Tag Archives: off road truck stuff

Lexus GX470 Rear differential Oil change

This step by step procedure for changing the gear oil in your rear differential works for a Lexus GX470, FJ Cruiser, 4Runner and most modern Toyota trucks.

The gear oil in your truck keeps friction to a minimum and ensures the long life of your differential gears.  Proper maintenance by changing the differential oil is simple and keeps your off-road truck working as designed and saves money. Changing the differential oil yourself allows you to learn a little more about your overland vehicle (you never know when hat knowledge will come in handy on the trail).

The first big decision is what oil to use. It is important to consult your owners manual. Toyota lists the quantity, type and viscosity of oil required. For our 2008 Lexus GX470 the manual lists:

  • Capacity: 3.3 quarts
  • Type: Hypoid gear oil APL GL-5
  • Viscosity: SAE 80w-90

Other item to pick up before you start include new drain and fill plug gaskets.  Unless your on the trail working a field repair, don’t try save a few pennies by reusing these little items.  (Get a complete set of differential and transfer case gaskets they will also fit your FJ Cruiser and 4Runner)

Most back yard mechanics will have the tools required to perform this simple activity.  The tools you will need include:

Start by placing your GX470 on flat level ground to ensure good draining and proper refill. Tip: clean the axle housing with soapy water and a scrub brush to remove the road and trail gunk.  This will prevent any dirt from falling in to the differential while changing the oil.

Remove the fill plug using a 24mm socket . The fill plug located in the middle(ish) of the rear axle housing.  By removing the fill plug first the housing you ensure you can refill the differential before draining all the oil out.

With the oil catch pan in place remove the drain plug, located on the bottom of the rear axle housing, using a 24mm socket. If your going to use gloves, this is the time to wear them.

The drain plug has a magnetic insert designed to attract and hold tiny metal shavings that become suspended in the oil.  Yes these are little bits of your gears.  Inspect the drain plug checking for any chunks and observe how much has accumulated.  This will give you an idea of what has been going on inside your differential.

toyota cleaned differential drain and fill plugs

While the oil completely drains, grab the shop rags and clean the fill and drain plugs, removing all the gunk and accumulated metal shavings.  When your done the plugs should be clean and dry.  Don’t forget which is which.

After the oil is fully drained, wipe the area clean and re-insert the drain plug with a new gasket and hand tighten. Remember the drain plug has the magnetic insert. Now set your torque wrench and tighten down the drain plug.  Toyota states the torque specifications for both the drain and fill plugs as 36 foot pounds for our 2008 Lexus GX470. This torque setting is the same for the Toyota FJ Cruiser and 4Runner.

Remember that funnel with flexible tube?  Getting the oil out of the bottle or can and into the axle housing through that little hole can be tricky.  One of the advantages of the Hopkins FloTool 10704 Spill Saver Measu-Funnel is that the flexible tube funnel cap will screw directly on to some quart bottles. Another tip is to place the unopened gear oil containers in some hot water for five to ten minutes. This will warm up the thick gear lube and allow it to flow more easily.

Squeezing out three plus quarts of thick 90 weight through the tube and into the axle housing will take awhile so get comfortable. 

toyota fj cruiser rear differential fluid level

Checking the fill level on flat ground is easy.  The oil should barely begin to run out or just about to run out (within 5mm of the fill opening).

Hand tighten the fill plug and new gasket followed by torquing down the plug to Toyota specifications.

Wipe down the housing and check for leaks. Drive around the block a couple of times and check for drips when the test drive is complete.

Like all trucks your Toyota or Lexus requires the differential oil to be changed in order to keep the gears turning smoothly.  Changing the rear differential oil on a GX470 (or FJ Cruiser, or 4Runner) is a simple maintenance job anyone can do with a little know how and about 60 minutes.

lexus GX470 window console

How To Reset Lexus GX470 Remote Window Controls

lexus gx470 rear passanger windowIf 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.lexus GX470 rear window control
  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.

automatic tire inflator close up

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

tire inflation in the coldWe 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.automatic tire inflator parts

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.

automatic tire inflator in actionAn 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.

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?

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.

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


  • 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


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.

bright LED dome light

FJ Cruiser LED Dome Light Swap

fj cruiser dome light bulb and LED chip comparisonEvery try to read a map at night by your dome light?  How about trying to find something in your console at night?  The Toyota FJ Cruiser OEM dome light may give you a warm glow, but bright light you can read by is not its strength.

One of the easiest FJ Cruiser modifications  you can perform that pays big dividends is to replace the interior dome lights with new bright white LED chip-sets.

fj cruiser dome light cover removal drawingWe picked up a Putco LED Lighting “980018 premium interior dome light kit”.  The kit included a pair (one for the front and one for the rear) of LED white light chip-sets.  The chip-set fits the original dome light fixture and is designed as a direct bulb replacement.  With three LEDs on the chip-set, it puts out approximately 18 times more light than the original bulb, an increase that you can definitely notice.fj cruiser dome light cover removal

  • Start by removing the cover.  Using a screwdriver with its tip wrapped in tape, disengage the 4 claws and remove the light’s lens cover.
  • Remove the old bulb from the socket.
  • Press the LED chip-set into the bulb socket
  • Replace the cover.

LED dome light installedIt really is that easy.  Your new dome light(s) will be significantly brighter, use less energy and provide a whiter light.

No this mod wont help you climb over rocks or pull you through gumbo thick mud but it will help you find that last handful of nuts you dropped on the floor of the cab before the three second rule kicks in.

wheel bearing ABS sensor

FJ Cruiser Wheel Bearing Replacement

FJ Cruiser Axle AssemblyIt started out as oil appearing on the inside of rear wheel. Hum, that can’t be good.  Ok, a blown oil seal, that is easy enough and just a couple of bucks for a new seal. After changing the seal out it was much better, but not perfect and in a few days it was clear something wasn’t exactly right. Did I screw up the seal when I put it in?  Is the breather clogged and building up pressure that blows the seal? God I hope it’s not the bearing.

After checking the breather to ensure good air flow and changing the seal one more time for good measure, it was clear we’d need a little professional help and turned to our friends at Auburn Car Repair & Offroad to replace the wheel bearing.

In order to change the rear wheel bearing, you need to pull the axle, apply 20+ tons of pressure to separate the bearing from the axle and than push the new bearing on.  But aside from machinist magic of replacing the bearing, most folks can perform a majority of the work involved.

After getting the axle in the air and removing the wheel, start by unplugging the the ABS sensor wire.  Remove the bolts that hold the disk brakes housing and carefully set it aside.  Tip: if you cut the top of the clip holding the brake hose in place you can slide the hose out without disconnecting it from the hardline and avoid having to bleed the brakes later.

FJ Cruiser Parking Brake ShoesPulling the brake disk (rotor) may take a few soft raps with a plastic mallet to loosen rust’s grip in order to slide if off.    With the disk removed the parking brake is exposed.  There are springs top and bottom that hold everything together.  The top springs are under a good deal to tension and will require work to lift them off of the stud.  Once the springs are released, the shoe hold down springs can be removed along with the brake shoes and other parts.  The best advice here, slow down, take your time and ensure you keep track of all the parts.

FJ Cruiser Axle ReplacmentThe parking brake cable needs to be removed before the #1 shoe can be completely removed.

Remove are four nuts holding the axle (the wheel bearing housing actually) to the axle housing.  Grab a shop rag and slide the axle straight out from the housing.

Remove the axle seal and drape a shop towel over the opening to keep the dust out.  If you’re simply replacing a blown seal, you can jump to the re-install.

rear axle hub partsThe ABS sensor is attached to the wheel bearing housing.  A small bolt holds it in place and needs to be removed before you proceed.

This is where the magic happens.  If you don’t have a 40 ton hydraulic press in your garage you’re going to need to head down to a machine shop / auto shop for a little love.  The machinist will remove the retaining clip, set up the axle in their hydraulic  press, and pull the wheel bearing housing off of the axle.  She will then set up the new wheel bearing housing so it can be pushed into place on the axle and replace the retaining clip.  Done.

When you get the axle back, be sure to reinstall your ABS senor.  Add a little grease to the outside of your new axle seal and tap it into place.  This is also the time to replace the O-ring.

FJ Cruiser rear brakesCarefully slide the axle into the housing.  Avoid banging against the seal.  You may need to turn the axle a little in order for the splines to line up and fully slide into the housing.  Tighten up the nuts that hold the axle to the housing.

The tricky part for me was reassembling the parking brakes.  Although the guys at Auburn Care Repair & Offroad completed it in a few minutes, it took me about 30 minutes to get the parking brake shoes back in place when I replaced the seal the first  and second time.  Install the #1 shoe first, reattach the parking brake cable, then install the #2 shoe.  It is not all that complicated but there is limited room to work the parts into place and the springs take a little muscle so take your time and use the diagrams here to help.rear axle assembly parts

After the parking brake shoes and brake cable are complete it is time to adjust the shoes so they will hold tight when the parking brake is engaged.  Make small adjustments, put the brake disk in place and feel the rotation against the shoes.  Once you feel the shoe begin to rub, back it off a bit so the disk rotates freely but quickly grabs the drum when the parking brake is engaged.

Put your disk brake housing back on (if you disconnected the break hardline you’ll need to bleed the brakes).  Connect the ABS cable to the ABS sensor.  Mount your wheel and your set.

rear axle parts listNo so hard right.  If you want to do this work yourself you’ll need a few parts:

  • Rear Axle Hub and Bearing Assembly
  • Rear Axle Bearing Inner Retainer
  • Rear Axle Shaft Snap Ring
  • Rear Axle Shaft Oil Seal
  • O-Ring

Although you may not be able to perform all the work, you can certainly perform a good portion of the work and let a machine shop do the heavy lifting on your rear wheel bearing replacement.

Bonus: Here are the instructions Toyota has for removing and installing a rear axle on a Toyota FJ Cruiser: