AdventureTaco - turbodb's build and adventures


Well-known member
Life changing magic of tidying up - or, "I hate my stereo"
August 7, 2016.

I've suffered enough.

That Panasonic stereo I installed back in 2013 was great for the Bluetooth, and it was nice for playing videos, but the UI was just horrendous. I mean, why can't there be an option to just make the background black, and not some pulsating craziness that belongs in "The Fast-er-est and Furious-er-est," not a Toyota Tacoma?

Plus, I'm getting to that point where I should just buy what I want - I mean, I've learned from Pops that I'm just spending Clara's inheritance at this point, even if she did love the old stereo for watching videos.

So, I did the same thing I did last time. Let me refresh your memory:
So, it was time to get Bluetooth a new stereo 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 want a black background.
I researched for way too long and decided that the Panasonic AVH-3500BHS Joying JY-UL135N2 was the perfect thing for me.
This stereo is Android (5.1 Lollipop) based, and is oh-so-much better. It's got the black background. And yeah, I had to sand down the double-DIN opening a bit to get it to fit around the stereo bezel, but c'mon, the background is black.

I'm sure this stereo will last me 10 years.


Here are detailed install notes from this thread that I started about the stereo.

So, I just got a new head unit that got a bit of discussion in a thread a few days ago - an Android (v5.1.1) based unit by JOYING (JOYING JY-UL135N2). I got it to replace an already after-market Pioneer that I wasn't a huge fan of due to the obnoxious background graphics that I couldn't get rid of.

Stock pics of the head unit and harness from amazon:

Install notes (on a 1st gen - 2000 XtraCab SR5 V6 4WD TRD):
  • The harness available from JOYING makes the head unit plug and play electrically
  • While the head unit body fits just fine, the bezel is about 2mm too wide and 2mm too tall for the opening in the dash; had to carefully enlarge the opening with sandpaper
  • The GPS unit is magnetic; I placed it on the round bar between the firewall and passenger air bag, which seemed like a place that would get relatively good reception
  • It supports two cameras, but I didn't install any
  • The password for the "Settings > Factory Settings" (where a lot of the useful settings are) is "126"
Overall, I definitely like this unit better than my pioneer, and of course better than the OE CD/Tape player. If you don't mind the minor mod (above), I totally recommend this for a great experience in a 1st gen.

Things I like:
  • Boot screen is configurable. And it comes with a Toyota logo, which makes it look OEM
  • Easy to configure the wallpaper. I'm basically using "black" and it's nice to have it be so clean looking
  • The built-in apps seem to work relatively well for basics (radio, pairing with phone for podcasts and phone calls)
  • The microphone on the head unit works well (there's an external mic too, which I tested, but ultimately didn't install after testing sound quality of both)
  • It's Android, and so it's configurable (including the hard buttons on the device)
  • I can install apps from the Play Store. Waze, etc.
Things I don't like:
  • The built-in app names are lame. The app used to make calls is "Bluetooth" (should be "Phone) and the app used to stream audio from my phone is "A2DP" (should be "Bluetooth")
  • The bezel is a bit deep for my tastes - nearly a half inch. That makes seeing the top of the screen tough, because of the bezel overhang
  • The "hard" buttons work fine, but they feel cheap
  • The Bluetooth stack is pretty lame. It's probably fine for most things, but it won't connect to my Kiwi3 OBDII device; thus, no DashCommand (EDIT May 2017: With the newer JY-UL135N2 Intel Sofia based version of this head unit, the Kiwi and DashCommand now work!)
Ask away if you have questions.


Well-known member
Relentless Armor - An excursion from Seattle WA to Sparks NV
August 23, 2016. The trip was a long awaited one. But first, some background.

The lead up
Six months ago (Feb 2016), I'd decided it was finally time to get a winch on my Tacoma - to allow me to get out of jams (if I get in one); to increase safety on certain trails when we're out solo, and to open up new trails where a blow-down may need to be moved out of the way (for instance).

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.

So, I sent a few emails to the good folks at Relentless (which really means Brittony, since she handles that side of things) and a whole bunch of questions later - I really felt like I was bugging her with tons of questions - measurements, etc. - I knew I was going to get what I wanted, and we'd arranged an install date - August 23rd.

Now I had six months (and a whole summer's worth of camping) to wait.

Six months of anticipation
As we all know, when you have six months anticipating your new armor, and you read TW on a relatively regular basis, there's a lot more you end up wanting. Knowing that a trip to Sparks (from Seattle) wasn't going to be a regular occurrence for me, I decided in May that I should also get some sliders. With only a three-month lead time, it was going to be tight, but Brittony came back with the good news - they could be welded on the same day.

Of course, I was now on the slippery slope and at the beginning of August I just knew that the right thing to do was to replace my stock skids with a full set from Eric and his guys so I added that to my order as well. With the skids though, I'd just be picking them up (bare) and rattle-canning them myself once I got back. No need to get those finished since they'll need regular refreshing anyway. :)

Oh, and of course I needed a winch for the bumper, and I got a great deal on a Warn M8000-S before I headed down for install day.

Oh, and I needed some new suspension for all that weight. (That's another story.)

Install day
With install day just around the corner we packed up the truck (I was combining this trip with delivery of a display case I'd built and some camping in northern California) and headed out. We'd stop and deliver the display case, do a bit of camping and hiking, and then end up at Relentless Fab on August 23rd.

We got to the shop bright and early on the 23rd, just as Brittony was pulling up in her new(er) T4R. She hopped out with the dogs, greeted us (@mrs.turbodb was there too) like we were family and had us pull into the shop where the guys were already there and clearly raring to go. A quick round of intros and in no time flat they had the hood up and were prepping to do both the slider and bumper install at the same time.

Through the intros and first few minutes I was wondering if Eric or Brittony would want me to stick around and take pictures but after about 10 minutes I realized that it's probably pretty normal for us Taco owners to stick close by our trucks as grinders, welders and hammers are taken too them. In fact, looking back on it now, I think there was an expectation that I was going to stick around - sweet.

From the beginning, Eric was super hands-on in the work. Laying out for the sliders, he called me over to ask if I wanted the body pinch weld notched in order to move the slider up another half-inch. He was great - talking through the pros and cons (I couldn't really think of any cons, and he didn't really have any either :) and then taking the time to carefully mark and notch the pinch weld to move the sliders up for just a bit more clearance over obstacles. Sweet.

Brittony popped out throughout the day as well to keep tabs (and learn about!) what was going on - as we all know, Relentless is highly sought after (hence the long wait times) but from conversations I had with each of the guys and Brittony throughout the day, it sounds like most of it's mail order - there just aren't that many install days.

Now, my specific install situation was a bit unusual. Generally, I'd guess that if you buy a bumper from Relentless and you're going to install a winch, you'd buy the winch from them as well. As it turned out, I got a pretty amazing deal on my M8000-S, and Brittony came through again saying that they would install it as long as I had it wired up when I brought it in. So that's what I did, and in talking to Eric about where to put the solenoid, I mentioned that I would eventually mount the solenoid to the bumper using a bracket. As it turned out, he had Danilo build a bracket while the rest of the guys were installing armor, and I left the shop with the solenoid mounted (at no extra charge!) Wow.

"Slower is faster." - my favorite part of the day
As the prep for the bumper install proceeded, Eric kept a close eye, and at what became my favorite point of the day he came out of a quick break he'd taken to talk to Brittony in the office to find something not quite up to his standards. Totally respectfully, but also firmly he pulled the team together and said "Go slower. You're rushing. Slower is faster." As a craftsman (woodworking, not metal) and perfectionist myself – that was music to my ears. And it was great to see him get hands on again, taking measurements, marking exactly where he wanted a few additional cuts made, and then handing the reigns back to the guys - again, showing his confidence in them as well.

The home stretch
From there, work proceeded pretty much without a hitch. All the preparation was completed quickly and efficiently with Weston grinding the frame to prep for the sliders, Tyler prepping the front of the frame for the bumper, and Chad helping to get the winch installed in the bumper for install. As each step progressed, Eric would come in to do the welding (these are beautiful welds) - welding on the sliders and frame end caps that would hold the bumper in place.

In no time at all, the bumper was ready to be installed. As I looked at the time, I noticed it was still before noon - amazing, when we'd planned that just the bumper would take us to mid-afternoon, and the guys had already installed the sliders! Well, there was a bit of a hiccup with the bumper install - a minor frame alignment issue (that took about 15 minutes of grinding by Tyler to remedy) but that was quickly resolved and the guys moved on to connecting the winch to the battery, installing the solenoid bracket right where I wanted it, and getting the winch spooled up - using the Relentless Runner as an anchor point - all while clearly having a great time.

By 12:15 or so, it was done. I had the bumper, winch, and sliders I wanted and half a set of skids in the bed. Yeah, half a set - because Eric took a look under the truck and realized that the t-case (mid) skid wasn't going to fit. Being a California Tacoma, mine apparently has an extra Cat which means the skid needs to be 10 inches longer than normal. A true pro, Eric didn't hesitate to tell me about the issue, and offered to send the skid up to me in Seattle once he was able to fab one up a few days later. Top notch.

So, what can I say, but thanks? Eric, Brittony, Danilo, Tyler, Chad and Weston - you were all awesome. The workmanship in the shop was great, the email communication was always quick, and I'm thrilled with the results. I've already got my front skid painted and ready to install, and I hear from Brittony that my mid-skid should be here in just a few days.



Well-known member
Where do we park the Truck now? - garage expansion
September 3, 2016.

Ever since the truck was broken into in the alley, it's place at night has been in the garage. That isn't simple, since the garage was built in 1925, and is only 1" longer than a stock 2000 Toyota Tacoma 4WD. I mean, I did have to sacrifice…by removing the tow hitch so it would fit.

But with the new armor the truck was lengthened by 3½", due primarily to the Predator hoops on the front bumper. No problem I thought - we'll just knock out the front wall of the garage and go along our merry way. As projects go, it was easy and straightforward. Of course, it took about three hours - twice as long as I'd expected.

Of course, it required a trip to Lowes where we got a bit of framing (clearly, I like to choose wood precisely), and the garage walls were framed a bit strangely (like the were done 100 years ago or something), but in the end it all worked out and I gained 3" of space. For astute readers, that means the truck now fits (forward only - you can no longer back in) with ½" of clearance when the garage door closes.


@mrs.turbodb has decided that she will never again park the truck in the garage.


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Finishing the look - Hella's
September 2016.

When I initially mentioned to Dad that I was going to get a winch and plate bumper, he had two questions for me.
  1. How's that going to be for your gas mileage?
  2. You gonna get some more lights? Hella's or PIAA's?
Little did he know that I'd already purchased some Hella 500's, and they were sitting in the dining room collecting dust. I mean, who wouldn't buy some Hella's, knowing that a new bumper was coming in 6 months, right? Plus, they were a great deal on Amazon (well, they were the same price as always).

I ignored the first question. It was irrelevant. Obviously.

With the armor on, and the garage big enough to house the truck again, I set about installing the Hella's. This was going to be easy - they come with all the wires necessary to wire them up, and so it's just a matter of installing the switch, placing the relay and fuses under the hood, and bolting on the lights. 2 hours tops.

Or 8 hours. You know, when you round up.

Most of the install went smoothly. I found the perfect place to mount the relay and fuses under the hood (a pre-threaded 6mm 1.0 hole), I got the dash disassembled (again) and switch installed with relatively little fuss (though, in a different place than I'd originally envisioned on the dash), and most of the wiring was easy (but took some time to push through smurf tubes and route. But man, getting the lights mounted on the bumper - that's where I ran into trouble.

In the end, everything worked out, the install is pretty clean; and the truck looks pretty great. Now I just have to decide - is it time for an accessory fuse/relay panel under the hood? That could keep things clean for mods to come.

I don't really need it.

But that doesn't mean I don't want it.


Well-known member
The last of the armor - belly protection
September 2016

As an astute reader will recall, when the Relentless armor was installed, the skid plates were placed in the back of the truck. Actually, just one was placed in the back, since the second wasn't going to fit my truck - a California model with an extra catalytic converter.

Upon getting the first skid home, I painted it immediately with a couple coats of Rustoleum professional enamel primer, and a few coats of flat black. Looked reasonably good. "I like the R," said @mini.turbodb.

Then, I waited. I mean, I should put both skids on at once, I thought. But of course, I got impatient. And I wanted to go off-roading. So it was time to install. I had all the hardware from the Relentless crew, so using the jack stand, I plonked it on. No mess, no fuss. Easiest installation ever.

I wonder if the mid-skid will be just as easy?



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A volcano. In a lake. On a volcano.
September 16-18, 2016.

Belly protection on, it was time for some dirt roads. Back from India a Friday morning at 6:30am (again), we packed up the truck and headed to Crater Lake National Park in central Oregon. The idea was to get in some great sites, but also spend a day or so exploring the back roads, finding camp sites, and putting the truck through some paces.

The drive down was long but easy. Waze and a podcast running on the JOYING, and a mid-day stop for Jimmy John's, we arrived at Crater Lake at 5pm, an experience not unlike Owyhee Canyon - where you see almost nothing until you drive up to the edge of the lake, and BAM!

Of course, the truck had to get in on the action early, so we backed up to a viewpoint and snapped a pic.

With couple hours to dark, we decided we had to check out a short hike to Watchman Lookout, since we wouldn't be back this way for the rest of the trip. It was totally worth it, as this late in the day, we were the only ones at the top, so we got the view all to ourselves.

It also meant that the signs to stay off the lookout were deemed optional. By one of us.

Up and back in just under an hour, we headed off again to find our camp spot. We'd scoped out a few roads west of the park, so we headed that direction and onto dirt as soon as we could. Exploring around for two hours, breaking trail as we went, we finally came to the end of a road that opened up on a flat clearing that was the perfect spot for us to spend the night.

Out came the sleeping bags, air mattress, and pillows and comforter, and we setup in the back of the truck, tentless. Both tired, and not super hungry, we had some cereal for dinner and hit the sack.

Morning brought partly cloudy skies, more cereal, one of the best cantaloupes ever, and an awesome fire (to burn our trash). While we waited for the fire to die down (which is harder when someone keeps stoking it), we enjoyed the warmth, breeze, and our kindles.

Around 10:30 we made our way out of camp and back down the logging/Forrest Service roads, which were a bit easier to traverse with some of the obstacles cleared from the previous evening.

We'd planned the day to be one of exploring the back roads, since it was supposed to be the cloudiest day of the weekend, so we spent the rest of the morning looking for the perfect place to camp that night. Luckily, we'd packed up camp and taken our stuff with us, because several Forrest Service roads later, we found a beauty of a spot.

Private, westerly facing, and with a view! We were sure we'd be back, so we marked it on the map.

We were wrong.

Done exploring to the west of the park, we headed East. The day was turning out to be beautiful - the cloud cover mostly burned off, and the sun was out - so we headed back up to the lake to get a picture or two of the amazingly blue water that is the cleanest large body of water in the world. We were not disappointed.

One thing we didn't plan on was the fact that the east rim drive (basically, the entire eastern side of the lake) was going to be closed to car traffic on Saturday (it was bike-around-National-Parks day). But, that worked out just fine for us, since we'd previously decided to do more off-roading along the east side of the park; exploring the plethora of trails, with a goal to reach the Pinnacles overlook (which it turns out, used to be the east entrance to the park).

Getting to the Pinnacles was pretty easy (and beautiful), and the old east entrance was...just too tempting.

Another short hike took us to a splendid overlook, and a parking lot on the Crater Lake side of the trail that was empty - in the middle of the afternoon - for perhaps only this one day of the year. Wow, did we time that perfectly or what?

From there, it was back into the truck and off to find a great spot for the night. We'd passed a few possibilities on the way to Pinnacles, and we liked the idea of staying on the east side, just to save driving back and forth before our early morning hike planned for Sunday, and the drive back to Seattle. This spot was promising, but buggy.

After a bit more exploring, we ended up here - a spot that wasn't too dusty, was relatively near to the park, and where we had open skies (which meant no tent!) and a pre-existing fire ring (which of course, we were going to use)!

Dinner of skirt steak and roasted corn on the grill. A fire with dry pine needles and dead wood found around, and we found ourselves once again tired and ready for bed.

Which was under the stars (and a full moon) again.

As we were getting into the sleeping bag, a shooting star. Then, sleep. At least, for one of us. For the other, falling pinecones and some rustling in the forest made for a fitful sleep pattern.

The alarm went off at 5:00 - we were planning for an early start in order to get a hike in before heading back to Seattle. That turned out to be a good thing - because a light drizzle was just starting. We got packed quickly, slurped down our cereal, and headed out - hoping the rain would hold off - after all, today was supposed to be the nicest day of the weekend.

Turns out, the drizzle was just heavy fog. Whew.

We arrived at the Mt. Scott trailhead along the East Rim Road and set out on our hike to the highest point in the park by 6:45 am. As we gained elevation, the dew of the night before was pronounced in some areas and completely missing in others (because it was windy!) Sunrise and a quick dissipation/burn off of the fog made for a view of the lake that was once again amazing. And once again our timing was impeccable - we had the top pretty much to ourselves!

On the way back down, we passed a few early morning hikers - all surprised to see us coming down the mountain.

By 9:30, we were on our way back to Seattle - another successful trip in the bag.



Well-known member
More belly protection - installing the mid-skid from Relentless Fab]
October 2, 2016.

The day before we left for Crater Lake, the mid-skid had arrived - but I didn't have time to paint and install it before we took off. Not a big deal, since the IFS skid covers just as much as both stock plates. But of course, I wanted to get the mid-skid on just as soon as possible, so upon our return I figured some after-work cleanup and painting was in order.

As expected, the unpainted skid had a bit of surface rust and dirt on it, so my first task after unboxing was to give both sides a bit of a grind. I'm no fabricator, but with my grinder, a pad, and half an hour, I got the skid plate functionally cleaned up. Functionally, but not pretty.

Paint was easy - just like the IFS skid, a couple coats of Rustoleum primer and a couple of flat black left the skid looking great, and left me happy - now I just needed a few minutes to get it installed. So I waited for a weekend morning.

Sunday rolled around and I headed out to plonk the skid on. My thinking was: I'll do this just like the front skid - put it on the floor jack; maneuver it into position; bolt it on; carry on with the rest of my day (part of which was a 3pm appointment to get the truck aligned after a summer of dirt roads).

I made the 3pm appointment, but without a skid.

(Slow down bucko, we're getting ahead of ourselves.)

Getting the skid onto the floor jack and jacked up into place was going well until I realized that the second catalytic converter wasn't done giving me trouble (you may recall that Relentless had to extend the skid, which is why I didn't take it home the same day as the IFS skid).

Anyway, on my truck the cat was positioned an inch or two closer to the passenger side of the car than Relentless had planned for. I don't know if this is common to all California model Tacoma's or if there's something special with mine, but it resulted in the skid hitting the cat - enough that there was no way it was going to fit.

So a bit of measuring and down came the skid.

The plan: cut off a bit (about 1") of the skid along the step up, so it'll clear the catalytic converter.

The problem: I don't do a lot of metalwork, so the cutting disk I had was mostly used up, and this is some thick steel plate. This did end up being a real problem, so while I was getting the truck aligned at Sears Auto, I also made a pit stop to pick up a few more cutting disks, and a couple other supplies I knew I'd need in the near future.

Back from the alignment, I set to work marking the skid (thank goodness for sidewalk chalk), trimming the offending bits (it turned out that I also had to trim a couple other tabs to clear the middle cross member), rounding over all the fresh cuts, and repainting the now bare spots to prevent rust.

All that taken care of, and a mere six hours after I'd started (albeit with a break for that alignment), I got the skid raised up on the floor jack and bolted into place on the bottom of the truck.


Pay attention man. There are sparks hitting your truck.

Modification complete. This belly armor is sure to improve gas mileage. Or something. Right?


I had a 98 that I had for 12 years and miss almost every day. I think these were the best Tacoma's ever made. Sure the newer bells and whistles are nice. But I enjoy the simplicity of these trucks. I run a first gen Tundra DC now and the newer Tacoma's are almost as big as it. I check the internet often for low mileage first gen Tacoma's in the double cab. I still think the first gen Taco in a Double Cab with the longer bed would have been the perfect truck!


Well-known member
Oil change
October 2, 2016. And 28 miles later - October 9, 2016.

One of the things about starting to use the truck on more trips is that it ends up with a lot more miles. And more miles mean more frequent oil changes. In the past, I've always taken it to the Toyota dealer. I figured, "Why not, it's only $29, and then I don't have to worry about having the right tools, spending the time, and they'll do it best - with a lift, etc."

Of course, what really happened was that they cross-threaded my OEM skids several times when they re-installed them (it's easier to change the oil if you take off the skids), which I found out recently as I've been doing more work on the truck myself.

At any rate, several months ago I got a great deal on Pennzoil Platinum 5W-30 full synthetic motor oil that I just couldn't pass up - 5 quarts for $17, with a $10 mail in rebate - so a total of $7 buckaroos. I also got a case of 10 OEM 90915-YZZD1 oil filters for $40, which brought my grand oil change total to $11 per change. Plus, I've been accumulating all of these new tools to work on the truck as I've been installing the various mods this year, and so I thought - "time to start doing my own oil changes."

The first change - back in March - went without a hitch. The oil drained out no problem; the oil filter came off without using a wrench; I didn't spill too much oil during removal; refilling was simple with the 5 quart container and a funnel. Oh, and it was super spacious with the truck up on the floor jack.

But the second oil change. It was more frustrating.

Things started off just fine. With the new Relentless skids, I decided I'd leave them on the truck rather than remove them (which is a real ordeal given their weight). That's not a problem, as there's an access hole for the oil, so I removed the bolt and drained the oil with very little spillage. So far, so good. But then, as the oil was draining into my catch basin, I reached up to remove the oil filter, and things started to go south.

Now, it should be mentioned that the engineers behind the oil filter positioning on a first-generation Tacoma were clearly crazy. The filter is nearly inaccessible (you can't see it from the top or bottom of the truck), and requires contortions to reach your hand up under the radiator, over the front axle, and over to the engine block, where you'll find about ½" of clearance to get at the filter. (I should mention - you can alternatively break several plastic anchors each time to remove a flexible rubber guard between the wheel well and oil filter, but then you're buying a bunch of anchors each time you change the oil, and the access isn't really any easier.)

So I got my hand up in there and turned counter-clockwise. Having hand tightened it myself the last time, I was sure I'd have no problem getting it off - but apparently the last six months have seen me age dramatically and my strength isn't what it used to be. After 20 minutes of nearly dislocating my elbows and shoulders, I submitted.

This wouldn't have been as big a deal if I'd hadn't returned (to amazon) the oil filter wrench I'd purchased to change my oil in March. But since the filter had come off so easily, and since I'd hand tightened the new one myself, I figured I might as well get my $10 back. Damn.

No oil in the truck and no wrench in the toolbox, I walked to the auto parts store where I purchased an oil filter cap wrench and headed back to finish the job. But of course, the cap wrench I'd gotten was for filters my size and slightly larger, so it continued to slip off every time I tried rotating it!

That left me with a dilemma: should I buy another one of those strap wrenches (which would have a hard time fitting up in the Tacoma, or should I just leave the old filter on there and order the original (self-tightening) cap wrench from amazon that'd purchased before? I ended up deciding that I should get the wrench I really wanted from amazon - a Lisle 63600 - and so I replaced the oil pan plug and filled the truck up with 5.5 quarts of clean oil.

terrible vs. awesome

A week later I had the new wrench in hand and I was itching to get that filter changed. Of course, I had no idea if doing so (without first draining the oil) would result in several quarts of oil all over the ground, but I figured that there was no way that the oil filter could be submerged at rest - that would be crazy. So with a bit of help from @mini.turbodb, we got the car back up on the floor jack and I changed the filter (with minimal oil spillage).

The new filter is on there hand-tight, but definitely looser than last time. And I feel better knowing that I don't have all that new oil running through an old filter.


Well-known member
Winch (and jumper) quick connect
October 9, 2016.

When the winch was installed, it was obviously wired right up to the battery - this made a lot of sense, since it was easy, allowed us to get it spooled up, and is of course the way Warn recommends installing it.

But I wanted something better. Or at least more flexible.

I wanted to have a way to disconnect the winch from the battery when it wasn't in use (just so I don't have a bunch of #2 AWG wire hot to the winch all the time, and I wanted a way to quickly hook up jumper cables without opening the hood. You know, because of the last two times (in 16 years) that I've had to jump people. Anderson quick connects were the ticket, and I bought a couple pair, along with a crimping tool (TMS 16 Ton Hydraulic Wire Battery Cable Lug Terminal Crimper Crimping Tool 11 Dies) and proceeded with the install.

Except for the anxiety that comes with cutting the #2 AWG cable (that wire's not cheap), installation was straight forward. After cutting the cable, I removed the requisite amount of insulation from the cable, slipped the end into the leads and stuffed them into the 16-ton crimper, which promptly pulverized them. Some rubber boots (including on the back side of each connector - not shown) and cable ties to hold everything in place, and I'm now running with the winch disconnected, but connectable in under a minute (above) without opening the hood.

And the jumper cables plug right in.

And so does the air compressor.

"Wait!" you say, "What air compressor?" (Good catch. But there is one coming. I hope.)


Well-known member
Millermatic 211 acquisition
October 18, 2016.

I am a woodworker.

For the last twenty years, metal (stock and shavings), oils, and dirt have been systematically removed from my shops - they can bring no good to wood projects. Metal can dull blades and stain wood as it rusts, oils can soak into the wood and make finishing near impossible, and dirt - well, no one ever said "Can you make that fine furniture a little dirtier?" (I take that back - some do - and I think it's crazy to "pre-distress" a piece.)

But I've always been curious about metalwork. And I've always assumed that metalwork and automotive work were the same thing, so in the last year, I've acquired a bunch more of the tools to work on my own truck thinking, "Now I'm getting into metalwork."

Umm, no.

Metalwork makes for a bunch of metal shavings, and it uses different tools than woodworking. Automotive work is oily and dirty and also uses different tools than woodworking. But I've realized in the last 24 hours that the overlap is about like this:

At any rate, I began my foray into metalwork as I came to the conclusion that I really am going to get a Cascadia Vehicle Tent, which gets permanently (relatively) mounted to the truck. To do this, I'll need a rack to mount it on, which I could either purchase for $250-$500, or could build myself (with new metalworking tools) for something on the order of $2000.

The answer I think is obvious. Time for some new tools.

An email to my uncle was in order, since he's had years of experience with this stuff (wood heat stove fabricator), and I knew that he'd have a good recommendation. My requirements where:
  1. Welds steel (mostly), maybe some stainless, maybe some aluminium.
  2. High quality
  3. Doesn't break the bank, but I'd rather spend a bit more now than have to buy again later.
His recommendation was to go with a Millermatic 141. The benefits he mentioned were that it was made by Miller, and that it plugs into 120V power - making it very portable. The drawbacks of course were that it isn't cheap (on the order of $700+) and with 120V power, it really isn't great for steel thicker than 3/16".

I did some more research, and of course ended up looking at Lincoln's and Hobart's - both of which I was told by Bill "were welders" - so I kept researching. Finally, I realized that while I might be happy with the Millermatic 141, it really wasn't expensive enough.

No, that wasn't it. What I realized was that I'd really hate to buy a 120V welder only to realize later that I wanted to do stuff that could only be done with 240V. So when I found a great deal on Craigslist for a Millermatic 211, I scooped it up the very same day ($900 for the nearly new welder and a mobile cart). With it, I can use either 120/240V, putting more types of projects in reach as I learn to weld.

I've since purchased a welding helmet and some gloves. I now need to get some shielding gas, and then practice my brains out. By this time next year, maybe I'll have my $2000 bed rack to mount a new tent. One can hope.



Well-known member
Camping convenience - Mt. Shasta CVT
October 18, 2016.

When I purchased the Sportz Truck Tent back in 2012 (see Sportz Truck Tent and Truck Bedzzz), I thought to myself, "Boy, I'm really living large and spending the big bucks now." The tent cost me $189 big ones, and the air mattress was another $90.

I don't know if RTT's (Roof Top Tent's) like Cascadia Vehicle Tents existed then, but if they did, I didn't know about them and they would have been out of my price range.

Today, I committed to really living large - I paid for a Mt. Shasta CVT - on sale of course. In doing so, I also got the good folks at CVT to hold on to my tent until next spring, when I hope to have my bed rack completed, so I have somewhere to install this puppy. Then, we'll be camping in style!

So, how'd I decide on what tent to get? I started by thinking through how we were going to use it. Today, we sleep in the bed of the truck - uncovered when the weather and bugs cooperate (to enjoy the stars) or in our Sportz Truck Tent when it looks wet or the mosquitoes are in full force. We generally have plenty of room in there for sleeping, and we don't ever use the tent for cooking or "hanging out" - after all, the reason we're out is to enjoy nature! Oh, and Clara sleeps in her own (ground) tent now - which thrills her to death.

So, that meant that we really only need a two person tent that's as wide as the bed (about 5'), and we want something that lets us enjoy the stars when the weather is nice, since we won't have the option of sleeping under the stars anymore.

I knew I was going with CVT. They are local to the Pacific Northwest, and I've really only heard good things about them. I'm sure Tepui, ARB, etc. are all good tents too, but I just haven't had as much experience with them.

In the CVT line, the Mt. Shasta tent fits the size bill pretty perfectly. It's 56″ wide x 96″ long x 50″ high when it's open, which is pretty close to the size of the truck bed with the tailgate down (57.9" wide x 90.4" long). And, it has an option for a "stargazer" feature - essentially turning the roof into screens - perfect!

With that out of the way, there were only a few more decisions to make - what color, what size awning, and did we need the "Summit Series" or was the "Standard Pioneer" series enough?

Color was easy - tan - to match the interior of the truck.

Awning - small. We probably won't use it, since 99% of our camping is in the wilderness. With no other people around, why do you need an awning? (Answer: you don't)

Which series? This was a question I wrestled with for a while. I always like the idea of getting things that will last, and the Summit Series definitely seems a bit sturdier than the Pioneer series - the fabric is a 380g compared to 280g on the Pioneer Series Tent, and straps on the cover are a cinch buckle versus Velcro. Plus, there's a bunch of other stuff that your $800 extra bucks buy you:
  • a waterproof mattress cover instead of cotton
  • interior poles are material wrapped
  • center pole has built in LED Lighting with on, off and dimmer switch as well as 2 USB ports
  • telescoping ladder (vs. folding)
  • plastic fittings have been upgraded to alloy (on hinges), D-rings are bigger and Velcro is thicker
  • the rain fly is heavier with quick release buckles
  • two shoe racks (one on each side of the ladder)
  • an X One Piece anti condensation mat
  • a removable PVC floor
Some of that sounds good (alloy hinges, anti-condensation mat, but in the end I decided that the Pioneer series was for me. I like the folding ladder better, I've heard that the material thickness isn't too much of an issue (afterall, the waterproofing is what keeps you dry, and you aren't running the tent through brush when it's open). and I really like the idea of saving weight (the Summit series is 25 lbs. heavier).

So, now I really do need to learn how to weld. Gotta get that bed rack and go pick up a tent!


Well-known member
WABDR Stage 3 - Backroads to Sleeping Lady
October 29, 2016.

One of our favorite places to get away in Washington is the Sleeping Lady resort in Leavenworth. It's great year-round, with hiking in the summer, snow in the winter, and amazing food (included in the nightly price) all the time.

I've been itching to get away the last few weeks, and with rainy weather here for the next six months, we decided that we'd head to Sleeping Lady rather than on a camping/hiking trip. But, to make it a bit more of an adventure, I decided that we'd drive part of the way on the WABDR (WA Backcountry Discovery Route) - specifically, we'd join up with Stage 3 from Cle Elum to Wenatchee as it passed the town of Liberty and Table Mountain, and then we'd follow it through Wenatchee and to Cashmere - some 50 miles of trail.

Looking back, that would have been a good plan in the summer. But it was a bit sketchy given the current weather conditions. But, we're getting ahead of ourselves.

We piled into the truck around 9am, knowing that it'd take us longer to get to Sleeping Lady on WABDR than if taking the freeway all the way, but we figured that two hours on the freeway and three hours for 50 miles offroad would be more than enough (getting us to our destination for an early check-in around 2pm).

It wasn't.

We headed up FR-9712, and three miles in we came to a road closed sign. Undeterred, we drove right by - turning back now would mean no off-road adventure! Less than a quarter mile up the road, we discovered the problem - a 50 foot long washout, 5' - 6' deep, especially steep on the exit side. Both sides of the road were blocked with concrete barriers (that had been conveniently rotated out of the way for hunters on ATVs - two of which passed us as we were checking out the situation).

After scoping out the situation, we decided to give the washout a try. The exit looked iffy, especially in it's muddy condition, but I was sure I could back out the entrance if necessary, and there was a tree I could use as a winch anchor on the entrance side if it came down to that. So in we went.

As expected, the entrance was straight forward. In L4, I let the engine idle the truck down the washout. And, as expected, the exit was difficult. Even in L4, the first attempt out resulted in wheel spin in the mud and a loss of traction as the front wheels crested the washout. I backed up and put the truck in H4 to get a bit more speed, and powered through the second attempt, clearing the washout with a wave of relief.

Having heard one bump coming over the lip, I did a once over of the bottom of the truck and determined that nothing critical was impacted (I was glad for the Relentless armor) and we continued on our way - hoping the rest of the road was in better condition.

The road was in better condition, but as we gained elevation (we topped out around 6500') the rain turned to snow - beautiful, especially with the golden Larch trees (deciduous conifers) but also a little sketchy on a few stretches along cliff-sides, where our hearts were pumping as we hoped that our traction would hold. Reduced braking helped, and next time we'll probably fill the bed with snow to provide a bit better traction for the back tires (though, the Duratrac's were great in general).

Over the next couple hours we averaged 10-15mph, passing a truck here and there, and several well-established camp sites full of hunters - some of which looked to be setup for a week or longer! As we descended out of Blewett pass, we neared a turn-off from FS-9712 where we could either take FS-7100 into Cashmere, or continue past on FS-9712 (now Beehive Road) into Wenatchee, and then backtrack on Hwy 2 through Cashmere to Leavenworth. With it nearing 1:30, and not knowing the condition of FS-7100 (which climbed back into the mountains), we opted for the Wenatchee bypass - knowing that we'd be back in better weather to complete the trip (and more of the WABDR).

Enjoy a fun little video mix of our WABDR run. We clearly don't take ourselves too seriously!

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Well-known member
The @mrs.turbodb Mod - Custom Wet Okole Seat Covers
November 2016.

Most of the time, modifications I make to the truck are firmly in the "meh" camp for @mrs.turbodb. I mean, she appreciates the results, but she'd really be just as happy without them. And, they generally garner at least some amount of teasing about how they aren't technically necessary or how much money was spent (by which I mean, "if you give a mouse a cookie…")

But this time was different. This time, there was a sparkle in her eyes.

One of the first things I did to the truck in 1999 - six days after I brought it home - was put in some $45 seat covers from Target. Those same seat covers have been on the truck since, and they've worked really well - they matched the color of the interior, they kept the seats clean, and they fit pretty well. But of course, over time the flimsy straps broke, they bunched up here and there, and they had to be adjusted a little bit every now and then as the fabric stretched out.

They were cheap. They worked. That was good enough for me.

But, times have changed. The truck is getting more use, and when I saw the Wet Okele covers (with custom graphics) on the internets (Tacoma World), I was pretty sure that I should get some. At a couple hundred bucks as part of a group buy, they weren't cheap, but they got great reviews and an, "oh yeah, you should get some of those" from the woman.


Wet Okele's are known in the Tacoma world, I think, because they are made in Hawaii - where 30% of the vehicle fleet are Tacoma's. They are made of neoprene (wetsuit material) and are custom fit to the seat - so much so that they recommend removing the seats to install them. Not only that, but they also offer embossed graphics - either a stock one from their catalog, or - if you design your own - a completely custom graphic.

I designed my own. It's rad.

After waiting for the covers to be made (I ordered covers for the front seats only, with mocha centers and black borders, as well as sunglass holders on the sides), and shipped, I was excited to hear that they'd be arriving a couple weeks into November. Of course, I was out of town when they arrived, and busy for a couple weeks once I got back, but I managed to get them installed Thanksgiving morning!

First, it was out with the front seats - Four bolts, each and immediately, moar leg room!

Then, on with the covers - pretty straight forward, and way easier to get tidy underneath with the seats removed.

And then, back into the truck, easy peasy. They look great, though I'm not sure about the head rest covers - they are a bit baggy for my tastes, and I've never had the head rest covers installed in the past. I'm going to give them a month or two and see how I like them, but the color match is so good that I might just take them off - the headrests look nearly the same without any covers.

In all, these things look great and are clearly a high-quality product. I imagine that these will be the last set of covers I buy. At least, until @mrs.turbodb tells me that we need heaters, like she has in her car :).


Well-known member
Christmas Tree, Sledding, and Recovery…Oh my!
17 December 2016. (also posted earlier in trip reports)

Cutting down our own Christmas Tree has become a tradition in the last five years or so. We've got our favorite place to go (FS-9021 off I-90 by Snoqualmie Pass), our favorite species of tree (Hemlock), and our favorite "dinner after" (Mexican).

This year, only "dinner after" happened as planned.

We've had colder than usual weather in the Seattle area for the last two weeks (highs in the low 30's), so we knew that there was a good chance we'd see a lot of snow on our hunt this year. But it's been clear for the last few days and it was projected to snow on Sunday, so we headed out Saturday morning with high hopes of scoring the perfect tree. We arrived at Exit 38 and FS-9020 around 10:30, and it was immediately clear that this was not going to be a snow-free trip.

Half a mile up the road there's a nice flat spot where some high-voltage lines cross, and we pulled over there to chain up. While I got chains on all four tires, @mrs.turbodb and @mini.turbodb broke out the brand new sled we'd picked up on our way out of town and gave it a go on a few of the hills around. As you can imagine, it was a hit with the six-year old.

We then continued up FS-9020, sure that we were on our way to success, happy to be back in the truck and out of the 24 degree snow.

It soon became clear that this year wasn't going to be like any previous year. The snow had a different composition - a mix of light powder sandwiched between some firmer under-layers - so traction was terrible. We didn't sink down to the ground or even completely compact the snow - and so even with chains and Duratracs we had a hard time getting any purchase. In fact, after taking a look at the chains when I took them off later, it was clear that they were doing way less than they've done in the past - the knobbiness of the Duratracs tended to swallow parts of the chains!

We struggled along about a mile (if that) of virgin snow to the junction with FS-9021. During much of this mile, @mini was bawling in the back seat - she's just so used to the truck going everywhere with relative ease that she was sure that she "was going to die."

While we weren't going to get a tree, we definitely weren't going to die. With all the nice powder we decided to get the truck turned around. I jumped out and grabbed the sled, and heading further up the road. While @mrs.turbodb helped the kiddo get her snow gear back on, I took a couple runs down the road to make a track…or in my case, several tracks, each ending in a wipeout.

Of course, my wipeouts were nothing but excitement builders for our little one, who was now over her fear of imminent death-in-the-snow and eager to get her turn on the sled again. So, we headed back up to the top and both piled in to the sled together.

This would be our only run, as the obligatory wipeout at the end, while funny when it happens to someone else, is apparently cold and tear inducing for a six year old. She and I had a little talk after that about how that's just part of playing in the snow - you get a little wet and a little cold, but you have a lot of fun and warm up again after. Plus I told her, we can let Momma go now, and throw snowballs at her as she passes by.

That brought her spirits right back up.

So, we took turns sledding down, eating snow and having an all-around pretty great time for about an hour. The kiddo even timed a powdery snowball perfectly as @mrs.turbodb and I sledded past (quickly) and nailed Momma in the face - I was glad that she was in front on that run!

After raising our spirits a bit, I suggested that we head a bit further east to FS-9030, where I knew that there were a couple roads that could be more heavily travelled and so might have either less snow or at least more packed snow. So we piled back into the truck and headed out (removing the chains as we neared the freeway).

FS-9030 was a much more popular location - there were a dozen or more cars parked along the sides where the snow became deeper - but we forged ahead. Along the way we passed several hikers in snowshoes, most of whom were surprised to see a car, and a few of whom asked for a ride. We continued as far as we could - basically to the point where it was clear that the snow wasn't getting any shallower, and the trees weren't getting any more plentiful.

So at that point I started looking around for the "story tree" - you know the one, the tree that looks kinda sad, but that has great story behind it.

I found it - a 15-footer, 100 yards up a 45 degree slope off the road, in waist-high powder - thank goodness I was crazy. So I headed up, leaving @mrs.turbodb looking after me muttering "this seems insane, but not unexpected."

Tree acquired I headed back down to the truck and got loaded up. And then we headed back, trying to decide what we were going to have for lunch, now that it was going on 12:30 pm.

It turned out, we were going to skip lunch.

As we neared the head of the road, I could see a Tundra with the passenger side in the ditch. Without as much as a shovel, and with 20" rims and matching slick tires, they were going nowhere fast. So when we pulled up and offered to help, they were understandably grateful.

We got out the shovel, the tow strap, and D-rings and hooked up, dug out, and pulled. And, while the Tacoma was able to drag the Tundra along, we just couldn't get the front tires to purchase on the frozen edge of the ditch. It was time for plan B: pull from the front to get them back up in the middle of the road.

So we re-positioned, strapped, and dug and this time we were successful - the Tundra was back up on the road, but was still pointed the wrong direction (up trail) and we were now trapped further up trail. Great.

About this time, another Tacoma (@hobbs36) was coming down the road and we had a quick chat. We decided that the best option now was to try to have the Tundra back down the road and we'd follow him out.

About 50 feet later, he was stuck. Again. At this point, [USER=167494]@hobbs36 and I could scoot around, and we did. With [USER=167494]@hobbs36 between us and the Tundra, we decided that we'd take the tow ball off my truck and put it on the Tundra to pull him further down the trail towards more solid ground. It worked well, and a hundred yards later he was able to back up under his own power.

But we weren't out of the woods yet.

As we caravanned down the remaining quarter mile to the head of the road, the owner of a Jeep Wrangler sporting some spiffy slick street tires thought it would be a good idea to try and get out before we passed. He immediately got stuck and I wished I'd brought along a few of these cards for him:


As we got him and another tractionless VW out of the middle of the road, there were many thanks and smiles and waves as [USER=167494]@hobbs36 aired back up and I put away all the recovery gear and got ready for the trip back to Seattle.



It was 3:45 pm, we'd missed lunch, and we were hungry. The day hadn't worked out quite as planned, but we had a tree and plenty of stories to go with it. Merry Christmas!