off-road

4Runner | 4XInnovations Rock Sliders

4Runner | 4XInnovations Rock Sliders

When I first got the 4Runner, it had running boards on it. Now these are great to be used as steps, but they don’t do well to protect much of anything. In fact, during one of the offroad trips, part of the running board was ripped off and left somewhere in the woods. I saw an image afterwards of a 4Runner that had some tough looking bumper and sliders, and always figured it would happen at some point. I had something similar on my Jeep Wrangler back in the day and always knew they were effective and useful. However, other modifications became priority in my mind before the sliders. After a trip to Rausch for the GPAX Shocker Run over a year ago, one of the FORCE members mentioned I should get some and that he would help make a pair. His truck had some nice tube bending and welding, so I was game. This was in fact the second time someone had made this offer to me. Wanting the sliders was also escalated after another trip where I got to see some put to good use. Life can get in the way sometimes, and so it went from building them from scratch to ordering a pair and installing them. So after a ton of research, I decided to order a pair of the DOM with a kickout from 4XInnovations. They had a great price and plenty of people vouching for them. Order was placed after Christmas, and happily they did not take as long as expected to arrive (I’ve seen some estimates in the 5 month range for other manufacturers, whereas these showed up in less than 2 months). Timing was again not in my favor, and so they sat for a while in the garage. I checked a few off-road/overland shops in the area, and received pricing ranging from $400 to $800. I was a bit surprised. Wanting to get them on before Summer started, as trips and scheduling would become even harder, I called up the other friend of mine who offered, Matt. Now, luck was on my side, and everything worked out perfectly.

I woke up early to head out to his house, and along the way, ran into a bunch of heavy rain. I was starting to become concerned that this would not happen. Upon my arrival, the rain stopped and though a little windy, the sun would eventually peak out. We picked up some welding gas and started putting a plan together.

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Rock Slider mock up

First step was to place the jack stands and mock up the fitment. This allowed us to see the mounting points, final angle, and figure out the next steps. At first we were going to measure out a bunch of stuff, but once we had the mock up set up, we realized that there were only a few natural locations for the connections. The sliders came with three tubes for connection to the frame. One would go in the center, and the other two as far to each end as possible. Due to some body mounts, these were located inward a bit.

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Modding the Mod

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Brackets to Plates

Not sure why, but two of the brackets were longer than the others. I’m assuming this was because it is somewhat of a universal kit (fits 1990-2013 4Runners. So we cut them down. After some grinding along the edges and the mounting plates, it was time to weld the bracket tube to the plate. The plates had 4 holes in them, assuming for people who want to bolt to the frame. The tube was close to the bottom of the plate, based to the alignment we noticed during the mock up. We also attached the gusset on the top. Since the force will be pushing upward toward your vehicle, this is a must.

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Angle mock up

We then did another mock up. Again, we were being very technical in our approach. In reality, we had a lot of luck I think. We had some angle steel sitting around that provided just enough lift to the brackets for the right amount of angle. I’ve seen some guys angle it a lot, however I only wanted a few degrees. I can’t tell you the final angle, but it fit exactly as desired, in fact, couldn’t be tilted higher. As previously mentioned, the mock up showed us the best location for attachment, so we did another mock up with the jack stands and marked the locations. These were then welded. Only two are shown in the pic, but the final center one was added the same way. At this point, we had to make another trip to the store for welding gas. We made it back to the house only to realize that they had given us the wrong bottle. So this warranted another trip. Somewhere in there, we also decided to grab lunch.

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Grind the frame

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Attachment

With the brackets attached, we grind down the frame to expose fresh metal. There was a moment of pride to see nice shiny metal hidden under the aging point. It also reminded me that I needed to strip down the frame and refinish at some point, since old 4Runners are prone to rusty frames. We used a series of jack stands, clamps, and man power to hold the sliders in place as they were tacked down. Once tacked, Matt went to work welding the plates to the body, and then rosetting the 4 mounting holes. We thought this part would go pretty quickly, but it took a little longer than expected. Not sure if it was the wind or the angle of welding, but we had a lot of sputtering and the welds weren’t coming along as nicely as the previous jobs.

I know this may not be the best method, and we discussed another, of welding out from the frame. Though our method had some issues along the way, we felt there would have been more room for error doing the other method. The notched tubes to the slider for instance.

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Painting

We finished much earlier than I was expecting. So I stopped by the auto store on my way home to pick up paint. I wanted the matte finish, and found some “nerf” bar spray paint. Family was still out and about, so I decided to try and tackle the painting. I used some old drawings that were about to be recycled and taped off the side panels and laid some protection for the driveway. I was able to apply 3 coats on each, and was even able to get the sliders and frames completely. Figured there would be touch up down the road, as they will be sliding at some point.

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Finished Product

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Final overall

The painting went well, and everything came out better than expected. I’m still getting used to having them there. Another reason I removed the running boards was I didn’t use them as step and so my leg would always rub against it (getting my pants dirty). These rub my leg as well. Guess I’ll just have to raise the 4Runner up so that I have to use the step…

Big shout out to my friend Matt for all his help. You can always throw some support his way, by picking up some www.josephmagnus.com.

For more info about sliders (these were the 1990-2013 4Runner DOM Rock Sliders w/ kick out) and other great products that 4XInnovations have, check out their site: http://www.4xinnovations.com/

 

Off-road | Twin Mountain Offroad Adventure & Meadow Knob

Off-road | Twin Mountain Offroad Adventure & Meadow Knob

It is becoming an annual custom now that FORCE (Frontier Off-Road Club East) hosts a MLK Jr weekend event. This year, it was a joint even with VAXC (Virginia Xterra Club – http://www.vaxc.org/). It was to visit a relatively new off-road park in the hills of West Virginia, Twin Mountain Off Road Adventure. This park was created by John Bradshaw, who has been off-roading his entire life and has been competing in many overlanding trophies. He decided to build this park to continue his passion.

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John’s Unimog

The event was set, and we had a decent group signed up go. The days before were to have crazy weather however, and due to that weather, a potential requirement for chains. Many of us did not have chains, and though they are great to have, I wanted to use the money for other modifications to the truck. So the days up to the event were a big question mark for some, and it was up until the few hours before leaving that we weren’t completely sure we were heading out. After some conversations with other members, we were a go no matter what. The park had temperatures drop in the negatives for windchill, and the ground was frozen solid a few days before the event. This meant that the upper layer was essentially slick mud on ice. As we arrived, John wasn’t even recommending hitting the trails with chains, as most hills were off camber and cut into the mountain side. Meaning, if you slid, you slid hard, and potentially over the side of the mountain. The park has a camping site, big fire pit, and facilities. Some of the members camped the night before, and it looks like something to remember for the future, as there is nothing else close by.

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Some of the mud picked up in the skills portion.

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Group photo.

So to make something out of nothing, we decided to play on the skills portion of the park. There are a few water/mud pits, step inclines, off camber areas, log bridge crossing, and plenty of ground to play on. We had a few guys get stuck in various locations and one even centered on the logs. The biggest pride moment was to take it to the steep grade hill, made much more difficult with the mud layer. After cresting, the vehicles just slid down the remainder of the obstacle. Though we only got a few hours of wheeling in, it was great fun, and we all agreed that we needed to come back when conditions were better. With this park only a few hours away from DC, we have much to look forward to in it’s development. Big shout out to John for letting us wheel, and for breaking out the Unimog a few times.

While grabbing something to eat, the group was discussing what to do next. It was decided that a late afternoon to evening run was going to be made in the George Washington National Forest to set up for the following day’s ride. After gassing up, we headed down interstate 81, picked up a few passengers from JMU, and continued to the trail head. We took Union Springs Road up the mountain. It was a bit of a bumpy ride, had some areas of snow and ice, but didn’t have too many obstacles. There were a few rocky and steep incline areas, but the majority of the ride was smooth sailing. We did hit a small play area that had a few frozen over puddles. After breaking the ice up and running through a few times, we pushed forward. We made it to Meadow Knob, which is a clearing on the ridge. From what I understand, a bunch of people camp here. It was pretty dark, but looked like a solid camp site for future rides. Great view of Harrisonburg, and so we decided to take a group photo.

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Playing in the mud. Photo by Ian Barry.

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Rock climbing.

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Group photo at Meadow Knob. Photo by Ian Barry.

We ran into a few more obstacles. One of which was a rock drop off. Those of us who didn’t have the correct armor and ground clearance decided to go around, but there were a few who went over. Cell phone video capabilities just weren’t there, and so what we captured wouldn’t provide enough detail to what actually happened. We had another rocky incline requiring some spotters, and once everyone was up, we took the opportunity to bid farewell. Part of our group was going to continue camping in the forest that night, while the rest of us headed into Harrisonburg. We headed down the mountain on Dunkle Hollow and exited around Switzer Lake. It was a shame to leave the comforting darkness of the woods and enter back into cell phone service, but it was late and time to grab dinner and beers.

During this trip, we did stop at a fair amount of breweries and beer centric restaurants. Feel free to read about it here.

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The next morning before heading home.

Twin Mountain Off Road Adventure
N 39 11’34.73″ W 79 00’36.89″
Williamsport, WV
304.257.3493
john@twinmountainadventures.com
http://www.twinmtn4x4.com/

 

 

4Runner – Snorkel

4Runner – Snorkel

After much debate and research, I decided it was time to add a snorkel.  Even when I had a Jeep Wrangler I always wanted a snorkel.  Looking back now, I realize that had I had this piece of equipment on that Jeep, I probably would still have it.  There was an incident in a deep puddle near the beaches of Corolla, North Carolina that changed that stock engine.  It was never the same after that.

Now many people like to debate on whether or not you need a snorkel.  Some feel that you shouldn’t be driving through water that deep.  And a snorkel alone won’t save everything if you do.  This is true, some other steps are needed to cover more of the waterproofing if you plan on river crossing a lot.  However, a snorkel does save you a bit if you tip in too deep by accident.  Take that puddle in Corolla for instance.  It was deeper than the air intake was happy about, and so there was plenty of water in the engine afterwards.  I firmly believe that a snorkel would have saved me that day.  Also, snorkels are not only for water.  Believe it or not, they provide better quality cool air.  The current location of the air intake is in the fender, where dust and water can get into, but heat and minimal air circulation are prevalent as well.  Having a snorkel allows for a cooler, cleaner air to be introduced into your engine.  Depending on the head you use (I have picked up the Ram Air head for now) it also forces more air in.  There are many who have documented an increase in gas mileage after they added their snorkel.  Anyway, some food for thought.

One big thing about snorkels is that they are a bit of a pricey mod.  The second issue for my 4Runner in particular is that there is no direct model made for it anymore.  There was a Safari Snorkel, but that was discontinued.  The ARB one that a lot of guys are installing, is actually a retrofitted Tacoma version.  Luckily I was able to find on the forums a thread that showed the installation of a Hilux 167 Snorkel that works for 3rd Generation 4Runners.  To top it off, you could get it on Amazon for around $130.00.  Pretty good compared to a lot of those other name brand snorkels.  This snorkel actually reminded me a lot of the Safari one in the look and not requiring a bunch of retrofitting to make work (supposedly made harder if you want to keep your automatic stock radio antenna).

The snorkel was delivered faster than expected and noted in the transaction.  Not sure who packaged it, but it was a box completely covered in packaging tape.  The protection inside was a bunch of styrofoam sheets broken up and placed inside.  So of course I quickly made sure I had all the parts and pieces and there was no damage.  Time to get to work.

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Packaging

For easier access, it was recommended to take off the tire.  This allows access from the wheel well.  I second this action, as it’s going to be tight as it is, and coming from below is a definitely.  Removal of the fender may have helped this process, but I wanted to make sure everything lined up.  I added the flimsy template and cut my big hole.  I used a 3 1/2″ hole saw and then I believe a 3/8″ bit for the main holes.  This template isn’t the greatest, and it doesn’t align exactly.  I lined mine up with the top, and looking at it now, the alignment with the edge of the door may have been the primary alignment.  In addition, once you cut the main hole, it is best to locate your drill holes on the template yourself.  The ones provided don’t line up for some reason.  Many suggested this is the scariest part.  Yeah, cutting a big hole in the side of your truck is scary and it will never be the same.  But it is fixable, so other than it being super hot, I wasn’t sweating the cuts.

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Template alignment and cutting holes.

The thread on the forum recommended to buy some screws for the windshield attachment and to use black chalk.  After I drilled my holes, I cleaned up the edges with a dremel and then added some clear coat to eliminate any rust.  Honestly, I never figured out where he put the chalk, but I used it in the holes as well and along the edges to provide some protection to rubbing for the snorkel, and additional protection against rust.  I’ll keep an eye on it to make sure.  The rubber hose that attaches to the hard plastic is a pain in the butt.  It was really hard to stretch over the air box connection and even tougher inside the fender for the snorkel.  I’ve also read that this hose compresses during high RPMs, so I plan on making an adjustment there.  The bracket for the “A” pillar came with rivets.  Apparently the thread writer than know that, hence the buying of extra screws.  I picked up a cheap rivet gun ahead of time and popped those in there.  The screws that attached the bracket to the snorkel were definitely cheap as one replier mentioned and are already rusting a bit.  I wanted to pick up some stainless replacements, but metric bolts are not my nearby Home Depot’s forte.  I added a bit of sticky weather stripping to the front, as there is a bit of a gap (seems the Hilux and 4Runner don’t have all the same curves).  Once installed, I went ahead and closed everything back up.

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Before

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After

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After – Side View

I’m pretty happy with the overall construction of the snorkel.  I haven’t been able to test it out yet, or driven it long enough to really report any gains.  I’m just happy that it is there. The 4Runner has a high air intake as it is, but this is just additional insurance for that engine to keep running.

Recovery Gear Tool Box

Recovery Gear Tool Box

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Previously I had a big plastic foot locker that was from my college days that I would cram a bunch of random camping and recovery gear in.  It wasn’t very organized, and was kind of a catchall for any off-road trips that I may have been headed on.  With the addition of the winch, picking up a tree saver (had the tow strap already) and a couple of other items, I decided it was time to have a tool box that would cover the recovery and tool basics.  I didn’t want to pick up one of the very pricey options that you can find all over the place, and after searching Home Depot and Lowes, finally settled on a box that I saw for sale at Lowes.  It’s pretty sturdy, has a gasket to protect the interior from water infiltration, has a nice handle, and was a decent size.

At the moment, here is what I packed into it:

  • Tow strap
  • Tree saver strap
  • Camo tarp
  • Bear Grylls Gerber knife w/ fire flint
  • Gloves
  • Entrenching tool for shoveling needs
  • Axe/Machete sharpener
  • Knife sharpener
  • Head lamp
  • D-Ring
  • Safety glasses
  • Winch remote
  • Machete
  • Survival waterproof bag (has more fire starting material, 550 paracord, and other survival odds and ends)
  • Bundle of rope
  • Carabiners and other fasteners
  • High calorie nutritious snacks
  • Not Pictured – allan wrenches, screw drivers, and some other tools

I think over time, some of this will grow and develop further.  Some of these items may end up finding other homes, but for now, I felt that this covered at least a decent amount of  my recovery and tool concern for the time being.  Wasn’t able to add some of my other camping gear, and I’ll have to find a temporary home for the growler cooler. I’m planning on adding a drawer system and some other storage components that will help down the road.  Still think this is a good start none the less.