AdventureTaco - turbodb's build and adventures


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The story of a 2000 Toyota Tacoma XtraCab SR5 V6 4WD TRD
The story of the truck actually started in 1999, but nothing was written down until early September 2016. As such, there are surely important (and unimportant) parts that have been forgotten. And of course, there are sure to be parts both past and future that are embellished, especially since the entire thing is written from my point of view.

Don’t worry about it, and just enjoy the story.

These topics don’t cover all of the story, but they’ll jump you to specific parts...

Full list of specs as it sits now:
Completed Modifications
  1. My first mod - disabling the daytime running lights
  2. Pumping up the rear with air shocks
  3. Sportz Truck Tent and Truck Bedzzz
  4. Jealously and smartphones = Bluetooth for the Tacoma (Pioneer AVH-3500 head unit)
  5. New tires all around (Wrangler Duratrac 31.5x10 R15) (replaced)
  6. The BOSS lift - prepping for armor (since replaced)
  7. The camping mod - disabling the courtesy lights
  8. Replacing the wimpy horn (FIAMM Freeway Blasters)
  9. Upgraded air filter (to fix a check engine light)
  10. Life changing magic of tidying up - or, "I hate my stereo" (JOYING UL-135 Android-based head unit)
  11. Relentless Armor - An excursion from Seattle WA to Sparks NV
  12. Finishing the look - Hella's
  13. The last of the armor - Relentless skids for belly protection
  14. More belly protection - installing the mid-skid from Relentless
  15. Winch (and jumper) quick connect
  16. The @mrs.turbodb Mod - Custom Wet Okole Seat Covers
  17. Building the Bed Rack (did someone say "new tools"?)
  18. Rear Diff Breather Mod - Why didn’t I do this sooner?
  19. Bussman RTMR Installation
  20. Washboard relief - ARB CKMA12 on-board air compressor
  21. CVT - Mt. Shasta Stargazer Tan (purchase) (install)
  22. Aluminum Rotopax Tailgate Plate Mount (no longer in service)
  23. Fixing the Stance - New Alcan Leaf Pack for the Rear
  24. No More Ice Runs or Wet Sandwiches - ARB Fridge
  25. Icom 5100A Install (OMG, did I just drill a hole in the roof of my truck?) (no longer in service)
  26. Bed Slides on the Cheap
  27. Truck Shower - What is that Smell? (no longer in service)
  28. CB Radio - 'cause not everyone's a HAM
  29. New-to-me Tires and a Tundra Brake Upgrade
    1. Tundra Brake Break-in and First Impressions
  30. Adding a Ram Mount to the #%@#$@! A-pillar.
  31. Where are you? Adding APRS to the Ham Radio Comms
    1. External Speaker for Ham Radio
  32. Mod Wars - USB charger blocking Ham Radio Communication
  33. Finally, the Pinch Weld Mod
  34. No More Lugging - Re-Gear to 4.88's and Front ARB Locker
    1. Breaking in the new gears
  35. New Wheels and Tires, Again! (Stealth6 and ST Maxx)
  36. Garage Hoist - Winter Weight Loss for AdventureTaco
  37. Replacing the Speedo Gear
  38. Installing a Dual Swingout CBI Outback Rear Bumper
  39. Open Sesame - Adding a Garage Door Opener to the Headliner
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I’m getting a truck (for my birthday!)
Late 1999.

As with pretty much everything I do, I’m over-researching my first car purchase. But it’s not a car, it’s a truck. It’s not any truck, it’s a Tacoma. I’ve wanted one of these ever since I nearly traded my 1982 Honda Accord (that Dad bought) for Patrick Presto’s Toyota Pickup (I have no idea what year it was) that was a rusted out piece of junk. Really.

For about 15 minutes I considered a Nissan Frontier or Chevy S10. I know, crazy. It was only 15 minutes though.

Now that I’m back on track, it’s all about finding a deal on a Tacoma. I’m sitting in my apartment at Avila Beach, and I’m building spreadsheets and sending email. Here’s what I’m weighing:
  • Cheaper to buy in California, then re-register in Washington when I move up there to work at Microsoft, or just to buy in Washington?
  • I know I want a lot of the packages over stock, but I definitely don’t want the Limited trim, and I don’t want a sunroof (it could leak) or ABS (I know better than that stupid computer)
[2016: I was right on about the Limited trim, but what kind of crazy thinks that they can out-brake ABS on pavement?]
  • How can I get the best deal, but still build my credit? (this’ll be my first real chance at a monthly payment)
Of course, to sort all this out, I ended up building a spreadsheet. Looking back, it’s a bit ironic...or was it foreshadowing my future career as a leader of the Excel team? At any rate, wisdom of the day said that if you could get Dealer Invoice pricing plus 2-3%, you were doing pretty good.

When it was all said and done, I ended up under invoice by about $300 at $24,010 out the door, but we’re getting ahead of ourselves.

Ultimately I found that the best deal I could get was at Toyota of Santa Maria (about 35 minutes south of San Luis Obispo), so in early October arranged to get my perfect truck on November 22, 1999 - the birthday present of all birthday presents.

The day I headed down to pick it up, they told me they were unable to get one without the sunroof and ABS. I was pretty angry, but agreed to pony up something like $250 for both - which looking back now was probably the best thing that could have happened. Young and dumb at the time I guess.

So I declined the undercoating, paid $10K, and signed the lease papers for the rest. Oh, and I made them remove those goofy TRD Off-Road stickers from the bed sides. I was super happy.

I put 10K miles on it in the first 3 months, driving it everywhere I could think of (but mostly all on-road). At the time, gas was something outrageous - like $1.15 per gallon - so it suited me. The only mods I made: rubber bumpers along the sides to protect from opening doors, locking lug nuts, and the lamest cargo net in the world.

Apparently, I also drove through the smallest mud puddle of all time.

Moving to Washington and some light camping

It was early days with the truck, and of course it was fun to drive. There were a couple things that were annoying - the clutch pedal was creaky, there was a shimmy at ~63MPH - but nothing major. The Toyota dealer took care of the clutch pedal pretty quickly, but the shimmy stuck around and I put up with it (usually by going a little faster). Having a truck meant that camping was more "in the cards," and Washington was a cool new place to explore. Highlights were the Olympic Peninsula, Mt. Rainier, and the North and Middle Cascades.

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My first mod - disabling the daytime running lights
August 1, 2001.

While the ABS brakes may have been a lucky break (in certain on-road situations), one thing I wasn't going to put up with were the daytime running lights (DRL) that I couldn't turn off. Three things bugged me: First, what if I wanted to drive around a campground with just my parking lights on, so as to not disturb other campers. Second, they used the same bulbs as my headlights, and I didn't want to have to pony up $3 too often. And lastly, just imagine what they'd do to my gas mileage. I mean sure, it wouldn't be measurable, but I was convinced it would cost me a fortune.

So, one day I decided to add a switch to disable them. Should be easy, right? We're just adding a switch to an un-switched light.

Well, Toyota decided to make the headlight/DRL circuit super complex. The details of the diagram aren't super important, but I decided that the best way to disable the lights was to try and break the circuit in the driver side wheel well, where the DRL resistor was located - hopefully not screwing up the rest of the headlight situation!

Because, unlike can't-ever-turn-them-off-DRLs, headlights are important.

First, I had to take off the steering wheel. That was the second scariest thing I've ever done since I was worried about the air bag exploding in my face, and because I had to pull so hard to get the wheel off of the shaft.

Next, it turned out that to remove the driver side dash cover, I had to take off the center console cover. And for some reason I took out way more of that than I needed (including the shifter cover?!?) until just about the entire interior of my truck was dismantled.

Finally, out came the piece I needed to make a 1 inch by ½ inch hole in for a new switch, which I carefully cut with a drill, utility knife, and file.

And then, it was back together with everything, with the addition of a small switch and some wiring that ran through the firewall and into the engine compartment, allowing me to break the circuit on the running lights. Now, I could save that $3 in gas over the life of the truck. Whew.

But I learned my lesson. No more mods for a while.

[2016: Oh, and I installed the steering wheel slightly askew on the shaft (turned slightly left from its original position), so for the next 14 years, until I finally fixed it, it bugged me and made the truck harder to drive.]


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A late-night knock on the door - the Truck was hit
November 12, 2004.

Two weeks after moving from an apartment in Redmond to a house in Bellevue, we were setting up the house after work (at about 10pm) and there was a knock at the front door. And then, Gina found me in the back room and said, "someone needs to talk to you." Headed to the door, I had no idea that I'd soon hear that the son of the neighbor across the street had backed out of their driveway and into my truck, with his GMC Jimmy.

The result - Toyota of Burien cut out and replaced the back quarter panel of the cab on the driver side. The visible damage taken care of, the only bummer was that the sticker on the door pillar was also cut out and never replaced. I should get on that next week.


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June 4, 2005

I found out today that the truck loves landscaping. That is all.



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Donuts on the freeway - time for a new bumper
November/December 2006

It's snowing! The truck loves snow. Snow means pulling people out of ditches, driving on roads that are impassable by cars, and having an all-around good time. One night I headed over to pick up Gina from school (the buses had stopped running) and the unthinkable happened. Getting off the Montlake exit in Seattle, the car in front of me slammed on it's brakes. I did the same, and started to fishtail. Already going slowly, it didn't take long (time or distance) to come to a stop, but just as the truck came to a rest, the font bumper grazed the guard rail on the side of the exit. Dang. Luckily, nothing else was damaged, including the various inserts/pieces in the plastic bumper itself.

The first real repair I had to make to the truck, I realized that OEM parts are not cheap. A new plastic bumper was $550. I sucked it up and in 45 minutes had the old bumper off and the new one on - no big thing.

[2016: Little did I know that I'd see the truck looking mean and bumper-less nearly a decade later!]



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Pumping up the rear with air shocks
June 23, 2008.

There was a time when I was working with Dad on some job site when we went and filled up the back of his Jeep (1989 Cherokee Laredo) with bags of concrete, and he pulled out a bike pump to inflate his rear shocks. I was hooked. It took me 8 years, and lots of heavy trips to the dump (from home renovations) but I finally bit the bullet and bought some Gabriel air shocks.

Installation was straight forward for a pro, but I was far from a pro, having only ever disabled the daytime running lights. It turns out that rear shocks sit on two pegs - one on the frame and the other on the axel, and have rubber bushings between the shock and the peg. Well, that bushing has a ½" hole, and the pegs are ¾" in diameter. I used a drill to expand the hole and was finally able to press them on. I hid the valve stem for the shocks behind the fuel door and I was good to go!

The shocks were great, and helped me carry some loads that were a smidge over the load capacity of the Tacoma.



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A break-in

I forgot to lock the truck last night. Actually, I rarely lock my truck. I mean, we live in a neighborhood of 75-80 year-olds.

But apparently there is some hooligan in Woodridge too. A hooligan who opened the truck, rummaged through the glove box, and took several invaluable artifacts:
  1. My Tacoma owner's manual.
  2. My gas log
  3. The piece of door jam sheet metal that had my VIN information
They did not take:
  1. My Maglite flashlight
  2. My tape measure
  3. The $20 in the change tray
OK, obviously this guy was a moron. In terms of real value, he missed the important stuff. But for me - the gas log and VIN information were important. I spent the morning searching the neighborhood - I'm sure they ended up in a bush somewhere - but only found the owner's manual.

So much for tracking gas mileage over the life of the Truck. I hadn't copied the written book into Excel for a few years. Here's where it ended up. Eventually I'd pick it up again (in 2012) and ultimately I didn't miss too many miles since I mostly rode a motorcycle in the meantime, but boy was I bummed.



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Sportz Truck Tent and Truck Bedzzz
July 2012.

Without a tent, camping in the truck has always been a fair-weather affair. Which in Washington limits options. So I decided to change that. With products that contained the letter Z. You think I'm joking, but I'm not. You'll see.

The way I've always seen it, tent camping is reasonable if you have more than two people, but it's also very limiting. You can just roll up to a great spot, and be ready to go. You have to find some flat ground, setup a tarp, setup the tent, etc. etc. etc. Plus, everything gets dirty on the ground. And who wants their stuff to get dirty when you're camping?

Not me.

Plus, when you're in a tent, guess what you can't see? Not just stars, shooting stars. And who doesn't like shooting stars?

Not me.

But, I wanted to know that I could go camping rain or shine, and I figured there must be some solution for all those truck owners out there. Turns out, there was - a truck tent. A smart little contraption that fits in the bed of the truck, sets up in just a few minutes, and is quick to put away too, because it never gets dirty on the ground.

So, I got one. (Called the Sportz Tent III.)

And we used it. (First trip with @mrs.turbodb)

And, it was great.

Once there was a tent that fit in the bed, I knew there had to be a better solution for the air mattress as well - I mean, those wheel wells were taking up so much room. How are you supposed to get your ZZZ's when you have to deal with those things?

So a bit more investigating around and I found the Truck Bedzzz air mattress. This thing is pretty nice. It's made to fit around the wheel wells, and it comes with a 12v pump and check valves for ease-of-filling.

So now, when the bugs or weather are bad, or we need some privacy - out comes the tent. But if the weather is clear, it's just the Truck Bedzzz that we throw in the back.

Maybe someday, we'll get a CVT.


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Jealously and smartphones = Bluetooth for the Tacoma
January 13, 2013.

It turns out that auto tech changes in a decade. "What?," you say. "Yes, yes it does."

Before @mrs.turbodb and her Audi (which I call a station wagon, but she'll have me tell you is a "Dark Gray 2008 Audi A4 Avante named 'Kitty'"), I'd never experienced Bluetooth in a car. Not for phone calls, not for streaming podcasts, nothing. I mean, I'd only gotten my Windows Phone 7 a few months earlier.

But the Bluetooth in the Audi - that was a great thing.

So, it was time to get Bluetooth in the truck. As always, I went about it in the most difficult way possible. First, I researched. I wanted a Bluetooth stack that worked with Windows Phone, something that had an external microphone, and I wanted it in a stereo package that would last me another 10 years - which meant that it needed to be a touch screen, and it needed to play movies. Because who doesn't want to watch movies while they are driving? No one. But, I'm getting off topic.

I researched for way too long and decided that the Pioneer AVH-3500BHS was the perfect thing for me.

Except that would have been too easy. I also needed an aftermarket parking brake bypass that would allow me to watch movies with the truck moving (by simulating the parking brake being engaged).

So I bought the stereo from Crutchfield (since they send a free installation kit) and the bypass on Amazon.

The radio arrived first, and there was no way I was going to do the smart thing and wait for the bypass kit from Amazon before I installed it - that would have been too easy. I mean after all, who doesn't want to rip apart the dash twice to install a stereo?

Oh, and I should mention that to install the stereo, one really only need remove the center console dash surround, but rather than stop there, I felt the need to remove the entire dash (an afternoon-long activity that requires steering wheel removal, and the whole nine yards).

But that's what I did. (Silver lining: this did mean that 12 years after putting the steering wheel back on slightly cockeyed when I'd switched the daytime running lights, I could finally reinstall it so that when the truck was going straight, the steering wheel isn't turned 15 degrees to the right!)

Well, an afternoon later, everything was installed for the first time, without the brake bypass - because don't forget, when given the choice between the "easy way" and the "hard way," the "hard way" is always the right choice.

It looked pretty good actually. When it was off. But when it was on, it had this gaudy background that I could never get rid of…except I could. But that's another story for a couple years from now.



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What's wrong with the clutch? - The first tow
July 26, 2013.

We're headed home from work, just about to get on the freeway and I push the clutch in to change gears.

The clutch never comes up.

I reach down while trying to keep an eye on the road, squirm my fingers behind the pedal, and physically pull it back out. I'm now in 3rd gear. Not happy, we pull over before getting on the freeway and I give the clutch a try again.

The clutch never comes up.

At this point I know something's wrong, but I have no idea what, so I put the truck in second gear and off we go - a bit slow (with high RPMs) on the freeway, but we make it home. Then, for the first time ever, I call a tow truck and the truck gets towed off to the dealer.

Now, you'd think that with less than 60K miles, whatever was wrong with my clutch would be covered under warranty, but no. Apparently 14 years is longer than the warranty period (what?!) so replacing the clutch master and slave cylinders was on me.

Sure hope I never have to tow the truck again.



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New tires all around
August 2015.

After driving the same truck for 15 years on the same set of (original) tires, you get to know how it feels, how it sounds, and frankly - how it smells.

It still smelled normal.

But it didn't sound or feel normal when we were on our way home from work, that hot August afternoon.

Thump thump thump and shake shake shake. I'm sure to other drivers, my front left wheel looked crazy-out-of-balance as we made our way (slowly) over the bridge. As soon as we got home, @mini.turbodb decided that we needed to see what all that thumping was about, so we took off the wheel (so exciting) and had a look.

Looked totally normal, and still had a good ¼" or more of tread wear left - just getting broken in!

But of course what had happened was tread separation somewhere in the tire, so it was on with the spare for a few days, while I suffered through finding new tires for the truck.

Not that I'd been talking about getting new tires for about 6 months anyway.

A few days (and as always way too many hours of research) later, I'd decided. I'd go for Goodyear Wrangler's again, but this time they'd be Duratrac's - the beefier - "more grrr" - versions of what I'd run for the last 15 years.

Oh, and after a "totally coincidental" conversation with Pops about how things were going up in Seattle, all the bird's he'd seen down in the bay, and various other chit chat, it was decided: the new tires were on Dad. Score for me!

The problem with that, I've come to realize now, is that Dad now asks how "his tires" are doing whenever we talk. Checkmate Dad.

At any rate, the new tires were installed on all four, and I kept my original spare, since it was the same size (31x10.5 R15) and basically new. And they were installed as we were on our way out of town to go camping for the weekend - perfect!

Are they good? Yep.

Are they "grrr"? Definitely.

Are they noisier on the road? Yeah, which is a bit of a bummer... but just a bit - I mean, what's a bit of noise when you have "grrr"? ;-)

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The BOSS lift - prepping for armor
February 2016. Or March. Sort of April.

If you're going to lift your truck, there are two ways to do it. You can do it for looks, or you can do it for real. For looks, you're talking about a spacer lift or a body lift - something that raises the truck but doesn't raise the performance. For real, you're talking about a suspension lift - replacing all the parts that make up the suspension on the truck, and in doing so, improving the performance - both on and off road.

Clearly, you want a suspension lift.

But, we're getting ahead of ourselves. What I want is a winch.

If you give a boy a winch (and armor)…
Now, the winch and armor is another story, but it bears a quick summary here: Initially I was going to go with a hidden front hitch, and a winch that I could move to the front or back of the truck, but I soon found that there aren't really any hidden front hitches for 1st Gen Tacoma's, so I looked at a few different plate bumper options. Once I saw the Predator from Relentless Fab on @cmj's build, I knew that was the bumper I wanted. Of course, if you're going to put 200 lbs. of bumper and winch on the nose of your truck…you might want to look into some new suspension.

He might also want suspension
Knowing very little about the subject, I found myself reading about different pieces for the front, different solutions for the rear, and of course all kinds of different opinions on what was best. Since I know everyone's on the edge of their seat - I mean, we're talking about suspension here - I'll give you the short version: skip the next table and just go on to the following paragraph.

Seriously. If you keep reading, you're going to lose 5 minutes of your life you can never get back. OK, you were warned - there are three types of aftermarket suspension lifts for the front, and two for the rear:

  1. Aftermarket struts/shocks (generally Bilstien 5100's) and springs (generally OMEs).
  2. Adjustable coilovers (shock and spring together, and infinitely adjustable).
  3. Ultra-expensive coilovers (just like #2, but for people who only buy name brand and never want to retire).
  1. Add-A-Leaf (a leaf spring that you insert into your existing rear leaf pack).
  2. Replacement leaf pack (a whole new set of metal that will hold up more weight).
After all my research, I decided to go with some BOSS coilovers from @ToyTec Lifts for the front, and an Add-A-Leaf (AAL) and longer air shocks (Monroe MA-820) for the back - essentially #2 for the front and #1 for the back.

The BOSS coilovers got great reviews from everyone who had it, used heavy duty truck shocks, and came with springs that would easily hold the additional weight I had planned. The AAL for the back would give me a bit more load capacity, and longer air shocks would ensure that I maintained that "forward lean" stance that I liked so much. So, in one of my first moments of spending weakness, I dropped what I felt like was a bunch of dough on some suspension (something like $1000).

And, he'll need a way to install it
Anyone who knows me knows that I'm a woodworker, and not a car guy. The fact that this story even exists, I find surprising. But, as I get older I've started to realize that if I want the truck to be great for more than just trips to Lowes Depot, I'm going to need to start learning (and building up my toolset) to work on the truck too.

Thank goodness it's a 1st Gen Tacoma and has mechanical parts, rather than one of those 3rd Gen Tacoma's that are pretty much just a computer :).

Anyway, to install suspension on the truck, I was going to need a floor jack and to get one of those, I went straight to Craigslist. There, I found a low profile, 3.5 ton jack listed for $50 (with jack stands) and I quickly sent mail to the seller, offering $25.

Sold! No haggling. Wow. Is this stuff stolen?

I met the seller the next day at her work to finalize the deal and found out no, this stuff wasn't stolen. Rather, "My husband doesn't use it and I don't want this stuff just sitting around so I'm selling it."

Looking back on it - maybe not technically stolen, but close.

It's here. Or is it?
The package from Toytec arrived the next week, and boy was I happy. The shocks were shiny and silver, the AALs were heavy, and the various other parts were all there.

They sat in the box for a few days, and then I realized: crap, those aren't the shocks that I ordered. So I went and got my invoice so I could start a return and… crap, those are the shocks that I ordered. Turns out, Toytec sold BOSS coilovers (with big truck shocks) and Ultimate coilovers (with Bilstien 5100's). I was not happy - the set I'd gotten were $60 cheaper, but they weren't what I'd wanted. In fact, on my online order, I'd made a note:

Scott and I have been trading emails - he's been great. I think I'm essentially getting the BOSS lift kit for a 2000 Tacoma Xtracab 4WD SR5 V6, w/TRD except that I'm not getting the extended rear shocks (as I'll instead be adding some air shocks back there). If I'm missing anything from the kit except the shocks, please let me know before completing the order. Thanks!
Note in hand, I sent email to Toytec. In return I got an email that said:

Dan - I do understand your concern but please understand that we simply do not have the manpower or the time to contact every customer with notes on there order. While we do review every order and the notes, the end responsibility is on the customer to ensure they are ordering the correct parts.
Oh man, that's no good. They wanted me to pay shipping both ways plus the $60 price difference. Clearly this was partly my fault, but I felt like it was partly theirs too; I thought we should split shipping - but after several emails, they weren't having it.

Internet to the rescue.

Having done much of my research for suspension on TacomaWorld, I made a post where I asked the community what they thought was right in this situation. Unanimously, the answer was: split the shipping and pay the $60, both sides messed up this one.

Also members of TacomaWorld, I soon got a call from Toytec and a few minutes later I was paying to ship back the Ultimate coilovers, and they were paying to ship me out the BOSS coilovers. Whew.

The package from Toytech arrived the next week, and boy was I happy. Again.

Install "day"
A couple weeks later, it was April. A mere two months after I started on the journey, and it was install day. I figured - one day should be enough. Enough to do the front and back suspension. I mean, putting in an AAL shouldn't be too hard, and the coilovers just bolt right on. Right?


Day 1. Let's start with the back.

The spare tire came down, the truck went up, the wheels came off quickly and easily. The Gabriel air shocks came off with only a minor fight (that may or may not have involved a hammer, and some denting that resulted in them not being resalable). I blame the bushings.

The next step was to install the AALs. Out came my ratchet to remove the U-bolts, but I couldn't budge the nuts on them. Since my only means of automotive transportation was out of commission, I fired up my (pedal) bike and headed off to the auto-parts store where I picked up a 24" breaker bar. (Note: I also nearly killed myself riding back up the 45th St. viaduct; it is steep and long.) Breaker bar in hand, the U-bolts came off and the rear axle was hanging precariously in space.

Then it was time for AAL insertion and reinstallation of the leaf packs. Following instructions from Toytec and the internet, I knew I was going to need some clamps to pull the leaf packs together so I'd purchased a couple at the auto parts store when I'd gotten the breaker bar. The lightest C-clamps I'd ever picked up, I thought they were made of some space-aged composite. Turns out they were just cheap, and one exploded (literally, it just missed my face as it flew 15 feet) about 12 seconds into it's application. From that point on, I used some tried and true quality clamps - from my wood shop.

Ultimately, installation of the AALs took about 10 hours longer than I'd planned, and by the end of the day I was fangry (that's anger due to frustration). Getting those leaf packs lined up with the AAL, and U-bolted back to the rear axles was no easy task. Oh, and the whole time I was worried that my rear brake line was going to snap, because it clearly wasn't long enough. One more thing to buy; who wanted this damn winch in the first place?

Well, eventually I got the leaf packs back on, the wheels back in place, and the truck pushed into the garage. I was far from done with a project that I'd planned to finish in one morning. The rear shocks weren't on yet, and I hadn't even considered the front.


Well-known member
Day 2. With so much less to do, I'll go for my Sunday morning walk, and still be done by the time @mrs.turbodb gets back from church (around lunch time).

I pushed the truck back out of the garage and got to work installing the new Monroe MA-820 air shocks. These puppies are like the old air shocks I had, but a bit longer, and black. The black part is not relevant. This should be easy - I mean, just pop them on, and plonk in the air hoses.


If you haven't read the rubber bushing story with my original Gabriel air shocks, you should read that story now. Are you done? Good. OK, seriously - why can't companies make bushings that are the right size? I spent another three hours and a trip to the auto parts store (to buy a bolt to suck the bushing onto the mounting pin) just getting the darn things installed. Oh, and @mrs.turbodb got back from church about an hour into the whole thing. But finally, the back was done.

Except that the brake line was too tight. I'd have to be careful driving, Oh, and I hadn't even started the front suspension. But I had lost the battle - I was done for the weekend. Mentally. Physically.

Two weeks pass. In my old age, I forget the pain and suffering of early April.

Day 3. Let's do the front suspension. It just bolts on, remember?


As always, setup is pretty easy. The truck goes up on jack stands, and the OEM TRD shocks come out in just a few minutes. And by "a few," I mean an hour, but that's pretty reasonable for never having done this before, I think.

But of course, I just hadn't hit the hard part yet. Turns out the new shock is about 1" longer than the OEM ones (part of what provides the lift), and there's no way that in my old age and weak state, that I can push the upper control arm (UCA - that thing that holds the top of the shock) down enough to get the shock installed. Luckily, the internets saved me again and I'd learned a trick - use the jack to push the UCA down far enough to slide in the bolts for the new coilover. So, that's what I did, and it worked. Only, it also stripped a bunch of nice rubbery paint off of my wheel well, so I had to go buy some paint to fix that.

Now, one of the things that installing these front coilovers does, is that it puts extra stress on your CVs. I don't really know what CV's are, but they are apparently important to a car. Or truck. Anyway, to alleviate some of that stress, you can install a "diff drop kit," so that was the next thing on my list. That installation went smoothly - until of course I tried to reinstall my skid plate. The skids it turned out had some reinforcement channels right where the diff hung down, and I couldn't get them reinstalled. So out came the grinder, and like the champion I am, I proceeded to over-cut the channel, making the skid un-mountable.

Thank goodness for the dude at Microsoft who welded a bit of the channel back on (for free!) so I could get the skids back in place.

And with that (and the extended rear brake line that got installed (and the brake system bled), the suspension was done. An alignment at Sears, and I was sporting a 2" lift, ready for some armor.

And it only took two weeks. Just as I'd planned originally. That morning, when I was sure I'd be done by lunch time.

OEM Ride Height
Note: Measured on brand new Goodyear Wrangler DuraTrac's 10.5x31 tires.

Lifted Ride Height
Note: Measured on brand new Goodyear Wrangler DuraTrac's 10.5x31 tires.