Category Archives: gear review

Learn what we think is important to have on an adventure and what you can do without. We’ll tell you how the gear holds up on an adventure after we’ve tested it out in the real world.

fourtreks hi-lift Jack mounted fj cruiser

Mounting Your Off-Road Adventure Stuff

fourtrek tube mounting componentsLong off-road adventures are all about having the stuff you need to get unstuck, stay safe and remain comfortable.  Some of the most import safety equipment on a 4×4 adventure, a shovel and Hi-lift jack, or fire extinguisher are also the most cumbersome and difficult to store.  And like a teenager reaching for the Clearasil on prom night, you want immediate access to this stuff when you need it.

Solving the storage problem, Fourtreks has come up with an versatile solution for  easily mounting much of your off-road equipment in places that keep it out of the way and easily accessible.  By taking advantage of the tubing on most 4×4 rigs (bumpers, roof racks, roll cages…) Fourtreks has developed a versatile modular system of tube clamp rings and accessory mounts that attach to their clamp rings holding all sorts of off-road equipment.

Made from T-6061 aluminum, the system components are light weight yet very strong.  The different accessory mounts are designed to hold such things as:

  • Hi-lift jack
  • Shovel
  • Axe
  • Fire Extinguisher
  • CO2 tank
  • Jerry can
  • Maglite flashlight
  • GPS
  • … you get the idea

Keeping in mind that one size does not fill all, the clamp rings are available for 1″, 1-1/8″, 1-1/4″, 1-1/2”, 1-5/8”, 1-3/4”, 1-7/8”, 2”, 2-1/4” and 2-3/8″ diameter tubing. All of the accessory mounts bolt to any of the clamp rings allowing you to mix and match storage locations for quick access to all your important 4×4 accessories.

Using Fourtreks mounts, we’ve been storing our Hi-lift jack and shovel on the roof for over three years now.  Knowing these items are safely stored out of the way and easily available has allowed us to explore the roads less traveled with piece of mind.

cartoon toyota fj cruiser

2010 FJ Cruiser Still Going Strong

The Toyota FJ Cruiser continues to be one of the top selling off-road adventure SUVs.  The rig has not changed much over the years and continues to stay true to its rugged off-road roots and long land cruiser heritage.  The most notable change are the new engine updates that now delivers 260-horsepower @ 5,600 rpm and 271 lb-ft @4,400 rpm from the 4.0 liter DOHC 24-valve V6.

Fuel mileage remains an anemic 15 city, 19 highway for the 4WD, 6 speed manual transmission and 17 city, 21 highway with 4WD 5 speed automatic transmission.

Toyota’s FJ Cruiser continues to be one of the few 4WD trucks that out of the box is capable of bombing down desert roads, meandering over 4×4 trails or taking you on extended off-road adventures.  Continuing since its introduction in 2007 the Toyota FJ Cruiser maintains a huge community of dedicated followers who appreciate its quality engineering and quirky styling.

white 2010 toyota trail teams fj cruiser

Toyota ’10 Model Year FJ Cruiser

There appears to be an encore year for Toyota’s flagship off-road truck, the FJ Cruiser.  Rumors of its death may have been premature as Toyota releases it’s “What’s New ’10 Model Year” lineup notes. And would you believe it… the FJ Cruiser is in the line up.

With more horse power, little better gas mileage and a Trail Team Special Edition the 2010 FJ Cruiser looks to continue the rugged off road capabilities that made the legendary Land Cruiser lineup one of Toyota’s best.

But the news is not all daisies and love. The iconic Voodoo Blue color scheme is being retired. And while the Voodoo Blue color makes the rig look like Papa Smurf, it has always been one my favorites, always stands out in a crowd. It will be replaced with Army Green for ’10.

And although we have to say bye bye voodoo, we are pleased that the Toyota FJ Cruiser appears to hold favor with off road enthusiasts, SUV consumers and Toyota alike.  Who knows we could learn to like Army Green!

You can read more on the FJ Cruiser and a few other Toyota rigs in the Toyota ’10 Model Year Lineup notes.  W can neither confirm nor deny the existence of the Toyota lineup notes for this model year… however we can confirm that 2014 is slated as the last model year for the iconic FJ Cruiser.

fj cruiser rock crawling rubicon trail

Asking The Right Question FJ Cruiser Lift Kits

voodoo blue fj cruiser rock pile tillamook forestSeems like a reoccurring question I hear from new FJ Cruiser guys is “What lift should I get”?  Not that I’m an expert on all the lifts available but I thought it was time to address this question in a bit more public forum.

The question is not necessarily wrong, but it is incomplete.  The question should be  “What lift should I get for my style of off-road adventures…  I enjoy wheeling my rig… in the sand, on 4×4 trails, crawling up gnarly boulders, racing down desert roads, or just looking good on the street”.  The best lift for one style of wheeling is not necessarily the best for another style.  And as the saying goes one man’s garbage is another man’s gold, it all depends on what you’re planning to do with your rig, what your after and your budget.  Don’t worry if others tell you how they think you should enjoy you’re rig… Consider what will make you happy.

First of all, lifting your truck does not increase ground clearance.  A lift provides more room for larger (taller) tires.  Larger tires provide the increased ground clearance.

Second lift kits for the Toyota FJ Cruiser mainly address the front-end.  This is because the factory stance has the rig on a significant rack with the rear higher than the front.  However when lifting the front end, you should consider upgrading the rear suspension components (springs and shocks) to a quality that matches your front-end choice.

Third, springs provide lift and shocks provide dampening.  If you upgrade the shock you will feel a difference in ride but without changing the geometry of the coil (spacers or longer coils), the height remains the same.

Lift kits can be broken down into a couple of groups. There are a lots of choices and the number of inches of various lifts may vary, the basic groups of lifts available for the FJ Cruiser are:

  • spacer lift
  • 3″ suspension lift
  • 6″ lift (anything from 4″ – 6″ will fall into this group)
  • long travel
  • solid axle swap

spacer liftA spacer lift, sometimes referred to as a leveling kit, is the least expensive lift available with height achieved by placing a spacer between the top of the strut mount and the coil-over spring.  The spacer effectively compresses the spring which pushes the rig up as the spring tries to reach equilibrium.  A spacer lift does not increase travel and is now stretching your factory shocks to their limit.  This method of lifting your rig will level it out and allow you to put on larger tires (although depending on tire choice you may still need a body mount chop to avoid rubbing).  A lift that uses spacers to raise the rig is best suited for those who do not plan on going off road and simply want the look of a more rugged stance and bigger tires.  If you add a heavy bumper or winch to a spacer lift your springs will give back all the lift under the additional weight.

sway-a-way suspension lift coil-overs shocks and springsThe second 4×4 lift category, a 3″ suspension lifts use longer shocks, stiffer springs and coil-overs to provide the lift.  A 3″ lift will allow  for 33″ tires (yeah you still need the body mount chop), although some folks have stuffed 35″ tires into the FJ Cruiser’s wheel well accepting the rub that comes with them in this setup.  Unlike a spacer lift which simply compress the springs, suspension lifts gives you additional travel along with lift because of the longer components. Adding aftermarket front upper control arms will extend that travel even further.  That additional travel equates to a smoother ride in most cases along with improved handling.

3″ suspension lifts can be broken down further into kits that are adjustable and those that are not.  With a non-adjustable suspension lift you select the stiffness of spring you want (or in some cases spacers to compress the springs) based on the weight of your front end. If you are running a heavy bumper and winch select a stiffer rated spring, if not choose a medium or light coil-over spring. Spring ratings can be heavy up front with medium in the rear allowing for some customization. If you change your front-end’s weight down the road, you have to change out your springs to maintain the same ride.

On an adjustable suspension lift kit, in addition to spring rating choices, the coil-over comes with a built in collar that will increase or decrease the pre-load tension on the coil-over spring, compensating for any additional weight.  A few turns of the collar allows you to dial-in the ride most suited to your liking.  Each side of the front-end can be tuned individually to compensate for the extra weight of the driver or dual batter stack.

Because a 3″ lift increases travel and in most cases upgrades the quality of shock, as well as providing lift, it is well suited to individuals looking to wheel their off-road vehicle through many different terrains including 4×4 trails, sand dunes and two track dirt roads as well as miles of washboard gravel or dirt.

As you would expect their is a difference in price between the adjustable and non-adjustable suspension lift options.  Non-adjustable suspension lifts will cost up to $700 for a quality setup.  Adjustable suspension lifts kits can cost upwards of $2,600 depending on manufacturer…  The religious debate on the best manufacturer of coil-overs and shocks makes the holy war crusades look like a minor disagreement on the play ground.

rough country fj cruiser body liftThe next type of lift, a 6″ lift, will put you high off the ground.   Part suspension lift part body lift, a 6″ lift involves adding spacers that separate the body from the frame along with a number of suspension components including  longer rear upper and lower control arms (or relocation mounts for stock trailing arms)  longer shocks, springs, coil-overs, and steering knuckles.  A 6″ lift allows you to easily slide in larger 35″ tires (most tires over 275x70x17 will likely require a body mount chop).  The center of gravity is now six inches higher (think hard now before putting any weight up in the roof rack…  like a tent, gas cans, spare tire…).  The suspension travel gain and increased ground clearance of a 6″ lift is only about 3″ although 35″ tires will add to the ground clearance.  This lift is not for the budget conscious with parts running up to $3,700 depending on how complete the kit is and the quality of the suspension components.  Those who plan to drive slow on the trails and need larger tires to get over rocks and can stay away form the off chamber stuff will find the height of a body lift to their liking.  If you are seeking the big rugged 4×4 look you will also find the 6″ lift appealing.

total chaos long travel kit partsWhen you start talking about long-travel lift kits, you move into the more specialized lifts. With a long travel lift you replace almost all of the stock IFS components including upper and lower control arms, axles, and in some cases new shock mounts to allow for dual shocks up front.   The long travel kit pushes out the wheels extending the distance between the shock tower and lower arm mount.  2″ and 3.5″ kits are available from Total Choas for the Toyota’s FJ Cruiser.  The increased distance between the shock tower and lower control arm shock mount is now filled with a longer coil-over increasing the total travel available to soak up the bumps, ruts and pot holes in the trails.  Up to 13″ of travel can be achieved when you push each wheels out 3.5″.  The coil-over components of a long travel kit operates the same as an adjustable suspension lift but with more coil-over spring to work with.

The long travel kits are designed with desert racing in mind.  In this style of wheeling, height is not as important as keeping the wheels in contact with the ground to maintain forward momentum and steering control.  With a long travel kit the droop, a measure of how far the wheel can fall down from its resting stance, is just as important as the lift that is achieved.  More lift means less droop and vice verses.  But with those long coil-overs there is a lot to work with.  On a 4×4 tail the longer travel will bring addition flex allowing the rig to remain stable while traversing all sorts of contours.  As you would expect the price for replacing your entire stock IFS  is steep.  Depending on the long travel kit and the coil-overs, secondary front shocks and rear shocks you choose expect to pay between $4,000 and $7,000.  And just in case you were wondering, no you can not use the coil-overs from a 3″ suspension lift, they are just too short.

front solid axleA solid axle is considered the holly grail of hard core off-road rock crawlers.  Tons of flex, high lift, locking front differential and armor plated toughness, a solid axle swap turns the FJ Cruiser into a point and shot rig.  Lift height and tire size is only limited by the shocks length you can throw down with and the amount of cutting on the wheel wells your willing to do. Of course what you gain in trail worthiness you loose in daily driving on-road manners.  The rigs that under go what today is mostly a one-off custom front end build, tend to be purpose built rock crawls.  Building a solid axle that can incorporate all the front end electronics including ABS and other sensors will set you back about $10,000.  But don’t worry, the kids dreams of college where never that realistic anyway with their grades.  Just let them know you spending their inheritance while you’re still young enough to enjoy it.

voodoo blue toyota fj cruiser 4x4 trail rocksWhat is the right lift for your FJ Cruiser, I don’t know.  How do you plan to wheel your rig?  How much are you looking to spend?  Have you considered the additional cost of tires to fill all that space?  What are you looking to gain by raising your FJ Cruiser, good looks, bigger tires, smoother ride, unlimited flex?  Of course if you were thinking of in stuffing 35″ tires so you could go rock crawling and have a $2oo budget; learn to live with disappointment.  If however your dream is to run logging roads and some 4×4 trails while still maintaining the rig as a daily driver on 33″ tires using a 3″ suspension lift and spending about $800, plus tires; you will most like see huge value from your investment, along with a little compromise on adjustablity. In other words if you are comfortable with the what you want to do and set aside the appropriate budget, you’ll get miles of smiles (sorry it just came out) from your lift, out on the trail or anywhere else you want to wheel you rig…  Even the Denny’s parking lot.

And now thanks to Metal Tech 4×4 there is an option specifically designed to improve FJ Cruiser rear travel for a long travel option with more travel and flex for the rear end of the Toyota FJ Cruiser.

Bahia de los Angeles base camp tent

Off-Road Adventure Shelter – Kelty Carport Review

fj cruiser kelty carport camp fireOff-road adventures can be for a day, a week, a month…  And at some point you need to stop for the night.  Options abound for overnight accommodations ranging from a tarp on the ground to roof top tents with changing rooms and a luxuriously padded floor.  In between is just about everything else.  We decided to test out the Kelty Carport Deluxe Shelter and see how well it would work as a shelter for long off-road adventures.

The Kelty Carport can be set up in several configurations.  It can function as a car side awning with just a top or as a sided privacy shelter attaching to the rigs roof rack.  It can also stand alone as a three sided shelter with the included poles.

The first thing you notice when setting up kelty carport fj cruiserthe shelter is that you will need to read the directions (not a straight forward setup process).  There is an order to things and in this case if you don’t follow Kelty’s order you’ll end up wondering why the shelter seems more difficult than it should be.   Set up time averaged about 15 minutes once we knew the right order.   The second thing you’ll notice is that everything is an extremely tight fit and you will be stretching and pulling to hook the Polyester taffeta shelter to the aluminum polls.  Kelty’s engineers use a lot of tension to keep everything in place.  The final issue to overcome is wind…  When the atmosphere is less than calm, lifting the shelter to attach it to the rig is a lot like holding a kite in a wind tunnel.  Once it is up and the sides all staked down it is stable and protects you from wind.  Even in the awning configuration it remained solid although you have to use three tension lines on each of the two polls to keep it standing tall.

In either configuration the shelter will keep the rain off, however there is no floor and you will have large gaps at the roof line where the shelter attaches to the roof rack allowing wind to push rain in when it is coming down horizontally.spaciousness of kelty carport

When the shelter is set up, you’ll find a spacious, well ventilated area that protects you from the wind, sun and night time dew point.  With the high point of the shelter  attached to your rig, there is plenty of standing room in the shelter with the added bonus of full access to your rig.  In fact the shelter can be set up with the sides down for full privacy while allowing you to open the doors of the rig providing full access.  The ability to keep your gear and cloths stowed in the rig while you sleep in the shelter add to the roominess of your living area.

The shelter attaches to your rig with three Velcro straps making it is fairly easy to unhook the shelter, rest it on the ground and drive off for a day on the trail, knowing it will take only seconds to reattach upon your return.

kelty carport stand aloneWe found the Kelty Carport makes a good summer shelter and like that it can be configured as an awning (roll up the sides) or a night time retreat.  The carport can be attached to the rig or stand alone providing countless configuration options. But setup and tear down takes can be a little challenging for one person.

The Kelty Carport is not cheap, retailing for $330.  If you like the idea of an awning and want a little more earthiness in your overnight accommodations, consider the Kelty Carport as an option somewhere in the middle of true luxury and bear bones minimalism.

fj cruiser baja racer

Metal Tech 4×4 Off Road Tube Bumper

voodoo blue toyota fj cruiser metal tech front bumperSo why did we say good bye to our tried and true off-road adventure ARB Bumper?  How else could we try out and review Metal Tech 4×4’s front tube bumper?  If you haven’t heard about Metal Tech 4×4 and their products for Toyota Land Cruisers than you probably don’t spend a lot of time on the FJ Cruiser forums or don’t wheel a Toyota Land Cruiser.  Metal Tech 4×4 started out building cages and other trail protection for the Toyota Land Cruisers (think old school FJ40, 80 series or FJ60).  Now Metal Tech 4×4 has taken that experience and applied it to Toyota’s newest member of the cruiser line building sliders, front and rear bumpers as well as cool tube doors Toyota’s FJ Cruiser.

metal tech front tube bumperMetal Tech’s off-road accessories are engineered from the ground up for protection and their front tube bumper is an ultra high performance, lightweight package. The tube bumper is only 19 pounds heaver than the factory stock front bumper. Made from 1 ¾”, .120 wall tube steel, the bumper features four light mounting tabs and the ability to work with or without a winch.    The bumper mounts to the front FJ Cruiser frame using the factory bumper mounts for easy installation as well as ensuring a strong integration with the frame.

Installing our Soltek off-road lights to the bumper was a simple matter of running the wire harness through the tube from the frame to the single 1/2 hole we drilled at top of the bumper next to the top light mounts.

We chose to add the optional winch mount system which is designed to be installed independent of the bumper allowing for increased strength as well as easy installation.  The winch system is a twin beam design that bolts to the sides of your frame using the factory reinforced points on the frame. This winch mount system was designed for the abuse of real off-road cruiser metal tech front tube bumper

The winch system bolts on and as advertised is the easiest winch installation of any bumper. Once the mount system is in place you simply bolt the winch on.  A simple one-person job.  With both the tube bumper and winch mount system installed, the two look integrated as if they are one unit but remain independent for better strength to weight ratio.

The first thing we noticed after installing the new bumper and winch mount, was that the front end now sits about a half inch higher than before (without the bulk weight of the ARB bumper).  The lighter front end has reduced dipping in hard fast turns and with an improved approach angle climbing steep obstacles just got a little easier.

The openness of the tube bumper definitely shows off the suspension and in our opinion really complements the front lines of the Toyota FJ Cruiser.  Lite weight, engineered protection and good looks, what more could we ask for.  Look for updates over the coming year as we take the rig and it’s new bumper out on various off-road adventures.

close up arb front bumper fj cruiser

ARB Bumper – Long-Term Review

fj cruiser muddy trail fall colors 6It has been about two years since we first installed ARB’s Bull Bar on our off-road adventure based Toyota FJ Cruiser. In the early days of the FJ Cruiser, our choices of bumpers were limited to only a handful. ARB has been there with their bull bar since the beginning. These days FJ Cruiser owners have a wide array of the options when it comes to an aftermarket shell style bumpers but ARB remains as the standard by which others are measured.

ARB is one of the best known companies for aftermarket 4×4 products.  Headquartered out of Australia with it’s North American office in Renton WA., ARB has been building their 4WD products, outback tough for more than three decades.  In our case their bumper lived up to its reputation.  Originally installed on our Toyota FJ Cruiser to protect the front end during our Arctic Circle off-road adventure where there is always a real chance of colliding with wild life… large wild life.  After making the journey north the bumper continued to guarded the front end from trees, rocks and what goes bump in the night on numerous 4×4 trails and back roads across the west.arb bumper fj cruiser beach

Our overall impression?  This is a strong, well designed bumper (strong enough to hold your favorite pint glass).  Intended for off-road adventures in the Australian Outback, the bumper is built tough, supports a winch and houses built-in IPF fog lights as well as top mounted off-road lights.  This is the only after market bumper we know of which has been crash tested.

On the down side, like all shell style bumpers, that mass of steel is heavy and its square style pushes a lot of air, contributing to lower mpg.  When the rig is flexing over rocks or running fast down washboard back roads, expect a little rub from the bumper on the corners and fender flairs (we found this to be true for us and other ARB equipped FJ Cruisers we looked at).

2007 toyota fj cruiser field arb bumperQuality construction, bullet proof design and a reasonable approach angle makes the ARB, in our opinion, the top shell style bumper on the market today.  The ARB Bumper provided years of protection and performed well regardless of the terrain.  This is a product we can recommend to anyone looking for a shell style expedition bumper.

This is also the point at which we retired the ARB Bumper in order to test a Metal Tech tube style front bumper, but that’s another story…  off-road adventure accessory

fj cruiser packed maxtrax

Off-Road Recovery Made Easy

fj cruiser stuck in sand maxtrax ladders4×4 off-road adventures can put you in some sticky places and the last thing you want is to get your 4WD truck stuck.  Winches are great for self recovery as long as you have an anchor point.  But what do you do if there nothing but sand all around and no other rigs about?  We tested out a recover system (aka sand ladders) from Maxtrax out of Australia to see if we could find an easy one man means for getting unstuck.

fj cruiser arb bullbar maxtrax front wheelThe first thing you notice about Maxtrax is they are light, easy to work with and stack neatly for storage.  The second thing you notice is that Maxtrax put a lot of thought into their design and managed to build a better mouse trap with added gripping power built into the ladders as well as handles.  But do they work?

Putting the sand ladders to work is pretty easy…  On 4WD vehicles, place the Maxtrax up against the front wheels.  You may need to dig a little so the ladders lay as flat as possible, but that is easy enough since the Maxtrax can act as a shovel for scooping sand out of the cruiser driving on maxtrax

With the ladders in place, climb in the 4WD rig and drop it into low.  Gently apply the throttle.  As the tires slowly turn they will draw the Maxtrax sand ladders in and climb on top using the recovery system to gain traction and move the rig forward.  Keep the throttle steady and drive straight.

Once you’re onto firmer ground, it’s easy to go back and grab your Maxtrax for the next time you need a little help out of a sticky situation.

As advertised the Maxtrax recovery system worked well for getting us out of the deep sand.  When it came to hills we found it takes a little more work to use the ladders to move forward like climbing steps.  maxtrax fj cruiser stuck on sand hillPut the sand ladders under the rig, climb forward, retrieve the ladders, rinse and repeat until you’re up and over the dune.

Maxtrax recovery system does make self extraction in sand, snow and mud an easy one person job. These Maxtrax have definitely become a standard for our off-road adventures.

fj cruiser knuckle gusset installed

Knuckle Buckle Buster (say that fast 3 times)

removing fj cruiser steering knuckleTurns out there is a weak spot in the FJ Cruiser’s front knuckles that can give out under the right circumstances.  Now those circumstances can be found on off-road adventures and include speed, suspension extension and brute force, all in the right combination…

Since we look for places that set up situations where all those circumstances come together, we thought we would see about reinforcing the knuckle spindle.  We found that Total Chaos now offers a weld on 1/8” laser cut spindle gusset intended to reinforce the spindles where they bend. These gussets can be installed with aftermarket upper control arms (UCA) but are not compatible with stock upper control arms. Just another reason for a UCA upgrade.

grinding prep fj cruiser knuckleThe gussets also dictate that you run without a sway bar.  On the road the sway bar helps eliminate body roll and keep the wheels planted on the ground at high speeds or in emergency maneuvers.  Off-road the sway bar can limit the amount of flex your rig is capable as it tries to balance out the movement.  We are running Sway-A-Way coil overs upfront and use the rig as for daily driving.  Luckily the SAWs are plenty capable of preventing body roll on their own and removing the sway bar should not impact on-road performance.  If you’re running a daily driver with other coil overs, test drive your rig without a sway bar before committing to permanent removal.

We headed down to Metal Tech, to have the guys help us out with this mod.  Mark and LT really know Toyota’s and have performed several of these mods, including one on their own shop FJ after bending a spindle during a hard day of wheeling.

LT welding on fj cruiser knuckle gussetThe first thing the guys did was pull apart the rig, removing the sway bar, breaks, hubs, seals, lines, and sensors in order to pull off the knuckle.  Be gentle with the ABS sensor that plugs into the front of the knuckle, you don’t want to set off all the angry dash lights when you bolt it all back up.  Also before you start be sure to have new seals and hub covers on hand since they will take a beating during the disassemble process and are hardly worth spending the time needed to clean and repair.

With the knuckle off it is time to apply heat.  The TC gussets weld directly to the knuckle up the length of it to the UCA mount point.  That means there is a some prep needed to ensure you get good contact and alignment between the knuckle and gusset.  With a little grinding, LT quickly cleaned up the knuckle and than on to the welding table.  Sparks, fire, metal…  It just doesn’t get much cooler than this.  (You can see, LT left the stock UCA attached in order to hold the knuckle up off the table and make working around the corners a little easier.)fj cruiser knuckle gusset

After giving the metal a chance to cool down it was time to pull out the one universal tool every wheeling back yard or pro mechanic must have.  Rattle Can paint!  You have to love that can of Rustolium sitting on the shelf that keeps little spots looking good and stays off the rust as we through the rig into all the nasty stuff that convert perfectly good steel into weak brittle bits.

With all the fab work done, it was time to button it all up and reassemble the suspension.  That means the new UCAs go into place along with bolting on the hubs and seals, tie rods, brakes, lines and of course bleeding the break lines.  The shield that holds the ABS sensor cable out of the way will take a little grinding to ensure it fits up against the knuckle and gusset.  After getting it all put back together it was a quick run to the hot rod shop down the road for an alignment and the hole thing was done in no time.  With all the experience the guys at Metal Tech have, this mod was easy.

So how was the handling on the road without a sway bar?  With Sway-A-Way coil overs, I did not notice a change in handling.  That was even after taking the twisty back roads from Newberg to Portland, the hole time testing how fast I could comfortably go into and out of the turns.

fj cruiser kn air filter

Long-term Report – K&N Cold Air Intake

We all get excited by our new mods and tell everyone we know how its the best (fill in product name here) on the market and we explain all the reason we choose product X. But over time does that glowing praise fad, or are you still pleased with your purchase? This report follows a year of use in all sorts of off-road adventure conditions, and reflects our real world experience with the K&N CAI for the the Toyota FJ Cruiser.

We replace the Toyota FJ Cruiser’s stock air intake with a K&N cold air intake (CAI) about 30,000 miles ago.  The decision to make this mod was based on the horse power gain claims and our desire to beat the dust and debris associated with the dirt and gravel roads of expedition travel.  We picked up the K&N model 63-9030 cold air intake for the Toyota 4.0L engine.

K&N states “our 63 Series Intake Kits or AirCharger® Intakes are built for many different vehicles and represent a dramatic improvement over a K&N O/E replacement filter alone. These intakes use only non-metallic rotationally molded tubes that can reduce intake air temperature and decrease intake sound over a metal tube. Restriction can exist BETWEEN an air filter and the engine reducing the benefit of a K&N Air Filter. The weakest link in the airflow ‘chain’ robs a vehicle of its natural horsepower. Often that weak point is the factory air path leading to the Engine. K&N Air Intake Kits virtually eliminate air path restriction by replacing the air filter and the entire air path to the engine. The aerodynamically engineered tube drives a massive amount of air into an engine, which translates into POWER.”

According to K&N we should have seen a horse power increase of 11.95hp @ 4785rpm (K&N intake kits dynojet research).  And while our rig was not put on a Dyno to validate the increase we felt a gain and certainly heard the throaty sound of air rushing in.

The installation is simple for anyone who has changed their own oil or replaced a stock air filter.  The kit came with all the parts and easy to follow instructions. The bigger, and I do mean bigger, air filter is washable and reusable allowing you to save money on filter replacements and increase air flow.

K&N states “All filters are constructed with ultra-strong molded pliable rubber flanges which absorb vibration and allow for secure attachment” and this is where we saw a major problem.  The weight of the air filter hanging off the intake mount combined with the vibration of the rig as we cruised over washboard back roads (200 to 500 miles a day of washboard gravel and dirt at speeds of 40 – 55 mph) caused the filter to rub against the rigs body. This rubbing caused the filter to wear a hole through its wire mess and polished off the rig’s paint and primer below.  At one point the filter vibrated completely off the intake tube despite a adjustable screw-down band clamp that came with the CAI.  We did manage to correct this problem with some zip ties that secure the intake tube to the heat shield, adding support for the filter and lowering the amount of vibration cause the heavy filter.

The other drawback we found is that although the K&N CAI comes with an air guard designed to shield it from the hot engine bay, it is less than an ideal fit.  Unlike TRD’s CAI which encloses the air filter and draw cool air from the outside, K&N’s is much more open with hot air flowing in from around, underneath and above the shield.

Bottom line, would we do it again…  No!  Although the K&N CAI works well enough, the lack of air control and the filters desire to jump off the intake tube led us to remove this K&N CAI.

All high flow air filters trade some filtration capability for more air flow.  They try to solve it with oil spray or other dust attraction.  The oil sprayed onto this type of filter has been blamed for muck on the MAF (mass airflow) sensor so use it sparingly according to directions.    For now we will go back to the original stock configuration.  For us the additional horse power claim from added air flow was not worth the trade off of filtration and added headaches.