fj cruiser taillight assembly wiring

FJ Cruiser Tail light Replacement

fj cruiser broken tail lightNot 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.

fj cruiser taillight housingAlthough 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 taillight access panelFJ 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 installing fj cruiser driverside taillightloosen 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.

fj cruiser taillight connectorsWith 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.

fj cruiser taillight assembly backNow 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.

fj cruiser fixed taillightBecause 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.

looking out the tent

The Over Night in Overland

sunrise prayer flagsWhether you call it an off-road adventure, car camping, or overlanding, making camp and sleeping under the stars in the great outdoors is a big part of the experience.

There was a time when I longed for a luxurious Shangri La roof top tent, retractable awning, stainless steel four burner propane camp chef stove, 82 quart portable fridge freezer combo, landrover roof top tent overland campweathered sail cloth and teak hardwood folding camp chairs with matching  distressed teak dining and end tables.  I imagined a camp right out of the pages of Glamping Journal.  A cross between pampered British upper crust and lone rugged American cowboy with a hint of African Serengeti safari and a touch of Everest base camp.  I dreamed of eating fine meals, stopping for afternoon tea and ending the day with  single malt in crystal tumblers by the fire as twinkling stars filled the darkness.sunrise minimalist primitive camping paryer flags

As appealing as this marketing driven outdoor dream was to me, at some point I realized it wasn’t my own.

Over the last few years I’ve taken a step back to transform my idea of and off-road adventure camp.  Drawing from my backpacking and mountaineering background I mixed in a few childhood car camping memories and now have my own unique style of camp when I stop for the over open fire

First let me say there is nothing wrong with roof top tents and teak furniture, it’s just not me.  Truth be told sometimes I wish it was.

These days I’ve dialed camp back to a minimalistic mindset.  A Noa tarp to keep the dew off, provide shade from the sun and keep a spot dry if the rains encroach.  The tarp is versatile, light weight and can be configured dozens of ways from trees, my truck or a poles.  The real weather protection comes from the bivy sack I throw my sleeping bag into.  My simple shelter protects without blocking out the nature I came to commune with.  At night I can lay there with an unobstructed view up as the stars overtake the darkness.sunrise camp prayer flags minimalist primitive camping

A pair of African mingle mats lets me sit on the dirt or wet grass without tracking it everywhere.

Although I’ve pared back, I haven’t given up on a good night’s sleep.  A whisper light, super compact cot creates a cushion of love that cradles me through the night for an incredible rest.

camping stove pot and table minimalist primitive campingThe gourmet chef shove has been replaced by a small bullet proof mountaineering blast furnace with two settings: off and full blast.  This little white gas single burner stove will boil water or weld a spoon to the bottom of the pot in minutes but simmer is not in its vocabulary. Simmer, grill and toast occurs over an open campfire.  A light weight, compact backpacking cook set, little french press and a spoon that doubles as stove wrench round out the kitchen. A compact aluminum table and three legged stool provides all the camp function and fireside comfort I need to call the woods home.voodoo travler alter minimalist primitive camping

Had I stopped here it would be a nice spartan camp…  But I had to make it mine.  Prayer flags make me smile.  Brilliant colors and prayer script blowing in the wind.  Peace and loving kindness sent out into the universe.  Belief in Karma is not required to know that what goes around comes around.

And then there is the alter where I hedge my bets.  A spin on the Internet will tell you that every belief places certain reverence on protecting travelers.  Ganesha the Hindu deity revered as the remover of obstacles and protector of travelers.  St. Christopher the patron saint of travelers. A Catholic rosary offers universal protection.hindu buddha voodoo hoodoo alter Seven day candles carry prayers to the heavens.  Mayan worry doll,  sitting Buddha, Indian incense, sacred sandalwood, dried chicken foot, Tibetan tin prayer bells and a New Orleans voodoo doll, all offer protection and draw positive energy into camp.   Bruddah Ed, Hula Betty’s jolly grass skirted cousin, makes me laugh and that is good too.

sleeping under a tarp minimalist primitive camping

This mix of minimalism, eclectic talismans and eccentric showmanship is definitely more reflective of my style than my original vision of camp.

I’m not camping in the lap of luxury.  I’m not pampered while the Sherpa tend and clean up.   Setting up camp is my meditation.  I eat well, sleep soundly and enjoy a fine cigar around the fire as the Milky Way pours over me. I am living the dream.

fj cruiser broken tail light

Dented My Dream

fj cruiser dented fron fenderNever set limits, go after your dreams, don’t be afraid to push the boundaries. And laugh a lot – it’s good for you! ~ Paula Radcliffe

You spent forty, fifty, even sixty thousand dollars on a new truck and its modifications. You want to take it off-road to explore the 4×4 trails you’ve read about in search of solitude in the great outdoors. You just can’t seem to reconcile the idea of denting up a perfectly good truck in the name of getting away from it all.

If you take your truck off highway you will get some damage. That damage could be as little as paint chips from gravel kicked up on a forest road to full-on body damage caused by flopping your truck on the Rubicon Trail trying to navigate Little Sluice or Cadillac Hill. I say “you will” because eventually it happens. Maybe not on your first outing or your second but if you wheel long enough you will see damage on your truck.

There is something incredibly rewarding about driving a trail more difficult than the last and applying what you have learned in order to make it through the challenge unscathed. But as the saying goes; you learn more from your mistakes than you do from all your successes. In this case, an off-road fail can be a bit expensive. I recently learned a hard lesson. After driving thousands of miles of dirt roads and two tracks, the Baja 1000’s route to Cobo, The Rubicon Trail… TWICE and lots of 4×4 trails relatively unmarked, I got careless.

On a 4×4 trail I’ve driven several times before, I was working an easy stretch when another group of trucks approached from the opposite direction. I made a poor choice of places to pull out, miss judged the stability of a rock and before I knew it, my front fender and rear taillight were trying to occupy the same space as a fallen log which seemed to operate at a quantum level. I didn’t hear a bang or feel a big jolt. It was more of a soft kiss as the two came together leaving me with the sensation that something wasn’t right.

I’d be lying if I told you it didn’t hurt. For eight years I’ve kept my FJ Cruiser free of dents and dings. Sure a bit of pin striping but no body damage. This felt as if I’d somehow failed my truck, a broken promise to keep it out of harms way in return for it’s continued reliability and the assurance it would get me home. I’d screwed up. I was over confident in my ability and all the trucks fancy mods so I had tried to wedge the truck into a small crease instead of taking the time to look for a more appropriate turn out, and forced a bad choice. This mistake can be fixed. I will replace the taillight myself. The fender, well, it will get a little professional love after a few more off-road adventures we have lined up for the summer.

Now, before you give up on the dream of exploring the road less traveled in your new truck let me talk you off the ledge. I’m not telling you this story of carnage to scare you. Rather, I tell this tale so you will know there are much worse things than accidentally banging up your truck. The sting is temporary. It hardly even compares to the rewards you receive for exploring the fringes of your ability and discovering you have pushed out the boundaries that once held you back. This is the zen that eludes those who fail to try. These rewards are not given to the careless who thrash their junk against the rocks but is reserved for the thoughtful who attempt to live life without limitations and refuse to let setbacks stop their progress.

But the fact of the matter is: Sheet metal is repairable. Chicks dig dents. And the United States of America has the best body-shop to off-road-adventurer ratio in the world!