Is there anything I can do to make my truck ride a bit more like a Lexus?

Dear Car Talk

Dear Car Talk | Nov 01, 1998

Dear Tom and Ray:

As the head of "Buildings and Grounds" for my family, I needed and purchased a
1994 Nissan 4X4 pickup truck. Unfortunately, my real work, fundraising
consultant to snooty private schools, requires that I log many miles, especially
on the New Jersey Turnpike (Motto: Our Road, Our Rules, You're Lucky We Let You
Drive on It). What can I do to modify the truck tires, wheels, seats, etc. to
make the ride a bit more civilized? Since I do not carry massive loads, the
suspension can be tuned without too much worry about capacity. Where should I
start? And how do I keep the cost of these changes to a minimum? Or should I
just forget the whole thing, sell the truck, and buy a Lexus SC400 and a tarp
for the trunk? -- Dwight

TOM: I think you nailed it, Dwight. In fact, I think Lexus sells a tarp for the
trunk of the SC400. It's embroidered with the Lexus logo. It's a $1,500 option.

RAY: Let me guess. You didn't need a pickup truck, but you really wanted one.
And you were able to justify one to your wife by explaining how you'd save money
by bringing your own plants from the nursery and stuff like that.

TOM: And you bet correctly that she wouldn't check and find out they deliver for

RAY: So you bought the pickup truck and now you hate it because it bounces all
over the road and rides like a Conestoga wagon. And unfortunately, there's not a
whole lot you can do about it.

TOM: If you're really stuck with this truck -- for reasons of pride or money --
modifying the tires is probably your best bet. You should start by checking the
air pressure. If the tires are over-inflated, start by bringing them down to the
correct inflation. If the pressure is correct, you can probably let out a few
psi (being careful not to go below the minimum tire inflation recommended by
Nissan for this truck). A slightly under-inflated tire might soften up the ride
a bit. And while we normally don't recommend under-inflation, a pickup truck's
tire-pressure numbers are often based on the assumption that you are carrying
weight in the bed, which you aren't.

RAY: If you happen to need new tires anyway, you might try a different type of
tire. A lot of 4X4 pickup trucks come with very firm tires with aggressive
treads. A wider, more "passenger-car-like" tire will probably soften the ride
somewhat. But, again, don't expect this to change the basic character of the

TOM: Another cheap thing to do is try putting some weight in the bed. The
suspension is designed to carry weight, and the lack of weight in the back may
contribute to the back end bouncing around. So throw a few hundred pounds of
sand bags in the back and see if the ride improves. If it does, throw a few more
bags in there. If that helps, build a little apartment back there for your

RAY: Fooling around with the shocks and suspension gets expensive very quickly.
So I'd say that's hardly worth it.

TOM: Right. If you can't make this truck acceptable by messing around with the
tires, then I'd trade it in. If you really need the four-wheel drive and the
cargo capacity, consider something like a Subaru Legacy or Outback wagon.
That'll do fine in basic rough road/bad weather duty, but it won't do nearly as
much kidney damage on the highway. Good luck, Dwight.

* * *

Are you inadvertently wrecking your poor car? Find out by reading Tom and Ray's
pamphlet, "Ten Ways You May Be Ruining Your Car Without Even Knowing It!" Send
$3 and a stamped (55 cents), self-addressed, No. 10 envelope to Ruin, PO Box
6420, Riverton, NJ 08077-6420.

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