Friday, July 10, 2015

Platform Testing

A couple of buddies and I took the truck out to test a number of things on the platform. A day of learning if you will. The goals included seeing how the:

  • vehicle handled in fresh, wet, messy mud
  • tires cleared debris, maintained traction and enabled control;
  • vehicle responded with no air lockers, rear only, front and rear;
  • winch, cable, remote, tree strap and clevis worked in combination pull a dead vehicle up a gradual slope; and
  • land anchor works, pros, cons and general usefulness.

We ran out of day and did not get to the land anchor. It was still a great day. We learned.

  • The tires clear out well, grip well and overall provided great control uphill, downhill, through ditches, on ATV trails in the forest and on slippery, muddy roads.
  • The air lockers rock. The truck works well in standard 4x4, with rear air locker and with both engaged.
  • The 12k lb winch wasn't tapped. One of my buddies pushed the brake to stress the winch a bit more. We didn't tap the potential. Did what it should.
  • Same goes for straps, clevis, etc. All worked as expected. No issues. I feel good about them.
  • We ran out of day and didn't get to the land anchor. Bummer.

Now, part of the reason we ran out of day was due to losing engine power. We checked the vehicle computer and it told us the platform was having trouble on cylinder eight. So, we replaced the coil and BAM! it picked back up and partied. All of this occurring across about three hours, a visit to two auto parts stores, the garage of one of my buddy's father, as well as, some general wrenching. Still learned. Still had a great time. Friends make the journey enjoyable.

Incidentally, another important lesson: Under-carriage armor is great for protecting the machine. It also collects mud. Even with a power washer, cleaning was measured in multiple hours, across multiple days. We very thoroughly found amazing places to gather mud.

Oh, and did I say we had fun?

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Fridge and Water Filtration Mounts

After much research on the pros and cons of on-platform refrigerator/freezer solutions, hardiness, power consumption, ease of use and general satisfaction, I settled upon the ARB product line. While I favored the Engel hardiness and reputation, I was most interested in power consumption and the ARB products appeared to have been designed with this in mind. Because of the amount of time we plan to spend overlanding, I went with the 82 quart solution. It fits nicely onto my Slee installed internal drawer/slider system and uses the secondary battery wiring harness they ran from the engine bay back to rear of the truck. My buddy and I purchased some 1200lb max load tie-downs from Menards, measured and mounted in short order. I had ordered the proper ARB tie-down harness off Amazon it simply didn't show up in a timely manner. So we went with ratchet straps instead. Works. Happy. Moving onto the next project.

At the same time, based upon prior experiences overseas, I anticipate various scenarios including potable, non-potable and no access to water. So after much research on water filtration solutions including TED Talks, Non-Governmental Organization solutions, trips to sporting/hiking stores and the like, I ended up spending a bit more to get a water filtration jerry can from LifeSaver. You can do your own research of course. However, the conversation for me came down to alignment to international and auditable filtered water standards, flowrate, number of uses between filter replacement and particularly, filtration type and efficiency. While I'm not in the situation, and do not have the need, to test the filtration system as the inventor does in the Ted Talk, I'm comfortable taking a chance on this company and technology based upon the research, comparisons and technological approach used by this company.

I knew I didn't want this jerry can mounted outside the platform in the event of theft or damage, and given the side panels of the Slee installed drawer system come up and off for side storage compartments and securely lock into place when done, we were able to mount the jerry can to one of the side panels without any drilling. We did customize a ratchet strap a wee bit as you can see, but overall, fits like a glove. Will have to see how the can itself, as well as, the strapping solution, holds up under road wear. Am pleased. Simple. Clean. Done.

Brush and Tree Guards

I decided to put some brush cables on the truck in order to save the windscreen from angry trees and branches. I originally purchased the brush cable package from Front Runner given it was pre-made and would theoretically be simple to install. As it is in life, plans and reality often look different.

The Front Runner solution came and ended up being about two feet two short to extend from the top of the luggage rack, as they recommend, down to the bull bar. I wasn't willing to drill holes in the truck itself or the bull bars for this effort. Solution fail.

After spending a bunch of time considering options, I ended up purchasing some existing mounts from Fourtreks because I like the clean look and the practical application. Since they didn't seem to have anything that immediately screamed, "these are designed for that", I purchased their CB antennae mount which I used a wee bit different than they designed or perhaps intended. Of course time will tell if my own design is good at version 1.0 or needs to be evolved. For now, thanks to the help of my ex-race car racing buddy, we fashioned a solution that will serve as the baseline until such time as we need to uprev the design.

Components included:

  • One (1) roll of 50' 3/16" diameter stainless steel cable that we cut down to 8' sections
  • Two (2) turn-buckles
  • Two (2) brass clips
  • Eight (8) wire rope clips
  • Four (4) thimbles

I also purchased crimping sleeves, but ended up not using them for now. Didn't seem to make sense. I may change my mind later. I'm still thinking on that one.

I cut up an inner-tube and placed it on the bull-bar prior to mounting the Fourtreks mounts. We attached both ends, hand-tightened the turn-buckles taut and took it for a drive. Worked fine. I'll only put them on when going off-road onto various trail types. They seem to work well, look good and I'm happy. Was a good problem to think through and I had fun building them out with my buddy.

NITTO Tires Rock

I'm using NITTO Trail Grappler M/T 285/75R16 on this platform. I recently took it out onto Grade B / farm class roads composed of mud/clay mixes with 2-4 inches of sludge on top, onto an unkempt forest trail composed of logs, grasses, mud and ruts at incline, as well as, an ATV trail that was pretty much narrow ruts, deep puddles and mud between trees. Many times I could run without straight 4x4 behavior without the need for air lockers. Occasionally, I run the rear locker and sometimes both front and rear. These tires are so far magnificent.

The tires always kept moving, the platform continued to move up the inclines and through the slog without every giving ground. In fact, given the short-wheel base of this platform, coupled with 4x4 and locker ability and these tires, I am duly impressed. These tires are likely the best purchase I've made to the platform to date. Of course the other bells and whistles are nice. However, these tires seemed to clean themselves out well and I could dependably trust that they are a solid, dependable aspect of this platform.

They have been fine on pavement, dry and wet. They are great on gravel so far. However, grass, ruts, inclines and mud? Worth every penny.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Mounting the Lower Control Arms

While I'm not purposefully planning to rock climb or get into situations where I have to tax the Land Cruiser platform, I have been planning for potential situations that may or might occur and looking for options, individually or in combination, that will enable safe passage from point A to point B. One of these things happens to be ground clearance.

I've previously installed an Old Man Emu 2.5" lift kit that included torsion bars, springs and shocks, as well as, changed tire sizes from stock to NITTO 285/75R16 and added Slee Off-road underbelly armor for some protection even with the modest lift change. Couple this with the higher ARB bullbar winch bumper on the front and Slee Off-Road bumper on the back and the attack vectors are improved to see rubber before it sees metal. However, I still had something bugging me which was the fact that my lower control arms would theoretically hit an object before the tire had a chance to sort it out. So, after a bunch of research I ended up purchasing a set of 80 & 100 Series Heavy-Duty High Clearance Lower Control Arms from Wild West Off-Road and installed them shortly thereafter with the help of another friend who rebuilds cars from the chassis up.

We went to a local DIY shop that is a proper rejiggered garage complete with lifts and such. I don't mind being on a crawler underneath the truck. It was a pleasure to stand up under the truck and work on things, however. With the right tools and setting, things go more quickly. Friends help.

The old 100-series bolts came out pretty easily, as did the original lower control arms. I took a few pictures of the comparative old and new bolts and control arms. The stock stuff was, and has historically been, pretty sturdy. However, the new arms and bolts are actually designed for an 80-series, are thicker, change the attack angle and have thicker, beefier bolts. I was curious if there would be enough metal at the mount points to handle the new bolts and arms. After bring under there, I think we're pretty solid. Were I going to purposefully rock climb and get crazy I may consider beefing up the body mounts.

Old bolts and arms were taken out first. Then we had to drill out the holes to take the bigger bolts from 3/8" to 5/8". It may actually have been metric come to think of it, but we used English anyway since that was what we had in our hands at the time. We alternated contextually between a step drill and straight heavy duty drill bit. No problem on the drill-outs. We dry-mounted to see if it all fit and we were good to go. I greased the bolts and bushing sleeves, we put the accompanying washers on either side of the rear bushings as instructed, mounted the front points and then rear points without much effort. We did use a persuasive rubber hammer a few times, but nothing out of the ordinary. After all was said and done, we gunned them tight, made sure the rear wheels were tight as well, dropped the lift and put it out on the parking lot to check for anything silly. After that I S-curved a bit to re-adjust the suspension and help it settle and went back to work. Overall, due to have an air compression issue with the lift that first had to be reconciled, we were in and out in sub-two hours.

There are a number of comparative pictures below showing new and old arms, new and old bolts, mounts points before drill-out and after everything is mounted on the rack and on the ground. Overall, I'm pretty pleased with a) the new lower control arms themselves and b) the ease of the swap-out.

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Installing the CB

Knowing that I plan to be in situations where various methods of communication will change with context, I decided to research, purchase and install a CB solution. I grew up around CBs while hunting, trapping and farming with family and so had a head start, but needed to refresh myself on options. Turns out, as usual, there are more options out there than anticipated and I actually had to do some research.

For an antennae, I looked at long and short, fiberglass and steel/aluminum, singles and duals, installation on front, rear or sides of the vehicle, as well as, mounts and wiring choices. With a whip, it will take a beating I hear. With fiberglass, it will have better reception/transmission ability. With longs, more range; shorts, obviously shorter range. Candidly, since all of my CB experience was vicariously through family when I was younger, I eventually decided on something that seemed logical until I can prove or disprove it as logical. I chose the 5ft Firestick with a heavy-duty spring and quick-disconnect to stow when not in use and sourced it from Right Channel Radios.

I read that length gives distance and fiberglass gives better communication quality. I'll know if that's true or not through time, assuming my implementation of the idea is pure and correct and thereby not giving a false positive. I also knew that I'd likely be travelling alone more than with others, so went with a 5ft. However, after some thought, given then quick-disconnect option, I could also get a shorty for when I'm traveling with others when distance isn't as important.

As for the CB, there were options. However, the requirements I had included:

  • being simple as I don't need (or think I need) bells, whistles, turnstyles and roundabouts
  • being reliable with a good reputation through years of experience
  • being stowable (I want it when I want it, and don't when I don't)

I ended up choosing a Cobra 75 WX ST SoundTracker, an SWR meter (for tuning it) and some coax cable with a firestick mount ring for the job. All also sourced from Right Channel Radios.

I installed the antennae on the back spare time mount the first time. It rubbed the paint off the spare-tire holder and started wearing into the antennae insulation. Stupid user trick I suppose. So I moved the antennae to the front bumper. And now my family feels it in the way of their forward field of view. So, after I have more of the kit together and I see how things are coming together, I'll let the new location reveal itself to me along the way (knowing that this will mean I either move the coax or install another line).

The first time I ran the coax through a fresh drill-hole in the back of the truck, up the side of the truck, under the floor/door rails and to the front dashboard. This is really because I didn't yet have an opinion about where I wanted things. The second time, I ran the coax through the engine box through an existing firewall hole on the passenger side, underneath the dash, up the center console and into the main compartment. This then is where the handset is located. Stowed when not in use, accessible when needed.

After tuning it, it seems to work just fine. Other than explicitly following the directions to tune the antennae to the CB to the implementation itself, I don't have enough experience to understand the signal-to-noise ratio coupled with the enjoyment of squelching, listening and talking. Things are logical until they aren't. Academically I've done that which I believe I'm to do. Experientially, it may be an excellent kit choice and implementation, or I may shoot it off the truck like a clay pigeon. Unknown. I now feel and believe that running wire is a pain in the arse and I know that wasn't even a comparatively difficult or complex wiring run.