Another Anti-Adventure Road Trip


After 3 months of waiting (impatiently), I finally took delivery of the the new Family Truckster today. I gave the Jeep a full detailing this past weekend...not because it was going to affect the trade in value that we had agreed on 3 months ago, but because I always like it when the staff at the garage marvel at my attention to detail and obsessive cleaning. I'll agree that accolades from garage employees are not much of a pay off for 12-16 hours of clay barring, polishing, carpet shampooing, window cleaning, Armorall-ing, and leather treatment, but that's the thing about obsessive's not really rational...did I mention that I wiped down the red Rubicon shocks from top to bottom with WD-40 until they shined...on my back...under the Jeep...and then wiped down the axles and steering components while I was down there. THe bottom side of this rig looks as good as the top.

I parked it with its sister for one last glamour shot. It looks like we'll no longer be 100% American for our cars. With my mother's blue Jeep in the mix, our driveway looked awful patriotic on Saturdays.


Somebody is going to be very happy with this slightly used Rubicon with only 10,700 miles on the odometer.


SO back to the new wagon. The transaction at the dealership took all of 15 minutes. I signed a stack of papers, they transferred the plates from the Jeep to the 4Runner, and I was rolling out of there in no time. I've bought a lot of vehicles from this small family dealership so we've got the process pretty well refined. No discussions about optional services and preflight checklist where he explains how the cup holders work and pairs my phone to the radio...just give me the keys and the owner's manual and I'll take it from there. He knows I'm going to go home and read it cover to cover anyway. Time to start breaking it in! My son and I hit the road for a scenic ride up Mt. Greylock. At roughly 3500 feet, its the highest peak in Massachusetts and the 2 lane road winding its way to the top is glorious...especially on a Monday morning when you have it all to yourself. While the 4Runner is no sporty roadster, it was still an enjoyable ride to the top. My son was studying the manual and trying to figure out the myriad of buttons along the way. There are A LOT of buttons. The most curious ones are associated with offroad. The rear locker and traction control are pretty standard fare, but there are 2 knobs with pictures of moguls and rocks and sand and mud that we haven't even played with yet. One of them is for some sort of 4low cruise control where you seem to set your forward speed by a knob instead of the gas pedal. That's curious stuff. Then there's the KDSS. I really have no idea how that works...I mean...I have an idea, but I'm not really sure if it is truly effective. I laid under there looking at the hydraulic cylinder and where it attaches to the sway bar, but for the life of me, I can't see why it works. I swerved wildy at speed and couldn't detect anything. If its working, and I assume that it is, I'm not sure how or why.

More technical review as the trip goes on, but for now, here's a couple pics of my 4Runner with 12 miles on the odometer.

I climbed up some rocks to take this pic. I told Joe to look at me, but apparently he looked directly into the sun and was stricken blind. Seems a little dramatic...even to me. Even more curious...I think the sun was at his back. He's just a pain when it comes to pictures.


It sure is big...and long...and something David Coverdale would name a band after...

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Vehicle Prep

OK...Now that I've got the 4Runner, its time to start test fitting the Versahaul rig for hauling the bike out to Colorado.

First thing, I installed the Versahaul and measured the unloaded height...21" at the rear of the receiver assembly

Next, I installed the loading ramp and, with some significant effort (3 tries and a rolling start), I rolled the bike up into position. That's a sketchy proposition if you're anything less than 6' tall or if you're at all concerned about smashing the bike into the tailgate of the vehicle. Since this vehicle already has more than 55 miles on it, I clearly wasn't worried about damage; its already pretty worn out. Once the bike was up there on the carrier, precariously balanced just inches from the tailgate by yours truly, I realized that I had forgotten the ratchet straps needed to secure it...and I was alone in the driveway...and the straps were in the garage...and the kids were out wandering the streets...and my dog is no Alex from Stroh's. Crap!!!!

I had to roll the bike back down the ramp and off of the hauler, park it on the kickstand, and then retrieve the straps. Stupid!

OK...straps draped from the mounting points and soft ties on the bars...I was ready to try it again. Having exhausted significant energy during the first loading operation and then having stood there holding the bike with a puzzled look on my face over the strap situation for a significant period of time, loading the bike a second time was a bit of a struggle...quite a bit of a struggle if I'm honest. I nearly lost it as the rear tire rode up the side of the loading ramp and nearly twisted it out of its mounting point. I was a bit winded and I came so very close to hitting the car. Then I nearly lost the bike off the back as I got a bit overzealous with a ratchet strap. I'm glad I won't be doing this more than a couple times during the trip. Hopefully, my father will lend a hand during the loading/unloading operations.

Once the bike was up there and I had a couple straps on it, it became clear that I had it adjusted way too close to the rear of the 4Runner. Buckles would be hitting the rear bumper from the wind and, in the event of a panic stop, the right bar and footpeg would be swapping paint with the tailgate. Unfortunately, I didn't have it in me to unload, adjust, and reload yet again...and since this was merely a static test session...I decided to leave it alone for a while and take some pictures.

It actually looks pretty good.





Vehicle Prep - continued

Happily enough, the 4Runner only dipped 3" under the load...and that was with a full 275 gallons of gas in the tank of the XR and Snap-On rollaround toolbox still strapped to the rear rack. I'm planning to drain the gas and strip the bike of unnecessary farkles before the trip to lessen the load. Now the rear receiver measured 18" from the ground...not too bad from a ground clearance perspective. Comparatively speaking, the Jeep Wrangler UNlimited dropped 7" under the load of my Buell, but that is a heavier bike.


I crawled underneath to see how the springs were faring. The bumpstops were awful close to contacting the rear axle. I'm not sure if the springs are progressive or linear, but it doesn't look like an ideal situation. Tomorrow, weather permitting, I'm going to install the air bags and try again.



Air Bag Installation

THe 4Runner is 3 days old now...seems like the right time to start voiding the warranty...or at least cutting up some OEM I tackled the air bag installation


The instructions said 1-2 hours for the install. THat seemed reasonable considering the small quantity of pieces...


I can believe 1-2 hours if you've done it before, you've got all the correct tools lined up, the phone is off the hook, your kids aren't home, and your dog doesn't wander off in the middle of the job...forcing you to initiate a search and rescue operation. For those reasons and more, my experience was more in the 5-6 hour neighborhood.

I ended up doing every step 2 or 3 times with a lot of trial and error.

STEP 1 - Jack up the truck, support the frame, disconnect the sway bar, the track bar, and the shocks, and then lower the rear axle until the springs become loose. That sounds so simple. Unfortunately, after I did all those things, the axle still wasn't low enough to allow the springs to come out. I should have taken off the wheels to allow even more axle droop. I didn't figure that out until the 3rd or 4th iteration of my set up.


Even with the wheels removed, axle droop is limited by the brake lines. You don't really want to hang the entire rear axle from those so you need to be careful just how far you lower the axle. Even with the axle as low as the brake lines would allow, the springs wouldn't come out. Time to ponder the universe and get a drink.

Once all of my synapses were firing through the magic of Mountain Dew, I had an epiphany. The rear axle couldn't go any lower due to the brake lines...the brake lines are located near the center of the axle I could lower either end of the axle to release the springs as long as I kept the center of the axle elevated. Time for a second jack.


By jacking up the opposite end of the axle, I was able to easily remove the spring assembly on the lower end.


Air Bag Installation - cont'd

Once the spring assembly is out, it's time to start doing some things that won't be easily reversed...time to commit with some cutting of perfectly good factory parts. In this case, there's a rubber bumper Christmas tree shaped thingy that goes inside the spring. I presume it's meant to offer some overload support. The air bag instructions call for decapitation. God hates a coward.


The scene of the crime. THere probably should have been a chalk outline. This is probably a $150 Toyota part that I mutilated.

Since the air bag is going to be up close and personal with what's left of the bumper stump, the instructions require the removal of any rough edges. It took me a few different attempts before I arrived at the best solution for industrial smoothing.

The Dremel was fast and effective...unlike the razor blade that I used for the first 20 minutes of this effort.


Air Bag INstallation - cont'd

Once the bumper was modified, the air bag was positioned within the spring for reinstallation. The air hose connects to the top of the air bag and is routed through a hole in the rubber bumper stump. From there. I routed it along the inside of the frame rail, and installed a Schader valve just behind the mud flap.

Repeat on the opposite side and then reassemble the suspension components. I will say that aligning the track bar hole took quite a bit of tinkering and the KDSS made reconnecting the track bar more challenging than normal, but, with a bit of patience, it all went back together as planned. I even used a bit of Loctite Blue for an added measure of security.

As a New Englander, I can't tell you what a treat it is to work under a car where every bolt isn't rusted beyond recognition. I think from now on, I'm going to limit my project vehicles to only those that have 81 miles on the odometer or less. It's much more enjoyable.

Tomorrow, I'm going to load up the bike on the Versahaul, air up the bags until the ride height is the same as unloaded, and take this thing for a shakedown run to see how it handles. I really want to put some miles on this set-up before I hit the highway for Colorado. This is not an area where I'm really looking for adventure.


I apologize if the prep stuff isn't in keeping with the adventure theme. I just thought it might be of interest to someone planning a similar trip or modifications. If I'm losing you with this stuff, please let me know. Only 14 days until I start my actual


It's important to remember to air the bags up before you add the load, not after. They aren't designed to lift a sagging bum, rather to prevent it sagging in the first place. You are much better off filling them to near max whilst empty and then letting air out to achieve the desired height. Done this way round they will last you longer :)

And don't worry about keeping people interested as prepping for any adventure is half the fun :coffeedrink:


That's good information. I was planning to measure the unloaded height of the hitch, load the rack and the bike, and then air up until back at the original height. After reading your comment, I went back and consulted the instructions. It was pretty vague about what to do after installation, so I deferred to the wisdom of a random faceless Internet resource and followed your recommendation. I aired the bags up to 15lbs and loaded the bike. It was riding a bit lower than empty, but higher than before I put the bags in. I decided to leave it where it was and strap everything down for a shakedown run. 2 straps on the forks...2 straps on the rear subframe...1 strap to the foot peg in case of a panic stop...bungee cords from hook to hook on each strap to ensure the hooks stay securely affixed to the bike.



Two thoughts, I used to load my XT 550 on the back of my motor home by sort of rocking the seat off of my hip and then putting the rear tire in place, then just picking up the front wheel and setting it in the carrier and strapping it into place. I do have a ramp but the way the carrier is built, I would have to push it up backwards. There is a vertical piece on the carrier that holds the rear tire quite well.
A few times a year I help my neighbor load his camper on his 4X4 King Ranch dually diesel. We don't inflate the air bags until the camper is on it. It makes several inches of difference about how high we have to raise the camper. we only have about 1/2 side to side anyway so anything to help.


So I rolled down the rear window for fear of an errant handlebar collision during braking and I hit the streets for a little test and tune session. Surprisingly, the bike stayed somewhat motionless throughout the trip. There was some amount of movement as the suspension cycled over bumps or during acceleration / deceleration. This was not a surprise as the bike suspension was not cranked down very hard. I usually only apply enough force to keep the bike secure without over compressing things. I like to leave some opportunity for suspension to do what it is designed to do...suspend. I didn't hit any jumps or attain highway speeds, but I thought I'd start out gently. I stopped by the Toyota dealership to show my buddy, Derek, what I was up to with my new wheels. He was understandably impressed and concerned...not having ever encountered this type of contraption before. We spent some time discussing which component was most likely to fail and whether or not the warranty would cover it. That should make for an interesting story if epic failure occurs. I cruised back home...not avoiding bumps and going a little hot into the corners...but the bike was still in place when I arrived. No adventure...nothing to write about. Damn my continued mechanical success!

Anyhow, here's how it looks with 15lbs of pressure in the bags...pretty rattles or squeaks either. I may bump it up to 20lbs for the next test drive.



Two thoughts, I used to load my XT 550 on the back of my motor home by sort of rocking the seat off of my hip and then putting the rear tire in place, then just picking up the front wheel and setting it in the carrier and strapping it into place. I do have a ramp but the way the carrier is built, I would have to push it up backwards. There is a vertical piece on the carrier that holds the rear tire quite well.
A few times a year I help my neighbor load his camper on his 4X4 King Ranch dually diesel. We don't inflate the air bags until the camper is on it. It makes several inches of difference about how high we have to raise the camper. we only have about 1/2 side to side anyway so anything to help.
I did fail to mention that I strapped both wheels to the rack. If the bike does fall, it won't go very far...either hitting the back of the 4Runner or dragging on the road and ruining the left end of the handlebar. I think I'm going to wrap the right end of the handlebars in foam just in case I make contact with the truck during a panic stop. Based on the 4Runner's power to weight ratio, I see that as a bigger concern than losing the bike under acceleration. I'm getting pretty good at rolling the bike up the ramp these days. Lifting it would be a challenge as the Versahaul is 21-22" off the ground unloaded.


It was pretty vague about what to do after installation, so I deferred to the wisdom of a random faceless Internet resource and followed your recommendation.
Glad to be that faceless resource :26_7_2:

Just so you know I'm not making it up though, here is the info from a manufacturer:

Q: Do you add air to Airlift 1000 before adding the load, i.e. how do I level my vehicle?

A: Add air to maximum pressure, add the load,*then*release air until the vehicle is level.


1. Inflate you air springs to 25 psi before adding the payload. This will allow the air cylinder to properly mesh with the
coil spring. After vehicle is loaded, adjust your air pressure (down) to level the vehicle and for ride comfort.

From *Polyair*Red Series.


I've had polyair springs in a few rigs now and their method is spot on :victory:
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