Changing the front differential oil on your Toyota truck is an easy maintenance activity! Although there is not a lot of room to work, we have a couple tricks that will make changing the gear oil in your FJ Cruiser, 4Runner or GX470’s front differential much simpler.
Before you begin, fill a buck with about 8″ of hot water and set your gear oil containers in the hot water. This will heat up the oil and allow it to flow more easily.
To get to the front differential you will need to remove the factory gravel guard. Remove the four bolts holding the OEM gravel guard to the frame and set aside. This is a good time to look everything over and check for any leaks or damage that may exist.
Using the 10mm hex socket remove the fill plug. Why the fill plug? This ensures the fill plug isn’t stuck and you’re left with an empty differential case and no way to fill it.
Now using the 10mm hex socket, remove the drain plug and allow all the gear oil to drain into the catch pan.
Once all the differential oil is drained, reinstall the drain plug using a new gasket. The Toyota specifications call for 48 ft/lbs of torque to ensure the plug and gasket are seated correctly and wont come loose on the trail.
Filling the front differential can be tough. There is very little room so I recommend the top down funnel method. Grab a funnel and attach about 2 – 3′ length of hose (I find clear aquarium hose works great) to the end of the funnel. Feed the hose down the through the engine compartment and place the end of the hose into the fill opening.
The gear oil that has been sitting in the hot water should now flow easily down the funnel, through the tube and into your front differential. Your owner’s manual will specify how much oil is required. You can verify you’ve reached full when the gear oil just begins to spill out of the fill hole.
Using a new gasket, tight the fill plug to 29 ft/lbs, wipe down any gear oil and reattach the factory gravel guard.
Maintaining the front differential of your Toyota FJ Cruiser, 4Runner, Prado or Lexus GX470 is easy and the care you give it will go a long way to ensuring your 4WD continues to operate correctly on all your overland adventures.
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.
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.
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.
The other day, Hula Betty, in her most sportive, I get to work on her truck, but she wants this fixed now voice, announced it was time for me to replace the clunky Lexus GX470 rear door stopper with a gas assisted strut that will allow the door to glide open, stay open and easily close.
A common complaint about the Lexus GX470 and Toyota Prado 120 is their rear door stopper mechanism’s poor design. Even in a slight breeze the rear door becomes randomly self-closing if you forget to lock it open. And opening the door with an arm full of gear can be overly challenging on an angle. Changing out the original door stopper mechanism with a gas strut solves both problems as well as adding a smooth glide on opening or closing the door.
Changing out the Lexus GX470 or Toyota Prado 120’s OEM door stopper with a gas strut and door reinforcement plate is a simple mod that anyone can perform in no time at all.
Step 1 -Using a flat head screwdriver, pry off the little round cap covering the bolt holding the OEM door stopper to rear frame of your Lexus GX470.
Step 2 – Remove the old clunky door stopper mechanism. Start with the bolt you just exposed on the bumper. Then remove the two bolts on the underside of the rear door. To avoid scratches, support the door stopper with one hand while you remove the bolts with the other.
Step 3 – Remove the long thin plastic cover over the gap between the truck and the bumper. The Lexus GX470 has a portal on the cover for sliding in the jack handle to lower the spare tire. If you remove that little portal cover you can get a better grip to remove the long cover running the length of the bumper body gap.
Step 4 – After the cover is removed you will see the bracket that the old door stopper mechanism on your Lexus GX470 or Toyota Prado 120 attached to. Using a 10mm wrench, start by removing the bolt on the bracket that is attached to the bumper.
Step 5 – A 12mm wrench will remove the two bolts holding the bracket to the back of the truck frame.
Step 6 – With a cutting disk attached to a small grinder, cut away the portion of the bracket that the OEM door stopper slide onto. This is just above the point at which the threads begin. After completing your cut, smooth down any high points and rough edges with a grinding disk.
Step 7 – Throw a little rattle-can paint on the bracket to keep everything looking good and prevent rust from developing.
Step 8 – To fabricate a rear door reinforcement plate you will use the OEM door stopper as a template. Place the door stopper on the aluminum flat bar arranging as if the flat bar was the rear door and the door stopper would be attaching to it. Trace the edges and bolt holes onto the flat bar with a marker.
Step 9 – Cut the aluminum flat bar along the traced lines using your small grinder with a cutting disk.
Step 10 – Drill out the two holes for the bolts to pass through. Notice that one of the bolt holes is a bit elongated to allow for slit adjustments.
Step 11 – Sand or grind down any rough burrs or sharp edges. If you want a professional look, lightly sand the entire flat bar to give it a brushed finish.
You are now ready to assemble everything back together.
Step 12 – Reattach the bracket to the back of your Lexus GX470 with the three OEM bolts you removed.
Step 13 – Press the plastic bumper gap cover back into place. Don’t forget to put the spare tire portal cover in place as well.
Step 14 – Screw one of the 10mm ball studs into the bracket you just attached.
Step 15 – Mount the door reinforcement plate you fabricated to the underside of your Lexus GX470’s rear door using one of the OEM bolts that held the door stopper in place and the second 10mm ball stud. The 10mm ball stud should mount into the original recessed nut hole on the underside of the door furthest away from the bumper. The OEM bolt screws into the original recessed nut hole closest to the bumper on the underside of the rear door.
Step 16 – Snap the gas strut onto the 10mm ball stud at the bumper first then to the 10mm ball stud on the rear door.
Step 17- Give everything a good tug to ensure it’s securely attached and your ready to test your new, smooth gliding Lexus GX470 rear door.
Note: Since your Lexus GX470 rear door will open and close tens of thousands of times, get in the habit of touching the door lightly and slowing it just before it fully opens in order to avoid any stress build up over time on the strut.
Own a overland truck long enough and you will need to replace the battery. In this article we use our Lexus GX470 as the demo truck but the same procedures will work for all vehicles, although access to the battery will be different.
The trend these days is for truck manufacturers to value esthetics over function under the hood. Engine bays with plastic covers look great but that sleek, clean look costs time (translate to dollars at a dealership or local garage) when it comes to working under the hood.
On a Lexus GX470 about half of your time will be spent removing the front plastic engine cover in order to gain full access to your truck’s battery.
The plastic cover retainer clips (buttons) are intended to be reusable. Be prepared to replace several plastic retainer clips. I find that many dealership technicians are focused on speed often at the expense of broken retainer clips. Reusing damaged clips may save you a few dollars but this is the start of the down hill slide to those little rattles that drive me nuts. I always keep a handful of various retainer clips around knowing it is a small price to pay for peace and quiet.
The steps to replacing the battery in a Lexus GX470 are easy:
Remove the 12 (or so) retainer clips on the front plastic engine (radiator) cover. These retainers release their grip by sliding a flat head screwdriver in the channel then gently lift the button head of the retainer.
Remove the 2 retainers that hold the front plastic cover to the power steering cover, located toward the front on the passenger side of your Lexus GX470. These retainers will release their grip by pressing down on the center button with a screw driver.
Lift the positive lead cap (usually marked with “+” sign) from the battery terminal (some will tell you to remove the negative ground first). A 10mm socket will quickly loosen the clamp. Carefully lift the wire lead and tuck the wire lead out of the way ensuring it does not fall back onto the battery’s terminal.
Remove the negative lead cap (referred to as the ground and usually marked with a “-” sign) and lead wire from the battery terminal. Tuck the lead out of the way.
The battery hold-down comes off next. A 10mm deep socket will loosening the nuts. The rear hold-down hook should have a clip holding the ground wire (it did when it came from the factory) that will need to be unhooked.
Carefully lift the battery out of your truck. Use care not to strain yourself, the battery is heavy and awkward.
This is a good time to clean out the area of any dirt and debris. Check the tray for cracks and replace if needed, before setting the new battery into place.
Attach the battery hold-down. The shorter of the two hook rods attaches in the rear. Remember to re-clip the ground wire to the hold-down rod.
Before connecting the battery, smear a thin coat of no corrode gel (available at most parts stores) on the battery terminal and slide on anti-corrosion fiber washers.
Connect your leads to the battery terminal. Avoid touching your tool against both terminals or other metal on the truck.
Make sure to fully tighten the wire lead connection to the terminals. Lose connections can cause corrosion and hard to find electrical issues down the road. Reattach the terminal lead caps.
With the battery securely connected, set the front plastic engine cover back into place and secure it with plastic retainers. To avoid breaking retainer clips, ensure the button is lifted allowing the bottom prongs to come together. You may want to gently press the prongs together so they easily slide through the lined up holes. Press down on the button top gently locking the retain into place.
Don’t for get the two retainers holding the front cover to the power steering cover. For these retainers pull the center pin up allowing the retainer to slide in, then press it back down flush with the button top to secure it in place.
If you have had reason to disconnect or replace the battery on your Lexus GX470, you probably found that the drive’s remote window console controls on the door no longer work for the passenger or rear windows. Luckily there is an easy fix.
Turn the key to the on position
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.
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.
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.
We love the soft, rock gripping ride you get when you air down big E rated, 10 ply off-road tires. Hate is not too strong a word when we have to inflate the tires back up. We often argue about who’s turn it is to sit next to a tire while our little compressor pumps its brains out to re-inflate the rubber up to highway pressure.
An air tank will make quick work of re-inflating tires but it doesn’t really work for trips like our Baja overland adventure where we were constantly adjusting our tires’ PSI up and down as we moved between asphalt, desert sand, boulder filled dry riverbeds, muddy swamps and beaches.
We knew there had to be answer… it just took eight years of scouring the Internet and talking to other overlander travelers to figure it out!
We decided to build our own automatic tire infator using an adjustable in-line air regulator??!! What is this tire inflator voodoo witchcraft you ask? Add a common air tool inline regulator that lets you set the desired PSI to a tire inflator, hook it up your air compressor and walk away. The regulator will stop the air flow automatically when the tire’s PSI reaches the preset level.
This project took some experimenting before finding what worked best for us. The key is to start by selecting your regulator, then build your parts list off of the port sizes available on your regulator.
NPT references the national pipe thread taper (aka American standard pipe), refers to the size of a connector and the size of the thread on any connector. The thread size is especially important, because non-standard fittings may not provide a full seal, and will allow air to escape from your hose lines and connectors.
A note on hoses before we get started. The hoses with built-in chucks that we tried seemed to come with flimsy chucks that we managed to break in the field, which is why the recommendation below is to purchase a separate hose and separate locking brass chuck.
Air gauge. Many regulators will come with a gauge. We cannibalized an old manual tire inflator for its gauge that fit the regulators 1/8″ NPT port. Just make sure the gauge’s threads match the regulator’s available port and that it registers above your tire’s max PSI.
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.
If you plan to use a gauge, attach it now to an open port on your regulator.
Now following the regulator’s direction, set your regulator to the desired PSI. Depending on the regulator this may take a little trial and error.
With everything assembled, connect your automatic tire inflator to your compressor and test it out on your spare tire to make sure it is stopping at the desired PSI.
That is it!!
Instead of sitting next to each tire for up to 10 minutes, we can now attach our auto-fill tire inflator to our pump, connect the locking chuck to the valve stem, start the compressor and move on to other important things, like checking for trail damage, repacking our recovery kit, changing out of our trail boots, posting a picture to Instagram or just grabbing a soda and sitting in the shade. Gone are the days of sitting next to a tire, up to our ankles in mud while the rain pours down, holding a tire inflator and watching the tire gauge.
An additional benefit of this regulated automatic tire inflator is that all four tires are at the exact same PSI when it stops. No more back and forth to reset pressure all around.
Will this little device change our life… probably not… but it will free up time to get repacked and ensure we are ready to go when our last tire is aired back up.
Whenever someone sees the truck, I enviably get the question “What is Last Great Road Trip”. And that is tougher than I thought.
Sure I could say “oh it’s a website about overland travel and off road adventures” but usually I smile and fumble around an answer like “Just a website”, because it’s embarrassing and that doesn’t really cover it. Be sides there is our YouTube channel and all the social media I try to keep up with as well as meeting people who have touched my life.
So for 2018 I sat down and tried to figure out what is Last Great Road Trip. What do you think?
Last Great Road Trip is about overland travel, performing your own routine maintenance and truck modifications.
We produce write-ups and videos that show you how to perform many of the basic maintenance activities on your FJ Cruiser and GX470 (we’ve been keeping her a secret). We also put together content to help you repair your Toyota truck when things break or you want to modify your truck and take it to the next level.
Overlanding is about remote destinations, unique experiences, self-reliance and the journey. Our goal to encourage you to create your own adventure and I invite you to come along on our journey and share the experience.
Too much market spam…. What do YOU think we are about? How would you answer the question? As I look to 2018 and plan our next overland adventure I want to know. Seriously… Let me know!
Every once in awhile we go back through the video footage we’ve captured over the years… and there is a truck load (pun intended).
Our Baja Mexico overland adventure was one of our most difficult and rewarding trips we ever took on. Watching the footage I wanted to put something together that would give everyone a quick glimpse into that overland adventure and encourage others to get out of their comfort zone. The Baja California Peninsula is one of the last truly unspoiled places left on earth.
This little trailer video gives you a quick idea of what we saw as we traveled from Tijuana Mexico to Cabo San Lucas following the Baja 1000 race course gps tracks. If you enjoy the trailer check out the full Baja Mexico overland story.
Oh my hell the Steens mountain was hard, but it feels so good to have done it! The desert is the easy part of the adventure… or so I thought.
Coming off the mountain is a pleasure. Sunshine, blue sky, the day is beautiful. It’s taken a bit more fuel on the mountain than expected so a stop at Frenchglen to top off the tank is in order. The trails go everywhere, and I’m just going to explore.
The trails don’t have markers, I’m all turned around. I know I saw that clump of trees before. This is okay right… it’s why they call it exploring? Motoring slowly down this two track looks promising. No markers, not on the map but it is going the direction that the wild mustangs are reported to hang out.
Dammit. The two track comes to an abrupt stop in the middle of no where at a fence line. The sign is marked research area. hummm
Climbing on top of the FJ Cruiser to get a better vantage, I see what looks like horses. They’re in the distance hills but the hike might be good for me. Hopping the barbed wire fence with the camera, tripod and an desire to get up close and personal with the wild horse I start hiking. A mile later and I’m getting close enough that the mustangs are paying attention to me. Time to channel my inner horse whisper. Slowly walk 30 feet, stop, look away from the herd, stand still until they decide I’m not a concern and then move forward another 30 feet. It’s taken me an hour to go a another quarter mile and now I find myself surrounded by wild mustangs peacefully grazing.
It is an amazing feeling being this close one of the most iconic symbols of the wild west. A little excitement, a little tranquility and a whole lot of these are 1,000 pound wild animals that could take me out at anytime if they decide. Sitting quietly I’m taking in the mountains, the mustangs and the complete wildness of the area. The horses move about, occasionally looking my way but mostly paying attention to the other horses wondering all about. It is a privilege to be a part of this scene.
The sun is staring to drop low and I am heading back to the truck trying to decide what’s next. On the map there is a sort-of-marked 4×4 trail that looks like it heads in the direction I want to go so why not.
Driving trails in the dark is one of my favorite things. The night is quiet. Rabbits dart out, crossing my lit path and then disappear on the other side into the darkness. Coyote howls are carried on the breeze and every once in a while I think I see something big in the shadows. It is eerie and calming all at the same time. There is no reference to where I am. The satellite puts me in a big gray space with no roads and there hasn’t been cell service for hours, but I’m still making slow steady progress over the 4×4 trail. And based on the map… I should pop out on a road soon(ish).
It’s 11:15pm. A light from a barn is coming into view. This 4×4 trail has skirted much of a rancher’s land and is now depositing me on his door step, 20 yards from the highway. Not exactly where I thought I was headed but it has been so much fun I didn’t care.
It’s late, my last meal was breakfast and I’m getting tired. Looks like it will be best to head back to Page Springs for the night. Three days I’ve ventured out… and three nights I’ve returned to Page Springs, must be something in the water. Tarp on the ground, stars over head, I’m asleep as soon as my head goes horizontal.
The Alvord hot springs have become a bit of a tourist attraction. There is a caretaker, a parking lot, surplus MASH unit containers converted to cabins and a fridge with cold drinks. $8 buys you a day in the hot springs, access out onto the playa (the dry lake bed that once extended a 100 miles) and use of a flush toilet, all of which I plan on taking advantage of.
The caretaker smiles, she gives me the run down of the area. “Drive in any direction, stay clear of the hot springs tail out, the gate closes at 10:30pm”.
The playa is dry and cracked. It appears to go forever. Heat rising off the playa make the hills in the distance dance. Driving on the lake-bed is intoxicating. I aim the FJ Cruiser north and drive, lazily serpentine loops back and forth until I reach what feels like the middle. Nothing in all directions for a couple of miles. This is camp!
It is so quiet I can hear myself think… that is not always a good thing. Setting up the tarp, cooking dinner, and hanging out by the fire this is how camping alone is meant to be.
Some where in the very dark, very early morning, I wake to what Dorothy and Toto must have experienced on their ride to Oz. I had staked the tarp down but not for this. Scrambling to find a light, the tent stakes, and hammer I get to adding guy lines and cinching the tarp down. Each pull on the guy lines changes the harmonics from wild flaps to the taught hum of a snare drum skin. This wind storm is going to make for a long night.
Morning finds an eerie silence over the playa again. The sun is warming on my face. A quick inventory shows everything is still here in one piece. This may be a desert, but it is chilly. Breakfast by the fire and a cup of camp coffee is what I need to set the world right again.
A week has gone by in a blink of an eye. It may be time for a bath. I’m definitely getting pretty rank. The crowds at the Alvord hot springs may not provide a mind blowing existential solo experience but soaking in the still waters is so worth every bit of that $8 price tag. 105+ degree water pulls the aches and pains out from deep in my bones. Literally four hours later I’m finally forcing myself to get out and head back to camp on the playa.
Packing up I can’t help but believe the night spent on the frozen Steens Mountain, wheeling through the night, meditating with wild horses and desert solitude have changed me a little… for the better. Right now, right here, my soul is at rest. I can’t wait to get back here.
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