Friday, February 27, 2015

Useful Research Material

Turns out, every single bolt, part and piece on this 1999 Toyota Land Cruiser is an interesting conversation all by itself or in combination with other parts and pieces contextual to the problem at hand. The longer I study and contemplate, the more details I seem to want.

  • What problem do I want to solve? Or What goal do I want to achieve?
  • What are the possible interpretations of my problem, question or goal?
  • What are the possible solutions?
  • Which possible solutions are applicable or useful?
  • What do I want to know thereafter?

In the beginning I didn't know what I don't know. So I jumped into everything and anything I could find. Through time there are some things that have become more interesting to me than others. This could possibly mean I have no interest in some subjects; it could also mean I don't understand them well enough to know why I do or do not care. So I continue grabbing everything that I find in order to learn. And I've noticed some patterns useful to me.

  • There are user group portals where people collectively share their knowledge, experience, kit and journey complete with pictures, experiential anecdotes and biases (of course)
  • There are media portals that seem to transcend the industry/hobby and provide pointers for people to dig deeper on one subject or another through time
  • There are media portals and clubs that seem to be associated to regions/like interests
  • There are vendors and service providers who provide plenty of reviews, comparisons, details, tests, videos and kit/hobby builds

What I've found is there are some "go to places" to which I always seem to gravitate. I'll read anything and most everything I can find on these matters to begin refining what I think is a problem statement. Then, as I research the particular problem statement I tend to spend a lot of time comparing and contrasting vendor/service provider suppositions discern what seems to matter and what seems person-to-person preferential. Then, when I hone in on a solution path, I begin reading about implementations of said solution paths, results, experiences, etc. that did not come from the vendor itself. All in all, all things being equal, I spend weeks, sometimes months, soaking in and soaking on a the pros, cons, variabilities and such of a particular solution before I make a change/purchase. Sometimes it seems faster, but I'm still soaking on some things that I started researching over a year ago. There is no need to solve a problem until it needs to be solved. I proved this to myself when I purchased the wrong winch, had to return it and then do research on what I should actually have purchased (for me, Warn M12000). Solving a problem before I need to solve it increases the probability that I solve the wrong problem. So I tend to wait until the real problem reveals itself, followed by the seemingly most sensible solutions revealing themselves thereafter.

These aren't even close to the sheer number of options out on the interwebz and I'm not sponsored by anyone. I'm only sharing stuff that has been useful to me so far on this build.

These have so far turned out to be my "go to" sites when looking for information about nearly anything. However, the reality is I've been trolling twenty or thirty sites more regularly looking at options, reading articles, hearing personal user stories and even watching overlanding and how-to videos off YouTube, Vimeo, Vine and vendor sites. Learning is out there and I'm enjoying the journey.

At the end of the day when I've exhausted as many options as I can find to learn, compare, ponder and decide, I talk to a buddy or two who have experience stripping and building vehicles from the sandblasted chassis on up to the drag racer, off-roader or WWII military jeep. Research is great. Experience is immeasurable. Besides, websites and books only tell you what to do, what worked and didn't work for them; true friends tell you when you're being stupid.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Installing a Dual Battery System

Similar journey, different subject.

  • What problem do I need or want to solve?
  • Who has solved this problem before me?
  • What did their solutions look like and what were the pros, cons and contexts?

As with a bunch of this, I was already familiar with a bunch of this stuff due to my time in Africa. The ability to self-solve in the bush is a way of living for many people and I benefited greatly from the wisdom and experience of others. What happens when you have a working vehicle platform capable of taking you into the bush and bringing you back again fail due to a single issue like the battery? Your amazing vehicle is proverbially dead in the water. The winch, the lights, the CB, the seat covers, the dual fuel cells, the lift-kit, tires, etc. Nothing. No battery, no start, no mobility. You're looking at the biggest paperweight you didn't imagine buying.

In addition to paying attention to the type of battery you purchase, cranking amps, load capacity and comparing consumption velocity of the platform to recharging capacity of the alternator, we have to understand things like "Plan B". Plan B, in this case is, what if the primary battery doesn't start, what do we do? The answer is a secondary battery system. However, the implementation of the idea is a little more cool than just taking a second battery in the truck just in case. I was interested in a system that had the allowed me to start the platform from battery B if necessary, allowed me to run lights, phones, computers and refridgerators while the truck was off without risk of burning the primary battery, as well as, having the ability to link both batters to bear the distributed load of a winch if and when necessary. A number of companies have solutions in place for this. I settled on the IBS dual battery solution sourced and installed by Slee Off-Road in Golden, Colorado. Their implementation of the solution included running a large gauge wire from the engine box to the back of the truck with an additional fuse block, USB and 12v cigarette lighters so I could charge and run things from the front, as well as, the back of the truck in a self-serviceable manner thereafter.

The primary and secondary batters are both Die Hard, the dual battery system itself is IBS and wanting the interior of the truck to continue to look stock, the battery monitor and remote control are wired to, and mounted within, the center console. Available when needed, out of the way when not.

Next up? Road-use. Hopefully, I don't ever need to rely on the presence of a second battery due to primary battery failure. Hopefully I never have to rely upon the ability to use two batteries to bear winch load. More likely is charging a cell phone or laptop or running a spotlight off the back of the truck. Nonetheless, planning ahead is a lot of fun. My goal is to not put myself in a position where I need these things; but if I end up there, I have options.

To and From Slee Off-Road

I recently took the Cruiser out to Slee Off-Road in Golden, Colorado to a) have them inspect the platform integrity and progress in order to make recommendations to me for further platform evolution, as well as, b) to have them perform some work that is important enough to me that I wanted an experienced expert at the helm for this part of the build. I had them:

  • Install ARB air lockers in the front and rear
  • Install ARB air compressor
  • Install the IBS dual battery system
  • Install the ARB Intensity driving lights/modify the wiring harness and lights on the ARB bumper itself
  • Install the Front Runner roof rack platform
  • Install undercarriage armor
  • Install the Outback drawer system in the rear of the truck

The trip out through Kansas to Colorado looked like this:

The trip back through Colorado and Wyoming looked like this:

The work that Slee Off-Road did, coupled with their outstanding education/teaching attitude and customer service, is outstanding. I knew I was asking softball questions sometimes and they fielded them courteously and professionally, very thoroughly each and every time. Reading teaches. Experience teaches. Getting schooled by a group of people who do this everyday helped increase the velocity of learning. I would have paid additional money for some of the education I received while there and then paid more money for more education. Nonetheless, my opinion of Christo Slee and Slee Off-Road staff is very high as a result of my experiences with them to date and they've help put me multiple steps closer to my overlanding goals.

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Completed Modification List

This is the master list of changes made to the 1999 Toyota Landcruiser platform:

  1. ARB winch bullbar sourced from Just Differentials
  2. ARB winch bullbar fog lights and LED parking/turn signals sourced from Slee Off-Road
  3. ARB Intensity LED Lights, stock Toyota switch, switched for bright usage only
  4. Warn M12000 Self-Recovery Winch with Fairlead
  5. Factor 55 Pro Link, 16k lbs load rating
  6. Slee Off-Road rear bumper with spare tire and ladder swing arms and digital license plate light
  7. K&N Air Filter
  8. Slee Off-Road primary battery tray replacement
  9. Slee Off-Road secondary battery tray
  10. Safari Snorkel
  11. ARB 12v High Performance Compressor with ARB pump up kit
  12. IBS 12v/200A second battery management system
  13. DieHard Platinum 31M battery with military connectors
  14. DieHard 34/78DT battery with military connectors
  15. Fusebox run to back of truck for additional USB and 12v receptacles
  16. Old Man Emu 2.5" Heavy Load Kit (coil springs, front/rear shocks, torsion bars, slee diff drop kit, upper control arms)
  17. ARB front and rear airlockers, stock Toyota switch
  18. Powerstop rotors, front and back
  19. Toyota brake pads
  20. Slee Off-Road braided stainless steel brake lines, front and back
  21. Piranha Diff Breather Kit
  22. Front Runner Branch Deflector Wires
  23. Front Runner Spare Tire Mount Braai Grate
  24. Wild West Off-Road heavy-duty high clearance lower control arms
  25. Slee Off-Road skid plate system
  26. Slee Off-Road tube sliders
  27. NIITO Trail Grabber M/T 285/75R16 tires
  28. Front Runner roof rack platform
  29. Front Runner Ratcheting Spade/Shovel Mount Bracket
  30. Front Runner Roof Rack Mounted Axe Bracket
  31. WeatherTech Tub Floor mats
  32. Escape Gear front and rear grey seat covers
  33. Outback drawer system, two drawers, one slider top
  34. Cobra SoundTracker CB and Firestick Antennae with quick-disconnect and heavy duty spring sourced from Right Channel Radios
  35. Hi-Lift Extreme jack
  36. Slee Off-Road Hi-Lift Jac-Kof Tool kit with wheel and axle strap
  37. Napa all-weather windshield wipers
  38. Napa high-pressure bonnet lifts
  39. ARB 15k lb snatch block
  40. (2) Crosby S-281 Sling Saver Screw-Pin Shackle 7/8" Pin WLL 4.5 Ton sourced from Quadratech
  41. (6) Crosby G-209 Galvanized Screw-Pin Shackle 3/4" Pin WLL 4.75 Ton sourced from Quadratech
  42. (2) ARB 3/4" D-Ring shackles
  43. ARB recovery damper