Babe the Blue Ox - Supercharged 2000 Frontier Build + Adventures


Manifold AND Leaking Power Steering...

Backstory - I recently had to replace another exhaust manifold on the truck. The one I had installed is a Dorman 674-598 passenger side manifold. The OE ones failed like they all do. Bad cracks. I replaced them both and only got 30k out of this one... it was in bad shape. Possibly due to the supercharger, or maybe I just got a crappy one. The driver side one looks fine for now... we will see if it goes out soon as well. It's kinda annoying, but I've gotten good at replacing these... I also installed stainless bolts on all the associated hardware so that it'll come apart easier in the case that I have to do it again.

Oh well; such is life. Anyways, in the process, I must have knocked the manifold or a wrench or something against the high-pressure power steering hard line. The line started leaking shortly after. There was a small pinhole leak right near the hose. I mis-diagnosed it first, replaced the rubber hose; no dice. I don't think I ever got a picture of the small crimp/nick in the hardline. The damage itself was really hard to see, but the evidence was obvious!

Finally found where I had nicked/scraped the hard line. So I went to the salvage yard and pulled the section of pressure-side hard line I needed from a 2002 Xterra ($3.99, as opposed to the $130 or so that the whole line costs at the parts store or online). Swapped it out. It was messy, snowing, truck was caked in road slush, etc. Of course the weather is always bad when you have a problem like this. No pictures of that either because I was wet and cold. Got it fixed, pressured washed everything off, and now it's running good.

Just goes to show how much money you can save by doing your own maintenance... also shows how much work you can create for yourself if you get bad parts or damage other systems while doing said maintenance or repairs. And that's all I have to say about that.

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A Few More Wheeling Trips

No real build update - been doing some more wheeling recently. In case anyone is wondering how I'm wheeling during the Covid-19 restrictions, I have been in communications with both local law enforcement and forest service districts where I am traveling and obtaining approval and/or additional guidelines that they would like people to follow. And bringing extra fuel so I don't have to fuel up in small towns along the way. Now that my disclosure is out of the way, here's some pictures.

I've been running the same trail system over the last 5 weeks. Been on it 3 times. Progressively more trail open each time as snow melts. We've also been clearing down'd trees as we go. Kinda fun to do, although the USFS has much better equipment than us for doing so! First time on this trail was about March 31st. Still a lot of snow, and really wet mud as the runoff continues.

Second time, we made it about 2x as far. Trail was good. Still muddy, but a fun challenge with mixed mud, dry, and snow sections. By this time (April 11th), some of the snow drifts had thawed/frozen many times so there were layers of ice under the surface, giving the banks enough structure to dive over instead of trying to bash through them. I've been working on trying to get good highway roller shots too. I'll throw a few in here for fun too.

(yes, literally everyone I wheel with has a 4Runner of one generation or another).

Continued below...
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... A Few More Wheeling Trips continued

Finally, first weekend in May, most of the trail system in that area is passable. We were still breaking through snow banks that hat not yet been driven for the season, but only in select areas and we were able to complete entire trail sections end-to-end without being forced to turn around. We camped, and the weather was awesome. Well, it was terrible for camping; damp, foggy, cold, but great for wheeling and scenery.

So cool seeing the trail conditions change this spring each time we got into that area. Had a blast on this most recent trip, despite the rain/wind that kinda made camping cold.

Looking forward to getting out more soon as things start to thaw out.
Cheers everyone, come back for more soon.


Warranties are Great.

Broke a shock and the ride was pretty bouncy for the second half of the last trip.

Oddly, the lower eyelet is threaded onto the shaft. This shock is technically a "universal fitment" part, so I assume they just used different length shafts to make the "universal" shocks, thread the end, and use the same eyelet for each one for sake of manufacturing. Possibly. Anyways, I got them at 4WheelParts and bought the extended warranty because I blew a seal on the previous shocks and was concerned about possibly doing it again. Glad I got it!

Got a replacement for the cost of a renewed 5 year warranty on the new shock ($14 is pretty good). I used a shackle hitch and Hi Lift jack to raise the back of the truck and replace the shock. I partly did this to see if it would work. It did.

Anyways, buy the warranties. They pay for themselves many times over if you ever need them.

I hope you are all finding time to work on your trucks and get out and wheel as the restrictions lift a bit.


Please tell me you didn’t work under that truck like that.

Sent from my iPad using Tapatalk
Ha, good question. Not in the picture, but I put jack stands under the frame after I got it lifted and had the axle drooping. Front wheels were both chalked too. With the truck in 4x4, in gear.


Do you loose a lot of wrenches? Leaving them on the shackles is a good way to do that. lol

The shock didn't really look broke, but more like it unthreaded itself. Don't understand how but schtuff happens. How do you like the Bilstein ride?


Do you loose a lot of wrenches? Leaving them on the shackles is a good way to do that. lol

The shock didn't really look broke, but more like it unthreaded itself. Don't understand how but schtuff happens. How do you like the Bilstein ride?
I loosened the shackles before lifting it. Just left it hanging as a reminder to make sure I tightened them all back up.

The threads pulled out, so it wouldn't thread back together. I like the Bilsteins well enough. For the price, they do pretty good.

Recommended books for Overlanding

Americas Overland - The Driving Handbook
by Donald Greene
From $20
Vehicle-dependent Expedition Guide
by Tom Sheppard
From $147.5
Overlanders' Handbook: Worldwide Route & Planning Guide: ...
by Chris Scott
From $29.95
Motorcycle Messengers: Tales from the Road by Writers who...
by Lois Pryce, Mark Richardson, Carla King, Sam Manic...
From $9.99


Tools and Gear I Carry

I've done this post before, but some of the gear I carry has changed and I have added to the list quite a bit, so I figured I would go ahead and update the list.

Disclaimer: In no way do I mean for this post to be bragging about how prepared I am. Everyone makes mistakes and I have learned a lot of lessons along the way by making a fair share of my own mistakes. This is the result of being unprepared in the past, as well as attempting to be prepared for the unexpected in the future. Also, please don't come break into my truck and take my stuff. Thanks!

The list is long and so I'll put it at the bottom after the pictures. Here's a picture of everything I carry on a regular basis, minus the toilet paper - didn't make it into the shot somehow.

And this is just my seasonal (Winter) addendum. I often carry 2 sets of chains, but during spring/mud season, just carrying 1 seems like more than plenty.

Emergency/Safety Gear:
Mechanic's/Hand Tools:
  • 8mm-22mm Wrench Set
  • SAE Wrenches that do not have a suitable Metric substitute
  • 6” + 9” Adjustable Wrenches
  • 6mm-24mm Sockets
  • SAE Sockets that do not have a suitable Metric substitute
  • ½” Breaker Bar + ½” Ratchet
  • Various extensions + drive adapters
  • Spark Plug Sockets
  • Pick/hook set
  • Punch set
  • Files
  • Ball-end Allen Wrench Set
  • Snap Ring Pliers
  • Vice Grips
  • Various Pliers
  • Pipe Wrench
  • Side-cutters
  • Various Screw Drivers
Recovery Gear:
Winter/Seasonal Gear:
  • Teflon, Electrical, and Gorilla Tape
  • Bailing Wire
  • Zip Ties
  • Nuts and Bolts. Notable: Lug nuts, lug studs, cotter pins, hose clamps.
  • Electrical Kit: Fuses (Regular and Mini), terminal and connectors, wire, wire nuts, heat shrink.
  • Ratchet and Cam Straps
  • Various Bungee Cords
  • Carabiners
  • Flathead Shovel
  • Fiskars 24” Hatchet
  • Bahco 24” Bow Saw
  • Husky 25’ Air Hose - awesome in cold weather; stays very flexible.
  • Various Air hose attachments
  • Flashlight
  • Box Cutter and Pocket Knives
This all suits my needs very well. I've used almost every single piece of it either on the trail, around town, and on road trips for both myself and other motorists who are either stuck, out of fuel, or some other type of stranded. I find that there are a lot of people with 4x4s that aren't always prepared for going out on the trails, so I try to be prepared for my own sake, and for those who will be sharing the trails.

Anyways, would love to know what other people are carrying. Same stuff? Different? Let me know if you have some special, must-have tool that I'm missing!
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Ironclads Trail

Got out this last Friday to do some wheeling with a good Toyota friend. We did a trail called "Ironclads" near Estes Park, Colorado. I've done it before, but this time, we tackled a few more of the larger (for my truck, anyways) obstacles. We had a good time and didn't break anything. Neither one of us really have rock-crawling rigs, but we still tackled a few of the larger obstacles on this trail with pretty good success! I'll just dump some photos here for you viewing pleasure.

Hard to tell, but this thing is steeper and bigger than it looks. Driver's side front tire is about 12-16" off the ground at this point.

It was good to get out and breathe some fresh air and push my limits on things I've look at in the past and said "next time."
I hope everyone is finding time to work on their projects and hopefully get out and wheel some too!



Small Electrical Projects.

Battery Terminals Updated

Got a few small items finished up. First, I got new battery terminals. With all the added accessories, the OEM cover didn't fit over the (+) terminal, so it was exposed. I wanted to get the (+) terminal covered up to keep myself safe while wrenching. Would hate to short through my wrench while changing the spark plugs or something. Got some Fastronix Battery Terminals from Amazon that came with both (-) and (+) terminals. Figured I should have a matching set. Took a bit of twisting of the positive leads to get them all through the rubber boots, but I'm happy with it. Left the winch power supply going out the other end for easy access.

Winch Power Shut-off Switch
Got a Fastronix High-Current Switch from Amazon. It's a simple on/off toggle. I installed this because I heard a story recently of someone's winch failing and it failed such that it kept drawing power. Could be a dangerous situation if you can't pull the plug or disconnect the battery quick enough. PLUS I'm out of real project to do, so I had to make something up to do. Drilled a 3/4" hole and installed the switch right on the top plate of the bumper.

Got a new 2-8 AWG Crimper Tool for the new ring terminals. It worked out well. I unplugged the positive lead from the battery, cut the cable, and added ring terminals on each end.

Put some heat shrink over the terminals and the wire loom. I think it looks pretty professional. The little red rubber boots came with the switch kit. Bolted the leads on, reconnect the (+) line to the winch, and it's done. It works well. I tried it about a dozen cycles to make sure it works. The reviews on this switch were pretty good so I hope it holds up!



Stainless Braided Front Brake Lines

Another small project done. I called Mike at 4x4parts/Automotive Customizers and ask him to just send me the front lines from the Brake Line Kit for my truck. Ended up being $52 plus shipping, so that's not bad at all. I had already done the rear line when I did the leaf packs and shackles in the back because the OE hose was too short. The theory on braided lines is that they don't stretch at all when you mash the brakes. Not sure exactly how much difference it makes, but it seems to help a bit.

Got the brakes bled, and also the clutch. I have put a little over 100,000 miles on this truck since I got it, and as far as I know, it still has the original clutch (now at 263,000 miles). It actually feels pretty good still. It doesn't slip at all. I could tell the engagement point had moved and it seemed to be getting harder to finesse it on more technical steep rocky sections of trail. After the bleed, it feels a lot better. Probably shouldn't have gone that long without a bleed, but oh well, it's done now.

Anyways, that's it for now. Headed out to Utah this week to get some wheeling and camping in. I'll put some pictures up on here when I get back.

Cheers and happy Memorial Day to all of you!


I continue to check in and enjoy your build thread, regularly. I just love the simplicity and aesthetics of a well sorted 1st gen Frontier (your trip photos are also awesome). You're making me feel guilty for neglecting my own build thread for the past year.

As a side note, we've mounted our Smittybilt winch control boxes in the exact same place on our ARB bumpers. Did we just become best friends? Probably.


I continue to check in and enjoy your build thread, regularly. I just love the simplicity and aesthetics of a well sorted 1st gen Frontier (your trip photos are also awesome). You're making me feel guilty for neglecting my own build thread for the past year.

As a side note, we've mounted our Smittybilt winch control boxes in the exact same place on our ARB bumpers. Did we just become best friends? Probably.
I appreciate the encouragement, and yes, I love the look of them too. Partly why I kinda fell in love with it even though I originally purchased it just as a work truck. Working from home has been slow so I've had time to update stuff pretty regularly ever since Coronavirus started. The build thread also make me feel like I'm getting something done, so it keeps me a bit more content with where the truck is at and slows down my purchasing streak...

Nice call on the mounting location! I haven't seen anyone else mount it there before but I like it. I had to cut a weird hole to get the wires fitted through the top plate, and routing them was kinda annoying, but now that it's mounted, I like it so much better. I didn't like the control box mounting bracket it came with. I wrap my winch cable and snatch strap around the bull bar sometimes and I figured I'd end up tearing the box off if I mounted it with the supplied bracket.

And to answer your question if we just became friends, my LOTR-obsessed wife is sitting here geeking out about your J. R. R. Tolkien quote in your signature line, so I guess we did.


Utah Trip

Took a trip out to Utah over Memorial Day. 5 of us in 3 vehicles. Didn't quite get into as many 4x4 trails as we wanted, but still saw a bunch of new sights, new hikes, and a few new camp sites too. Moab was pretty well shut down (BLM land/campground all closed for camping), so we ended up mostly about an hour or so south of Green River.

I'll just dump some photos here.

First night camp spot, near Dotsero Crater, Colorado.

My wife got some cool roller shots of the other guys coming down Vail Pass on our way out of town.

Mini sand dune area we stumbled upon. Had the place to ourselves. I'm guessing it was maybe 4 square miles. Largest dunes were maybe 15-20 feet tall.

Temple Mine trail. A beautiful area. The camera can't quite do it justice.

Above Castle Valley somewhere along the La Sal Loop Road. Headed out of town the back way from Moab into Gateway, Colorado.

It was a good trip. There were definitely some areas we found that we had to say "next time" due to time constraints. Never enough time. But we have a pretty solid plan for the next Utah trip when BLM camping is open again.

I did a few small things on the truck this week, and have a few other things in the works soon. Looking forward to more trips to come this summer.

Check back soon for more.
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