, which will help me save money learn­ing to work on my truck my­self.

JA­COB D. via nuts@4wor.com

AFRED WILLIAMS REPLIES: I was in your same sit­u­a­tion once long ago. Mom and Dad had got­ten my brother Sam and me a Volk­swa­gen to drive to school, and even though it was a per­fectly good com­muter car I re­ally thought we “needed” a Jeep CJ in­stead. Of course my dad told me that if I wanted a Jeep I should save my money and get a Jeep, so I did. By work­ing on the farm and sav­ing all my spare change I even­tu­ally came home with a $600 ’73 CJ-5. It was a rust bucket for sure, but I did learn a lot about how

4x4s worked and how to make mine run.

In the end the sim­ple old Jeep taught me more than I ever re­al­ized, and the crazy thing is I ran out of money be­fore I ever got it to pass Penn­syl­va­nia safety in­spec­tion. Luck­ily for me I was able to sell it for a profit and spend that money on a newer ’86 CJ-7 that ran and was li­censed. In fact, the CJ-7 never needed much work, and had I started with a newer Jeep I wouldn’t have learned how to re­wire and fix all the stuff that was wrong with my CJ-5.

That is why I rec­om­mend an old beater 4x4 as your first 4x4. Lots of kids are given nice trucks by their par­ents. If you buy it, learn to fix it, and get it run­ning all by your­self, then you will ap­pre­ci­ate it much more and will be able to fix any prob­lems when you’re out on the trail. Plus, an old 4x4 is the per­fect project for your auto shop class to help on.

As for flat-tow­ing the rig, your Nis­san has a rec­om­mended tow­ing ca­pac­ity of 5,000 pounds if it has an au­to­matic trans­mis­sion

(3,500 if it is a man­ual), and though this will pull a 4x4, you’ll prob­a­bly save plenty of fuel by just driv­ing your 4x4, un­less you get some­thing small and light like an old Jeep CJ, an early ’80s Toy­ota pickup, or a Suzuki Samu­rai. In fact, I think any of th­ese three would make a great first 4x4. They are all nim­ble, all have sim­ple leaf-sprung sus­pen­sions and solid axles, and in stock form they were all avail­able with hearty four-cylin­der en­gines.

If an airbag-equipped 4x4 is needed, then re­al­ize that they weren’t re­quired un­til

1999, so you are look­ing for some­thing built in the last 10 years or so. I’d still con­sider an open-topped Jeep.

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