AdventureTaco - turbodb's build and adventures


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Time for a new trip report!

As we started into Succor Creek Canyon, we were both looking forward to the drive - this area was so beautiful the last time we were here - the hills covered in May's spring green grass, blowing in the wind. The hillsides were golden this trip, but striking nonetheless.

Read the first half of the story in Winter Escape - Hot Springs & the Alvord Playa (Part 1)



2007 Expedition Trophy Champion, Overland Certifie
Great pics and write, your blog is one I have bookmarked at work as safe to have on a screen when someone walks by :)
I like your writing style and it makes me want to stop for more pics on my outings.


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Our night on the Alvord Playa was uneventful - the wind picked up a bit around midnight, easily remedied by closing the door on the windward side of the tent. And, one of the nice things about winter - at least when you're camping - is that sunrise is a bit later. For us, it was nearly 7:00am before the light started on the horizon...

Winter Escape - Hot Springs & the Alvord Playa (Part 2)



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That Mud Was In My Transfer Case!

As we drove the several-hundred-miles to eastern Oregon on our recent trip to Owyhee and the Alvord Playa, all was not well with the Tacoma. Four times - each time after three uninterrupted hours of driving - there would be a sudden sound of something that sounded like a bearing "spinning up." The sound was disconcerting enough that I'd immediately take my foot off the gas, and the sound would slow - eventually ending in a clunk and everything would be "back to normal."

Everything that is except my nerves.

Obviously, we continued on and the trip was a huge success - but as we did, I posted several questions to fellow Tacoma enthusiasts on TacomaWorld - hoping to further debug the situation and understand what was going on. There were of course a ton of ideas thrown out - including wheel bearings, u-joints, AC idler pulley, transmission, transfer case, differentials, and the center bearing - but what I was after were the things I should look or listen for to narrow down the culprit.

The best suggestion from this perspective was to listen and determine if the noise changed with engine speed (RPMs) or vehicle speed (essentially MPH) - that would tell me if the problem was in the engine itself, or if it was in the post-engine drive train (transmission, transfer case, diffs, etc.)

So the next time it happened, I put the clutch in neutral and reved the engine. Then, I put it in 3rd, 4th, and 5th gears (slowing from highway speed) - and without a doubt the sound was related to vehicle speed and not engine speed.

And for some reason, my gut told me it was the transfer case.

The remainder of the trip, I made sure to proactively re-engage 2HI, 4HI, and 4LO every 90 minutes or so of drive time, shifting the transfer case into neutral and then firmly into the appropriate drive mode. Low and behold - the sound never returned.

I was relieved about that, but also worried. What could possibly be wrong? I had no idea, but something clearly was.

So, I wrote up everything and headed to the most reputable Toyota dealer around. Here's what I told them:

What happens?
While driving at highway speed (so far, for a prolonged period of time - ~3 hours), there is suddenly and randomly a whining noise that sounds like a bearing spinning much faster than it should be. Loud enough to be heard in the cab. Spinning continues for 3-10 seconds (varies) and slows down as the vehicle slows down. Spinning ends with a "clunk" sound and vibration in the drive train. Recording attached.Has happened 4 times at the following speeds:

* 55mph
* 62mph (happened 2-3 times in the span of 5 minutes)
* 62mph
* 55mph

Engine or drive line?
I believe it's in the drive line, since whenever it happens, I press in the clutch. Engine revs drop at that point, but whine seems to be consistent with vehicle speed. To test this further, I shifted into 4th, and 3rd gears while the whine was present, and it's pitch did not change as I maintained a constant speed, though the engine revs obviously did.

Where is it coming from?
Seems to be coming from the "front" of the truck - I'd say from the front seats forward. Sounds like from the dash to me, but could be below the dash (tranny, tcase).

What does it sound like?
If I had to describe it, to me it sounds like either:
* 4lo is engaging at high speed. However, the 4wd dash light never illuminates, and engine revs do not jump to the appropriate range for 4lo at the given speeds, so maybe it's only "partially" engaging, or something else is going on.
* Some "stationary" bearing/gear suddenly becomes non-stationary, rotating at a speed much higher than normal

Then, as the speed slows (with the speed of the vehicle), whatever component started spinning suddenly "pops back into the correct position/place" with a clunk. Then, everything is normal again.

What does the clunk sound/feel like?
The best way I can describe it is similar to the "clunk" you might feel in the clutch if you let it out too quickly at the very beginning or tail end of the engagement travel.

How to prevent the behavior (maybe)
After this happened, I thought it might be the transfer case. Every 100-150 miles or so (at 62mph), I'd stop the truck, put it in neutral, and use the j-shift to switch deliberately between 2wd and 4hi (and sometimes 4lo), listening for the "click indicating engagement." I'd then switch back into 2wd (deliberately) and carry on driving. Using this methodology, I drove 12 hours without experiencing the issue.

Does 2wd seem normal?

Does 4wd seem normal?
It seems to work just fine (both LO and HI) 4HI may be slightly noisier than it's been in the past - there seems to be an underlying tick-tick-tick now that I don’t recall being there before. And I use 4wd quite a lot - on the order of 10K miles in the last 12 months.

Well after leaving the truck overnight, I got a call from the service department. Having not done any work at all, they suggested that the best course of action was to do nothing, for now. Rather, they suggested that I should wait until the problem got worse - easily reproducible - and then bring the truck back. Otherwise, they would have to spend hours (driving at freeway speeds) simply trying to reproduce the problem, before they could even start trying to figure out how to fix it.

Honestly, I was a little stunned that with all the information I'd provided, that they didn't have an idea of where to start, but I agreed - it didn't make sense for them to spend hours driving around at 62mph just waiting to experience the whine for a few seconds. So I drove the truck home.

Ultimately, I figured that now was a good time to go through and change the oil in all of the various oily locations on the truck - it was pretty much the end of the year, and so a good time to get everything ship-shape for the next year. Plus, I figured that looking at the oil from each of the transmission, transfer case, and diffs might give me a clue as to where the problem was - I mean, if a bunch of metal shavings spilled out of one of those places, well...I could probably start there. :D :(

I started with the transfer case. Keen to catch any "glitter," I slowly opened the drain plug into a coffee filter. As soon as oil started coming out, it was clear that something wasn't quite right. The oil looked like mud - a light brown goop that definitely didn't belong in my transfer case!

The filter full, I drained the rest into my catch pan and then waited for the filter to drain before opening it up and looking for metal. Luckily, there was none.

Obviously to me, the transfer case had gotten water in it - likely through the breather (located on the top of the transfer case) during our sketchy water crossing at the end of the F.U.Rain trip; maybe also from other deep water crossings since the fluid was last changed.

Whenever it had happened, I decided to let it continue to drain while I changed the oil in the transmission. The process here was the same - filter the used oil through a coffee filter, looking for metal.

Again, as with the transfer case, once I filled up the filter, I drained the rest into my catch pan. This time, there were a few flecks, but nothing to be worked up over. And the oil was obviously used, but was a much better color.

Everything drained, I refilled the transfer case (with Lucas 80W-90) and transmission (with MT-90) with new oil and closed everything back up. Diff and engine oils were changed next, uneventfully.

And then, it was time to wait and see. Had my gut feeling that the problem was in the transfer case been right? Was it the water-saturated oil that was causing something to not be lubricated quite right and "fall out of place" and start spinning? Only time (and miles) would tell.

Update: December 20, 2018 - I've since put another 2,700 miles on the truck - 1,000 of them in a single day at 62mph with only 3 stops over 19 hours. The noise has not returned.


After the 2,700 mile trip, I changed the transfer case oil again - for two reasons:
  1. I figured that there was some muddy goop left over from the first change, and it'd be diluted a bit with the new oil, but good to get out of there
  2. The 2,700 mile trip included my deepest ever water crossing at 35" - a good 8-10 inches up the doors. Given that a bit of water made it into the air intake, the transfer case was definitely submerged during this crossing and I wanted to get any new water out.
No coffee filter this time, I drained a bit of the oil into an old pie container just to compare its color to that of new oil - definitely dirty, but nothing like the mud from the first time.

So, here's to continued hope that I found the problem...and that the horrible noise never reoccurs. 🤞


Well-known member
My Front Diff is Leaking (...and Fixing It)

It was just a couple days ago that I noticed my front diff was leaking.

Actually, I noticed it only because I was replacing my AC idler pulley for the second time in a month - having replaced it on The De-Tour last year and recently again with less than a week of the F.U. Rain trip remaining. I sure hope this time lasts longer than a week on the trail and a few muddy water crossings!

But that's not what this post is about - this post is about my front diff. While I was under the truck with the skid plates off, I noticed pretty quickly that there was a wet spot on each side of the front diff where the CV axles enter the clamshell housing.

That's of course not expected and no good, so I wiped off the (little) excess gear oil and consulted my normal reference sources - Carl at JT's Parts and Accessories, and a few hours later - the good folks of TacomaWorld.

Carl - as always - was quick to get back to me. He wondered if my CVs were the originals (which I confirmed for him that they were) and suggested that as originals, they may be getting worn...thereby wearing on the seals that the seal against the machined CV surface that is inserted into the front diff.

His suggestion - take out the CVs to look at the machined surfaces and seals. Replace the seals and/or the CVs.

TacomaWorld too was quick to get back. Others had - and were currently - experiencing the same issue. And, while worn CVs seemed like an unlikely culprit to them, there was general agreement that the terrain over which the Tacoma had recently been through could have caused dirt to get into the seal - unsealing it as it were, and causing it to leak.

Their suggestion - a good cleaning of the area, and then if there was still oil, take out the CVs and look at the seals to see if they are dirty. Inspect the CVs at the same time since they are out. Clean and/or replace anything, as necessary.

Well, I felt like I'd already cleaned the area well when I'd washed the truck from the last trip, so I decided it was time to take out the CVs and check out the seals and shafts. I wasn't going to replace anything just yet - I didn't have any replacement parts - I just wanted to get at good look at the situation.

Plus, my hope was that if I needed to replace something it would be just the output shaft seals (left: 90311-47027 | right: 90311-47013) since those were on the order of $15 each, whereas a new, OEM CV (43430-04020 ) is closer to $450!

My plan of attack would mirror what I'd learned from Mike @Digiratus when I'd helped him remove his axles a couple times previously - first, take off the wheel. Then, remove the hub. This turned out to be the hardest part of the job, my hubs never having been removed previously. Probably took me a good 30 minutes to get the first hub off. And when I did, I didn't love how it was a bit chewed up.

Next, it was time to remove the axle nut, and it came off easily enough with the impact wrench.

Then, it was just a matter of backing out the four, 14mm bolts that secure the lower ball joint to the lower control arm and I was able to slide the CV axle out of the wheel bearing and set the rotor, bearing, etc. aside so I could pry and then pull out the CV itself - of course, a bit of diff oil coming out as well.

CV extracted, I took the time to give both ends a good once over - there was definitely some grime - a combination of grease and dirt - on each end where they contacted their respective seals - so I cleaned both ends up well before applying a new layer of grease. Both ends of each CV seemed to be in great shape otherwise - they weren't rough or chewed up; hopefully an indication that the CVs don't need replacing.

I inspected the output shaft seals in the diff as well - also grimy with perhaps a bit more dirt than the CV itself. I cleaned those up and got the CVs reinserted and everything buttoned back up with the correct torque specs (59 ft-lbs and a bit of blue Loctite for the LBJ bolts; 174 ft-lbs for the axle nut)

Time will tell if that was enough. For now, while the truck is stationary, I don't see any drips. I sure hope it stays that way!

Update: December 15, 2018 - still no leaks, even after several thousand more miles on the truck. Looks like it was the dirty seals; good to know for next time!


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Tacoma Rear Shock Relocation - Collecting Parts and Heading South
December 1-2, 2018.

For years now I've run what I'd call "work shocks" in the rear of the truck. First a set of Gabriel Hi-Jackers that I put on to carry heavy loads, then a set of Monroe MaxAir MA820's when I installed the rear lift - these shocks were great for carrying heavy loads since I could add air pressure to push the rear of the truck higher. But as truck use has changed to more exploration (perhaps even the overused "overlanding), it's become clear that the ride provided by these shocks is not ideal. The rear end takes a long time to settle over a bump - and when travelling with a bunch of guys who like to go fast, well...

So when Zane wrote up his rear shock relocation, I was immediately keen to perform a similar modification to my truck. I figured I could even make a trip out of it - travelling down to Arizona to see Zane and have a mod day, then we could make our way over to Death Valley to explore some of what was still left to explore after the first trip in January and the second trip in March to test everything out.

The modification is pretty straight forward. In stock configuration, the rear shocks are mounted using two posts - one attached to the rear frame and one attached to a plate under the rear axle that is used to secure the leaf springs to the top of the axle - like this:

This configuration is OK - I mean, I've generally been happy with it - but it usually limits travel of the rear axle up and down to around 8 inches. By moving the mounts slightly, it's possible to squeeze a couple more inches of up-down travel out of the rear, making for a smoother ride with better traction, since the rubber meets the road more of the time.

Of course, moving the mounts is where the work is - but essentially a new bottom mount is welded to the rear axle, and a new cross-bar is added to the top of the frame (just under the bed) to which new top mounts are attached.

After a quick chat with Zane, timelines were discussed and plans were made...three months before I'd actually head down. That was good, because I needed to collect parts in the meantime.

Some of this was easy - I'd simply copy Zane for the actual shock mounts and mounting location. That meant sourcing:
  • A 4-foot length of 1.75" diameter, 1/8" wall round tubing to which the upper mounts would be welded
  • Some 3/16" steel plate for gusseting the tubing to the frame of the truck
  • A pair of RuffStuff SBRKT-175 upper shock mounts
  • A pair of <a class="atalnk" title="RuffStuff Lower Shock Mount R1988-8" href="" rel="nofollow">RuffStuff R1988-8</a> lower shock mounts

I decided to do a u-bolt flip at the same time (since I wouldn't be using the stock lower shock mounts anymore anyway) and so looked at several options for a flip kit and new bump stops. Ultimately, I decided on @Plastics Guy 4.25" rear bumps and his u-bolt flip kit as well, given it's beefy 3/8" powder-coated plate and 9/16" ARB extended-length u-bolts.

And then of course, I needed a set of shocks. I knew that this time I was looking for high-end shocks. That ruled out the air shocks I've used in the past, and even well-known, respected brands like Bilstein (5100's - Left/ Right) and OME. This time, I wanted something that I could fully rebuild - shocks are after all a wear item on our trucks - so I was looking initially at the major players that everyone seems to consider: King, Fox, and Icon. All of these seemed good with one drawback: in stock configuration, the compressed length of their 10-inch travel shocks was longer than I'd like.

Then, after some more asking around and a bit of research, and ADS was recommended. I'd never heard of ADS, but in browsing their site and chatting with Tyler (via email and phone), it was immediately clear to me that this was the route I wanted to go. ADS could build me a set of 2.5" smooth body shocks, with a welded lower rod end, and 10" of travel that had a 15.1" compressed length and a 25." extended length. Ideal for a first gen Tacoma.

So, my orders placed, and parts on the way - well, except for the shocks, which I decided to pick up at ADS in Arizona when I headed down to do the work - I was all set.

And boy, was I excited.

As December 1 rolled around, I was out of town early - on I-90 by 4:30am - on my way first to Boise ID where I was going to stop by Ben's @m3bassman to pick up a few 4Runner bits that he'd left on his porch for me. Late in the year, sunrise wasn't for a few more hours and it wasn't until I was already in Oregon that the big orange disc made it's appearance through the trees, fog, and smoke on the horizon.

I'd continue driving south and east through the entirety of daylight hours and into the dark, maintaining my "usual" blazing speed of 62mph nearly the entire time. Through Oregon the landscape was covered with a light dusting of snow; Idaho was a constant rain; as I entered Nevada near Wells, the snow started falling thick and heavy.

I pushed onward - stopping only for food and fuel - into the night. My goal was to reach Pahranagat National Wildlife Refuge by 11:00pm, some 19 hours after I'd left, with only an hour of aggregated stoppage along the way. As the roads got slicker, I was happy to be following a trucker also maintaining a 62mph pace, his tires clearing the pavement and affording mine a bit more grip.

That luck only held out so long though - eventually he turned west and I had 50 miles of empty road in front of me. And then, brake lights and hazards. As far as I could see up the road, traffic was stopped; no one was moving in either direction.

Now the last one in line, I too engaged my hazards as I got out to chat with a few of the folks in front of me. They'd been stopped here for 45 minutes already and expected to be here another 30 - an accident (they assumed) further up the road blocking traffic. In fact, we were there for another hour while the accident was cleared - a big rig and pick-up towing an RV having mixed it up on the slippery road.

Moving again but now an hour late, I found myself pulling into Pahranagat near midnight, happy to discover that it was a couple thousand feet lower in elevation and so while a chilly 24ºF, there was no snow on the ground. I found a spot near the lake, setup the tent, and climbed into bed - eager to see what the morning would bring.

Tired from the day before and head buried in the warmth under the covers, I missed sunrise. Still, as I ventured out of the tent, the skies had cleared the landscape was brilliant under the morning sun.

Still cold, I wiped as much of the morning frost off the tent as I could and let the sun do its work on the rest. It wasn't perfect, but by 9:00am - after a quick chat with a refuge employee who was curious about the truck and tent - I was leaving the refuge, once again on my way to Arizona...via Las Vegas.

I made great time again and by mid-afternoon it was clear that I'd be to Zane's before dinner. Though he'd expected me to show up the next morning, an early arrival was just fine with him as it'd allow us to get a bit of a head start removing the tent and unloading the truck.

And so it was that I completed the last few miles, the truck's shadow racing along beside me - all the exits new-to-me, though one had a familiar name, being that nearly all my OEM parts are purchased from @gunny1005 at Camelback Toyota out of Phoenix.

It had been quite the trip so far, and the best part was yet to come - over the next two days, we'd head over to ADS to pick up my shocks, and then fabricate a new mounting system. Exciting for anyone, but especially for me - my favorite thing to do, learning new skills and building things with my hands.


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Tacoma Rear Shock Relocation - Fabrication...and Failure
December 3-4, 2018.

Rear shock relocation day was finally here! Zane @Speedytech and I were up bright and early so we could be at ADS right around their opening time of 8:00am to pick up the rear shocks they'd been holding for me for the last couple of months.

As generally seems to be the case when it comes to truck parts stores, we were both like kids in a candy store as we ogled around the ADS facility. Definitely quite the setup they've got going on there!

Tyler, who'd been helping me with my shocks, walked us around for a quick tour and made sure that we had everything we needed to do the install, including a copy of the valving setup they'd configured, in case that needed to be changed in the future. (I'm sure it will.)

And with that, we headed back to do the actual work. Have I mentioned that I was excited? And yes, probably also a bit nervous.

Now, hindsight is 20/20, and several good folks may know - and others will have figured out from the title of the post - that not everything turned out "just right." But at this point, we were confident that we knew what we were doing and so we set about with the following high-level plan of action:
  1. Unbolt and remove the rear bumper and bed from the truck.
  2. Raise the rear end up on jack stands to remove the rear wheels; support the rear axle with a floor jack.
  3. Disassemble the leaf springs, removing all but the top leaf.
  4. Position new top shock mounts (with zip ties at this point) on a length of 1.75" tubing that we positioned on top of the frame, just under the height of the bed.
  5. Use a floor jack to press the top leaf as high as it would go before starting to lift the truck, and to drop it as far as it would go, noting the overall travel and positioning of the leaf springs in relation to the new top shock mounts.
  6. Weld (a) the 1.75" metal tube to the frame, (b) new upper shock mounts to the tubing, and (c) new lower shock mounts to the rear axle in positions that would mean the shock wouldn't bottom out when the leaf spring was compressed to the height we'd determined, and wouldn't overextend when the leaf springs were fully drooped.
  7. Paint everything and install the new shocks.
  8. Reinstall all the bits we'd removed (wheels, bed, bumper).
Now - I should note that if you're reading this and thinking, "Cool, now I know what I need to do in order to do this to my truck." - stop and listen: These are not the right steps. The right steps will come right after the next chapter of this story. Hang tight. Even better, sign up here to get an email when it's posted:

As we got started, everything was going swimmingly. Zane's got an engine hoist, and that made it much easier to remove the rear bumper with just two people. In no time, it was on the ground and we moved it out of the way.

Next, it was onto the bed. This too is much easier with a hoist. We simply attached the hoist to the bed rack, removed the tail lights, and then used the impact wrench to unbolt the bed from the frame. A few pumps on the hoist, and if I'd gotten the angles right it could have looked like Zane was Mr. Muscle. Oh well. 🤣

It was at this point that Zane looked at me and said, "Before we go on, you're taking your truck to the car wash." I'd of course washed it before heading down, but removing the bed exposes so much more mud, and it was clear that cleaning up the frame a bit with the pressure washer was going to make working on it a lot more enjoyable. So off we went - the car wash just around the corner.

We were feeling good as we returned to the garage, and made quick work of lifting the truck up on jack stands and removing the rear wheels.

U-bolt removal and leaf pack disassembly were next, and were a place where we got a bit ... creative ... to support the rear axle. But hey - it's not as sketchy if it works, right? :D

Leaf springs separated, we reattached the axle using my new @Plastics Guy u-bolt flip kit and a few "custom spacers" we found around the shop - so we had enough threads to tighten down the u-bolt nuts while we took our travel measurements.

These travel measurements are obviously the key to a good install - so we knew we had to get the next part right. If we didn't, then my shocks might get destroyed by bottoming out or overextending before they could soak up the bumps. We were ready to measure twice, or even three times if necessary... and weld once.

Famous last words. :anonymous:

We started by placing the 1.75" round tube on the frame to determine how far forward (resulting in shocks that were as vertical as possible) it could sit and still not rub on the bottom of the bed. Once again using some high-tech spacers and measuring devices, we got it in just the right position and then zip-tied on the upper shock mounts.

Well, as you can see above - as the exhaust makes it's way to the rear of the truck, it passes exactly where the passenger side shock will mount. This was different than Zane's experience, but wasn't too much of a problem for two guys with a sawzall. :sawzall:


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Top mounts positioned horizontally where we wanted them, we figured that now was as good a time as any to weld them on. By doing it now, we could lay everything on the ground, ensuring that the mounts were evenly aligned and then we could simply rotate the round tubing to angle the mounts up and down as appropriate to achieve the desired shock positioning.

Flush with welding success, we secured the upper mounts in place with some clamps and took our travel measurements. We must have been concentrating hard at this point because I didn't get any photos. Our methodology however was to use the floor jack to push up under one leaf spring until the entire truck started to lift off of the jack stands - that was our "full stuff / max compression" distance. Then, we pulled the floor jack out entirely and stood on the leaf spring to let it hang down as much as possible - that was out "full droop / max extension" distance.

Those numbers in hand, we figured out the position of the lower shock mounts and I made Zane bend some of the hard brake lines since they'd be in the way of the mounts. See, I'd never messed with brake lines and bending them made me nervous :eek:. I then marked (on the rear axle), the position of the lower shock mount such that it's 10 inch stroke would not limit movement of the leaf spring.

We measured twice. Actually, probably three times. We were sure we'd gotten it right. (Hint: we hadn't.) And so I welded on the lower mounts.

I was excited. My shock relocation - which I'd been thinking about for three months - was coming to fruition. With the mounts welded on, everything left was "easy":
  • reinstall the leaf springs, u-bolt flip kit, and wheels to get the truck back on the ground;
  • wrap up the final welding and gusseting of the round tube that supported the top mounts;
  • prime and paint all the bare metal;
  • install the shocks and all the bits we'd removed (bed, bumper).
We quickly got the leaf springs reassembled with the u-bolt flip kit and @Plastics Guy bump stops and wheels back on the truck so we could wheel it out into the driveway.

Likewise - the layout, cutting, and welding on of the gussets for the tubing was straight forward (and fun - more welding)!

And with that, the fabrication was complete. We'd done it, without any major hiccups, and - as far as I was concerned - relatively quickly. We were geniuses.

Well, OK, we weren't geniuses and the fabrication on this project was far from complete - but we didn't know that yet. So, I set about wire brushing all of the welded areas to remove any splatter and prep for paint; then I sprayed everything with a coat of primer followed by black paint.

As we both looked over the finished product, it all looked good. The upper mounts lined up with the lower mounts; the welds looked reasonable - almost as though I knew what I was doing.

So we installed the 2.5" smooth body w/remote reservoir ADS shocks. To compress them for install, we used a ratchet strap around the shock until the mounting holes lined up perfectly with the mounts, and slid in some ½-inch grade 8 bolts to hold them in place. Finally, we secured the reservoirs to the round tubing - a convenient side effect of this mounting strategy.

There were of course a couple more hours of work to get the bed, bumper, and tent back on the truck; plus we spent some time cleaning up and putting the garage back "in order" before we grabbed dinner and then pulled out our laptops to see what we'd missed in the world over the last two days.

Of course, I headed straight to TacomaWorld - I had to post a couple photos of the work and my gratitude in the 1st Gen Daily thread - since I was excited to let everyone know what all the secrecy the last couple days had been about.

And it wasn't 6 minutes before the first response rolled in - "Those mounts look pretty close together." Needless to say, Zane and I walked through how careful we'd been with the whole setup and how we were sure everything was right. A bit more back and forth and eventually the topic changed and an hour or so later I went to bed, still mostly confident in the work we'd done - knowing that I'd get a chance to try it out over the next couple days on a trip through the Mojave National Preserve.

- - - - -


OK, not really a spoiler since I've said it a few times already - though we'd measured three times and welded once, we hadn't measured correctly. Rather, we hadn't even set ourselves up to be able to measure correctly.

The next day, after picking up @mrs.turbodb in Las Vegas, and only about a mile into the Mojave Road, I knew that we wouldn't be able to run the entire road with my shocks installed the way they were. Even over small bumps the shocks were bottoming out - only having perhaps 2" of up-travel, not nearly enough with a fully loaded bed.

There were two options - abort the trip and head home on the highway, or remove the shocks and run the Mojave Road with leaf springs only. The answer - to me - was obvious: adventure was waiting.



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Excited to test out the rear shock relocation I'd just completed, I headed north toward Las Vegas to pick up @mrs.turbodb who was flying in for a two-ish day trip along the Old Mojave Road - a historically significant trail through the Mojave National Preserve in southern California...that wouldn't turn out at all as we'd planned...

Read the full story over at Mojave Road Part 1 - We Head West



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At 60 feet in, the water was quite clearly up over the top of the tires and bottom of the doors on the driver side and I could tell it was even deeper on the passenger side - @mrs.turbodb now much more serious about the crossing than she'd been the afternoon before. And we were still getting deeper.

"Hope it levels out." I think I said out loud, "We're getting really close to the intake." My adrenaline at this point was high, but I kept my cool and made sure to keep a good bow wake in front of the truck.

Read the full story - Mojave Road Part 2 - So Much Adrenaline I'm Shaking



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Tacoma Rear Shock Relocation - Scrapping the First Attempt and Trying Again
December 17, 2018.

I'm generally pretty good at building things with my hands, but in relocating the rear shocks on my first gen Toyota Tacoma, I'd royally screwed up. If you haven't read about that, I'd recommend checking out the previous post in this series - Rear Shock Relocation - Fabrication and Failure, where after I'd permanently welded a bunch of stuff to my truck, I'd discovered that I couldn't go over bumps taller than about 2-inches. Not good for adventuring out on dirt roads.

But, failure is a great learning tool, and I'd spent some time figuring out why what I'd done hadn't worked, and what the right way was to accomplish my goals... so it was time to give it another shot.

Note: If you just want to understand the right way to do this and don't care about the story, the post you want to read is this one:

How-To: Toyota Tacoma Rear Shock Relocation - Determining Leaf Spring Cycle and Mount Positioning

Of course, having welded on the original shock mounts I'd purchased from, the only way they were coming off was by cutting and grinding, so my first step was to order a couple new sets of mounts. I got the same ones I'd purchased previously - RuffStuff SBRKT-175 (upper) and R1988-8 (lower) shock mounts.

New parts acquired, it was time to figure out how to get the bed off the truck again - always a tedious process for me since I don't have a good place to store it, and since it requires a few strapping folks to lift free of the frame. Luckily, my 4Runner buddy Joe - who'd run the WABDR with us earlier in the summer - wanted some help installing a new roof rack and said I was welcome to use his "trellis hoist" to pull the bed off at the same time if I wanted.

Of course, I wanted.

So I headed over and maneuvered the truck under the trellis in his backyard. Joe uses this hoist to lift his RTT on/off his 4Runner so we hoped it had enough oomph for the Tacoma bed - I protected the cab and rear bumper with some moving blankets just in case it started to swing around.

As we started lifting the bed, it was clear that the rear half was much heavier than the front. Removing the tailgate balanced it out almost perfectly and with the help of some pulleys and guidance up and over the fuel filler neck, the bed was soon suspended several feet above the frame.

With rain in the forecast, it'd make a nice roof, assuming the rope held through work.

The first order of business was cutting off and grinding down the first attempt at the top mounts - the mounts quite clearly angled too far down.

Then, I positioned and welded on the new mounts. Unlike the previous attempt, there was no measuring this time - I took @Squeaky Penguin's advice and mounted them as high as possible. In fact, I mounted them high enough that I had to grind just a little bit of the back of the mount off so it'd clear the bed. Every 1/8" counts!

A quick measure at this point showed that I'd gained just over 2 inches of up-travel, previously the distance between mounts around 17 ¾".

This was "close" to being good enough, but alas, once the mounts were re-painted and shocks were installed, the amount of exposed shaft (at rest) was exactly equal to the distance between the top of the bump stop and the frame - meaning the shock would bottom out before the bump stop could compress and absorb any impact. From talking to @Plastics Guy, I knew that the bumps would compress somewhere on the order of .4 - .7 inches depending on the impact, so I needed to either move the bumps up an inch or expose an additional inch of shock shaft to really feel comfortable.

Since I already knew what the leaf springs would look like when "on the bumps" from our recent Mojave Road trip, I knew that raising the bump stops would be the wrong call - I'd be limiting my travel more than I needed to.

That of course meant that the bottom mounts had to come off as well, and new ones installed, with the mount rotated down slightly - giving me an additional inch of shaft travel before the shocks would bottom out. This process was both easier and harder than the top mounts. On the one hand, I had plenty of room to work without removing the bed. On the other, there were hard brake lines all around the lower mounts and there was no way I could get a grinder in there without some serious risk.

The first step then was removing the hard lines - a bit of a pain in that I'd have to bleed everything when I was done.

Then, I was able to cut and grind off the lower mounts, just as I had with the tops. I was careful here to make sure I'd taken measurements of the position so that I'd be sure to correct correctly when I welded the new ones on!

Axles naked of shock mounts once again, I positioned the new mounts and tacked them on. I wanted to make sure that I could install the shock and ensure that it'd cycle correctly before buttoning everything up this time!

Things looked good, so I finished welding, cleaning up, and painting everything for the second time. Hopefully the last time. That's what they say, right? Second time's a charm. 🤣 hahahahaha

Finally, it was time to install the shocks and load everything up to double check that things looked good - and they did!

It had been quite the project - or was it two? - upgrading my shocks, bump stops, and relocating everything at the same time. But it was a great experience - one that taught me so much more than having done it right the first time, not really understanding why (or thinking I understood why but having that understanding be incorrect).

Thumbs up all around. 👍


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I've Delayed Long Enough - Changing the Spark Plugs
December 20, 2018.

People often assume that everything is easy for me. That I just go about doing things, and usually doing them well. That's sort of the case, since I've had a lot of experience doing different things in my life and I tend to pick things up quickly, but I think it's important to recognize that even for people who seem "good at everything," not everything is easy. Getting in there and trying things can still be both hard and rewarding, no matter who you are...
I don't know why, but I've been super nervous about changing my spark plugs and wires. So nervous in fact, that I've had the plugs and wires in the for eight months (since April) gathering dust and taunting me to install them.

Now, I know I shouldn't have been nervous - after all, I've changed my timing belt, water pump, and associated components. I've completely overhauled my suspension multiple times. Heck, I've even welded on the truck a handful of times.

But still, for some reason, pulling the plugs out of the engine and making sure the new ones were inserted correctly was daunting for me. But with winter here, and another 35K miles on the truck this year, it was time to suck it up and git 'er done.

The parts I'd gathered were relatively straight forward. The 5VZFE uses dual electrode plugs, so I picked up six new Denso 3194 K16TR11 plugs, and a new set of OEM spark plug wires (19037-62050).

And of course, the only tools necessary for the job were a 12mm socket (set I like), a 5/8" spark plug socket, a plethora of extensions, and my ratchet.

I got started on the passenger side since it seemed easier to access. Doing one cylinder at a time, I would remove the plugs on the ignition coils, and then remove the 12mm bolt holding in the coil in place. Then it was simply a matter of removing the spark plug with the socket (which I never realized had a special rubber holder in it until I did the job! 🤣

The plugs I pulled out were definitely used, though I have no idea really whether they needed replacing. I made sure the new plugs were gapped correctly (0.043") before installing and torquing them to 13 ft-lbs; then re-seating the coils and torqueing the bolts to 69 in-lbs.

Passenger side done, it was time to move to the driver side. This went just as easily, with some careful unbolting and pushing-out-of-the-way of various vacuum tubes and wires - even the rear-most plug came out relatively easily with 18 inches of socket extensions! :biggrin:

All six plugs replaced, it was time to tackle the wires. This turned out to be even easier than the plugs, since the new wires were pre-clipped into the various clips that hold them to the timing belt cover. I pulled out the old and inserted the new, and I was done!

Definitely not a hard project at all - just another example of how we can build things up in our minds to be more difficult than they really are, and why it's good to tackle these kinds of projects because they build up our confidence in being able to successfully work on our whatever interests and intimidates us in life!


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Gear Roundup - What I Take With Me On Trips (2018 edition)
December 29, 2018.

I get asked by a lot of folks, some flavor of, "What do you pack when you go on a trip?" So, I thought it'd be a good time to run through what goes into the truck for an adventure. In fact, I think that a post once a year outlining the gear could be a great thing, so that's the plan. Oh, and taken with the Rig Reviews that I've started, it will give a good sense of what's working and what's not with the setup.

So, without further ado, let's dig into what's on and in the truck at the end of 2018!

The Truck Itself

Obviously we can't adventure without the actual vehicle. To see how it's outfitted, check out the Truck Details Build Page (2018) and the relevant links there to the various mods that were part of this year's configuration.

From previous years, the following were new or significantly changed:
  1. Armor - new CBI Outback 1.0 rear bumper with dual swing-outs.
  2. Wheels and Tires - new SCS Stealth6 wheels and Cooper ST Maxx 255/85 R16 tires.
In all, the truck performed admirably - doing nearly everything I asked of it. As of right now, there are only three things I really want to look at changing for 2019:
  1. The suspension - I'll be stepping up to rebuildable suspension given the number of miles I put on the truck.
  2. The wheels - I really don't like the amount of mud that gets thrown around now - I'll be on the hunt for wheels with more backspacing.
  3. The battery - I'm finally at the point where I feel like I'm over-taxing the starting battery with the fridge on warm nights, and so I want to move to a two-battery system.
Sleeping Gear

Key to any longer trip is a good place to sleep. While I have some improvements that I think could be made to the CVT Mt. Shasta, in all it is a great tent and it's the foundation of my sleeping gear. In addition to the tent itself (with mattress and anti-condensation mat), the following come with me on every trip:
  1. Two heavyweight down comforters, twin size. We like comforters for two reasons - first, they are so much more comfortable and cozy than a sleeping bag - great for a good night sleep. And second, they compress better when the tent is folded up. Two allow us to control temperatures easily.
  2. One bottom sheet, fitted to the RTT mattress. With a sheet and comforters, it's like sleeping in a bed. Mostly.
  3. Two full-size pillows. There's no better pillow than your home pillow, and we've put two of our older ones in the tent permanently.
  4. Ear plugs. On windy nights, or if you're near the highway, soft foam (designed for sleeping) ear plugs can be a lifesaver. I always keep a few pair in one of the tent pockets.
  5. A warm (polartec) cap. I like to sleep with the doors and windows open whenever I can - even when it's cold. A cap keeps the breeze off my head, and keeps me a lot toastier through those cold nights.

Clothing and Footwear

Clothing varies a bit each trip, but is more consistent than one might think. There are likely a couple reasons for this - first, the weather is unpredictable, so I always like to have both long-and-short pieces of clothing; second, I never end up changing clothes all that often on a trip - getting dirty is just part of the adventure. So, that said, here's what I bring:
  1. A clean pair of underwear for every day.
  2. A clean pair of socks for every day. I'll tend bring a 75/25 combo of crew/ankle socks depending on what I expect my pants/shorts situation to be, since I much prefer taller socks with pants and shorter socks with shorts.
  3. A pair of running sneakers - my primary shoe in dry conditions.
  4. A pair of Keen waterproof hiking boots - my primary shoe in wet conditions.
  5. One pair of pants per week of trip, plus one extra.
  6. One pair of shorts per week of trip, plus one extra.
  7. Two short-sleeve shirts per week of trip, plus one extra.
  8. Two long-sleeve shirts per week of trip, plus one extra.
  9. Two sweatshirts (with hoods).
  10. One pair of sweatpants - usually only used to layer if it gets cold, or to wear in bed at night if it's freezing.
  11. One waterproof, hooded, rain jacket.
  12. Weather dependent: One pair of goretex ski gloves.
  13. Sunglasses.
  14. A baseball hat.
  15. A fabric (not leather) belt - this turns out to be important, as you're often bending over and because I always tend to lose weight on longer trips.
  16. Two reusable grocery bags - one of which I use for dirty clothes, and the other to store my shoes in when I go in the tent.
With everything above, it's easy to adapt to the weather in almost any conditions. There are enough warm clothes to layer up when it gets cold. For me, everything except the footwear fits in a single large backpack or small duffel, and doesn't take up too much room in the truck.


Not much to say here - this stuff doesn't take up much room and I just slip most of it into my clothes bag.
  1. Toothbrush and toothpaste
  2. Toilet paper - 2 rolls. I've found that a single roll is enough for all but the longest trips, but this is something you want to have a backup of, in case you lose the first roll, or it gets wet...
  3. Baby wipes. Go for unscented, and make sure they are resealable. I like to take two packs per trip - one to keep in the cab, and the other in the kitchen box. Use them sparingly for washing hands and "showering" the spots that get stinky.
  4. Deodorant
  5. Electric shaver (two-week trips only) - while I probably only end up using this once per two-week trip, it's amazing how nice it can feel to get a week's worth of itchy facial hair growth trimmed down.


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Food on trips

No trip has exactly the same food - but I do follow a pattern, so it makes sense to explain that pattern and then I'll share some sample food items.

Generally, I plan to eat out (fast food) any meals that are on the way to the location of the trip; I eat out of the truck for the "on-trail" adventure; on the way home, I plan to eat out again. So, if I have an 8 hour freeway drive before hitting the trail, I might eat a single fast food meal each direction . If I've got 24-hours of "getting there," I could end up eating three meals before breaking into any of the food I packed, and then stopping for fast food three more times on the way home.

Using this methodology, I can generally expect two weeks of on-trail food (for one person; one weeks for 2 people, etc.). The real limiting factor is that you don't want to have food longer than a couple weeks without freezing, and fresh food (veggies, etc.) don't last longer than a couple weeks without rotting.

Eating Out of the Truck

When I'm eating out of the truck, I separate food into two classes: cooled and un-cooled. Cooled food must all fit in the ARB 50qt fridge, which I keep at 33-35ºF during the day (truck running) and 37-39ºF when in camp with the truck off; un-cooled food goes into a small-size military medical case.

As far as meals go, I like to pre-prepare as much as possible at home - largely to reduce prep and cleanup when on-trail. My goal, generally, is to have - at most - a single plate and single pan to clean after dinner, a single bowl at breakfast, and perhaps a knife at lunch!

I also repeat meals and ingredients (across meals to reduce the number of different packs of things to buy/pack). Breakfast and lunch may be identical every day or alternate between two options. Dinners repeat every 3-4 days.

With that background, here are some sample meals. Ingredients are coded as such: (PP) - pre-prepped | (O) - optional, may have a limited supply if on-trail for an extended time | Cooled | Un-cooled.

  • Breakfast cereal - Cheerios, milk, strawberries (O), blueberries (O). Note: fruit lasts up to 1 week.
  • Breakfast sandwich - outdoor roll, spicy sausage, 2 eggs, butter. Note: butter is to cook eggs.

  • Lunch 1 - sliced sandwich bread, peanut butter, jelly, apple, chips, cookies.
  • Lunch 2 - sliced sandwich bread, deli meat, lettuce (PP), avocado, mayo (O), mustard (O), apple, chips, cookies. Note: mayo and mustard from packets.

  • Tacos - ground beef with taco seasoning (PP - cooked), flour tortillas, sliced cheddar cheese, cabbage (PP), avocado.
  • Cheeseburger - elongated ground beef patty (PP - raw), outdoor roll, sliced cheddar cheese, lettuce (PP), avocado, mayo (O), mustard (O), pickle, chips. Note: mayo and mustard from packets; try to eat raw meat in first 5 days.
  • Steak - marinated skirt steak (PP - raw), mashed potatoes (PP - cooked), cauliflower; try to eat raw meat in first 5 days.
  • Pasta - tomato or pesto pasta sauce, cheese ravioli, cauliflower.
  • Hot dogs - spicy sausage, outdoor roll, ketchup (O), mustard (O), chips (O). Note: ketchup and mustard from packets.
  • Hobo meal - spicy sausage, potato, cabbage (O), onion (O),bell pepper (O), zucchini (O), cauliflower (O). Note: A hobo meal is cutting up all these ingredients and placing them in double-wrapped aluminum foil. Then, cook on the camp fire coals for ~40 minutes.
Dessert and Snacks
  • Homemade chocolate chip cookies (PP)
  • Hershey's Nuggets
  • Granola Bars
  • Chips

Kitchen Gear

All the kitchen gear is stored in a single, aluminum, medium-size, military medical case. This makes it relatively easy to get to, and of course protects it from the elements. The case contains:
  1. A propane Coleman Camp Stove/Grill. This makes it equally easy to heat up a pan or grill a burger, and folds down relatively small. The only think I don't really like about it is that the burners are either on or off - though they look adjustable, they aren't really.
  2. Two 1lb cylinders of propane. This seems to be enough to last for a couple weeks, and having a backup means that when one runs out, I can start looking for another if I think I'll run out before the end of the trip.
  3. A plastic cutting board. I generally don't use this all that much (I opt to cut on a disposable paper plate), but it's nice to have just in case.
  4. Plastic bowls - one per person, but a minimum of two. Used for breakfast cereal or scrambled eggs.
  5. Plastic plates - one per person, but a minimum of two. I sometimes use these for cutting items, but more often I use them for simply supporting a paper plate that I eat off of.
  6. Paper plates - usually about 50 of the cheapest ones I can find. We have a stack at home and I make sure there are a bunch in the case before a trip - these are my primary prep/eating surface since clean-up is easy (fire or trash).
  7. One stainless steel mixing bowl. Used primarily for doing dishes, when there are dishes to do.
  8. Utensils stored in a plastic container:
    1. Two (one per person, min of two) - forks, spoons
    2. One (only) - butter knife, spatula, serving spoon, small tongs, small sharp kitchen knife (love this knife, it's always sharp)
  9. Paper towels - one roll per week.
  10. Baby wipes. Go for unscented, and make sure they are resealable. Use them sparingly for washing hands.
  11. Aluminum foil - a full box, which you can use to make hobo meals (meals you cook in the camp fire, by double wrapping them with foil).
  12. A small container of dish soap and a sponge for washing dishes. Stored in a small watertight lock-and-lock box so that everything doesn't get wet and soapy. (Note: these lock-and-locks are great - we use the other sizes for storing food in the fridge.)
  13. Fire starting implements - at least one box of wooden matches and a cheap lighter.
  14. 10 quart-size Ziplock plastic freezer bags. A box of sandwich bags.
  15. A bit of clothesline rope. Never used, but good to have just in case we need to hang or tie something.