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.

Lexus GX470 Battery Replacement

Own a overland truck long enough and you will need to replace the battery. In this article we use our Lexus GX470 as the demo truck but the same procedures will work for all vehicles, although access to the battery will be different.

The trend these days is for truck manufacturers to value esthetics over function under the hood.  Engine bays with plastic covers look great but that sleek, clean look costs time (translate to dollars at a dealership or local garage) when it comes to working under the hood.

On a Lexus GX470 about half of your time will be spent removing the front plastic engine cover in order to gain full access to your truck’s battery.

The plastic cover retainer clips (buttons) are intended to be reusable. Be prepared to replace several plastic retainer clips.  I find that many dealership technicians are focused on speed often at the expense of broken retainer clips.  Reusing damaged clips may save you a few dollars but this is the start of the down hill slide to those little rattles that drive me nuts.  I always keep a handful of various retainer clips around knowing it is a small price to pay for peace and quiet.

The steps to replacing the battery in a Lexus GX470 are easy:

    1. Remove the 12 (or so) retainer clips on the front plastic engine (radiator) cover.  These retainers release their grip by sliding a flat head screwdriver in the channel then gently lift the button head of the retainer.
    2. Remove the 2 retainers that hold the front plastic cover to the power steering cover, located toward the front on the passenger side of your Lexus GX470.  These retainers will release their grip by pressing down on the center button with a screw driver.
    3. Lift the positive lead cap (usually marked with “+” sign) from the battery terminal (some will tell you to remove the negative ground first).  A 10mm socket will quickly loosen the clamp. Carefully lift the wire lead and tuck the wire lead out of the way ensuring it does not fall back onto the battery’s terminal.
    4. Remove the negative lead cap (referred to as the ground and usually marked with a “-” sign) and lead wire from the battery terminal. Tuck the lead out of the way.
    5. The battery hold-down comes off next.  A 10mm deep socket will loosening the nuts.  The rear hold-down hook should have a clip holding the ground wire (it did when it came from the factory) that will need to be unhooked.
    6. Carefully lift the battery out of your truck.  Use care not to strain yourself, the battery is heavy and awkward.
    7. This is a good time to clean out the area of any dirt and debris.  Check the tray for cracks and replace if needed, before setting the new battery into place.
    8. Attach the battery hold-down.  The shorter of the two hook rods attaches in the rear.  Remember to re-clip the ground wire to the hold-down rod.
    9.  Before connecting the battery, smear a thin coat of no corrode gel (available at most parts stores) on the battery terminal and slide on anti-corrosion fiber washers.
    10. Connect your leads to the battery terminal.  Avoid touching your tool against both terminals or other metal on the truck.
    11. Make sure to fully tighten the wire lead connection to the terminals.  Lose connections can cause corrosion and hard to find electrical issues down the road. Reattach the terminal lead caps.
    12. With the battery securely connected, set the front plastic engine cover back into place and secure it with plastic retainers.  To avoid breaking retainer clips, ensure the button is lifted allowing the bottom prongs to come together.  You may want to gently press the prongs together so they easily slide through the lined up holes.  Press down on the button top gently locking the retain into place.
    13. Don’t for get the two retainers holding the front cover to the power steering cover.  For these retainers pull the center pin up allowing the retainer to slide in, then press it back down flush with the button top to secure it in place.

Your Lexus GX470 or other overland truck should start right up.  But you will notice your clock needs to be reset.  You will also need to reset the driver’s remote window controls console.


How To Reset Lexus GX470 Remote Window Controls

If you have had reason to disconnect or replace the battery on your Lexus GX470, you probably found that the drive’s remote window console controls on the door no longer work for the passenger or rear windows.  Luckily there is an easy fix.

  1. Turn the key to the on position
  2. At the remote window press and hold down the window button until the window is completely down.  Continue to hold the button down for two (2) seconds.
  3. Remaining at the remote window’s control button, lift the window button and hold it up until the window is fully up.  Continue to hold the button up for two (2) seconds.
  4. Repeat steps 2 and 3 at all the other windows.

Test that your remote window control console on the driver’s door.  The remote console has re-learned it’s role and can now fully operate all the remote windows.  If any of the remote window controls don’t work, go to that window and repeat steps 2 and 3.

This window console reset will also work on most Toyota, Lexus, Honda or Acura vehicles with similar remote window controls.

I H8 To Air Up – How To Build An Automatic Tire Inflator

We love the soft, rock gripping ride you get when you air down big E rated, 10 ply off-road tires.  Hate is not too strong a word when we have to inflate the tires back up. We often argue about who’s turn it is to sit next to a tire while our little compressor pumps its brains out to re-inflate the rubber up to highway pressure.

An air tank will make quick work of re-inflating tires but it doesn’t really work for trips like our Baja overland adventure where we were constantly adjusting our tires’ PSI up and down as we moved between asphalt, desert sand, boulder filled dry riverbeds, muddy swamps and beaches.

We knew there had to be answer… it just took eight years of scouring the Internet and talking to other overlander travelers to figure it out!

We decided to build our own automatic tire infator using an adjustable in-line air regulator??!!  What is this tire inflator voodoo witchcraft you ask? Add a common air tool inline regulator that lets you set the desired PSI to a tire inflator, hook it up your air compressor and walk away.  The regulator will stop the air flow automatically when the tire’s PSI reaches the preset level.

This project took some experimenting before finding what worked best for us.  The key is to start by selecting your regulator, then build your parts list off of the port sizes available on your regulator.

NPT references the national pipe thread taper (aka  American standard pipe), refers to the size of a connector and the size of the thread on any connector.  The thread size is especially important, because non-standard fittings may not provide a full seal, and will allow air to escape from your hose lines and connectors.

A note on hoses before we get started. The hoses with built-in chucks that we tried seemed to come with flimsy chucks that we managed to break in the field, which is why the recommendation below is to purchase a separate hose and separate locking brass chuck.

What you need (or at lease what worked for us):

To start, attach the brass male quick release plug to the input (or intake) side of the regulator.

To the output side (which is all other ports) of the regulator attach your hose. Attach your brass lock-on air chuck to the end of your whip hose.

Note: to prevent air leaks at the joints, you want to use a little Teflon tape or Permatex 59235 Pst Pipe Sealant on the threads prior to connecting everything.

If you plan to use a gauge, attach it now to an open port on your regulator.

Now following the regulator’s direction, set your regulator to the desired PSI.  Depending on the regulator this may take a little trial and error.

With everything assembled, connect your automatic tire inflator to your compressor and test it out on your spare tire to make sure it is stopping at the desired PSI.

That is it!!

Instead of sitting next to each tire for up to 10 minutes, we can now attach our auto-fill tire inflator to our pump, connect the locking chuck to the valve stem, start the compressor and move on to other important things, like checking for trail damage, repacking our recovery kit, changing out of our trail boots, posting a picture to Instagram or just grabbing a soda and sitting in the shade. Gone are the days of sitting next to a tire, up to our ankles in mud while the rain pours down, holding a tire inflator and watching the tire gauge.

An additional benefit of this regulated automatic tire inflator is that all four tires are at the exact same PSI when it stops.  No more back and forth to reset pressure all around.

Will this little device change our life…  probably not… but it will free up time to get repacked and ensure we are ready to go when our last tire is aired back up.

If you don’t want to DIY it…  how about the Longacre 50581 Auto-Fill Tire Inflator / Deflator.  Longacre Racing does offer an automatic tire inflator… But there is one down side.  We found the chuck that attaches to the tire’s valve stem leaves a lot to be desired.   The word “cheap crap” comes to mind.  Rather than return the inflator (it had been 6 months and a few uses) we went on to Amazon where we picked up a high quality hose for the 1/8″ port they used (Interstate Pneumatics TW100 12 Inch Gray Hose Whip for Inflator) and tire chuck (Coilhose Pneumatics CH15A Open Lock-On Chuck, 1/4-Inch FPT).  Easy swap and together they make this a good tire accessory.  But it added $18 (+ shipping and taxes) to the overall cost.

Installing Lexus GX470 Swing-Out Bumper

So 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?


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.

If 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.


Let there be work light

Around 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.

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.

Chasing The Gear Whore

“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.

I 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.  You 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.
  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.  You 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 granola 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.

Whatever 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.

Driving While Blind – The Off-Road Spotter

Driving 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.

In 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.

When 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”.
  • 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.

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.

Rock Rail (Slider) Maintenance

Off-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.

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.

Before 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.