Tag Archives: off-road truck ideas

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?

 

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.

Blue Bunny the FJ Cruiser Walk Around

Our 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:

DIY Cabin Air Filter for Toyota FJ Cruiser

We’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.

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.

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.

FJ Cruiser LED Dome Light Swap

Every 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.

We 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.

  • 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.

It 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.

FJ Cruiser Wheel Bearing Replacement

It 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.

Pulling 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.

The 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.

The 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.

Carefully 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.

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.

No 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:

FJ Cruiser Tail light Replacement

Not that long ago on an off-road adventure we broke the tail light on our FJ Cruiser (Carnage on the trail).  Now it is time to pay the piper and repair the damage.

Replacing a broken tail light is a simple fix anyone can perform with a few simple tools.

Although simple, plan on at least an hour to complete this repair.  It is also time to throwout all child labor laws and enlist the help of your daughter or son or anyone else who has small hands.

In order to remove the broken tail light assembly, pull back the small plastic access panel on the interior back corner of your FJ Cruiser.  Since we replaced the driver’s side we also removed the bottle jack in order to reach the third hexnut that holds the tail light housing in place.  If you are replacing the passenger side you will have to remove the base speaker and the access panel behind.

The tail light housing is held in place by three hexnuts on long screws that are attached to the tail light assembly.  A 10mm wrench will loosen the hexnuts closest to the back door accessible through the small access portal.  The third requires a 10mm deep socket (on a 1/4″ drive there really isn’t much room in there) and small hands.  Reach back up into the cavity behind where the bottle jack is stored.  You cannot see the long screw or hexnut so you (or your small handed assistant) will need to feel your way in order to slide the socket on and loosen the hexnut.

With the hexnuts removed, gently slide the old light housing off and carefully remove the wire clip connections to the light sockets.  After you have the housing off remove and transfer the light sockets (with bulbs) onto the new housing.

Now simply reverse the process to attach the new tail light housing assembly to your FJ Cruiser.  Once you have the hexnuts hand tightened, test that the brake, reverse light and turn signal are operating correctly.  When tightening the hexnuts, be careful not to over tighten. The screws are attached to plastic and can crack the plastic housing if over tightened.  You want to a apply just enough torque to hold the tail light housing to your FJ Cruiser securely.

Think you might need additional instructions?  How about the Toyota FJ Cruiser rear light assembly instructions manual pages?  They do make it more difficult but it will provide details you might want to consider.

Because this repair is so simple, we are not a fan of tail light guards.  The guards attach using the three tail light housings screws with the guard’s attachment points sitting between the metal body and the plastic tail light assembly.  When the guard comes in contact with an immovable object the guard is pushed in causing body damage and most likely cracks to the tail light housing.  We prefer braking the tail light housing over body damage.

Off-Road Winch Installation

Anyone who explores the backcountry knows, a winch is one of the best recovery tools to have on your 4×4 truck when you’re on an off-road adventure.

Recently we received a new DV 9s Comeup winch.  The DV 9s has a pull line rated at 9,000 lbs, 3-stage planetary 156:1 gear train, an automatic full load Cone Brake Structure (CBS) and comes loaded with a 100’ of 3/8″ synthetic rope as well as a Hawse fairlead and mounting hardware.

Mounting the Comeup winch on most 4×4 aftermarket bumpers is relatively straight forward (Comeup winch installation manual).  Comeup includes a footprint template to locate the hole position for the winch’s four mounting bolts.  Once you have the the four holes marked, grab an 11mm bit and drill them out.

We’re installing our Comeup winch on a Metal Tech 4×4 tube bumper’s winch mount.  While Metal Tech’s winch mounting plate is pre-drilled, the holes will need to be increased in size to account for Comeup’s larger mounting bolts.  Once the holes are drilled out, a little shot of spay paint on the holes will protect your bumper against rust as you take on the elements.

Start the installation by inserting the mounting nuts into the slots on the winch’s feet.  Carefully lift your Comeup winch into place aligning it with the mounting holes.  From below, attach the winch using the 8.8 grade bolts that come with the kit.

Metal Tech 4×4 provides a set of brackets designed to mount Comeup’s solenoid pack to their tube bumper.  Attach one of the brackets to the back of the solenoid pack using the supplied hardware.  The bracket should remain loose in order to make any final adjustments when it is attached into place.  The other bracket can be firmly attached to the Metal Tech tube bumper.

Attach the solenoid pack’s “F1”, “F2” and “A” leads to their matching terminal on the winch’s motor. Using two wrenches hold the lower nut steady as you tighten the upper nut over the lead.

Next attach the thinner “green” lead from the solenoid pack and black ground cable to the bottom of the winch motor.  Now attach the motor’s lead using its pre-wired connector to it’s mate from the solenoid pack.

Work the solenoid pack into place where it will attach to the bumper.  Before screwing the two plates together ensure the leads remain untangled and can be tucked out of the way than tighten all the nuts to secure the solenoid pack in place.

Route the black ground and red power cables to engine compartment and attach them directly to the battery posts starting with the black ground cable.

Once the winch is installed and wired it’s time to run a few tests.  Prior to using your Comeup winch ensure you have read and fully understands the Comeup winch operating instruction manual.  Test that the winch free spools, then engage the clutch in order to test both power out and power in.

A properly installed winch is a powerful tool for self recovery on any off-road adventure.  If properly maintained your Comeup winch should provide years of service on your off-road adventures.

BFGoodrich’s KM2 Mud Tires First Impressions

Our off-road adventures take us to places where AAA is not an option.  On our adventures we drive our FJ Cruiser over dirt, boulders and rocks that eat tires for breakfast.  In addition we usually have to cover thousands of miles of asphalt to find the end of the road.  Well built, tough as nails tires are not an luxury, they are a necessity.

A few days back we received a set of BFGoodrich Mud-Terrain T/A KM2 tires to test out on our off-road adventures.  The KM2 is BFGoodrich’s second generation of their toughest “E” rated off-road tire.  The KM2 protects against punctures with three layers of polyester and two more belts of steel.  In addition BFGoodrich wraps the KM2 with three ply sidewall construction to resist cuts and bruises in order to take the edge off of rocks and other off-road hazards.

We chose to mount the 285x75x17 KM2 tires on our Walker Evens beadlock wheels and balance the mud tires with Dyna Beads.  The first thing we noticed is that these tires look good on our Toyota FJ Cruiser.  Aggressive tread blocks and 34″ stance, these BFGoodrich KM2 tires seem to weep testosterone.

In order to get a good first impression of these BFGoodrich tires we decided to leave the state and head over to Browns Camp Off-Highway-Vehicle (OHV) area in Oregon’s Tillamook Forest.

Mud tires are notoriously loud on the highway however BFGoodrich’s KM2 Mud tires were surprisingly quiet and smooth as we motored the 300 miles of highway down to Browns Camp.  The tires provided good road feel as we navigated the twisty asphalt that leads through the foot hills of the coastal range to the trail head.

At the trail head we aired down allowing the tires to soften the bumps and ruts of the trails.  On the dirt and gravel we easily made our way as the KM2 Mud tires dug in and carried us over the 4×4 trails.

When it came to the tougher rock crawling sections of firebreak 5 we discovered that we had left way too much air in the tires.  At 28psi the tires could not conform and grab the boulder’s edges.  The smart thing to do would have been to bleed off 10 psi and let the tires work for us…  that would have been the smart thing to do.  We kept the tires at 28 psi, worked back and forth through the steep boulder infested hill and climbed to the top.

For this initial impression we drove 600 miles of highway and spent a full day driving several levels of trails (easy, moderate and difficult, we stayed away from the extreme and sever rated trails…  after all we still had to drive home).  Our first impression is that the KM2 provides solid performance on and off-road.  The KM2s are well behaved on the road and deliver good footing off-road (next time we’ll give firebreak 5 a try with 18 psi). Over the next few months we’ll count on these tires to take us on several more off-road adventures and we will let you know how they perform.