Northern Explorer's 2015 TRD Off Road Tacoma

CB Installation

I repurposed the CB that I had originally installed in my Chevy Colorado. I didn't want to put any holes in my dash so I made a spot for it to mount in my back seat shelf. I'll say it's not the most user friendly spot but for how often it will get used it should work out.

I tapped into the fuse box using an add a circuit. (bottom left)

I ran the power, ground and antenna wire under the center console and up the back.

I used a hood hinge mount from Relentless Fabrication for the antenna.

The antenna sits about 5 inches closer to the center of the truck than it did with the hood mount I had on my Colorado. Hopefully it will catch a lot less branches.
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Old Toyota

Just found a picture of the old Toyota pickup truck our family had. As a kid I would sit in the center (rolled up blanket between bucket seats) and shift when my dad pressed the clutch. We took a trip around Lake Superior in this and slept in the back. We went a lot of places 2wd vehicles had no business being. Toyota has come a long way.

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Winch Mounting (day 1)

I could normally finish a project like this in one day but since I move at about 1/4 the speed when the temperature drops below 30 it's going to be a multi day project.
With weight being a major consideration with this build I decided to not get an aftermarket off road bumper to mount a winch to. I instead decided to order a Pelfreybilt Hidden Winch Mount.
Pros and Cons to going this route.
1. Costs less than most full replacement aftermarket bumpers.
2. I like the "from the factory" look.
3. Slightly better aerodynamics (I need all the help I can get).
4. Weight savings. This mount only weights 26 pounds. Even a no hoop aluminum bumper will weigh in the 50 pound range.
1. I don't get the benefit of increased approach angle that you get with most aftermarket bumpers.
2. No additional front end protection.
3. No place to mount things like antennas and lights.
The mount comes in bare steel. I coated it with two coats of POR15 and then 2 coats of high gloss Rustoleum.
Tacoma with grill and bumper cover removed.

The bumper required some persuasion to come off. This aluminum bumper ended up weighing 10 pounds. This means that the total weight added by the winch mount is only 16 pounds!

Pelfreybilt winch mount in place.

Backing plate to add extra reinforcement is attached using the sway bar mounting bolts and a third bolt that joins the backing plate to the winch mount.

My next job will be to cut a hole in the plastic bumper cover to mount the fairlead.
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Winch Mountig (day 2)

Got a little more work done today. Careful trimming of the bumper fascia took the longest. I used a Dremel with a sabre cutting bit. Not exactly a precision tool. It took a lot of filing and sanding in order to make it look half way decent. The front, lower black section of the fascia must be removed and each piece must be cut separately for proper fitment.
Showing back side of bumper fascia before trimming.

Winch in place for test fitting. I went with a Warn M8000-S.

This shows some of the cuts I made but most of the cutting cannot be seen.

Bumper fascia, fairlead, and Factor 55E flatlink in place.

Only a few more steps to go.
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Winch Mounting (day 3 and done)

The last bit of work ended up being a lot easier than I expected. I had purchased a 2 foot socket extension and I was debating on where to mount it. Turns out I am able to reach in between the grill and the radiator without any problem to plug in the controller. Drilling a hole for the socket extension wasn't necessary.

All put together with my blacked out grill.

I put a decorative front license plate on to help keep road grime and UV light off the synthetic winch line.

Everything turned out great.
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The Lift....Finally!!!

The Front.
Bilstein 5100 Height Adjustable Shocks set at 2.5 inches of lift. (Installed by Roam Auto). OEM Springs

The Back.
A little back story. To lift the back end of my Chevy Colorado and to handle the extra weight of the camper I had gone with an add-a-leaf combined with Firestone airbags. This setup worked well in supporting the weight of the camper but suspension travel was limited by the airbags. I liked the infinite adjustability that the airbags gave me so I wanted to go with a similar setup but without limiting articulation. I decided to go with a combination of an add-a-leaf, Firestone Airbags, Daystar Airbag Cradles, and a shackle flip kit made by Archive Garage. I get the support of the add-a-leaf, adjustability of the airbags, improved articulation from the shackle flip kit which is further enabled by the air bag cradles.

The stock shackle mounts are held in place by four rivets each which must be ground down and drilled out. I highly recommend investing in some good cobalt drill bits if you are going to attempt this one.

Stock Setup. (showing upper rivets ground down)

Comparing Shackle Mounts.

Comparing Shackles. The Archive Garage shackles are stainless steel.

After removal of the stock shackle mounts.

Sanded down and painted.

New shackles in place.

The muffler pipe needs to be cut to allow for the lower positioning of the leaf pack. I didn't like how some people have chopped the pipe so short that it blows exhaust under the truck. I only cut off what I needed and then had an elbow welded on to direct the exhaust down and out. (it looks closer to the leaf pack in this picture than it actually is)

Because of the additional range of motion this setup allows, it is recommended that the brake lines and shocks are replaced.

Four inch longer Brake Lines. Firestone Airbags. Daystar Airbag Cradles.

Longer Shocks. Bilstein B110 5100 (16.34" compressed 27.28" extended)

I went with a 2 inch lift add-a-leaf from wheelers off road. I didn't need two more inches of lift but I figured it would give me the most load support compared to their 1.5 inch add-a-leaf that they offer.

The only glitch in my setup is with the mount for the airbags. At some point Toyota added a leaf to their leaf pack and as far as I can tell Firestone has not made any modifications to their kit to accommodate this. The support leg which is supposed to be resting on the axle is floating in the air. It was doing this before I added a leaf. Now the gap is basically the thickness of two leafs. I will address this problem later. I know Firestone makes leg extensions but I may just see if I can make some kind of a shim to fit between the leg and the axle.

The end result:)
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Improved Droop

Almost forgot...The results!
At ride height I am sitting about 1.75 to 2 inches higher in the back. I can tweek this quite a bit with the airbags. Most importantly I can adjust the airbags from left to right to somewhat correct for the "Tacoma lean" which is accentuated by the "Four Wheel Camper lean". I measured an improvement in droop of about 3 inches. This is with both tires hanging equally. I don't know if this would show a greater improvement with one tire stuffed.

Showing full droop


Lookin good looking at doing the airbags and daystar cradles, have u experienced any noise when the cradles separate from the air bags. Or does that rarely happen?

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Lookin good looking at doing the airbags and daystar cradles, have u experienced any noise when the cradles separate from the air bags. Or does that rarely happen?

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This setup is in the early testing phase. I have not noticed any abnormal sounds. There will be a trial by fire come June :).