Category Archives: 4×4 Tech

How to fix, maintain or modify your off road adventure truck is here. We also discuss gear and how it holds up out on an adventure.

install lexus gx470 rear bumper

Installing Lexus GX470 Swing-Out Bumper

lexus gx470 rear swing-out bumperSo you may have noticed some Lexus GX470 discussions from us here and out in the forums…   Yes we did it, we added a Lexus GX470 to the fleet.  Just not this one.

Why you ask?  It’s built on the same J120 Toyota Prado Land Cruiser platform as our FJ Cruiser but with four doors, a bit more room, a whole lot more luxury and a V8 engine.  Our new Lexus GX470, affectionately named (by Hula Betty) Fat Girl, will be primarily used for overland adventures and as a daily driver for Hula Betty.  She wont get the massive mods we have on the Blue Bunny but she will be getting some upgrades to her suspension and armor.

While Fat Girl will remain stock for now, that doesn’t mean we haven’t started to consider options.  One option is the Metal Tech 4×4 rear swing-out bumper known as the Pegasus.  Mark over at Metal Tech 4×4 put all their Toyota Land Cruiser experience into creating this bumper.  No cutting, no welding, this swing-out bumper fits right into the design of the Lexus GX470 and allows you to carry larger spare tire, fuel cans and your Hi-Lift jack.

And when it comes to installation…  Well see for yourself.  We put together an installation video to help folks install their Metal Tech 4×4 swing-out bumper on the Lexus GX470 and give us an excuse to get an up close look at the Pegasus.

If you just want the highlights about this bumper than give this introduction video a look.  It walks you through some of the key features of this overland bumper.

What do you think?

 

fried eggs in skillet

Overland Chef… Huevos Ranchero

One of my favorite times during a overland adventure is early morning.  Sun rising over camp, quiet in the air, warm coffee and anything is possible.  And I get to cook breakfast!  I love to cook.

My all time go to favorite camp breakfast, huevos ranchero. Hearty, probably not that healthy but oh so very tasty.  Let face it, really anything with chorizo and eggs is going to come out good and can’t really be screwed up…  although there was the “chorizo surprise” debacle a few years back.

The secret to this breakfast delight is in the chorizo…  It can’t be that farmstead, grass-fed, dry-aged, loin-based, hand-rubbed, hipster chorizo.  No, this has to be the chorizo of my people, true Mexican chorizo, made from grinding up pork salivary glands, lymph nodes and fat with spices that cooks down to delicious, spicy, coagulated, crimson oily paste.

huevos ranchero ingredientsIf you’re looking for an exact recipe, give Betty Crocker a call.  I roll pretty loose… This is it:

  • Get the stove going… and keep the heat on the low side as you cook down the chorizo in a heavy skillet.  Keep it moving, don’t let it burn.
  • After a few minutes, add a handful of chopped onions and continue to cook (and stir) until the onions take on a translucent state.
  • Next add a minced garlic clove, giving a few more stirs.
  • Toss in a bunch of chopped cilantro and mix it in.
  • Pull the mix to the sides of the skillet making room to cook the eggs. (fry or scramble the way you like)
  • When the eggs are ready, remove from the heat and sprinkle everything with grated cheese.  Any good Cheddar, Jack, Queso Fresco, Queso Anejo, Cotija, Oaxaca, Panela, Asadero will do. Cheese is its own food group in my mind.

Serve on a plate, wrapped in a flower tortilla, over a corn tostada shell and drizzle a little hot sauce over everything.

This is really just the base.  You can add in fried potatoes, poblano or anaheim peppers, or diced tomatoes to make the huevos rancheros your own.

 

FJ Cruiser hood work light

Let there be work light

FLOOD-IT pro LED under truck lightingAround the shop or in camp, light is always at a premium.  We always seem to have to work on parts that are tucked into a dark corner of the truck or start prepping camp meals as the sun is dipping below the horizon.  Until now the solution was head lamps, flashlights or old fashion trouble light.  These light sources are good but they don’t always provide enough light or put it where you want it.

Enter the FLOOD-IT pro LED rechargeable light.  This small but powerful free standing flood light has found it’s way into our kit.  So what makes it better than all the other 10w LED lights out there?

  • Compact free standing base with a handle that is easy to grab.
  • Magnetic feet.  Set the light on the ground, stick it to the hood, attach it to the truck frame.  This work light makes it easy to stage the unit so it illuminates where you need.
  • Cordless and rechargeable, lasting up to four hours. The work light comes with an AC adapter and a car charger making it easy to recharge in the shop or while driving to the next camp.
  • IP65 water and dust protection with a wide 120 degree beam spread.

For us its the compact size, rechargeablility and magnetic feet that make this work light a winner.  When on the trail the light sits magneticly tight on the rear floor where we can quickly grab it. In camp we stick it high on the truck and point the light right where we need it most, at the camp kitchen, and cooler.

The FLOOD-IT pro LED light is now a part of our off-road kit and a favorite around the shop.  Check out Red Kitty Industries for this and other rechargeable work lights.

man talking on CB radio

Cobra 75 wx st CB Radio Install

Installing a CB Radio in a Toyota FJ Cruiser is an easy do it yourself project.  Several years back we installed a Cobra 75 wt CB radio in our truck.  Unfortunately back then we didn’t take the time to create a how to video.  So when Voodoo Brad asked us to help him install his CB radio we jumped at the chance.

If you follow our step by step instruction for installing a Cobra 75 wt CB radio in a Toyota FJ Cruiser you will need a few other components to install a complete CB system.  Below is the parts list we have used on both our Toyota FJ Cruiser CB radio installs:

  • Cobra 75 wt CB Radio
  • Firestik MU8R18 18′ EZ-Install CB Coaxial Cable
  • Firestik II 4′ fiberglass CB antenna
  • All Pro Bandi Mount
  • Firestik K1A CB Antenna Quick Disconnect
  • Firestik K4R CB Antenna Stud Mount
  • Firestik SS3H CB Antenna Spring Heavy Duty
  • SWR meter

And if you need help Tuning Your CB Radio we have help for that.

It really is this easy to install a CB yourself and have professional results.

essential off-road equipment

Chasing The Gear Whore

land rover defender 110 camel trophy“He who desires more gear, knows not what he wants from his gear”- unknown source.

Whether you call it car camping, off-road adventures or overlanding, an off-road based adventure requires stuff and as a group, we overlanders do not travel light.  If you search the Interwebs, you would think that in order to start overlanding you must have a Land Rover, preferably a Defender 110 (Camel Trophy insignia optional), capable of carrying months of supplies, sand ladders, roof top tent (RTT), titanium cook sets,  wind sail canvas & teak lounge chairs with matching tables and an engine manifold hot water heater with power shower head.

loaded dual sport motorcycleI have a theory and it holds true for all major activities not just overlanding…  It goes like this:

  1. Looks interesting phase – This (insert activity name here) looks like something you would enjoy.  You have little to no experience but the activity seems interesting so you tag along with a friend or give it a try on a limited basis.
  2. Let me open my wallet phase – You tried it, you like it and you’re hooked.  You surf YouTube videos and hang out on the forums during work taking in everything you can about this life changing activity.  moto vendors nworYou imagine yourself living the dream that allows you to quit your job, take the kids out of school and spend all your days doing “this”.   If the “so called experts” tell you, you need a thing-a-ma-bob, you get a thing-a-ma-bob.  If you see a new whats-it’s that promises to take you to the next level you save up and order a whats-it’s.  You check out whats-you-ma-call-its that others have and compare detailed specs of each new piece of gear to hit the market.  You become a gear whore… and you’re proud of it.  In fact you show off your gear and tell everyone how it makes life much better…  and you are happy.yellow land rover discovery
  3. Attaining Zen phase – If you stick with the activity long enough eventually you know what works for you.  Your gear is not so shinny anymore but it performs well and meets your personal needs. You’ve pared down your gear to the minimum you feel comfortable with.  You use all your equipment regularly and your favorite piece of gear is one of your oldest items.  You have repaired much of your gear yourself.  New guys (those wide eyed newbies entering phase 2) look at you and can’t imagine how you do without the newest most talked about piece of gear they just bought.  You are old school.  off-road trailYou are more interested in experiences than buying your way into the club… and you are at peace.

I have a friend who explores very remote locations in her Forester.  That’s right, a stock Subaru with nothing more than a good set of all terrains.  She sleeps in the back, keeps her creature comforts to a minimum and only brings along the essential gear.  Most of her equipment comes from the backpacking world so it is light and compact.  She eats volvo driving snowy passgranola trail mix, energy bars and PB&J sandwiches.  She is comfortable with her style and she has seen more remote North West destinations than just about anyone else I know.

There is nothing wrong with the gear whore.  In fact it is that willingness to purchase new stuff that fuels the overlanding community.   Gear purchases encourage manufactures to sponsor rallies and shows that bring us all together.  Profitable vendors contribute to the fight for open access to places less known for all of us to explore more.

I84 sunsetWhatever phase you’re in…  don’t let anyone mislead you into feeling that you must have a truck with lockers, 33″ tires, armor or top-of-the-line suspension or other cool stuff before you can start enjoying off-road adventures.  They will of course allow you to go to more difficult locations but  all it takes to start is imagination and a desire to explore. The key to great off-road adventures is that you grab a map, pick a destination and explore the road less traveled.  Over time you will find your own way and discover what gear is right for you.

blindfolded driver

Driving While Blind – The Off-Road Spotter

4x4 trail spotter d90 bj60Driving off-road can feel like you have your head on a swivel.  You need to see what’s in front of you, behind you and on both sides.  And when things get really though you wish you had an extra set of eyes.  It’s at this point a trail spotter becomes your best friend.

The job of a spotter is to driver the truck “remotely” through the obstacle.  By seeing what the driver cannot, the spotter instructs the driver which way to turn, how fast to go and when to stop in order to get the truck past a difficult obstacle in the trail.

two men fj cruiserIn order to perform this feat, driver and spotter have to trust each other.  The driver will need to follow the instructions to a tee and the spotter needs to know how the truck will behave as she has the driver put a wheel on a rock or come down a ledge step.

Before the driver and spotter get to the driving part, they need to talk and agree on the line and signals as well as honestly discuss driving skills and concerns.  This is no time for ego.

turn driver spotting signalWhen it comes to spotting signals, bigger is better.  It is incredibly hard to tell what the spotter is trying to communicate if they are simply pointing a finger.  The spotter needs to get into it.   She needs to use big gestures when directing the driver and hand signals should be accompanied with loud vocal commands.

Start with the basics:

  • Come Forward – The driver should drive forward with the wheels as they are.
  • Turn Driver – The driver should turn the wheel to their left.  The spotter’s left and the drivers left are different so get into the habit of using “driver”.man spotting fj cruiser on trail
  • Turn Passenger -The driver should turn the wheel to their right.  The spotter’s right and the drivers right are different so get into the habit of using “passenger”.
  • Stop – The driver should stop the truck and maintain control.  “Wow”  can sound a lot like “go” so avoid it and stay away from ambiguous phases like “hold up”, “that’s good” or “wait”.  Let the driver know to “STOP”.
  • Backup – Drive the truck in reverse with the wheels as they are.

There is a common problem that can creep up, when there are several bystanders around the truck as it is being spotted.  A number of folks may start to give suggestions to the driver, distracting her with “turn left, your other left”, “watch out for the rock”, or a dozen of other misguided directions.  They are trying to help but it only makes things worse.  This is where the spotter needs to step in, take control and tell everyone to stop helping.  There can be only one spotter. man 4x4 trail spotter

ADVANCED: The spotter may ask another observer to step in and perform one function for her.  That function is to yell “STOP”.  This is helpful when the spotter is backing the driver up or trying to have the driver make very minor adjustments.  The observer does not provide any directions or advise to the driver, she only shouts out the command “stop” based on what the spotter requested.  The spotter will relay the “stop” voice command with a stop hand signal when she hears the observer shout “stop”.

A good spotter can help a driver get through obstacles  unscathed  that they never could have driven on their own.  Like any valuable skill,  spotting takes practice in order for you to guide the blind down the trail.

metal tech 4x4 100 series slider

Rock Rail (Slider) Maintenance

metal tech box slidersOff-road adventures put a lot of stress on your rock rails as they work to protect your door sills.  Over time your sliders will start to show their age as road grim, rocks and dirt take their tole.  Rocks and road salt eat away the paint and rust attacks any exposed steel.  To keep your slides at their best every year or two you need to show them a little love.

Start by removing your rock rails from the truck.  Scrub them down with soap and water removing all the dirt, loose paint and grime.  Work the nooks and crannies where gunk may have accumulated.   Rinse them off and while they dry wash the truck’s frame and clean it up.

If your rock rails are like ours there is some rust that needs to be knocked it down with a wire brush.  You can also sand (or grind) down to bring back a smooth finish.  After you have them cleaned, spray a rust reformer over any spots showing rust.  A rust reformer will convert the rust to an inert material that can be painted with several costs rust proofing paint.  Don’t forget to perform the same rust proofing on your trucks frame.fj cruiser frame mounting point for sliders

This is one of those activities that is easy but will take time.  This literally is watching paint dry.  Take advantage of this down time to run to the hardware store and purchase new hardened bolts and washers (grade 10.9).  Your sliders often carry the weight of your truck and the last thing you want are those old bolts to sheer off because you weren’t willing to replace $20.00 worth of hardware.

fj cruiser metal tech slider rub railBefore you bolt your rock rails back on, give the threads in the frame a good spray with WD-40 and chase the bolt through to ensure their is no sand or grit in there.  Finally position your sliders and bolt them up to your frame ensuring they are aligned.

Now your sliders should look almost as good as new and continue to protect your truck on lots of off-road adventure.

2007 Toyota FJ cruiser

3 Quick Off-Road Adventure Tips

These off-road adventure tips have served us well and we hope they help you.

  1.  If you have read “The Checklist Manifesto” by Atul Gawande you know how valuable checklist can be to jog your memory and prevent you from forgetting an important step.  We laminate our checklists in clear plastic to protect and keep them clean when using them on an adventure. Make your own personalized checklist or download and use our off-road adventure checklists so that you don’t forget something important on your next big adventure.
  2. Every time you wash your truck or at least once a month exercise your winch. Spool ten or 15 feet of rope out and back in about a dozen times.  This will make sure the gears stay lubed and any moisture that finds it’s way in is evaporated off of the drum and winch motor.  By regularly using your winch you can ensure it is operationally ready if needed on your next off-road adventure.
  3. Look inside of your engine compartment.  You will certainly find a few nooks and crannies perfect for stowing a few quarts of engine oil and gear lube.   Make sure oil bottles are kept snug and avoid any sharp edged areas. This trick will keep a spare quart or two handy where and when you need it.

Do you have a tip that you find extremely useful when exploring the road less traveled?  Let us know.

Blue Bunny the FJ Cruiser Walk Around

2007 voodoo toyota fj cruiserOur 2007 Toyota FJ Cruiser has gone through a number of iteration since we first purchased it in late 2006. We thought it was time to record exactly what she has these days.

We’ve discussed why we’ve made some of the off-road modification choices we did with our build.  We’ve also told you why you should not modify your off-road truck.  We obviously didn’t take our own advice so here it is…  the Blue Bunny a Toyota FJ Cruiser walk around:

Trail Armor:

Front Suspension:

Rear Suspension:

  • Metal Tech custom built 3-link
  • Metal Tech long travel progressive rear springs
  • Metal Tech bump stop re-locators
  • Sway-A-Way 2.5″ bypass shocks
  • Custom rear shock hoops

Drivetrain:

  • ARB air locker front and rear
  • 4.56:1 ring and pinion gears
  •  Custom Curry rear housing (4″ wider to track with front tires)
  • Custom Curry rear axles
  • Ford 9″ third-member
  • Atlas 4 speed: 2.72:1 reduction gear, 3.8:1 low range gear

Miscellaneous:

man holding fj cruiser cabin air filter

DIY Cabin Air Filter for Toyota FJ Cruiser

WEB absorber DIY cabin air filter materialWe’ve shown you how to replace your Toyota FJ Cruiser’s engine and cabin air filter. Now we want to show you how to save money the next time you do.

Toyota OEM cabin filters (and knockoffs) cost between $15 and $20 on the Internet depending on the brand, shipping and who you purchase from. You can make your own for as low as $2.00? It’s crazy but true, you can make your own cabin air filter in minutes with easily available materials.

Stop by the pet store and pick up aquarium filter material, the polyester cut to fit stuff that runs around $6.00 a sheet. You will get a couple of filters from a single package of aquarium filter material. We like using a furnace filter called “Web Absorber”. This statically charged material includes a layer of carbon covered fiber that absorbs odors. While the Absorber will cost between $10 and $20, you will get four of five cabin air filters from one 20″x25″ furnace filter.DIY cabin air filter process

Lay out the material on a flat surface you can cut on.  Using your old OEM cabin filter as a template, trace it out with a Sharpy onto your filter material and then cut out along your traced lines.

To assemble it, I like to start by laying a dryer sheet into the cabin filter holder. This will add a fresh scent to the air. On top of the dryer sheet lay in the filter material you cut out. If you sized your material right it will fit snugly into filter holder on all sides.  Be sure to tuck the filter material under the top tabs of the filter holder.dryer sheet in cabin air filter

That is all there is too it.  Slide your cabin filter holder back into place and you’re done.  You should have plenty of material left over for the next time you need to replace you cabin air filter.